Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clean Up in Aisle Five!

She's a week old.
 IMO baby = book analogies are failures. 
It's still 0-Dark thirty here in Australia. I've been up for a while thinking middle-of-the-night night thoughts, because that's what I do. It isn't jet lag. I've been here for weeks. It's just what I do. It's normal. There is a week-old baby in the house. She does it too. It's normal. I don't know what she thinks about, but ...

It occurs to me that a book store is a lot like a grocery store. There are a lot of products in there. The grocer wants to sell those products. The shopper wants to find something to eat. There have been all sorts of studies that have come to all sorts of conclusions about the best way to get a shopper to move a product from the shelf to their cart.

One of those theories is the "thrill of the hunt" theory. The stacks should be high, not only to pack in variety of products, but to make *searching* part of the experience. It should feel slightly claustrophobic. Maybe there is something out there, prowling the aisles that is after you every bit as much as you are after it.

You may notice that this scheme doesn't tend to apply in the vegetable section. There you can often see over the bins. Maybe this is because giant carnivorous yams aren't the stuff of nightmare--maybe it is to help us remember when we tippy-toed out onto the grass land out of the forest. I don't know. This is a half-baked, half-remembered theory and a tangent.

Stop thinking about yams. Start thinking about the cereal aisle.

While you are at it, make sure you are thinking of a conventional first-world supermarket.

Now look up and down the cereal aisle. There are many boxes, vaguely uniform in size.

Now stock those shelves with books, not boxes of cereal. There they are, rank after rank. How do you pick among them? Well, there are clues on the box. Some promise marshmallows; some promise to clean you out like steel wool. It's all there, on the box.

It's the middle of the night. One of the fluorescent fixtures over the cereal aisle is flickering. Background music is playing because there was a study that said it would encourage you to take a box of cereal off the shelf and put it in your cart. The music catches like a memory in the back of your brain, but then another cart comes careening around the corner and hits the end-of-the-aisle display and a whole pyramid of Frosted Mummy Flakes teeters, wobbles, crashes. A girl comes up behind the guy pushing the cart and slaps him in the back of the head. You reach out blindly and grab a box off the shelf and back your cart out of the aisle.

Later, when you are putting the groceries in the cupboard, you wonder why you bought cat food or Mackerel Helper...but it's cereal after all. You just bought a box of something called Catch and Release.

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