"Vending-machine people"

Yes, I can be a snob sometimes. For example, I’ve always looked down upon proles who live off of vending machines/ convenience stores. There was a time, long ago, when I worked at a convenience store. Over the course of my two years there, I learned to distinguish between different types of customers. There were a) criminal types, b) proles, c) addicts, d)hard-workers and e) occasional visitors.
The criminals often didn’t have driver’s licenses due to too many D.U.I.’s. They would operate within the neighborhood and would feel safer at the local 7-eleven, than at a supermarket, buying their drug paraphernalia, shoplifting or loitering with other criminals.
There was a lot of overlap between the criminals and the proles, but proles lacked the sense to save money by shopping at a normal grocery store or discount grocery store. All they knew was “I’m hungry now so I’ll visit the 7-eleven and get me some nachos and a hotdog.” They got hungry every day – so I’d see them at the store every day. It never occurred to them to buy hotdogs or chips and prepare their own. Their very existence was defined by a high time-preference.
7-eleven specializes in selling products that people are addicted to: Cigarettes, lottery tickets and alcohol. My favorites were the drunken gamblers who would buy scores of scratch tickets, scratch them off in the store and then leave; I would go through their rejects after they left and usually find some winners they’d missed. I hated selling cigarettes because I consider it a disgusting habit. More than once I’d refuse to sell cigarettes to customers who walked in smoking. They’d say, “if you sell cigarettes, why can’t I smoke here?” I’d say, “good thing we don’t sell guns!” People who are addicted to beer often forget to stock up on it during weekdays. They’d come in on Sunday or after 11:00 (when local blue-laws forbade the sale of alcohol) and demand beer.
Hard-workers would arrive around 5:00-6:00 in the morning on their way to work. They’d buy a cup of coffee or something to eat. They didn’t have the time to wait in line at a supermarket. It was always a pleasure to see them; it meant that the “freak hours” were over, and normal people were re-entering the world.
Occasional visitors were average people who, for whatever reason, needed something on the spur of the moment and happened to be driving by.
I’m not against vending machines, but it seems to me that they encourage a passive mode of thinking. At my current job, I see people who earn very little – yet they continue to feed the vending machines every day. I wonder at such people. The company provides refrigerators, and lunch-boxes/ice-boxes are cheap. Don’t they realize, on their weekends, that they’ll want a cold soda each day during their work-week? Do they not understand that they could save a lot of money by purchasing 12-packs and bringing them to work a couple at a time? I can only conclude that they’re stuck in the vending-machine mentality. They are vending-machine people who are trained to look to the machine for their daily sustenance. The machine nurtures their high time-preference and reinforces it.
As the vending-machine person stands before the machine, his eyes survey the choices: Coke, cherry coke, diet coke etc. If it’s not in the machine, it doesn’t exist. The vending-machine is rather like our “mainstream media”. If a point of view is not represented on T.V., it does not exist. “These are your choices” say both the vending-machine and the T.V. “There are no other choices.”
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a vending-machine person kicking the machine because it failed to return his change, or because it failed to deliver the product. The vending-machine person will kick and curse – but he’ll be back the very next day, sure as the sun. I’ve never seen a vending machine person get angry at a machine, and then turn around and say, “this is crazy; tomorrow I’ll bring my own drinks.” There is a silver lining to all this: It provides entertainment for me as I sit and drink the juice I’d brought from home. I love watching people get angry with vending-machines. Does this mean I’m a bad person? Never mind; don’t answer that.

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22 Responses to "Vending-machine people"

  1. countenance says:

    This sounds familiar, oh so familiar. Did the 7/11 you worked at have a gas station with it? I think the quickie marts without gas stations are sociologically different than the quickie marts with gas stations. The stations I managed all had smaller quickie marts, so according to what the employees I managed told me, there was not the same hard and fast five-category dichotomy that you saw. But there were a lot of the “hard workers” gassing up either before work or after work. Also, all my stations were in white areas, and good white areas.
    What might change that is if the gas station quickie mart is big. QT (Quik Trip), a national chain based in Tulsa, with locations in a lot of cities including St. Louis, have quickie marts that are relatively large and have a homogenized layout. Therefore, I imagine the QT customers do break down along those clear categorical lines. And it might get worse, because QT wants to bump its quickie marts up to 5,700 sq.ft. It won’t be long before a large quickie mart and a small supermarket are indistinguishable.
    I rarely use vending machines, for the reason you say. Speaking of, a lot of talk radio hosts are talking up this “Sodastream” product, gloating about its 25 cents per serving cost. Assume a serving is 12 ounces, and a 2L bottle is 67.6 ounces. If you find a 2L bottle of soda for $1.41 or less, or a 12-pack of cans for $3 or less, or a 24-pack for $6 or less, you’re beating Sodastream’s game. The only reason Sodastream “seems” to be a good deal is because almost everyone only buys individual soda servings from a vending machine, and the inflated cost of vending machine soda units is what makes S/S seem “cheap.”

