Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grocery stores becoming a social hot spot

In the competitive grocery industry, today's stores have expanded far beyond being places where people run in for a quick gallon of milk or to fill the weekly shopping list. In some ways, they have come full circle to the general stores of old: They're community gathering spaces that enlarge the idea of one-stop shopping.

WiFi encourages people to linger with their laptops. Flat-panel televisions lure locals to watch the news or a basketball game. Fireplaces and comfortable chairs invite book clubs to meet. Restaurants offer gourmet meals. The store is also considering having ballroom dancing and a reunion event for couples who met there.

Elizabeth Ribarsky, who teaches interpersonal communications at the University of Illinois in Springfield, said singles making connections in grocery stores is not a new phenomenon. But, she said, it is becoming increasingly popular because people feel safe approaching each other there.

"There is a lot of opportunity to open conversations without things that you would think of as a pickup line," said Ribarsky, who teaches a class about dating. It is called the " 'me, too' phenomenon," she said.

A woman might pick up a steak, she said, and a man might comment: "I like that same kind of steak," or "You like that? Me, too.' "

Ribarsky's comments were featured in a February 17, 2011, article in the Washington Post.

Download a PDF of the article