Why You Pay for Shit Twice in the Hood.

Image courtesy Faith in Action.

I just received an email about a digital farm network in Dallas, and I thought, this is interesting.

I often have conversations with @afrolicious and @tomphilpott
about how to use technology to bridge the gap between farmers and people who buy food.

There is a lot of money being made off of people who live in the hood and this is why if you live in the hood you pay for shit twice, and the endless need for profit/growth plays a huge role.

Last fall, my professor said that a unit of profit requires exploitation. What she meant by this is that in order for someone to profit, someone else has to take a short.

Look at it like this, if you are working at Target, making $7 an hour, Target is making arguably $100 to $200 dollars an hour off of you. You are taking the short, and the corporation is keeping the rest.  What if you were able to keep more of the money you earned for them? Life would be different. On top of that, most of the items that we get from stores are from factories in China, Mexico, Haiti and the Phillipines where women work earning $2 per day. Again, those women are taking the short.

How do people pay for shit twice in the hood. Poverty is lucrative. People who own businesses in the hood make money charging incredible prices for the day to day things needed to survive.

The first example that comes to mind is a New York times article where Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the “ghetto tax” and how being poor is expensive. She writes,

  • “Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts..”
  • .”..low-income car buyers…pay more for car loans than more affluent buyers.”
  • “Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance.”
  • “They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses.”
  • “They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive…convenient stores.”

When you add that all up, you really get a sense of how when you live in the hood you pay more for services and products, just because you live in the hood.

The example of how poverty is expensive is Rafi and Dallas’ video Check Mate. Checkmate analyzes why people in the hood use check cashing places rather than banks, why there are arguably no banks in the hood and how check cashing spots,  pawn shops and gold chain shops operate to seperate the people who don’t have a lot of money from the little bit of bread that they do have.

So people in the hood pay more for mortgages, food, care insurance, furniture, banking or check cashing.

Let me focus on food for a minute.

For a long time I thought that the issue around food and social justice was that we just need have more locally sourced food. But the thing about this is that all cities and states are not created equal.

We don’t get our oranges from Idaho.

Because I come from Oakland, where lemons, limes, tomatoes, rosemary and avocados grow everwhere, I assumed that local was the solution.

It isn’t. More than anything, a solution will be food systems, bodega’s, grocery stores, co-ops, farmers markets where earning a profit, and accumulating ENDLESS profit isn’t the main directive or inspiration.

We have been raised to think that everyone can profit, that growth will always increase. Growth or the endless accumulation of profit has real consequences on the quality of life of people in the hood, and it shows. Peace to South East DC. Peace to East Oakland.

Growing and distributing food and ensuring that low income Latina women in Bushwick, and affluent Jewish women on the upper east side both have access to good, fresh reasonably priced fresh food and vegetables is what I envision.

@Umair talks a lot about this  issue of corporations thinking about the bottom line second or even third his blog.

I know that I am talking about a new society here. But isn’t it time?

Do you pay for things twice?

Have you moved from the hood to the suburbs?

Where you surprised by how much cheaper things were?

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  1. Tasasha says

    I hadn’t thought about how the proliferation of check cashing places and rent-a-centers means poor people pay more for things. Obviously it makes sense cause those places charge much more for products and services. When I had my first job as a teen, I cashed my checks at a check cashing place cause I didn’t know any different; I hated that they took $5 of the little money I made, right off the top before I even spent anything. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I got a bank account. I am very much aware of predatory rent-a-centers, who you end up paying so much more cause of interest and monthly payments.

    I live in Chicago and I had to travel to the North Lawndale neighborhood (on the west side) and it was astonishing that it seemed so…..empty, no stores (except family dollar and auto zone), only 1 restaurant that no one in the neighborhood can actually afford, I didn’t see a grocery store or any of the amenities we take for granted if we live in a middle class community.

    I haven’t exactly moved from the hood to the suburbs (i’m a grad student living in a dorm surviving on loans, which is a whole different situation).

