31 July 2022

Undesirables

Just a short bit of grousing today on "undesirables." As in, steps that retailers take that exclude them… for differing values of "undesirable" (but usually all too readily approved by Mr. James Q. Crow).

First, let's consider for a moment "sale" pricing. At OverpricedNeighborhoodGroceryChain, for example, items that might otherwise qualify as "perishable staples" — ground beef, say — are frequently on sale one of two ways. First, there's the misstated-good-price on excessively-large-quantity items, such as "$2.97 per pound (sold in a three-pound vacuum pack)" (and what makes this worse is that the vacuum pack is actually a joined-for-no-good-reason pair of 1.5 lb cubes), requiring a $9 investment in something that for a single person, or a single parent with one child, won't keep until it spoils… absent a separate freezer or huge refrigerator for leftovers. Meaning "no non-luxury-apartment-dwellers welcome." Second, there's the "buy-one-get-one-half-off" sale, which creates the same sort of problem to get the 25% discount (((1*1)+(1*0.5))/2 = 0.75). We'll leave aside for the moment the social costs imposed by encouraging overpurchasing in an era of disrupted supply chains… and the deficits in other purchases (often from the same store!) due to limited refrigerator/storage space.

Then there are restaurants like Karen's Breakfast Nook.1 The sparsity of persons of color seen at its outside seating over the past year and a half has been notable (and completely inconsistent with the neighborhood's character). Two distinct layers of efforts — aside from the sense of entitlement radiating from its patrons — keep "undesirables" away from Karen's. Most obviously, there are the prices; this is a $12.50-gets-you-eggs-and-toast place (beverage not included). Reading the actual menu descriptions — don't worry, I didn't contaminate the place with my presence, I read the menu online (my intellectual-class-traitor cooties were further filtered by my VPN) — discloses even more trouble if you speak the local dialect. The menu trumpets its organic, sustainable, locally-grown-and-raised ingredients… and there's the "local dialect" issue, because in this area that means "old-money white farmers" (and has since the 1970s, for differing values of "local").

These questionable business practices are all too easily reconciled with the supposedly-"lib"-company antiunion bias and explanations being offered by Certain Seattle-Based Retail Behemoths. One of them is becoming all too comfortable excusing its keep-this-workplace-plasma (not un-ionized) closures of stores with the excuse that "safety" and "security" have become issues at stores, magically noticed as soon as employees manage to sing about reducing charged particles in the workplace in three-part harmony.2 In that, they're probably right: It would become increasingly unsafe and insecure to be an assholish ambitiously-climbing-the-corporate-ladder store or "regional" manager if the employees felt that objecting to assholery wouldn't lead to firing…

Undesireables — they're not invited for dinner. Or breakfast.


  1. That's not its real name, and in any event this is a consolidated portrait of three different nearby restaurants with overlapping issues. It might as well be, though, given the proportion of pristine-white Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes SUVs (none of which show any trace of ever having gone off-road, and about half of which have an empty bicycle rack hanging off the back) driven by its patrons to a location less than 200m from several major public-transit points, combined with reasonable-walking-distance access to one of the most overpriced-real-estate areas of town (and that's really saying something!). Not to mention the high-volume Karen-to-Karen "let's meet for lunch next week, but let me check my calendar first" conversations on the side streets — blocking traffic next to their illegally-parked cars.
  2. This isn't just the obvious target with the green logo and burnt-aftertaste product (even for the "light roasts"). At least for that retail behemoth, there's a reasonable probability that those three employees singing in harmony share demographics with store-level management (less so regionally, but that's a pretty universal problem reinforced by how promotions work in US corporate culture). For a different retail behemoth… not so much.