Wholesale Earth: The Costcoization of Consumer Culture


This document was received by the Digital Commons on July 27, 2006 and posted on August 10, 2006.

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What are the reasons people who shop at wholesalers give when they explain their consumption behavior? And aside from its definitive benefits, may it have latent detriments to consumers within its structure that challenge cultural relativity, human health, and the most contradicting of which, consumer freedom? To answer these questions I carried out a study interviewing opinions and explanations of wholesale consumers at Sam's club, Berkley and Jensen, and Costco, at three locations in two boroughs of New York City, and Yonkers. I believed that drawing comparisons among these different locations was less significant as my observations indicate that they are virtually indistinguishable in form. Because they compete directly with one another aside from their shared goal of maximizing market share from smaller stores, their product offerings are very similar, as opposed to a study of independently owned stores where diversity is infinite. Results indicate that the overarching reasons for wholesale patronage are cheaper prices for products packaged in bulk, and the convenience of catering to several different types of products,which vastly range from food to electronics. This supports the first part of my stated hypothesis, but more significantly the study reveals that consumers are aware that there are detriments to shopping at wholesalers, yet through lack of choice and the lure of cheaper prices from financial strain, these side effects are seen as being precipitated by socio-economic factors.

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