This post is featured in the CAPC Magazine Issue 3, Volume 4: Sensations of Reality issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and receive a host of other benefits, too.

Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Grocery shopping is not my favorite task. Maybe it’s the abundance of fluorescent lighting typical of grocery stores or the repetitive nature of the weekly chore. Whatever the reasons, I’ve found one store nearby that has neutralized these negatives and has turned the chore into an enjoyable experience.

With its soothing classical music, artistic spot lighting, and funky double-decker basket carts, The Fresh Market has transformed grocery shopping from humdrum to enchanting. The use of sensory stimulation envelops shoppers in a pampered cocoon where we can purchase specialty produce, organic dairy products, and freshly made sushi. It’s easy to navigate, not too big, and, best of all, they have food samples every day.

This is more than just a shopping experience. It’s like going to a spa. You walk in weary and rushed, and then the music, lighting, and beautiful food displays go to work on your senses, easing you into a calmer state of mind. You walk out with a basket full of goods, feeling better than when you entered, despite the fact that your one basket of peace-and-calm was pricier than you’d dare pay anywhere else.

I know this firsthand, as I’ve made The Fresh Market a place I stop a few times each month to grab a few select items I can’t get at my usual supermarket. I’m still trying to wrap my marketer’s brain and my Christian mindset around this shopping phenomenon I’ve succumbed to.

From a marketing perspective, The Fresh Market has done an exquisite job crafting a shopping experience that engages all the senses and shifts the utilitarian task of procuring food into an experiential treat. It fills the market gap for an upscale grocer that offers something more than aisles and aisles of 2-for-1 deals. And people love it. I love it. That’s why it has been so successful and why its doors stay open.

But when I move from marketing mindset to Christian worldview, I wonder if being pampered while grocery shopping is such a good thing. It’s certainly not necessary, as food is available at regular supermarkets as well as discount super centers.

Maybe it’s not so bad, if I can remember what a luxurious treat it is to have plenty of food available because I live in a country without famine or shortages. I think my biggest fear is that I would become accustomed to this high level of service, selection, and ambience—so accustomed that I would come to expect it and assume I deserve it. I want to guard my heart against that expectation, being grateful for God’s provision no matter how it is packaged.


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  1. This is probably not the way to start off a comment constructively, but as a former ex-evangelical, now in recovery (a revangelical?), the phrase “guard my heart” makes me want to pull my own eyeballs out and throw them across the room.

    And also I now really want to try shopping at The Fresh Market. I understand the numbing effect of luxury that I think you are talking about. But isn’t this also true of many things that are so mundane as to have totally receded into the background? You turn the spigot, and fresh potable water immediately pours forth, the meat you buy in the supermarket is vey unlikely to be spoiled and cause you to fall ill, the road network is such that you can travel from anywhere to anywhere within the country without much difficulty (Carpocalypse notwithstanding), and our political stability is such that you are in no danger of being stopped by a band of armed rebels and pulled from your vehicle while you make that trip. There are many places on this earth where the previous statements and many more are untrue, where things we take for granted would truly be unimaginable luxuries.

  2. Rich, You are spot on with your analysis that many things should be counted as luxuries, especially as we compare our standard of living to the rest of the world. I had such things in mind when I wrote the piece and that is also what I think about when I shop in such a fancy place as Fresh Market. I do approach this from a Christian perspective, but I also see an increasing concern for and move from extravagant living, especially among younger people (regardless of their religious stance).

    Also, my apologies for causing such inner repulsion with my phrase of choice. I honestly did not know it held such disdain among former ex-evangelicals. (What is that exactly? by former, do you mean you were an ex-evangelical and now you are an evangelical again?) And is this a personal abhorrence of yours (sort of like my dislike for the word “moist”) or if it is a movement (sort of like the folks who despise Comic Sans font). Word choice and language are fancies of mine, so I get curious about such things.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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