  2. I have several reactions.
    First, one category I notice a lot at the convenience store is teenagers and college students. Not necessarily prole, not exactly hard workers, but they are not settled in a home of their own and haven’t developed any habits for using a refrigerator or cooking. Recollecting myself at that era, youthful metabolisms may simply be better at dealing with the shoddy nutrition provided by convenience food. The worry is that a lot of young people pass through a phase where they act almost like criminals (hanging out, ignoring the diurnal sunlight cycle, intensely developing a non-community social scene) … and I wonder how far this can go without actual crime being the result.
    Second, convenience story coffee is way better than the motor oil provided free by my work. (I don’t got to convenience stores much anyway, because the nearby Italian cafe has coffee that is much better and no more expensive than the convenience store stuff.)
    Third, milk and bananas are cheaper at some of the gas stations around here than they are at grocery stores. I don’t know why. I only remember to go there for them when my wife reminds me.

    • Ha ha, this thread has provoked a surprising amount of thought. I just went to a convenience store, and even bought some coffee. The reason was, I needed to use the men’s room. I’ve often wondered how well enforce the “FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY” signs are, but I’d feel too guilty to test it out.
      A more frugal society would have coin-operated toilets, but we consumerist Americans just like to buy a pack of gum, a bottle of HEET*, or some food when we gotta gotta go. This allows us to give people in J.A.Y.’s former vocation a break from the weirdos.
      * This choice once saved me from the snow-in-the-gastank blues.

  3. Doug says:

    Your comments about “high time-preference” are right-on.
    I hung out with both upwardly-mobile college students and inner-city types. The former were always planning for the future — studying, saving, plotting careers, etc., and often going without, today, for future benefits,.
    In contrast, the lives of my ghetto friends were dominated by repeating cycles of immediate physical and psychological needs: hunger, thirst, smoking, sex, basketball, drugs, alcohol, dance, sleep, thrill, jivien, laughing, anger, bluster, hunger, thirst, smoking, sex, basketball, dance, drugs, alcohol, thrill, jivien, laughing, anger, bluster, etc.
    This cycle of immediate needs simply repeated 24 hrs a day, their entire lives.
    This is not suprising, because Africans evolved in tropical conditions, where water, warmpth, shelter, and (often) food was abundant. I spend a lot of time in Papua New Guinea. When a native there is thirsty, he simply walks to the river and takes a drink. When hungry, he stands up, wanders into the forest and gathers food. Sleep is accomplished by laying down where you stand. A simple “bush-shelter” can be forrmed in 10 min by bending branches over and gathering leaves. there is no need for clothes. This is not to say that they don’t build huts, tend gardens, and store food. However, there is not the pressing need to do so.
    For Whites and Asians evolving during the ice age, such an immediate time preference would be lethal. In northern climes, most food, shelter, firewood, skins, etc., must be collected during the short 5-month long “summer”, otherwise death. Seven months out of the year, everything is covered by ice and snow. There is no food. In such climates, the only genes that survived were fanatic about future-time orientation. Whites had to evolve to think about the future and to plan.
    As a result, tropical-evolved people lack the genes to build and maintain civilizations and wealthy societies.

    • lowly says:

      “For Whites and Asians evolving during the ice age, such an immediate time preference would be lethal. In northern climes, most food, shelter, firewood, skins, etc., must be collected during the short 5-month long “summer”, otherwise death. Seven months out of the year, everything is covered by ice and snow.”
      So what about arctic Indians? What kind of time preference do the Inuit, for example, have?

      • jewamongyou says:

        The Inuit, of course, have a low time-preference. Accordingly, they are somewhat more intelligent than their more southerly neighbors. But their very low population density, and lack of civilization, has kept them from evolving the same degree of intelligence we find in the civilized parts of Asia and Europe. Read “The 10,000 Year Revolution” for more details on this.