  2. says

    I’m a grown woman living on my own with my two children in the hood in DC. It’s not as rough on my side of DC as other parts, but it’s not West of Rock Creek Park. The number of check-cashing places and furniture rental places around here is ridiculous and advertised to people who can LEAST AFFORD to fool with them. I’ve always known this and it as always bothered me. I refuse to use them and anytime I get a chance, I’m in their faces telling them about themselves and their exploitive business practices. The same for the convenience stores that charge up the wah-zoo for sub par merchandise. Those of us with less money pay more for EVERYTHING. It is time for a new society where the poor aren’t forced to carry the burdens of the affluent’s comfortable lifestyles.

  3. Renina says

    When I had my first job as a teen, I cashed my checks at a check cashing place cause I didn’t know any different; I hated that they took $5 of the little money I made, right off the top before I even spent anything. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I got a bank account.
    Off the top is right honey. Always.

    The same for the convenience stores that charge up the wah-zoo for sub par merchandise. Those of us with less money pay more for EVERYTHING. It is time for a new society….
    I think about this…all the time, and the fact that it is my job as a writer to help in creating the conditions for us to see this.

  4. says

    Yep. I already told you. In the hood, they give “approximate change.” So do our policymakers and the Big Man at the top. He be givin’ us “approximate change” in our gentrified neighborhoods by installing a Giant in Columbia Heights where they have to consult a store manager every time you purchase a vegetable or fruit because they don’t even know what the F it is. #sigh

  5. says

    I’ve grown up & lived in an area where the hood, middle class & upper class touch borders. Like where million dollar homes & low end apartments are in the same city district (but not school district.) So yeah, I’ve definitely noticed the different prices for everything from food to gas to every other thing there is to buy.

  6. najah says

    when i interned at the casey fdn. in baltimore they put out a booklet called “the high cost of being poor.” it was a series that looked at urban issues and rural issues. i think i had thought about it from the urban perspective, just b/c i grew up going to the corner store buying milk and eggs at double the price. i didn’t even realize that those in rural areas faced many of the same obstacles (high car loans, home loans etc.). definitely i am hoping to have the opportunity to work towards a new way of structuring society…

  7. jvansteppes says

    It’s nice to see an alternative to the ‘why don’t those people go to the bank?’ attitude toward the check cashing scheme. It would be interesting to chart the spread of check cashing places alongside the decline of bank branches. I can think of 3 bank locations in my childhood neighborhood that closed and were immediately replaced by check cashing agencies.
    Also, another way the poor pay double/lose wages is temp agencies. You can’t find a steady job so you rely on a temp agency and they garnish a significant portion of your wages. The fact that you’re a temp means the company that you work for has no obligation toward you in terms of job security or benefits. The whole structure is designed to keep us powerless.

  8. says

    All true. And it’s frustrating that I can get better deals by walking a mile to a Whole Foods with their fancy stuff than by using the store three blocks away. It’s a real grocery store, not just a “convenience” store, but because people are stuck without transportation, they jack the prices. Old, busy, or low-mobility people are all forced to pay or do the bus-grocery shuffle.

    I’m relatively young and physically mobile. If I break a leg, not only will I go bankrupt from medical bills, I’ll have to pay 1.5 to 2 times as much for my groceries. It’s not right.

  9. doorslam says

    Not the hood to the suburbs, but I live in a small town in a rural area and my parents live in the suburbs, and I am astonished by how different the prices are, biased towards them. Any time you’ve got a captive audience, with a lack of competition, this abuse goes on.

  10. says

    It’s even pretty common for the same grocery store chain to charge more for Product X in the city than in the suburbs. For example, while a gallon of milk at Safeway in Orinda might be $1.99, at Safeway in Oakland it will be $2.99. Moreover, Safeway, and other grocery stores, won’t even open actual locations in the real ‘hood, so your prices get jacked up even more. Stores know they can’t get away with charging as much in the suburbs because people have access to cars, free time, and information, all of which they can use to get their butts somewhere cheaper and/or Costco.

