As my position of not buying in discount markets is often taken as radical, I decided to clarify what is it that motivated me to take this decision and, perhaps, approach this subject from a new point of view.
Most of the people I know, I would even say practically all of them, are regular costumers of discount markets. Some have a preference for a specific one, others just go to the closest or the one with the best offers. When the subject comes up, like if I’m planning to cook with a friend and we should go shopping together and I mention I would like to go to another place to get the goods, my comment is hardly ever well received. I’m promptly confronted with arguments like “They have many biological products”, “You can buy only healthy stuff if you like”, “They are only cheaper because they keep it simple, it doesn’t affect the quality of the food” or even the most known one “That’s the only thing I can afford!”. And if you look at things from a personal perspective, these arguments are in fact true, with exception of the last one.
It is a mistake to think I don’t like discount markets because I believe their food is of bad quality. They do sell a lot of shit, but if you’re picky enough, you will make the best out of it, like with everything in life. You also have to do that in normal markets anyway. The first time I’ve been in a discount market was in Brazil, when the Spanish chain “DIA” decided to bring that horrible habit overseas. At first, I thought it was a great idea to get rid of the whole marketing aesthetics and to optimize space in order to lower costs and make products more available to the ones who can’t afford it. It sounded like a simple and democratic idea. Since in Europe this trend is heavily installed, here I could get a better view of the consequences of this change upon society.
In my first months in Germany, I was also buying in discount markets, like everyone I know. It made all the sense for an underpaid student and it didn’t even cross my mind to do otherwise. I can’t say the messy piles of cheap junk food didn’t bother me since I’m a very visual person, but I tried to convince myself it was all part of the game. I also wasn’t very fond of the huge lines and the crankiness of the cashiers, but, you know…it was fucking cheap.
The first time I started reevaluating the whole thing was when I realized the amount of trash I was producing from all my food’s packaging. It was a lot more than I was used to and, although I carefully separated the materials for recycling, I was still aware that the recycling process itself is quite polluting, and that the best we can do is to avoid producing garbage in the first place. Recycling is often used as an excuse for producing endless amounts of trash, and people completely ignore the costs and trouble the whole process brings.
From this point on, things started to get nasty. Every time I went to a discount market, I started to pay attention to all kinds of stuff I was ignoring before. One of them is the clients themselves. They are very often fat and pale, the type of people you would expect to bump into in a line for receiving government’s allowance. Immigrants and people wearing uniforms for minor jobs are also quite common (separatist elite concepts like these are things I am strongly against). They’re usually carrying bags full of industrialized meat, sweets, packed white toast bread and sugary drinks, which is what makes them look fat and pale in the first place. I also noticed these markets tend to have some strange brands that you can only find there. Looking more closely, I could also realize the whole purpose of their existence: quantity wins over quality. This is why I said earlier that I disagree with the argument that it is cheaper to buy in discount markets.
The truth is it isn’t cheaper. Because a half kilo package of yellow tasteless processed cheese costs 99 cents, you take three packages and eat like a pig. If you go to a cheese store, with 2,97 Euros you can buy a small piece of a good quality cheese of your choice. Moreover, you will be supporting a small family business, instead of a blood-sucking international chain that employs people for miserable salaries and triple amount of work and that will treat you like a dog, as a consequence of their unhappiness. So, in the end, you will not only NOT be saving money, but you’ll also be eating more than you need. Let’s not forget the clothes and objects they sell, which are mainly produced in countries that enslaves children and pay a few cents per day to the workers, are most commonly composed by plastic in all its forms (polyester, acrylic, etc) and generally last very little, forcing you to buy more and more of their shit, spending a lot of money and producing more garbage to our already overburdened world.
For me, discount markets represent everything I’m against. They are not ecological, not social, not equalitarian, have no interest on people’s health. The only thing they try to do is to convince you to buy the biggest possible amount of trash so they can keep on getting richer and opening more stores, to keep getting richer and opening more stores…it’s a snowball effect, at the cost of people’s money and health. Since I changed back to buying in smaller local shops, my health has improved and I don’t spend more money than I did before, and I also don’t have to starve. I feel a lot less compelled to buy sugary or salty treats, since they aren’t jumping at my face at every two meters. In local shops, food tends to be fresher and have less industrial additives, and you will almost certainly be greeted and served in a friendly way, and designed to fit your needs.
This text isn’t calling people for a massive discount market boycott. No way. I’m actually glad they exist. As the pre-Socratic philosophers would argue about if they were alive: the old man in the vegetable stand wouldn’t treat me so well and his tomatoes wouldn’t taste so good if there wasn’t bad food served by sour people in the first place, simply because I wouldn’t have anything to compare it to. Furthermore, I believe all kinds of stuff should exist, to allow us to make our own choices. My only advice is that you analyze real facts before making such decisions, instead of just picking some arguments that sustains the result you want and leaving all the others behind. That’s how religion works, but we can leave this for another post 😉