Dare to Ask: I'm buying a lot of food. So what?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why is it that when I buy foods in large quantities, people make rude
comments like "how hungry" I must be, or "have a big crowd tonight?"
J.P., 36, male, Washington
People like to make small talk in grocery aisles thinking they're being
"friendly." I once saw a cashier who was trying to be friendly: the very large
man in front of me had a cart full of Lean Cuisine boxes. The cashier looked at
the boxes and at the man and actually said, "I guess these aren't working."
Nikfish, 31, female, Canada
Some people probably assume you're just being piggish. Some people are always
opening up their hole when they don't need to . . . you look at them and want to
say, "Who the hell asked you, anyway?"
Monique, Fort Myers
A big part of it is that 75 percent of the population can't cook a meal that
doesn't come in a box. It's unusual to see someone buying five chickens when it
isn't the Fourth of July.
Brad, 32, Provo, Utah
I doubt most people are intentionally being rude. My guess is they are just
Matt, 20, Riverside, Calif.
When they look at you like you're a pig next time you go shopping, just think
to yourself, "Hey, I am the smart one when I go shopping."
Melissa, 21, Grafton, N.D.
We make a day of going to Costco because it's fun, and why not save money and
get all the toilet paper you'll need for a year?
Whitney, 20, Seattle
First, about people who stockpile:
Studies show about 80 percent of stockpiling is done by 20 percent of
"Two things drive stockpiling, other than a sale: one is scarcity fear, and
we see this motivating older people," said professor Brian Wansink, director of
Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We
Eat More Than We Think.
"The second is a hoarding mentality, or over-planning. These are people who
buy wrapping paper right after Christmas, for next year. Or people who go to
Sam's and say I don't know what this is, but I need three . . ."
Now, about people who stare oddly at stockpilers:
"For some people, say younger people who are puzzled, a good analogy might be
exercise, a long-horizon behavior: if you look at somebody who over-exercises,
some might say, yeah, whatever, while a few say 'what a lunatic.' Only a small
percentage of people might freak out at those who stockpile. These might be
people who lead a more hedonic lifestyle, or who live for today."
And for those who do bulk-buy food: you might save on cost per unit, but it
can be a pyrrhic victory if it goes stale, or, conversely, if you gobble it up
"Research shows that virtually anything you buy in bulk, 50 percent tends to
be eaten within six days of purchase," Wansink said. "If you want to get bulk
savings, but you don't want to overeat, make sure you store it out of sight."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his
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