The night is long, and you’re out with your friends after hours.
“We need snacks!” someone declares in the darkness of the car you’re in, and the whole cohort agrees.
“Okay, where do you wanna get snacks from?” your driver inquires. “We could hit up 7-Eleven, Sheetz, Wawa …”
Think about what your answer would be in this type of scenario. Chances are, your decision has something to say about where you’re from and the sort of conditions you grew up in.
In terms of geography, I’ll admit 7-Eleven isn’t the best example. Per the company’s corporate website, 7-Eleven operates 10,700 convenience stores in North America alone.
Even so, if your preference would go to 7-Eleven, you’re probably after speed and convenience in your acquisition of sundries—aesthetics and other considerations be damned.
Wawa has more of a homegrown feel, I think. The company is headquartered in an eponymous town in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which is in turn nestled between New Jersey and Delaware.
Despite satellite operations as far south as Florida, loyalty toward Wawa likely indicates origins somewhere near Philadelphia, Trenton, New Jersey or Wilmington, Delaware. The rough vibe I get from your typical Wawa patron is someone who enjoys Kevin Smith movies, watches hockey and almost certainly refers to subs as “hoagies.”
Sheetz is a prime competitor of Wawa’s in the mid-Atlantic, with equally marked, but clearly discernible regionalisms. It’s headquartered further west into Pennsylvania, in some spot called Altoona, which I’ll be damned if anyone reading this article has heard of.
If Wawa primarily hugs the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to North Carolina, Sheetz forms a crescent along the Appalachians from Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio in the north, to central North Carolina in the south.
Sheetz in general makes me think of Appalachia. Your regular Sheetz patron might be a Steelers fan, their local economies might be struggling more so than in major cities, they might be a Trump supporter, etc.
But hey, they’ve got access to tasty, made-to-order food mere meters from a gas pump.
And it’s not just snacks.
For consumer goods and entertainment in general, we tend to form bonds and associations with the businesses we grew up around. Much of this, of course, has to do with geography. And for all our laudatory talk of free markets in this country, consumers are only “free” to purchase from the vendors in their area.
Patterns aren’t too difficult to recognize here. If you’re from New England, you probably love Dunkin’ Donuts and hate Joe’s Crab Shack. Manhattan residents who frequent Whole Foods would probably have minimal encounters with a Walmart. A beach bum in San Diego might say something like, “I shit on California Pizza Kitchen!” and instead saunter over to a taco stand.
We hardly think about it, but our basic buying preferences tend to reveal a good bit about ourselves.
Social stratification can be observed between clientele at Walmart vis à vis Wegmans. Stylistic preference and acumen vary among those who buy their clothes at boutiques versus department stores. When someone buys whiskey, is it Jim Beam or Johnnie Walker?
A whole, in theory at least, is a composite of all its parts. We examine all kinds of behavior in both ourselves and others as indicators of what kind of people we are, and yet something as mundane as the goods we buy and the culture that shapes our preferences seems to slip through the cracks.
Whatever studies of ourselves and others we carry out remain incomplete; maybe they always will.
But that’s a discussion for another occasion. The night is long, I’m out of sundries, and maybe I’ve given you something to mull over on your next excursion for snacks.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.
Horus Alas is a senior philosophy major and can be reached at email@example.com.
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