After visiting Mecca Bingo and Costa Coffee for Assignment 3, I gleaned quite a bit of information and observations from both social situations. It was quite a bit different from visiting the Museum in Edinburgh and it was clear all three scenarios were filled with many differing social classes and ‘rules’. It was definitely different to anything I had done before and I had never before paid quite so much attention to the actions and behaviours of others around me. So, with purposefully observing the public whilst at both the bingo and the coffee shop I began to notice quite interesting facts and social rules that I had never given much thought to before.
When visiting the Bingo on a Thursday evening, which incidentally was “Free Night”, it was quite a daunting experience having never attended the bingo before. It was clear from the start that there were social rules attached; from walking into the hall right down to how you play the game. When entering we first had to register and the female employee was rather helpful; explaining briefly the rules of the game and the time span. However, I did notice a woman standing behind my friends and I looking irritated at having to wait behind us whilst we were getting the rules explained. I feel that this suggests that not many new comers arrive at the bingo, and if they do, they generally know how to play. So that experience on having just arrived was a little disheartening in case this was how others behaved to new comers.
One of the first things that I noticed on taking a seat in the hall was that it appeared to be mostly working class that were taking part; perhaps taking advantage of the fact it was Free Night. It seemed like a completely different setting than when we had visited the museum in Edinburgh which seemed to hold a more diverse range of social classes. I feel that the bingo has more to offer to the working class than anything else; the setting, drinks and meal deals more suited to someone who has lower income. Not that this is in anyway saying someone from a middle class background can’t go and enjoy themselves, but they would no doubt feel rather out of place. Which I suppose is a similar situation that Bourdieu talks about with art galleries; how it is a more comfortable situation for the middle class than the working class as middle class people are more comfortable and confident expressing their thoughts on art, rather than the working class, as they have not been brought up to see it as a social norm in visiting galleries. So, in thinking like this we can apply the same concept to the bingo hall but switch the perspectives between the middle and working classes.
The people there all seemed comfortable in their surroundings, suggesting that they probably frequented the bingo regularly. There were also many young people which I had in all honesty not expected; believing the apparent stereotype that it was only old aged pensioners who attended the bingo. But there actually seemed to be more people my age than people over 60s which I found quite interesting. I imagine that they see it as a night out as you can also order alcohol and food; which is more than what you would get when going to a betting shop to bet on football or horses, making the bingo a much more attractive prospect to them. It also seems like an alternative to going to a pub or restaurant.
Whilst sitting waiting on the game to begin, it gave us a chance to observe the other patrons. There was a game already going on, which involved an interactive screen that was atop all the tables in the hall. It seemed like a way to encourage people to spend more money than they already were, by offering a gambling game between the actual games of bingo. But it looked as if not everyone in the hall was interested in playing; preferring to get comfortable before playing. I took notice of the fact that there seemed to be an even number of groups to single people, meaning that bingo offers a fun place to be even if you aren’t part of a group. It also suggests that the people there themselves are very comfortable being alone in this environment and clearly have frequented the bingo for, most likely, many years. However I’m very happy that I didn’t go myself and would probably feel more intimidated by the situation than I was with my friends.
Once the game began, a whole new atmosphere overtook the hall; a serious, focused silence that had all the patrons around us concentrating on nothing but there book in front of them. There was no other sound apart from the Caller and the occasional shout of “House” when someone had won. But I noticed, that the longer the game continued, there were groans and sighs of irritation from everyone when “House” was called and the chance of them winning money was taken away from them. At one point during one of the games, I called “House”, but didn’t realise I shouldn’t have; the reaction from everyone around me was in all honesty, horrible. They all stared at me with irritation plain on their faces, their aggravated sighs filling the hall. It was definitely very intimidating and rather embarrassing. It’s clear that new comers aren’t welcome when making mistakes during the game; the other patrons not understanding at all. It’s as if they have no patience for people who don’t know the game inside out and don’t care about welcoming new people into their fold.
It is clear that the interior of the bingo hall is all about encouraging the patrons to spend their money when not participating in the games of bingo. On entering the building and buying your book for the night from the reception, you have to bypass a room filled with various slot machines all offering the chance to win money, before you get to the actual bingo hall itself. The doors separating the bingo hall and the slot machines are all glass panels, meaning that when sitting playing you are always in full view of the slot machines; another encouragement to spend more money. Also during breaks, the Caller always mentions the other games and offers available so that the patrons are never able to forget how else they can spend their money. It seems like, if you let it, bingo could be very addicting, and it’s not surprising that so many people go every week.
My secondary sight, Costa Coffee, was a completely different experience than the bingo hall for a number of reasons. Firstly, it wasn’t daunting or intimidating in the slightest as I have made so many visits in the past and know exactly what to do. But I had never before observed how people act within the coffee shop, which was definitely interesting.
One thing that I noticed whilst observing the other patrons was that it seemed like one person was the designated seat finder; leaving the other person they are with to order and collect the drinks and/or food. It was interesting actually noticing this because my parents and I always do this and I wasn’t aware that so many other people had the same idea. It was also interesting to note that it seemed to be mostly men who chose where to sit, leaving the woman to order.
The social class of the coffee shop was a pretty vast contrast to that of the bingo hall; mostly the upper working class to middle class. I’m not sure if this also made me more comfortable than I had been at the bingo or whether it was just the familiarity of being in Costa Coffee that made me more relaxed in the situation. Unlike the bingo, there aren’t as many offers to the patrons in Costa; they only offer their points card which builds people’s points every time they spend money within the shop. I feel that this shows Costa are confident with their quality of coffee and food and are sure people will return. However the bingo seems to constantly make offers to their patrons to encourage them to come back.
I feel that both the bingo and the coffee shop offer different things to different people and the people who attend the bingo are probably not interested in paying that amount of money for a cup of coffee. I also feel that both situations make both the working class and middle class uncomfortable; the bingo not feeling welcoming to the middle class as it seems to be more suited to those of the working class. And Costa seems to be more suited to the upper working and middle class. It seems that within our society, different social situations are deemed only appropriate for certain classes of people and those out with that status are ‘not permitted’ to attend and if they do, they feel uncomfortable. So many environments today seem to unconsciously revolve around whether we make enough money, or have the right education to be in that place. It seems unfair that places such as museums or galleries can’t be enjoyed by everyone (even though that is what they are designed for) because if you don’t have enough knowledge of the subject then you are judged and made to feel out of place. It seems to be the same with the bingo; new comers who wish to try something different are judged by the regulars who do not take well to unfamiliar groups of people encroaching on what they consider their ‘territory’.
Whilst doing this assignment it definitely opened my eyes to a new type of design and how people act within different situations that I had never really took notice of before. It’s interesting how people seem to pick on rules in different circumstances and all act the same within the same place. But it still seems strange how not everyone seems welcome in different places just because of their social status or backgrounds.