Here are the facts. Our super walmart has everything: groceries, home goods, clothes, sporting goods, a pharmacy, an optician, a hair dresser, a photographer, a nail salon, some random clock store and even a bank. It’s got $2.00 boys shirts. Generic diapers that save me $10.00 a box. $2.00 boxes of cereal and bread for a dollar less than the grocery store. Scrapbooking supplies and crafts cheaper than Michaels, decent smelling candles, cat food at $3.00 a bag and annuals for my garden at 0.88 cents a piece. No doubt about it, the prices are exceptionally low and we have saved boatloads upon boatloads shopping there – the savings can make me positively giddy at times. It’s also about 3 miles down the road from our home and its open 24 hours. There is just no question, for convenience and savings, shopping at walmart is a no brainer. We shop there once a week at least – I know the cashiers, it is a part of our life.
But there is a tiny voice inside of me that really needs to push aside all of this practical thinking, raise its picket sign and declare in full protest that….
I do NOT feel good about shopping a Walmart. I promise you I don’t. On so many levels.
Let’s start with how I detest Walmart politically. I get it. Walmart rips away any sort of local retailer’s hope for business when they pull into town. They mark their prices impossibly low and wait for all the minivans to park and drop their cash in their endless row of tills. Walmart is as unique as the McDonalds built to its left. They take away any sort of identity a town may have and set up their rollbacks according to terms Corporate designated. (Thanks for putting those scarves and mittens on sale, Walmart. I live in Florida.) Our country has so much depth, culture and distinctiveness. And yet there is at least one big blue bottomless pit plunked dead center of most American towns and cities, sucking the “coolness” out of each little community it encounters.
I also need to discuss that oh so special walmart atmosphere too. That big warehouse vibe with florescent light glaring down on you. The aisles are not very wide and items are piled to the ceiling. There is an endless hum of discount advertizing on the flat screens hanging above your head every few aisles. (Those TVs, they scare me. My children stare at them slack jawed while I run under them every time. I have this irrational fear one is about to come crashing down on me.) And if you decide to brave “Hel*Mart” (as some call it) at certain times of the day or certain days of the week… beware. The crowds, as desperate for savings as you are, madly push their carts with no regard for anyone up and down those crowded aisles. The vibe in that place wears off on everyone. As hard as the door greeters try to say hello and put a smile on each customers face, no one says excuse me, no one says thank you. The place can suck the life out of you and make you downright miserable.
Have you ever been to a 24 hour walmart around 11pm? A whole other group of folks shop then. People with no where else to go, people who want to avoid crowds for whatever reason or people who work all day and just need to finally shop once the kids are asleep. I have seen a man walking barefoot by himself, with no clear sense of where he was. I’ve seen a parade of seven scooters in a row going down the aisle at one time, with very overweight drivers at the helm. I’ve seen handicapped shoppers quietly picking up milk and bread (possibly hoping to avoid any stares), shoppers on roller blades, drunk high school shoppers and shoppers like me trying to shop in peace. Still, I can’t help but feel we are in some sort of shopping casino where the bright lights, confusing aisles and lack of clocks are meant to lull you into thinking its not as late as it seems. Just keep shopping. Just keep shopping.
It is no surprise at all that my oldest son detests shopping at walmart. “It makes me boring” is his usual excuse. The other day he told me that it was too loud and crowded and I couldn’t agree more. So I have started joking with him about our trips there by calling it the ‘Wonderful World of Walmart”. It’s like Disneyland! There are rides (shopping carts), wild animals (fish in tanks), and an exciting little smiley face guy that tells you when there is a rollback! He thought that was pretty funny and it has kept him from complaining for now. But I am kidding all of us. It’s a means to our end and it is my own true paradox. It has savings, convenience, endless quantities of every possibility. I make my lists up and sort my coupons before I go and feel such satisfaction looking at the receipts when I leave. But make no mistake about it. There is not a rollback possible that will ever make that tiny voice inside quiet its constant protest. “Hey hey, ho ho, this walmart absurdity has got to go!” Right on, sister.