Side Effects of 4-H Judging

4-H judging teaches kids how to make better choices as a consumer, but it ruined impulse buying for me. My judging criterion conscience doesn’t consider hasty purchases acceptable.
Doing so would contradict what 4-H judging taught me. I learned to take my time considering the criteria in order to make wise decisions and choices.
In 4-H judging, different classes like photos, crafts, clothing, produce, or animals have four similar products within each class for comparison. A situation is given outlining the criteria to consider when comparing such as cost, product standards, features or purpose. The four products are placed in order of best choice to last choice on a judging card.
It’s hardest to resist my judging skills at the produce section of a grocery store. I can’t make a hasty purchase because of the urge to judge the fruits and vegetables first. I get stuck in the produce section for so long that I get dirty looks from the employees, looks that say, “What’s the matter, our store’s produce not good enough for ya?” I sense their irritation because I handle the produce like a child carelessly groping breakable merchandise in a gift shop. Fruits and vegetables neatly arranged upon my arrival become unintentionally messed up when I touch, scrutinize, and smell everything in order to make the best selection. I can’t test firmness or determine which ones are bruised, wrinkly, or the freshest without excessive handling. I habitually pick out packages of herbs or lettuce for closer examination so much that I can’t replace them as neatly as the produce people do. I often get annoyed looks from other customers picking out produce. They dash around, absentmindedly tossing apples or tomatoes in a sack while trying to watch me out of the corner of their eye, as I tap watermelons, hold cantaloupes to my nose, open several packages of strawberries, or handle every green pepper. I try to be discreet as I pick up numerous bunches of bananas before pulling some apart so I can have the best bunch, but usually get caught putting bruised ones back. Sometimes I turn around to find someone staring and waiting for me to finish my inspection practice. I get so engrossed in judging produce that I frequently abandon my cart, leaving it blocking the aisle. I catch glimpses of people giving me the stink eye (a contemptuous glare) as they move it out of the way, and I get more strange looks when they see me still handling produce as they leave the store.
Whether I’m shopping for boots, groceries, or scrapbooking supplies, I always contemplate my reasons for placing one brand over another. I can’t buy anything without thoughtful consideration to product standards, features, quality and cost.
Shopping is a painstaking task due to my reviewing the characteristics of a good product for 4-H. My judging experience prevails over the “buy now” sales pitches and annoys salespeople because I’m seldom swayed.
The only impulse I experience while shopping is spontaneously picking up merchandise that catches my eye, like a little girl drawn to a toy store’s sparkly tiara. However, the urge to judge potential impulse buys against similar products persists until it’s no longer considered a spontaneous purchase. I have yet to experience the full effects of buyer’s remorse because I’m a time consumer.
column originally published July 19-25, 2009

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