Sudden Popularity

Some stores have gained sudden popularity since the start of the lockdown. I am talking about the Asian grocery store right around the corner from where I live. By the way, when will everything go back to normal again? I yearn for the good old days when we complained about the boredom of living in Edison and the unreachable dream of living in New York, not knowing that even uttering such complaints might one day sound like a luxury. Now most of the complaints are about the virus, empty shelves, sky high international air plane ticket, another of our favorite restaurant shutting down–not even offering takeout food anymore. Not that we do takeout that much–when we have all the forced leisure to cook food at home, we don’t go for takeout–but it feels good to know that those restaurants are in business and ready to spring back to eat-in status whenever it’s allowed.

This Asian grocery store has never had great business due to the fierce competition around here. Four big Asian stores locate in Edison alone. I mean East Asian stores only, not the West or South Asian stores since there are even more Indian stores in Edison, often in even bigger scale. I’ve seen how this store struggles–they offer 5% discount for college students and seniors, though seniors don’t usually take advantage of it. It’s understandable. In America, being a senior is not something one wants other people to know. Everybody wants to be young. If one is not young, one feels the pressure to pretend to be young. I saw an old lady–at least 70 years old–who pushed her cart through the checkout without asking for the discount, which she deserves. The store also offers regular “food festival” and “free tasting” and more variety of soy bean curds than any other stores. None of their marketing strategies seem to have much effect on their sagging sales. I often wonder why they keep on doing it even with such dismal results, but then I think probably if they don’t do it, their sale will be even worse.

It all changed since March. Suddenly bags of rice, even the most unappealing brand that nobody would buy except with a heavy discount, fly off the corner where they have been piled up forever. Spices, which collect dusts on the shelf for nobody knows how long, disappeared. And the long line outside of the store is rather frightening to look at and frustrating to get into. It moves so very slowly. I drive by every week, on various time of the day, to check out the situation. If the long line gets shortened, I think I will get out of my car and get in line, but no luck. I cursed the sudden popularity of the store, which is quite beyond my comprehension. The long line is probably the silent and yet the most effective marketing strategy the store has ever tried. It’s not intended to be a marketing strategy, but the effect is unbelievably good. Now everybody thinks something is worth buying in the store and nobody wants to be left out. The only way to find out is standing in line, waiting for your turn, getting in the store, scouring here and there…

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