A Tale of Two Groceries

My spouse and I have a deal. I grow food and he cooks it. Clearly, I got the waaaaaay better end of this stick. (I started playing Skyrim, and when he asked me why I cooked dishes to restore my character’s health, I replied, “I only cook in fake worlds.”)

As you might expect, his grocery shopping skills also vastly exceed my own. Despite my lists and my methodical row-by-row progression through the store, I invariably miss at least 4 or 5 items and need to backtrack. This remained true even when we had the “Two Body Problem” (academics living in different homes–in our case different states–because that’s where the jobs are) and I had to do the shopping and “cooking” for myself. I ate a lot of tater tots and toasted cheese sandwiches. I’d say I “cooked dinner” and he’d remind me that turning on an oven isn’t really cooking. Touché.

But thanks to his impeccable planning, there’ve been very few trips for groceries since ATSWD (all the sh*t went down). But his 2 most recent trips reveal a startling contrast in pandemic responsiveness.

Case 1. Trader Joe’s.

The line out the door is individuals standing at least 6 feet behind each other. The number of customers allowed in is closely monitored. The caches of used and sanitized carts are clearly demarcated. At the check-out, customers stand at least 6 feet away from the cashier ringing up the order. Yes, order, that’s the name of the game. And they actually have food. Including produce.

Case 2. ShopRite (operated by Brown’s)

The parking lot is packed and rather chaotic. There are a couple security guards inside the store, standing and watching. No employees monitor customer flows or encourage social distancing. There is no social distancing. Most employees are wearing gloves, but not masks. Many shelves are bare. There is very little produce. Shoppers huddle in dozens of lines waiting for their turn with the cashiers. It appears to be “business as usual” at ShopRite.

We’ve decided we won’t return to ShopRite until after this has all passed. Of course there are some items we cannot easily purchase elsewhere, but their stock is so low anyway. And it seems a pretty risky place to be.

It’s impossible to ignore the demographics. ShopRite is in a predominately-black area serving Philly residents who live in what has been deemed a food desert. Trader Joe’s is a short walk from chi-chi Rittenhouse Square.

Author: Tattooed Economist

{seeker, student, teacher, explorer, warrior, companion} My first career was economics professor, specializing in labor, econometrics, and education. I now run Eating for the Ecosystem, Inc. whose predominately-female crews offer landscaping and tree services. Before you ask, most economists are assholes, but most plants are not.

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