“Each WalMart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.” ~~ Sam Walton, Founder of WalMart
Oh brother. We are in trouble ! If my local (Stuart, FL) WalMart “reflects the values of its customers” — me, for instance — and supports the vision I hold for my community, then either my values have slipped or the community I envision is not quite what Stuart would want for itself. Or both.
WalMart has become America’s iconic representation of cost-conscious shopping and its ubiquitous presence in both rural and urban settings has changed the shopping landscape — for both good and bad. And sometimes ugly.
It is from “the ugly” that the idea for this post arose. So, classify this, please, as my first official rant against WalMart shopping.
Now first, the Good:
I must admit to liking a lot of things about WalMart.
Sure, I would prefer to be a shopper of a higher caliber. Or maybe just to be perceived as a non-WalMart shopper. Kind of a closet bargainista. “Oh yes, I do all my shopping at Bergdorf Goodman!”
But, let’s face it, there are several compelling reasons for everyone to take part in “The WalMart Experience,” whether they admit it or not: convenience, affordability and the creation of jobs in a depleted job market.
First, there’s the issue of “convenience.” No matter where you are, there’s guaranteed to be a WalMart within 5 miles of your home. (From an environmental standpoint, that’s a good thing. Saves on gas.)
It’s also quite convenient to be able to — ostensibly — make all your purchases under one roof. You most certainly can’t buy toilet paper at Bergdorf Goodman!
On the other hand, you won’t find Calvin Klein in the Juniors Department at WalMart. I guess maybe that’s what Sam meant when he said his stores reflected the values of its customers. So, it’s a matter of decision-making. Which do you value more? Toilet paper or Calvin Klein?
As if convenience knows no bounds, for insomniacs such as your Kindly Hermudgeon, a 2 AM excursion to WalMart sometimes is just the thing to send one straight to bed and sleep upon their return home. It’s hard work and downright dangerous dodging all of those night stockers with their overladen handtrucks of merchandise!
There’s also the issue of affordability. Let’s face it, the economy isn’t getting any better. And despite the profusion of buy 1/get 1 free deals at your favorite grocery store, the WalMart SuperStore grocery prices generally are lower. If you’re not a fashionista, WalMart clothing prices, particularly for kids’ clothes, can’t be beat! And for all other purchases, from aspirin to zippers, you’ll probably fare better at WalMart than at many other stores.
WalMart is known for jobs creation. The SuperStores, in particular, employ vast legions of “associates” in khaki and WalMart Blue, among them an army of mostly-senior “greeters” whose job it is to make you feel welcome (and to make sure you ain’t stealin’ nuthin when ya leaves) and who probably couldn’t find another job, unless it was at Dunkin’ Donuts.
So, all-in-all, Sam Walton looking down upon us from his Heavenly Reward should be proud that he’s still doing his part for the American way!
On to the Bad:
- WalMart is sneaky. Just ‘cuz they are known for “low, low prices,” doesn’t mean theirs are. Do your homework.
- If you don’t know where an item is in a WalMart store, forget it. If you find an associate, chances are they won’t know (or won’t care enough to tell you) where it is.
- Shopping at WalMart, particularly during non-traditional hours, sometimes means shopping with a variety of non-traditional other shoppers. I’ve bumped shopping carts with drunks and persons who seemed to be on AWOL status from our local mental health facility. Usually, that wouldn’t bother me, but when it results in an “encounter,” you’re on your own.
- WalMart parking is, at best, horrible. There are 1,000 handicapped spaces to every non-handicapped space.
- Checking out at WalMart is an experience unto itself. There are 2 open checkout lines available for every 1,000 shoppers. During their busier days and hours, that is decreased to 1/1,000.
Etc, etc, etc.
But, enough of that. On to the Ugly:
The KH really wasn’t in a bad mood yesterday evening. Tired, perhaps, but otherwise fine when she received an emergency late-evening call from her daughter who was at work. “Mo-o-o-m ! I’m sorry but I forgot to buy diapers and I was wondering if you could maybe run up to WalMart and buy some? Pleeeease?”
