Can grocery shopping make people less lonely?
Social isolation is a public health problem that many sources identify as having grown to epidemic levels in the U.S. and globally. A recent in-store initiative by a grocery store in The Netherlands seeks to address loneliness among its shoppers.
One location of the privately-owned Dutch chain, Jumbo Supermarkets, has launched a special “chatter checkout” line and a coffee corner both aimed at helping people who feel isolated socialize on their shopping trips, according to an article on Produce Retailer. The specially labeled checkout line invites people who are not in a rush to stay and talk with the cashiers. The coffee area encourages people to talk with volunteers from a local foundation.
The idea of slowing down shopping trips, may seem counter-intuitive. People shop online to avoid having to deal with checkout lines and utilize solutions like BOPIS and scan-and-go to minimize the amount of time that they spend in-store.
As checkout streamlining technology has grown more popular, though, opponents have occasionally drawn a connection between speeding up grocery trips and the loss of social connections.
An Oregon labor leader, for instance, recently brought about a ballot initiative to limit the number of self-checkouts in grocery stores, citing them as, among other things, a contributing factor to social isolation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
It is not clear, however, the extent to which facilitating chatting between customers and cashiers or foundation volunteers, as is the case at the Jumbo location, would make a meaningful dent in the broader problem of social isolation.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association labeled loneliness as much of a public health hazard as obesity, according to a story on MarketWatch.
While often thought of as a problem that afflicts primarily the elderly, a U.S. News & World Report article indicates that young adults also experience social isolation and loneliness at an alarming rate.
- Keep grocery shopping personal despite tech innovations – Produce Retailer
- Why loneliness is more dangerous than obesity – MarketWatch
- Bagging your own groceries doesn’t make you a tool of corporate greed – Chicago Sun-Times
- 1 in 3 Young Adults Suffers From Loneliness in U.S. – U.S. News & World Report
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could grocery stores impact social isolation with such initiatives as “Coffee Corners” and “Chatter Checkouts”? Do you think people would make use of these types of services, and are there other — perhaps better — ways that retailers could help alleviate social isolation?