Friday, April 6, 2012

Bikinis, Beer, and Kiddie Yogurt

This week I zipped into my local Safeway for some cheese and a few last minute dinner items. As I was headed to the milk case I noticed this:

Do you see it...right there across the aisle from the kid flavored yogurt? The beer is on the same aisle as the dairy/deli case. As you make your way down, the beer gets cheaper. Tucked up against the crappy beer and some randomly place Capri Sun, a display of the the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

When I saw this, I was furious. I made a stink about it. I huffed and puffed my way through the rest of my shopping. After I went through the checkout line, the store manger got a firm but polite earful. I let him know of my disgust and frustration that Safeway would be selling beer and mostly naked women together. The marketing strategy (although probably profitable from a financial standpoint) made me sick. His response was that at least 30% or more of the floorspace in Safeway was sold to vendors. He had "no control" over where the magazines were placed. Apparently, I was, "the only one he had ever heard complain" about such a thing. Feeling pretty agitated I did what any good 30-something-mom does...I updated my Facebook status: 

NOT impressed but the placement of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue by the cheap beer at Safeway. (Get your 24pk of Hamms and enjoy some nude women.) Barf! I made a complaint to the store manager. He says the space is rented by vendors and he can't do anything about it. Maybe if we all complain, corporate will get the message.

24 comments and 8 likes helped me process a bit and I was happy to hear others join me in finding the placement of socially acceptable porn next to alcohol as repulsive as I did. My friend Nate posted this:

This is a bit long, I couldn't find a youtube or Mp3. but from John McCutcheon (one of my favorite musicians) written in 1984...
But now, at last, the card's been played
Our hand's been called, the piper paid
A woman's bought and sold once more
And on display down at the store
We shake our heads and curse those crooks
But stand in line to buy a look
Just one thin swimsuit stands between 
The porno star and the beauty queen

Flesh merchants run the magazines
The shops, the books, the movie screens
The beauty pageants, and, God knows,
The ads, commercials, TV shows
Pornographers of every guise
The bad one sells but the worst one buys
Just one thin swimsuit stands between 
The porno star and the beauty queen

My friend Marta came up with a terrific sample letter to send to Mr. Burd, the CEO of Safeway:

Dear Mr. Burd and the Safeway executive team,

Women are not products to be consumed and washed down with a beer. I'm writing to ask you to remove the Sports Illustrated swimsuit displays from your beer and deli aisles. This pairing of alcohol and objectified women is offensive and harmful to both women and men. Please put the magazines back in the magazine aisle where they belong. My children and I shouldn't have to see them when we're shopping for dairy items in your stores.

I am not the only customer who is angry about these displays. Parents are voicing their anger about the on Facebook. Your Facebook page says, "We're proud to be your neighborhood grocery store." Please make us proud by removing these displays. 

I would like to hear from a member of your team as soon as possible about this matter.

Thank you.

I wish I had the time, energy, and determination to see this issue resolved by myself. But the reality is that I won't. Other passions, responsibilities, and activities are my priority. I am not naive enough to believe that a few letters to Mr. Burd, a couple of complaints to my local store manager, or this blog post will do much to change our damaging, objectifying, addictive, and offense culture. But perhaps it will help you be more aware of the insidious messages all around us...even the ones across the aisle from the Danimals. It might not create the change I'm hoping for, but it's always worthwhile to speak truth. I hope you'll join me by checking out the beer aisle at your local Safeway store. If you find the SI swimsuit placed next to alcohol instead of on the magazine aisle, talk to your checker, other shoppers, and the store manager. Use the letter sample or write your own to the CEO of Safeway.

A little "ps" to this post, my mom did email Mr. Burd the sample letter and she received this reply:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the magazines sold at your local Safeway store.

We appreciate the time and effort you have taken to express your concerns about this publication. While we respect all of our customers’ points of view, we would rather not be in a position of trying to determine or dictate what constitutes the mainstream of contemporary readers' tastes. Your comments will be directed to our Public Affairs Department for further review on the matter.

Additionally, please provide us with the exact location of the store you are referring to, so that we may research and assist you in best possible manner. Thank you for your patience.

Should you require further assistance, you may reply to this email or phone us at 1-877-723-3929 and refer to Contact ID 20997060. One of our associates will be happy to assist you.

Thank you for shopping at Safeway.
Safeway Customer Service Team


  1. Michelle, one of the reasons I was glad to move to Newberg from East Portland was that the sex industry was just like the wild west out there. There were "adult shops" having "toy sales" advertised on sandwich boards at bus stops where kids got off and storefronts full of posters with pictures I couldn't believe they were allowed to post right by trimet stops where school kids got off. Addy was a newborn. I am not sure if I can articulate clearly how troublesome this circumstance was for me. My action did so little I was even more troubled. I still commend any action imploring better thought out marketing strategies that don't send these messages to kids. Consider the "family friendly aisle" at the store... I have to believe that someone will listen eventually.

  2. Although Anerica claims to love it's is painfully obvious to me that we do not. Our "freedoms" allow our most vulnerable citizens (children) to be put in harms way from bus stops to grocery stores.