This is something that I wrote for a class that I am taking, at The University of Houston. It was described as “an amusing comparison, well written.” Since it is food related I thought I should share it with you.
p.s.: This is the cleaned up version since the MA version was lost with my flash drive, while the little one was being tested for gifted and advanced placement.
I am a food guy first and foremost, so I am going to pit Central Market (Westheimer and Weslyan) vs. Kroger Grocery (San Felipe and Voss) to a brutal death match in hedonistic and utilitarian consumption (I may be exaggerating a bit). Some will argue that these do not constitute a direct comparison, but I disagree. They are both supermarkets at their core. The difference is that one caters to a different type of clientele who shop with different motivations.
The Kroger store caters more to the utilitarian aspects of consumption by offering staple goods such as onions, potato chips, beer, and other goods to feed a family of four day in and day out. There is a wide variety of store brands to choose from that cater to those on a budget and gives them a wide variety of choices to complete their shopping experience. The dark hedonistic side of Kroger rears its head when you look beyond the store brands and do some more investigating. It is not as prevalent as the utilitarian side, but it is there. They have craft and import beers, fine imported cheeses, and specialty meats, such as lamb and buffalo. They have sections dedicated to ethnic food to cater to those who want a taste of home or for those that just want to be adventurous. These products show status and cater to the inner desire to be important while still being in the comfort of you neighborhood store.
Central Market, on the other hand, puts its hedonistic consumer draw right out there. The first thing you see as you walk in the door is the list of their in-house cooking classes that you can sign up for at $65-$100 a pop. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but it is a bit much for those who are trying to keep gas in the tank. They have even more specialty meats such as rattlesnake, Kobe Beef, elk, etc., and they boast an organic and specialty produce section that is second to none. Their beer section does not meddle in the low brow Miller or Anheuser Busch products, only catering to those with a palette for beer brewed in the Himalayas, by a 100 year old monk, on the second day of the vernal equinox (once again, this maybe a slight exaggeration). There is, however, a utilitarian side to Central Market that a lot of people miss. If you look past all of the pretention, you can find good food. They select some of the best non-organic foods and price them competitively. There is regular ground chuck at your disposal, as well the ubiquitous boneless skinless chicken breast. If you go down the condiment isle, there is Heinz Ketchup, yellow mustard, and Vlassic Relish. Keep going, you find the 2% milk at the same price at Kroger, Activia yogurt, and packaged cheese just like at the Kroger.
Both stores even have sushi counters.
There is a shopping experience for all of us out there. My ex-mother-in-law used to get mad at me for shopping at Central Market every day. It happened to be across the street from my job, and, like I said before, I am a foodie. She claimed that the groceries in there are too expensive and told me I needed to shop at Kroger. I think that, on the surface, I was shopping at the Central Market for hedonistic reasons, since it made me look all fancy and sophisticated, but deep down I could see that I could get the same product at a competitive price while feeling better about myself.
Since I am a starving student now I do not frequent Central Market as much, mainly since I don’t live or work that close anymore, but I often find myself wandering through Kroger looking at the small areas of specialty foods and get my hedonistic fix. There is a consumer experience fit for all of us out there, it is just a matter of looking below the surface to find it.