Everyday Consumers

Alexa Garfinkle, Robert Garcia, Darryl Burkett, Kenneth Childre


Consumption incorporates the exchanging of money in return for a good or service. Where these exchanges occur become our sites of consumption. These areas of consumption are dependent on the circulation of currency, and North Main Street in Columbia, South Carolina is no different. In this essay, we will focus on the strategic placement of businesses in these areas of consumption. We will discuss how time affects the way in which these businesses operate and more importantly, the way in which time affects the way we behave as consumers.

To understand the area we are discussing in this paper it is important to understand the types of businesses that operate along North Main Street. Main Street is occupied by a variety of businesses and is considered the main corporate area of Columbia. There are eight different banks as well as other corporate institutions located in the area. These corporate businesses operate along strict times. They put pressure on their employees to manage their time efficiently. The concept of time is money has been used as a business model for a very long time. Frederick Taylor first popularized the theory of scientific management at the turn of the 20th century. “Taylorism,” which is what his theory came to be known as, has been used as the primary business model in our capitalistic society. Taylorism uses time as its main indicator of efficiency. Since it’s implementation into society, we as consumers have become extremely influenced by his

idea. The pressure to be the most efficient employee one can be is seen during the lunch break hour.

The many restaurants on North Main Street have been strategically placed to appeal to those working in the nearby corporate offices. If an employee has the ability to walk to lunch versus having to go to their car and then drive to a restaurant, this scenario seems much more logical when time is a determining factor. In the case that an employee is allowed a thirty-minute lunch break, it is much more efficient to eat at a restaurant like Panera versus one that involves service, which is guaranteed to take much longer. A meal at Zoës Kitchen, which is located in Morgan Stanley, takes no longer than ten to fifteen minutes to be prepared, and a meal at Atlanta Bread Company is very similar. These “on- the-go” restaurants become extremely efficient because of their close proximity to these corporate businesses. Although these are technically not referred to as “fast food,” a meal is made ready to order within a very reasonable amount of time.

As mentioned earlier, a site of consumption is the location of a where money is being exchanged for a particular good or service. The amount of money being exchanged is much greater in corporate institutions than in local restaurants and businesses. These corporate businesses determine these areas of consumption. Restaurants and local businesses choose their location based on these corporate business. In order to determine your businesses’ maximum profitability the amount of consumers in the area becomes very important.

Since there is such a great amount of money being circulated in these areas of consumption, there is a heightened security throughout. Certain businesses have security

cameras for the purpose of protecting their investments from criminals. Additionally, many of the sites have the added benefit of law enforcement in order to provide even more security. Cameras provide security both mentally and physically for these corporate institutions and businesses. What does this heightened security mean for us who may not have investments in these areas of consumption? Do these sites indicate that this type of security will be the new norm of surveillance in the future? Should we give up our privacy for protection against criminals? Who are the criminals? We have no answers but, asking these questions shows that we have become aware of the new developments that are happening in these areas of consumption. For now being aware is the only thing we can do in this growing world of constant surveillance.

The physical landscape of Main Street affects the ways in which we behave as consumers, and more specifically, the way we consider time, and the way in which we interact with others. In a literal sense, time is money, and our behaviors are strongly influenced by this idea. If we were to park on Main Street or anywhere else in the downtown area of Columbia, we are forced to pay for our time via the parking meters.. These meters are under constant surveillance, and failure to pay for your “time” will almost always result in a costly ticket. The parking meters on Main Street are set to be used at certain times within the day, most of the parking meters start at 6 A.M. and end their paying cycle 12 hours later. For consumers, this becomes a problem because the parking meter acts as a self-timer for consumers. The meter encourages consumers to rush their consumption. During the breakfast and lunch rush, people are in some ways forced to rush so they do not receive a parking ticket. This could relate to Ewalds Norms,

Discipline and the Law, as the parking meter is a device that is supposed to expire. When the meter does expire, it signals a parking ticket officer to give a ticket because you’ve passed the time limit that you have paid for. One reason as to why parking meters are used during the day is due to the concept of consumption prices, which are placed in restaurants during specific times.

Time’s value fluctuates depending on the demand from the consumers. There is no such thing as free space in these areas of consumption. You cannot enter a place of commerce, not buy anything and expect to not pay a price for your body taking up space. When we consume at a restaurant like Bourbon, or any sit down restaurant on Main Street, we are not only paying for the food and beverages we consume, but we are paying for that business’s time. The cost of the meal varies based on the demand at that particular time. Lunch menus tend to be cheaper compared to the dinner menus because lunch patrons tend to consume faster than those of the dinner crowd who are often not concerned with how much time it takes to consume. These areas of consumption rent space to its consumers, and the price of meals fluctuate depending on the day. For some restaurants, the breakfast or lunch prices are cheaper, and there are certain restaurants that do not require service. An example of this is Drip, which is a coffee shop located in the Wells Fargo building. Drip does not require servers, and the time that is takes the baristas to make a cup of coffee is very short. Not only are these restaurants serving at this time but some are only open for certain meal periods, in comparison to being open all day. An example of this is Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, which opens for lunch from 11:30 A.M. to 2 P.M, and then opens again for dinner at 5 P.M. and closes at 10 P.M. During this

time, the use of parking is limited because it too is a self-timer of its own because it’s only active for a 12-hour period. Once the parking meter expires its time of being used during the day it becomes free to those who wish to dine during the night. During the night, parking meters become free, which means that people do not have to be concerned about the meters running out of time. However, when people want to order food at restaurants, the prices tend to change due to the time restrictions .An example of this sort of restaurant is Cantina 76, as they have a specific lunch menu , and the timing in which you can order from this lunch menu is limited. During the night, people realize that they aren’t being watched over by this object anymore and that they do not have to worry about paying to park. Time is not of the essence between 6pm until 6am. However, the process then repeats itself all over again starting at 6am. Overall, the parking meters have a purpose of surveying a consumer’s use of time when it comes to daily activity, which leads to either the feeling of being rushed or less of a concern of being ticketed.

Our behaviors and actions as both consumers and workers are all centered around the idea that time equals money. The way in which we manage our time has been manipulated and transformed by men like Frederic Taylor, in which his concept of Taylorism played a specific role in which the workplace is supposed to be run. To this day, institutions continue to use this tradition by strategically placing values on time and space.




Ewald, Francois. “Norms, Discipline, and the Law.” Representations 30, Special Issue: Law and the Order of
Culture (Spring 1990): 138-161.

Vemer Andrzejewski, Anna. “Efficiency.” Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America.



Your group introduces "reasonable time" as a function and/or measure of efficiency. I'm wondering how you might elaborate on the notion of reasonableness and relate it to disciplinarity. Or, what might you say about how corporate and individual "investments" operate according to a disciplinary logic?

I think that the word investment automatically assumes that a person is trying to gain the largest benefit from a given situation. As described in our article, time equals money explains this idea. The concept of parking meters is one in which a person actively pays for time spent along Main Street. As a person puts in x amount of money, they are deciding that they are going to spend x amount of time in a given restaurants, store, etc. An example of this is when a person decides to dine at Zoes Kitchen. Located right in Main Street, a person invests in a certain amount of time by paying the meter, knowing that they are going to reap the benefits of a good meal at Zoes. This shows that a person considers a meal at Zoes an investment so much that they are willing to spend x amount of money to park in the downtown area.

Zoe's could be someones favorite restaurant to eat at, in this case x amount of dollars doesn't because they will still eat their no matter the situation.

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