Had it been earlier in the evening, the KH could’ve made a 5-minute run to Publix. But no, at this hour Publix was closed.
So, being the outstanding mother and grandmother that she is, the KH ran immediately to her car to go to her friendly neighborhood WalMart in what would surely be only a 10 minute trip. In and out. No problemo.
Having made a diaper run on a couple of previous occasions, the KH steered her mobility cart straight to the rear-of-the-store floor-to-ceiling wall of diapers and found the requested WalMart brand “Parent’s Choice” boxes of diapers. Lessee … size 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … oh NO ! No size 6. Doesn’t that just figure?!? The store was, apparently, out of the only size I needed.
Knowing the Walmart routine as I do, I searched both high and low to make damn sure there were no boxes of size 6 elsewhere. Nope. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
So, using logic (my major mistake), I grabbed 3 smaller packages of size 6 (at $5.97 each, compared with $13.97 for the large box … yet with a total diaper count of 1 less than in the box) … and headed for “Customer Service.”
Now, bear in mind that “customer service” is a euphemism in WalMart’s vocabulary. Once there, I explained in the simplest terms my request:
“There are no boxes of size 6. But you have these smaller packages. Would you give me the box price since there’s quite a price difference?”
Dull stare from customer service associate (CSA) ….
“There are no boxes? You’re sure?”
Sweet smile from the KH….
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“But, did you look up high??”
“Yes, you have only 2 boxes of size 3 and 1 box of size 5 there. No 6’s.”
“There weren’t any associates in the department?”
“um … none that I could find, no.”
Major sigh from CSA ….
“Ok. I’ll have to call someone from that department.”
Loudspeaker announcement: “I need an associate from Infants to Customer Service.”
Fifteen minutes later … Saint Hermudgeon still waiting patiently astride her mobility cart … a second announcement.
After another 5 minutes, associate Teresa sauntered up to the counter at a snail’s pace. “Linda’s on dinner. So she told me to answer your call. That’s not my department but I’ll go look,” she said to the CSA.
“I’ll follow you,” said the KH. Off we went to the opposite side of the store.
Associate Teresa (AT) surveyed the mountain of diapers. “There’s no size 6’s,” she said.
“um, yes, that’s right… None. Could you check in the back, please?”
Major sigh from AT. “All right.”
Ten minutes later…. AT finally returned from within the bowels of WalMart to report “There’s no size 6’s.”
Big surprise, that.
“Could you substitute 3 of the smaller packages and give me the box price?”
“uh, I can’t. Maybe Linda, but she’s at dinner.”
“What about the CSA? Can she do it?”
“uh, I dunno. Mebbe. Might need a Manager.”
“Is there one on duty?”
“uh, I dunno. But CSA will know.”
So, often again to the front of the store. Miraculously, the same CSA was there so the KH didn’t have to re-explain the whole thing!
Same question posed that was posed a half hour ago: “Can you give me the box price?”
“How much are the boxes?” asked CSA.
(KH thought to herself, “You don’t trust me enough to take my word that there are no size 6’s on the shelf, but you trust me to give you the price of a box?”)
“The boxes are $13.97. The soft packs are $5.97 each. So, the difference would be $18.00, minus 3 cents each for the soft packs, so $17.91 minus $13.97.”
Dull, uncomprehending stare from CSA. “Hang on, let me do some math here,” she said, grabbing a pen and paper. After what seemed an eternity of calculation, she finally arrived at the price difference.
“Ok, I can do that.”
MAJOR SIGH OF RELIEF FROM THE KH.
Now, I know that this was but a minor incident, as incidents go. And I know that WalMart doesn’t pay its associates to think. And I know that my daughter should have been more responsible and purchased sufficient diapers in advance.
But geeze, that transaction was not only ridiculous and tiring but sucked up 45 minutes of my time!! So, get off my back!
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to diaper purchases and WalMart, I have only 3 words to say: Piss on it !!!!!!!