Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2001

Satisfaction just a purchase away

The progression of a culture of convenience

September 27, 2001

No identifying phrase could be more accurate than that of "convenience store." My friend Alex works for an established convenience store chain in Lawrence. So, I recently stopped by Sunday evening to chat with my friend.

As we talked, I was amazed at the number of customers and their types of purchases. At Alex's store, one can purchase phone cards, motor oil (at a hefty $2.66 per quart after tax), lighters shaped like cell phones (with sound!), Zig Zag rolling paper, energy drinks with enough caffeine to kill a baby elephant, diapers and even black electrical tape. The clincher purchase is duct tape, which, as most people know, can eliminate the need for the aforementioned items with a little ingenuity.

The most common purchase, well above gasoline, is cigarettes. In one 15-minute period, 18 of 23 customers purchased cigarettes and close to half of those people also purchased gas. With all major brands ringing in at $3.94 per pack, it's safe to say it would be cheaper to drink a quart of motor oil and probably get the same end result. And for all those who ran short on cash before payday, there's even an ATM so no one has to leave the store empty-handed.

The barrage of customers on that pre-Labor Day evening sparked a conversation about the accessibility of practically anything in modern society for those willing to pay the price.

"It's a convenience store with convenience underlined," Alex said.

His point was this100 years ago, activities like riding a bike, taking a walk through a park, reading or even relaxing at home may have been perceived as excessive. Now, these same activities are things that are merely fit into the busy schedule of any non-specific individual. (If those activities had feelings, I'm sure they'd feel neglected.)

Now, excess comes in different forms. One might be the 44-ounce drink, which is sold at Alex's store. I have seen mugs, refillable for a miniscule cost, that hold as much as 64 ounces. For reference, the recommended amount of water a person should consume daily is 64 ounces, but I'm sure most of those mugs are only filled with water when they're cleaned. But, I digress.

Where is the culture of convenience taking us? How far will we go and what will be eliminated along the way? Is there anything to stop this? What can people do to ensure that the things we might now take for granted aren't thrown along the wayside and totally forgotten in time? Who knows, maybe in the next 100 years, we'll be too busy working on our atom transporters to take time to eat.

Recently, at the same store, one customer brought in $280 worth of Powerball tickets that he and his co-workers purchased with pooled money in hopes of the "big payoff." The gentleman also had $25 worth of hopeful winners in a private stash. A few tickets were small wins, so he purchased $15 worth of additional tickets and took his chances. In the end, the big payoff was (drum roll)$33. A 91-percent loss. Odds of winning your money back with the lottery? Not very high, obviously. Odds of looking like a complete moron and a gambling addict in front of the five customers waiting for you to hurry up so they can buy their gas and cigarettes and go on? Pretty high.

While the man was busy with his losing purchase, the lady behind him appeared as though she couldn't care less. From her purchase, it was easy to see why Marlboro Menthol Lights were on sale, buy one, get one free.

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