Friday, March 19, 2010
Sell Me Something
Here's an interesting thing that happens here - sales people, representing various vendors are placed strategically in the grocery aisles and they try to sell you stuff. Once I was in the rice aisle and this poor 20-something girl had the rather unfortunate job of trying to convince me to buy the more expensive plain white rice. The other day, Vilma and I were at Bravo and this sad lady in a chef's hat was hoping we would buy her garlic paste. She claimed, "It is more natural than that one you're about to buy." I looked at the ingredients and said, "They have exactly the same ingredients." She replied, "Well yes, but this one has a better flavor." Vilma said, "No, I've tried them both. We'll buy this one." Crazy.
I was all wrapped up in how weird this was and then I remembered, "Uhhh, I used to work at a supermarket. Isn't this the same as the sample people?" Why yes. Yes it is. But, like so many things here, it seems different. It seems like here that not only do they actually want you to buy it, they're willing to tell you all sorts of ridiculous things to get you to buy it. Vilma will tell me all this time that such-and-such is good for this-and-this and I'm like, "Really, that just looks like plain ol' whatever."
And, my recollection from home is that when you stop by the sample stand to try your Jimmy Dean Pig in a Blanket…or, actually where I worked it was things like, Gruyere Puff with Caramelized Onion on a Bed of Baby Greens…but, anyway, when you stop to pick up your random goodie on a toothpick, you don't actually have any intention whatsoever of buying what's being hocked. You just want some free food. Here, I see people all the time walking away with whatever's being sampled. My favorite is the sample stand at Price Mart (it's like Costco) where they sample mayonnaise on yucca crackers - dis-gust-ing! But, there people go, "Mmmmm…mayonnaise! Give me two industrial-sized jars of that stuff!"
So, here is where I say forget what I just said. Are you ready? This happens at home too, believe it or not! The difference? I've written about this before, but it never ceases to amaze me and remind me of why I love living abroad so much. My eyes are just more open here. I'm forced to examine habits and practices that are easy for me to ignore at home. It's harder to be blind to what's happening around you when everything looks and sounds so different. And, above all else, what I find is that this makes it easier for me to make an honest assessment of the realities of my own culture. I'm finding the thought process that begins with "We would never do…." rarely ends where I think it will.