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9/15/04

Food Basics and Loblaws

Supermarkets as an index of social class:

Food Basics is located on Speers and Kerr, near Canadian Tire, Shopper's Drug Mart, and a couple of mini-malls; all which look slightly run down. It has a bright yellow sign with a green logo, with a dollar sign for the first ‘s' in Basics. I buy frozen orange juice at 87 cents a can. There seem to be fewer of the gourmet or specialty products here, and lots of no-name brand packaging. The people who shop here more casually dressed. As a population they are also more ethnically diverse. Does class operate along racial lines?

Loblaws is located on Lakeshore, just past John St. It's across the street from a mini-mall (slightly less run-down than the one near Food Basics, but, notably, with a yoga center), and surrounded by two-storey shops. It's a large, green and white structure with window arches, a gesture towards blending in with the surrounding architecture. I enter through the parking lot, where there is an attendant in the front entrance. There is a ramp for people to wheel their shopping carts up to the store from the parking lot. There's a sign about doing your banking through Loblaws (a phenomenon I've noticed recently, with a Bank of Montreal branch in the Safeway (a form of convergence, similar to media convergence?). Inside, it's clean, well-maintained and well lit. There is a greater variety of products here than in Food Basics, and they generally are more expensive Products have colourful packaging and enticing, even literary descriptions (the ‘President's Choice' brand being one example of this). As a population, the people shopping here tend to be older, better dressed, and generally Caucasian.

What I've just done is set up a binary opposition: the poor people shop in this store, and the wealthier people shop in that one. Are social classes segregated here, in a place, where seemingly, low-income people have very little visibility? Can social class be simplified to shopping habits, and the ‘culture' or atmosphere of where you shop? Or does it just come down to material conditions in a crass sense, because it's all about what you can afford?