Confessions of a Harris-Teeter loyalist
February 17, 2013 12 Comments
Last week brought news that Harris-Teeter may be sold to one of several suitors, Publix among them. This is an interesting development for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I have been called a “snob” because of my loyalty to Harris-Teeter.
Political controversies are notoriously heated and divisive, but I often wonder if our differences are more fundamental in nature, as in culture and class. In my family and among my circle of acquaintances, impassioned rhetoric is summoned not by the Democrat-Republican or liberal-conservative divide, but by discussion of the merits of Target as compared to Wal-Mart; of Harris-Teeter as compared to Food Lion.
On the surface, the issue seems trivial, inconsequential, and irrelevant. This I do not concede; it is a fascinating cultural study. One’s choice of department stores or grocery stores, it seems to me, is a fairly reliable indicator of one’s class and degree of refinement. Such decisions are not strictly determined by household finances, by the way: I know very well-off families that shop at Food Lion, and I know struggling families that do their weekly shopping at Harris-Teeter. There are men who live on the edge of poverty, but carry themselves like aristocrats; there are wealthy men who behave like peasants.
That said, it is folly to pretend that there is no difference between Harris-Teeter’s clientele and Food Lion’s. The distinctions are vivid, even when the respective stores are located in the same part of town. If you’re skeptical, conduct the following experiment: purchase half of this week’s groceries at Harris-Teeter on New Garden, and the other half at Food Lion on Fleming. (Or, if your needs necessitate a visit to a department store, purchase a few goods at Target on New Garden, and the remainder at Wal-Mart on Battleground.) I will eagerly anticipate a report of your observations.
Maureen and I went to Harris-Teeter (New Garden) Saturday morning, and there took place an episode highly illustrative of my point. There is a certain brand of Pop Tarts Maureen likes, but H-T does not sell them. Food Lion does. Much to my dismay, Mrs. Davenport told me she would send me to Food Lion (“I know how you love Food Lion,” she added) Sunday afternoon to get them, while she cleaned house. Standing next to us at that moment was a middle-aged blonde who, upon noticing my displeasure at the prospect of this errand, laughed with mirthful scorn. She was a woman of elegance and refinement—the type you rarely encounter at Wal-Mart or Food Lion. Maureen and I laughed along with the stranger, knowing full well the object of her derision.
My elation diminished somewhat when we reached the check-out line. Maureen, you see, is quite particular about the bagging of groceries. As a friendly young lady scanned our purchases, a young man of high school age began bagging them—at a blistering pace, and with such adeptness, that Maureen was moved to comment: “I commend you for your bagging skills.” The young man was bewildered for a moment, and finally replied, “Is ‘commend’ good or bad?” Such is the state of our government schools.
I prefer not to be accosted by thunderous rap music in parking lots, and I appreciate a clean, well-organized grocery store. I would rather not shop in the company of youthful males who wear their pants around their knees, or in the company of women in evening costume–pajamas and slippers. (The aforementioned offenses, incidentally, are committed by blacks, whites, and Hispanics alike.) I also prefer to shop among other speakers of English. Does this mean I am a snob? If so, then I confess.
I don’t care if a gallon of milk costs 25 cents more at H-T, or if bread is an additional 50 cents; I will gladly pay the difference in order to avoid the vulgar proletarians slouching and strutting about Food Lion.
The disappearance of Harris-Teeter will be no small source of anxiety to many of us. We can only hope that it will be bought out by an equally “elitist” chain that will be happy to accommodate those of us who, for so long, were H-T loyalists.
Charles Davenport Jr.