It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Jed thought as he shielded his face from the blows of yet another enraged UtopiaMart shopper.
In fact, Jed’s idea for the world’s first utopian supermarket wasn’t turning out at all like he thought it would.
Sure, he had started the store with the highest of ideals. Farm-fresh, locally-grown ingredients.
Animal products from livestock that were well cared for and fed a balanced, well-rounded diet.
A staff of committed culinary enthusiasts who wanted to encourage people to eat better foods.
And, most important of all, a pricing structure that was unique for any supermarket– pay what you think the food is worth.
It was this last part of the business plan that made UtopiaMart such a big hit with the news media when Jed had first announced plans for the store.
He had made the rounds of all the local and national talk shows, talking about “a new era of price responsibility,” the “dignity of price choice” and his “undying faith in the American consumer.”
These buzzwords had made for good copy, but the “pay as you go” concept was proving disastrous to his business.
From the first day that people filed through the aisles at UtopiaMart, Jed had began hemorrhaging money like crazy.
Lobsters were being bought for $5 a pound. Prime rib for a $1.50. One man even took an entire turkey home for three dirty dimes and a Canadian nickel.
When day two of the UtopiaMart experiment began, Jed had calmly suggested to the store’s staff that they engage the customers in a “healthy, respectful debate about the value of food and personal awareness.”
That was when the arguments and the cursing began.
“How dare you!” one man snarled as he grabbed three bottles of extra virgin olive oil and slammed a quarter down next to the register.
“Fuck off,” another woman said as she shoveled shrimp into her mouth at the seafood bar, and then washed it down with a bottle of a fine Argentinian Malbec that she had apparently opened in the middle of aisle four.
“Suck my balls” said a third man as he wheeled 10 cases of bottled Perrier out to his car. This man had paid with a garbage bag filled with socks.
On day three of the UtopiaMart disaster, Jed stood outside the store with a stack of yellow fliers that had suggested pricing for all items.
Customers did everything they good to avoid taking a flier as they rushed into the store, ducking and dodging as if Jed was trying to serve them with a subpoena. Those who did take a flier usually crumpled it into a ball and threw it back at him.
No one paid attention to suggested pricing.
Finally, on day four, after the store had been open for only 20 minutes or so and Jed already watched his entire stock of ground beef disappear for a paltry $2.25, he decided to cut his losses.
“Attention ladies and gentlemen,” he said over the store’s intercom. “UtopiaMart is now closed.”
And that’s when the beatings began.
Fists pummeled him from all sides. An old woman kicked at his shins. “You stay open,” she hissed. “I have a coupon for 5 soups for a dollar.”
Jed looked up at her pleadingly. “But we don’t even have coupons.”