Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Price Was Right

Photography by Hallie Cohen

Sol Price died on Monday, December 16, 2009, at the age of 93, according to the Times obit. Price was the founder of Price Club, which was the model for the likes of BJ’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco. As the Times explained, “The Price Club philosophy was simple: Keep overhead to an absolute minimum.” In Restoration comedy, playwrights like William Wycherely often named characters after a particular personality trait, so you might have a Widow Selfish or a Sir Mannerly Shallow. Coming of age in an era in which Americans delighted in television shows like The Price is Right, Mr. Price’s defining trait was  an obsessive preoccupation with merchandising. There was no doubt that Price was ahead of his time when he created the first Price Club in l976. Until that time, shoppers were limited to chains like A&P, Gristedes, and Grand Union, which had lots of employees but comparatively little space. Price’s innovation came in creating environments modeled on airplane hangars.

As it happened, the rise of the discount club coincided with the widespread shuttering of  mental institutions, a turn of events that would allow fledgling discount clubs to occupy the freshly vacated residences of mental patients, while providing a home for a new breed of reality-challenged individuals . Whether discount super-marketing ended up taking advantage of this connection to mental illness is something for historians to judge. Suffice to say, these large discount clubs have become home to a wide variety of shoppers scouting for bargains on food and home-making products . They sometimes include pre-op transsexual prostitutes, who take time out from turning tricks in out-of-the-way industrial parks to stock up on large quantities of toilet paper and Crisco. Mr. Price lived to see the fulfillment of his dream of an America no longer plagued with bodegas, specialty stores, and quaint little boutiques.  The Price Club formula certainly has legs, and allowed Mr. Price to live up to the promise of his name.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.