Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lower-Middle Class OR Just POOR?

Last week I had a very brief conversation with a co-worker that helped me realize (or I should say reinforce) that I grew up poor. Here's the story...

We were walking to lunch and my co-worker informed me that he had, for the first time, went to a liquor store where there was the HUGE bulletproof window that you have to talk through to order your libations. Now I grew up in Capitol Heights, MD (we call it CH). This is right next door to southeast (pronounced Souf-feast) D.C. The only liquor stores I knew when I was a youth were liquor stores with drive-through windows (which seems to be an uncommon thing to most people) and HUGE bulletproof glass with a little turnstyle that you put your money in to pay for your liquor and also received your liquor through. So in my world, this was what a liquor store is/was.

Now that I'm in Bmore I have seen liquor stores that are like supermarkets like Wells Liquor Store on York Road up here in Bmore. You walk in and it's like a supermarket of wine, beer, and liquor.

In Capitol Heights, all the liquor stores are called "LIQUOR STORES". Even if they sell wine and beer as well. In "other" areas it seems these stores are called "packaged goods" stores or places where you can get "spirits". Yeah, whatever! It's a liquor store. From my perspective, the difference appears to be that when you're in a *good* neighborhood the stores are called packaged goods stores or places where you can get wine and spirits. But where I grew up - a place I always considered middle class - the stores are str8 up liquor stores.

So when my co-worker said this, it got me thinking about why this is the case and that I must have grown up a lot poorer than I really think I did. It also made me realize the difference in the interior appearance of the liquor store versus that of a packaged goods store.

In a liquor store there are posters of scantilly clad women (mostly black or hispanic) that make it appear as though they'll think you're cool if you either smoke cigarettes or drink liquor. But I don't notice these same posters in packaged good stores. Something tells me they're there, but they're just not in your line-of-sight and also not as prominently placed. In addition, liquor stores are usually run by Asians, Arabics, or some random black guy they got to man the cash register. In a packaged goods store, I have seen teenage white kids and also what appear to be middle-class white folks. These are just things I've come to realize since that conversation.

So my questions are:

1. Why are stores in the "hood" labeled liquor stores and those in "good neighborhoods" called something else?

2. Why are the stores in the hood run and managed (but not owned) by minorities?

3. Why are the marketing and promotional materials in liquor stores so blatantly sexual and prominently placed?

I guess I could surmise some answers (naturally, I already have) to these questions and rant about it. That's what I do on this blog, right? But instead I'd just like to put that information out there and see what you guys think about it. Sip a lil of that good YAK and let me know what you think...

And before you get at me, realize everything is this way for a reason, not by chance or happenstance.

Now don't get me wrong, I like my Ciroc vodka just like everybody else.

I'm a social drinker. I like to get my sip on from time-to-time. But the older I get I'm definitely thinking more and more about why things are marketed to me the way that they are.

So the next time you're out buying some liquor or beer or wine at one of these stores, just take a look around and think about my questions above. Maybe you'll feel something. At the very least you'll have given it some thought.

"It's gotta be more to this generation than drinking and smoking all they weed up"


Lawrenorder said...

My experience was more like that of your co-worker. It scared the crap out of me the first time I went through D.C. an noticed the liquor stores on the corner with the bars and bullet-proof glass. You know there's a reason the marketing is different between the two stores and we could talk about the many ramifications of that for days. And perhaps we, and the folks we know, should talk about stuff like that. Around my way the only thing you can get in the grocery store is wine and beer, at the gas stations and convenience stores only beer. If you want to get spirits you've HAVE TO go to the "ABC packaged goods store" or simply "ABC", "ABC store" or if you just don't know, the "packaged good store". The availability of certain items are determined by the county. But around here old white, black, and/or arab guys seem to run the stores with the requisite younger larger black or white dude present for little more than intimidation purposes. Most likely to look at you funny if you look under 21 when you walk past all the signs that essentially say "pass through this door under 21 and that state trooper sitting out side will be your next ride."

Anonymous said...

It's good to get your perspective on this whole thing Lauren. I am familiar with the ABC stores. I guess this is gonna vary from state-to-state. YOu know, since you can buy daiquiri's in the drive-through in Louisiana, which I think is crazy as hell.