It’s Sunday morning and we need groceries. Because there are a few things we have decided to get in bulk, we look at the Pickaroo app and choose S&R.
Wow, this is amazingly stressful and infuriating.
I look at the giant packs of meat, and bulk packages of cookies, the enormous tubs of this and gargantuan boxes of that. This box has 12 pieces! This jug has 5 kilos! This pack will last you all year!!!
Admittedly, we made the choice to buy from S&R, well-known for warehouse-style shopping, precisely because of the upcoming community quarantine. We wanted to limit the need to go out, we wanted to consolidate orders for the next two weeks, and we wanted to stock up on enough supplies to last us the entire god-forsaken-who-knows-when-it-will-end-this-time-what-variant-of-quarantine-is-it-now. But oh my God, the entire concept of S&R just boggles my mind and disrupts my calm.
I understand, truly, the practicality and cost savings of buying in bulk. I understand the need to be prepared for any eventuality, and to, oh, not starve, especially given that we have one child and one senior in the house. I understand we want to stay home and be safe and we want to avoid going out and getting sick.
And yes, I also realize the significant privilege of the fact that sometimes, we can afford to buy in bulk.
But it is so hard to be a mindful, conscientious consumer when faced with a plethora of absolutely everything in bulk. I am appalled by the thought of buying imported products, packaged in such large, excessive quantities, when there are so many other made locally, with much less waste and much more thought, far less packaging, and significantly more intention, benefiting those in much more need. I am horrified by the thought of buying twelve tubes of toothpaste when one will last our little family months, and by the thought of all the plastic that covers these bulk packages. I am torn up by the fact that I try to buy only what we need, only what we can consume, from local, conscientious, environmentally conscious businesses, from those close to home to limit the need for transport and packaging, from home-based businesses and working parents and family businesses.
And yet here I am, buying at S&R.
I can’t be the only one struggling with this. I know a lot of people who try to be ethical and mindful about their consumption. I know a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs who try to support local talents and economies in their endeavors.
At best I try to maximize absolutely everything. I reuse all the packaging, until it falls apart. Boxes are repurposed for donations, garbage disposal, storage. Food scraps go in the garden. Bottles of body wash and hand soap become plant pots. Cardboard is reused for arts and crafts. But it’s just so hard to keep doing these things while world economies and adamant consumerism persists.
The thing with bulk purchases is that they’re meant for those living far from city centers, i.e. those that require a car to reach. Since they’re far from the proximity of any grocery, they usually buy in bulk to last until the next trip to Walmart or Target.
Unfortunately, a majority of Filipinos are still stuck with the Americana mentality of the 1950s to 1960s — still visualizing picket fence houses in the suburbs. Mindful consumerism is but an absurd concept for them, as they grew up in a period of “buy, buy, buy.” S&R then capitalized on this mindset.
(On a side note, S&R wasn’t the first attempt at bulk membership shopping. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Makro from around the 1990s to the 2000s — it used to be a membership-only shopping center until SM purchased it. The old Makro branches were converted to Savemore.)
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I only vaguely remember Makro, as I wasn’t in the country then.
It’s really frustrating to be faced with such excess, especially when so much of my work has shown me the horrible inequalities in access not just to food, but also medicine, all over the world. 😦
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Indeed. Whereas many around the world have excess food (and can even afford to throw them away), some in the places where the ingredients for these are grown oftentimes have to scrape by with what they can get