Navigating the Aisle

Scantily clad supermodels flash seductive stares and tabloids prophesy the next apocalypse as we are funneled through a modified version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The magazine resting next to the super-sized peanut butter cups promises we can shed ten pounds in the next fifteen minutes. Have we entered the seventh heaven of hedonism? Or are we merely among the 90 percent of American adults who each month pass through the gauntlet of temptation known more commonly as the grocery store checkout line?'

The setup is virtually the same in every grocery store. Multiple rows of magazines guard the gates of the aisle: People, US Weekly, Time, and the like. The majority are geared toward women, who compose over 70 percent of the primary foot traffic. The other side, if it does not also display magazines, often features a kiosk of individually wrapped snack foods and drinks to satisfy the urges worked up by this latest shopping expedition.

As we enter this hedonistic gauntlet, on the one side we find a narrow column of impulse items (razors, batteries, lip balm, toothbrushes, aspirin, pens, etc.), which hope to grab our attention in the approximately seven minutes we are likely to wait in line. This is frequently the home of smaller seasonal items, such as Christmas bows and cheap toys, conveniently positioned within arm's reach for your toddler in the shopping cart. Farther in, a brightly colored assortment of breath mints, candy, and snack foods begs to be sampled. On the other side rest such scholarly works as National Enquirer and The Weekly World News along with literary tomes by authors like Mary Higgins Clark, Nora Roberts, and Dean Koontz. Bellied up to these are columns of "micro mags" with the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.