John Updike’s story “A & P” written in 1961 is about a fictional account that happened in a foodstuff store known as A & P, which is an acronym of Alexandrov and Petrooshki. The story involved three young female customers who went shopping in swimsuits. They met an attendant Sammy who protested against the store manager asking the girls about their dressing. Sammy quit his job trying to impress the ladies but they were not there to appreciate him. We learn from the story that the store is old fashioned compared to the present day megastores. The author describing his fictional store probably had in mind the real stores existing at that time. Despite having a few similarities, there is a sharp contrast between the fictional A&P and the real modern megastores such as Wal-Mart and Target.
First of all, there is difference in passing the goods across the counter. The customer, whom Sammy was serving when the three ladies entered the store, was watching the cash register which recorded the sales made. Today, the megastores use bar code readers to determine the sold goods and their prices. Customers do not need to keenly look at the totals since the attendant will not have the chance to inflate or deflate the prices. For instance, Wal-Mart has a computerized bar code sales system where the product sale information is sent to the store keeper requesting replacement. In A & P, the inventory seems to be done manually.
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Another difference is the way of exchanging money. The A & P customers including the old woman and one of the three girls, Queenie, used cash. Queenie took the money from between her bust when paying for the goods they had bought. In the modern stores, cash is rarely used; money is exchanged electronically through debit cards.
There is another difference in the ages of the people who usually visited the stores. Today, people of all ages are admissible to any store, but in A & P , the presence of the girls was awkward. The narrator notes that people who used to go there were women with varicose veins having many children.
While A & P is solely stocked with foodstuffs, today’s stores have other goods such as electronics and clothing. Although there are major goods rarely sold alone in the modern stores. A&P sold foodstuffs according to the narrator’s description. All the goods that he mentioned in the story were food related. The girls went to different parts of the store and Sammy talked of no other commodities apart from food.
The only notable similarity between the fictional A & P and the modern stores is the way in which the goods are arranged. In A&P, the goods were probably stacked on shelves. Its arrangement is similar to Wal-Mart and other stores’, which have corridors. Sammy explains that two of the corridors were not manned, thus, he could see the girls without any obstruction.
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Relying on the story and our knowledge of the modern megastores, we can clearly see the differences in both technology and assortment of the 21st century stores and the fictional A & P. Although the old fashioned store appears to be a prototype of the modern stores, the differences between them are very pronounced. There are a few similar aspects such as arrangement of the goods, but in general, the stores are incomparable due to the technology development and the social changes.