    I discussed this issue somewhat more in depth here, if you’re interested:

  11. Emmeaki says

    The bank vs. check cashing can also be explained by the fact that at a lot of banks you need $100 minimum to open and/or maintain a bank account. Poor people don’t have a spare $100 that can just sit in an account.

  12. Rene says

    i’m from East Oakland too(73rd & E14th area), and i would visit more well off family members in Walnut creek, Sonoma, and El Sobrante from time to time. yes, things were cheaper on average in those areas compared to Oakland, especially food. i remember going to Southland mall in Hayward, as well as Bayfair in San Leandro, and clothes, shoes, etc. were more reasonably priced than say, Eastmont, or MacArthur Broadway Center. if i wanted to shop in Oakland for clothing, i went to Durant Square, or the A.C. indoor mall because $20 for one shirt from Penneys just didn’t seem plausible when i could get 5(albeit poor quality)from Durant for $10.

    and Emmeaki is right about the bank vs check cashing, $100 dollars is ALOT of money in the hood, and alot of people don’t realize how much they lose in the long run messing with these check cashing places until it’s too late.

    my stepmoms did the rent-to-own thing on a sofa from rent-a-center a few years back. she was late on her next to last payment(she had already payed damn near double the couch’s worth) and they took the couch. this woman is disabled, and on a fixed income, had never been late before, and they did not care. my real moms also did the rent-a-center thing, and now her credit is a scorching crater. stay far away from them, buy piece by piece from a used or wholesale if you have to. it will be slow, but you will own every piece with no bs interest.

    i’m staying in the uk for awhile, and it’s the same out here. when you go to the hood areas, in and around London , stuff is sky high, with “cheque centers” everywhere, and not a bank in sight. i went to a tesco and saw a bit of food, a few appliances, but mostly clothing. now go to a tesco in the Cambridgeshire(read affluent-mostly-white)area and you see TONS of cheap fresh produce, gourmet, organic, and “ethnic” food. the clothing section is almost non-existent. SMDH same ish different country

  13. Ross says

    There are lots of ways the poor pay more, some others include sales tax, any kind of loan (student, car, etc.), emergency rooms (the only place who will take the uninsured, but at a higher fee), fines, renting instead of owning a home, and on and on and on.

    I also agree a new society is needed. Just want to point out that they’re working on that in Egypt and Tunisia (and Yemen, and Jordan, and Sudan, …) right now, and for a lot of the same reasons. What are we waiting for?

  14. Renina says

    Hey Ross,

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    From my understanding of social movement theory, people change when the old way no longer works anymore and they are ready for something new.


  15. leeper says

    to be clear, this is some hoods. to get asian food—golden curry mix, panko, noodles, kimchi—it costs far, far less for me to head into China and Japan town in SF than to get it from Safeway, where it’s literally three to four times as much #wheretheydothatat

    good to see you’re still around. i used to read your blog pretty regularly when i was in college, even used a post of yours when i helped teach a seminar on westcoast rap and women. sorry to say, but i don’t really use my psychology or feminist studies majors from UCSC. i graduated into the recession, so i’ve been working for a year and change on deep-ocean freighters on the Oakland-Busan route.

    also, you honestly should be getting compensated for this. your blog is like a public service, but even public servants get paid. checking the javascripts you’ve got going, not a one is commercial; not even adsense. donating, to me, is weird—kitschy like philanthropy, reserved for people with 401k’s and tax-exemptions—but i’ve got zero problem supporting what i’m down with. if you were selling something, i’d probably buy five.

  16. says

    I love your writing and your insight here. As a resident and student in LA, I visited south central as part of a health disparities project, and not only was I shocked at the price for food at convenient stores, but also the selection. Everything’s in goddam packages. Where’s the produce? The fruit? The fresh foods? Not to mention that in the city, there is a McDonald’s every 2 blocks. The system is not only making those in the hood pay twice, but it’s robbing them of their health. The poor end up paying twice plus a large bonus if you factor in health care costs. Keep writing!

  17. Renina says

    Hey J,

    I bought two Roma tomatoes last week @ 2.99/lb. That shit is the devil.

    Fruits and vegetables are for rich people.

    Thank you for your kind words.