      • Doug says:

        Yes, theory predicts that Inuit should have high IQ. However, they have moderate IQ. Possibley their population was always too low to generate the beneficial mutations for higher IQ. If IQ mutations happen once in 1 million people, then Inuit never had enough people to generate the needed mutations. Also, I suspect very low genetic diversity within each Inuit clan, because of founder effects, bottle-necks, etc. Hence, there probably was not the background genetic diversity to allow unique adaptive genotypes.
        In contrast, they did evolve numerous physical traits for cold-adaptation. Natural selection acts by killing off those with bad genes, leaving those with good genes to reproduce. One can easily determing the strongest selective force by determining what kills. For Inuit, cold and starvation were the greatest mortality agents. These factors rapidly selected for the Inuit body form.
        High IQ was certainly also important, but perhaps, when push-came-to-shove, selection for cold-adaptations trumped selection for high IQ, Who knows? But in anyevent, the Inuit apparentlly did not evolve high IQ, like the NE Asians and NW Europeans.

  4. Andrew says:

    Pizza vending machines are coming to America!

  5. Sagat says:

    I like to stop at specific gas stations to pick up a drink before or after work. I almost always buy the same drinks too. I recognize that if I stocked up on those drinks, which are available and cheaper at the grocery store, I’d save money. The thing is, I like the routine of going to familiar places where I may know the employees, because it adds to my day in a small way. It helps break up my commute and since I’m a social person, I enjoy the small interactions that I get from this.
    When I was younger, there used to be a few guys who would bring their lunch and sit quietly in the break room and eat. Maybe they thought about all the money they were saving as they pulled a banana out of their coolers and consumed it as they stared at the wall. They always seemed lonely to me.

    • jewamongyou says:

      I can see your point regarding convenience stores but it’s hard to see what’s sociable about buying from a vending machine.

    • I suppose this is the same reason I shell out money at the cafe near my office … I need to get away from the same ol’ coworkers and the fluorescent lights a couple of times a week. I go and make a cup of their delicious coffee and talk to the relaxed people behind the counter … whether or not they’re truly relaxed, they are paid to appear that way, which is not true of my fellow computer operators.

  6. Reality Check says:

    What is your definition of a prole?

    • jewamongyou says:

      My working loose definition is working-class type folks whose main non-work interests are autos, sports, celebrities or (in some parts of the country) fishing/hunting. They have few, if any, academic interests. They don’t read books (except, sometimes, novels). They’re usually big on tattoos and beer.

      • Quack says:

        Ehh – fishing and hunting require planning and low time preference. I think you have mis-characterized proles

      • My sense is that, between people with essentially no future-time orientation, and the sorts of people who plan for their unborn grandchildren’s graduate school tuition, is a big group of people who have future-time orientation where holidays, social occasions, physical activities, or projects to build things are concerned, and present-time orientation where abstractions are concerned.
        Except for things like snake bites, traffic accidents, etc., health is largely an abstraction. I find it difficult to explain to proles why I eat canned fish and take flaxseed oil and saw palmetto. None of these is treatment for any condition. It’s for general health. “What do you mean ‘general health’?”
        And yet none of them would have any trouble figuring out why my neighbor built a trellis for growing plants on, months before anything would grow on it. A member of the underclass would have trouble understanding the trellis, but a prole wouldn’t. It’s part of the reason why working class people suffer so much from lefty “Yale or jail” BS–they know why the should want to study auto-collision repair. They don’t know why they should want to study Henry Clay. So the ivory tower lefties lump the two together, proclaiming them both to be infinitely educatable, while snickering that they are both completely beyond improvement.

  7. rjp says:

    I can’t remember the last time I used a vending machine.
    Monday morning my groceries for the week go to work with me, rolls, meat, cheese, etc; it’s generally the same things. I don’t save much money, but I do know exactly what I am eating. I do not think all the chemicals used in processed food are good for you, and do you really know what you are actually eating in most lunch spots.
    Every morning I make two little pots of espresso, one to drink then, and one to take to work. This I do know saves me a fair amount of money.
    I used to bring 12 packs of soda to work, but we get that from PeaPod.
    This “Sodastream” is a novelty gift in my opiniont. They have been selling similar things for years at high end novelty stores (Sharper Image, etc) and the limited inventory home stores (Linens & Things and the like). I would like a real pre-mix Diet Coke machine in my apartment (just as I would like a beer keg system) ….. mmmmm pre-mix Diet Coke. That still wouldn’t stop me from purchasing bottles and cans though, because paper cups of soda don’t travel well. For anybody that wonders, yes there is a difference in taste between all three.

  8. Probably the next Hitler says:

    If you’ll forgive me: fretting over the chump change that vending machines suck up is pretty Jewy.

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