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supermarkets, race, and class

Observations of the markets around me:

I go to Alewife Trader Joe's a lot. My impression of the 'crew' there is mostly white, especially college aged females or a bit older. Also a middle-aged white man, middle-aged or older Asian man, a younger man I suspect is a recent African immigrant, an older white woman... others. Usually anyone I ask knows where anything I ask about is in the store. They're friendly and happy-seeming energetic... some of the younger women are almost flirty, in a confusing way. They *look* middle-class, in a way. TJ has a reputation for well-paid staff with low turnover, and of course low prices.

Across the street is Whole Foods, where I hardly ever go, but when I do it's usually to look for something specific, so I interact with the staff. I have no idea of the overall makeup, but there's definitely a lot more Hispanics there, with a limited ability of English among them. Today I also interacted with a couple of African-American men. Knowledge of stuff is far less comprehensive and more department oriented; granted, WF seems much bigger. WF's reputation is of a libertarian if not Objectivist CEO who compares Obamacare to fascism, and the company has been under investigation for violating labor law. Also known for high prices, and I wonder what those Hispanic workers are getting paid.

Shaw's, now part of Star Market, doesn't have the progressive reputation. There's a big one in Porter Square. I don't attend to it that much, but once I was there around midnight, and there was a marked distinction between the white women running the cashiers and the Hispanic males stocking the aisle. Lots of the latter, but not qualified or trusted to operate the cash registers despite a sudden pile-up of customers, the way TJ crew would have been. I think I've blogged about that before.

There's also a Star Market on Beacon street. Mostly white or African-American staff, I think, and feeling/sounding lower class compared to the TJ crew, in a way I can't define.

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Damien Sullivan

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July 2018


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