Search This Blog

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wal Mart Nation?

If you live in the United States of America, you probably do it too - shop at Wal Mart. Statistically I'm not sure, but somehow I have a hunch that a majority of Americans who have access to a Wal Mart shop at one. Even those that don't have access regularly probably visit a Wal Mart whenever they're in the vicinity of one. They just have so much stuff.

I remember several years ago we lived in suburban Detroit (Bloomfield Hills), Michigan. There was a grocery chain there called Meijer ( that we liked to shop at. They had a super store near our house, that seemed to have everything. The whole family would pile in there on a snowy Saturday. Mom would crawl through groceries and housewares. Teen-aged daughters would crawl through clothes - and then meet Dad for a slice of pizza when he got out of hardware and automotive.

Just before we'd moved to Michigan, a big store opened here in a suburb of Dallas (Texas), not too far from where we lived. It was called the HyperMart ( I remember it was located on Jupiter Road, at the intersection of something like Saturn or Mars Street. They advertised that it was "out of this world." My parents came from Ohio to visit, and that's where they wanted to go. It was a national tourist destination!

Looking back, I see that my experience with Hypermart USA and Meijer was a preview of things to come. Those stores looked and felt very much like just about every Wal Mart I walk into today. Back then, they were awesome. It was a treat to go there. We'd go as a family, spend a good bit of time there and really enjoy ourselves. Today --- not so much.

I was in my local Wal Mart just yesterday to pick up a few things. The phrase "too big to find anything" came to mind. Whatever I wanted, they didn't have. I wear cordovan colored dress shoes, for example, and need polish for them. It's a basic color for shoes. Wal Mart offered black, brown and white shoe polish. No cordovan.

I wanted whole wheat macaroni & cheese. Wal Mart had regular white flour I wanted some casual loafers, but Wal Mart didn't have them in my size. I wanted sugar free gelatin and Wal Mart only had it in two flavors. There were about 17 flavors of gelatin, but only two that were sugar free. You getting the picture here? Aisle after aisle of stuff, but not the stuff I want or need. What's "hyper" about this?

Lest you think I'm picking on Wal Mart, I've been having a similar problem with my local Kroger Signature store. It's a huge store, with an enormous deli, bakery, meat dept., pharmacy, etc. They used to have these wheat crackers called Weavers. It was a house brand and was very good. I loved them and probably bought at least a box a week. Kroger discontinued them. They had a rice cereal flake that I like for a snack as well as for breakfast. I bought probably a box a week ... and Kroger discontinued them.

Someone came out with a new candy bar, Butterfinger Crunch. Kroger had them at the check-out lines and I was buying one or two of those a week - until they suddenly disappeared. My wife used to by butter flavored rice cakes and loved them for an evening snack. (They were quite tasty!) Kroger discontinued them. Each time we'd find an item missing at Kroger, we'd complain at the customer service desk, write to the company on its web site and make sure they knew what we - their regular customers - wanted. Each time they would simply tell us they weren't selling enough of those items to make it worth their while. Were we were the only people buying that stuff?

So here we are, the Wal Mart nation. Like sheep we file into these humongous big box stores that purport to have everything. But the fact of the matter is that most of them don't have everything that we want. Instead they have a lot of whatever it is that they want us to have. And they run everyone else out of business so we can't shop anywhere else. We don't have a choice. They decide what to sell, squeeze the manufacturers, and we're left with no choice but to buy it. Is this the way we wanted it as consumers? Really?

I've blogged in the past about my moral conviction with the imported goods and services that we buy. Essentially America is transferring massive amounts of wealth to countries like Saudi Arabia, China and India --- which don't share our values or even recognize our God. This Wal Mart nation has sold its soul to the devil, so to speak, for the sake of cheap prices. But I think there's a growing argument that cheap isn't really better in the long run.

I walked out of Wal Mart yesterday without a feeling of satisfaction. I bought a few things. But I didn't feel as if I'd gotten a good deal. Maybe that's because I did not get what I wanted. Instead I had to settle for what was available. I also paid a visit to their restroom, and the positive side of the visit was that it wasn't quite as filthy and disgusting as it usually is. (Has the bar really been lowered this much?)

And like I said, I don't think I'm picking on Wal Mart. They may be the undisputed king of this culture movement and paradigm shift. But they don't own it. It's a whole mentality for the supply chain. It's a whole set of values for the retail scene. We've bought into the notion that bigger is better. If that were true, shouldn't the definition of better include more satisfying with better service?

But hey, Wal Mart's got those price rollbacks that are supposed to be what really matters. And maybe that's the question. Is price what really matters to this Wal Mart nation?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:06 PM

    "Essentially America is transferring massive amounts of wealth to countries like Saudi Arabia, China and India --- which don't share our values or even recognize our God."

    Who do you think you are showing off your arrogance?

    If asked you would know nothing about those countries and how they were cultivated for exploitation.

    Your radiating arrogance is the true nature of you whole kind.

    Why should they "Recognize" you god?

    How is you and your kind superior to them when you are so infinitely ignorant?

    Stop your annoying bark.