I am fascinated by stores: sparkling cheap jewelry made to look expensive only in bright lighting, polished plates in geometric shapes, the shelves of spices in the baking aisle, the spines of new books. I adore entering a Sheetz and twirling amid the Twix bars to my right, and suddenly being distracted by the Chex Mix to my left then realizing that I could buy any flavor of Red Bull that I want. I don’t even know if Red Bull has flavors, but it doesn’t matter! It’s all within reach! Look at the colors!! Everything’s possible!!!
On this Black Friday, it would seem appropriate to comment that I’m an ideal shopper, except for the fact that I only love looking at stores, not buying the products within them. In my opinion, a group of people can be best understood through the act of buying and selling, because this action discloses a culture’s needs and priorities, perceived or otherwise. In Chile, stores selling similar products are located in the same area of the city — a mall of hair salons, an alley of hot dog vendors, a street of antiques — to increase efficiency. In France, bakeries open early because fresh bread is bought almost daily. In Italy, I’ve heard that it’s bad luck for a street vendor to lose his first sale of the day, so he’s often willing to negotiate for a lower price. In Trinidad, boiled corn, still in the husk, is available on the side of the highways — you just veer off on the shoulder and roll down your window. When buying and selling, convenience, need, creativity, and want all come into play.
On Black Friday in 2007, I was stuck on a crowded train between Luxembourg City and Brussels with a woman who was on the phone directing a jewelry purchase in New York. Today, however, in honor of my friend Kara who posted a similar set of photos on her blog, I post a few photos of markets around the world, where what’s on sale reflects somehow we somehow all live through our consumerism — for better or for worse.