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TVs weasel in to distract shoppers

Posted on Dec. 1, 2006

Milk, pumpkin pie, paper towels, oranges and batteries mosey down the conveyer belt in the checkout line at Albertsons. Like in a sort of trance, all the shoppers are staring upward. Heard clearly above your typical grocery store music, a television screen shows Rachael Ray demonstrating an easy Thanksgiving dish. The flat panel TV strategically placed at each checkout mesmerizes shoppers, holding up lines and irritating eager people on-the-go like myself.

While shopping in this particular Rancho Cucamonga Albertsons over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was amazed and annoyed the TV’s had invaded this necessary place of food-gathering.

While Rachael marveled shoppers, mostly women, on how to make potatoes au gratin, I was tapping my foot wishing those in front of me would move on.

Are the American people so impatient that we can’t stand in line for 10 minutes without some sort of entertainment? And some La Verneians may have noticed, the addition of flat screens at our local Shell station on D Street and Arrow Highway. While pumping gas for five minutes, you can watch a slew of commercials and weather updates.

The ploy behind these purposely-placed televisions is easy to see: marketing. Now, I know and understand the value and function of marketing. It keeps businesses alive and maintains our booming economy. However by plugging commercials into the simplest tasks as getting gas, they have taken product placement a bit too far. Their goal is to obviously keep the shopper in the store or at the station for as long as possible.

I can't imagine anyone wanting to stay at a gas station or grocery store to watch TV. I can say this much, the bubbly Rachael Ray making a holiday green bean casserole in 30 minutes wouldn’t make me want to stay in line.

With how much television we watch, it’s an amazing feat people are even out of the Lazy Boy, and even further out of the house. Even if the grocery store or gas station isn’t technically “fresh air,” at least people are moving more than their index finger glued to the remote control.

Whenever I witness shoppers mindlessly glaring into the strategic TV screens, all I can do is shake my head. Considering that people wait two hours in a twisting line to ride Splash Mountain at Disneyland or wait all night outside a Circuit City to purchase the Playstation 3 on Black Friday without hardly any distraction except the person next to them, how much entertainment do we need to escape boredom?

I give marketers credit; they know where advertising is going. Generations today do not look up at the next billboard or examine newspaper ads and fall into the persuasion of advertisements. Like everything else, advertising is moving with technology.

The other day I heard of an idea for a free cell phone paid for by advertising on the device. Unless the company requires users to listen to an ad before making a call or listening to a message (and even then a user to pull the phone away), it will be impossible to guarantee the advertisement reached the subscriber.

We are pretty close to having televisions everywhere we are now. And advertising has always been a blaring presence. I am discouraged to recognize that this is the future – ads invading life’s every corner.

As movie trailers become longer, checkout lines turn into spawns of the Food Network and gas stations befall as the spot for primetime, I, and everyone else wishing to escape distraction from the simplest of errands, will have to go out in the boonies, to ma and pop stores; to just feel like they escaped from their living room.

Nicole Knight, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at