May 24, 2004
Wal-Mart Chronicles

I never thought I would say it, but I think I hate Wal-Mart. This weekend, on two occasions, I had to enter the doors of a place I used to love but have now come to detest. Immensely.

No I haven't jumped on the bandwagon of Wal-Mart hatred that has become so trendy lately amongst the anti-establishment and anti-anything-that-makes-money trustafarians. In fact, I get rather irritated by those who mouth off about how much they hate Wal-Mart and use things like "unfair labor practices" and "big business" as a smokescreen for the fact that they really desipse how much money Wal-Mart is making. Well, I am not one of those people.

I actually once enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart. During my freshman year of college, I probably dropped a good $800+ there on dorm trimmings alone. Wal-Mart is a college student's dream. Always low prices. Always. My distaste for Wal-Mart is soley based on the fact that I feel like I'm responding to a cattle call every time I go there. Wal-Mart is not just a store. It is an experience.

If you're planning on visiting Wal-Mart anytime soon, be certain you pray first. You need to be covered in prayer--lots of intense prayer. For myself, I'd add a little fasting too. Fasting is necessary if you have trouble restraining yourself from telling dense people how stupid they are. Pray for patience. You'll need that right away. Like, before you even go into the store.

Patience comes in handy in the parking lot. Parking is no problem if you don't mind a 25 minute wait for a spot. Call me silly, but I mind. I think I almost had an out of body experience once when this guy in a Toyota Corolla maliciously stole my spot. Is there a nice way to call someone a jerk? Probably best just to say, "God Bless You".

When you do finally find a spot, bring some trail mix, a sherpa, and a compass to find your way to the store. I usually have to trek a good quarter of a mile just to get to from my car to the building, where I am immediately accosted by the annoying people-botherers trying to get me to sign some petition for teacher's rights or register to vote. I usually inform said soliciters that I don't sign any petitions without first reading them and I don't care how good "teacher's rights" sounds, I'm not about to slap my name on some "petition" and have it come out one day when I'm running for president of the NAACP, that I signed a petition to eliminate funding for some afterschool program.

When you enter into the circus they call Wal-Mart, you are promptly greeted by 87 shopping carts missing owners, bitter customer service representatives and a McDonalds. This is a recipe for disaster. The phrases, "Excuse me" and "Pardon me" and "Move your big behind out of the way please" become a huge part of your lexicon. These phrases can be said up to two dozen times as one maneuvers their way through crowds of people bottlenecking at the clearance shelf.

Oh look! A new "Atkins drink" for sale, I notice. What a racket.

Oooh look! There's a commotion over at the "two for $11.99" DVD bin!

Everytime I shop at Wal-Mart I feel less like a human being and more like an animal. This is nothing against Sam Walton or his entire rich and lovely family. I wouldn't mind holding stock in such a company. Although, while I was once a vigilant defender of Wal-Mart, I am becoming more convinced that they are partly responsible for perpetuating the lower-class citizen mentality that decends upon every customer who steps foot in their doors.

I try to fight it. I know I am a person raised with pretty good manners, but after about 10 minutes, I am ready to start pushing and shoving my way into the toilet-paper sale aisle just like everyone else.

Then there is the improper use of the intercom system. OH the improper use of the intercom!

"Kendra, calling Kendra, you need to get to the customer service desk now! This is the third time we've asked you! Get over here right now Kendraaaaaaaaaa!"
Please stop that. It's agitating. Now I'm no expert, but I'm pretty certain the loudspeaker should not be used for chastizing other employees. That seems pretty tacky. But wait a minute, this is Wal-Mart.

The intercom ignorance is onl exacerbated by the seemingly trillions of children that have been separated from a parent.

"Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, there is a 6-year-old boy wearing a read shirt at the customer service desk that can't find his mother. If you are his mother, please come get him"
Twenty minutes later, same announcement, same kid. Um, could it be that people go to Wal-Mart with the specific intention of losing their children? As if to say, "Oops! Even though I can't find my child, I thought they were talking about the other 6-year-old boy wearing the red shirt." Child abandoners? I think so. Still, if you can manage to drown out the igorance on the intercom, you should be okay.

That is, until you get to the checkout stand--the pinnacle of the Wal-Mart experience. This is where all civility and common decency are completely lost and your true character is put to the test. This is the place that can break a weak-minded individual. This is the place where you must inform "Miss Independent" in the hot pink shirt that she has just cut you in the line. At this point, "Miss Independent" is highly likely to turn around and cuss you out and say things to you even your own mother wouldn't say. Be strong. Don't let her cut you. Once you've staked out your spot in line, you can't rest easy yet.

Chances are, your "brilliant idea" to get into the "10 items or less Express Line" will turn out to be not-so-brilliant when you realize that most people in line have approximately 67 items. Apparently, most folks don't read signs or count. Or even worse, don't read at all.

My end purchase of a whopping $20.19 makes me wonder if it was even worth it. Apparently millions of people think it is. They keep shopping. Maybe it's just Seattle Wal-Marts. Yeah, that must be it.

Posted by Ambra at May 24, 2004 01:42 AM

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amen, i feel like cattle

Posted by: Lee at October 21, 2004 12:18 AM

Great post! I hate WalMart too. Every time I go there I lose my family and spend 45 minutes looking for them. I am constantly bombarded with rude people and unsupervised children. The stores are (usually) a mess. If I'm looking for printer ink or other small, expensive items it takes 30 minutes to find an 'associate' who is willing to stop talking to a friend and unlock the case for me, all the while making me feel like I'm guilty of interrupting their life. And when I finally find the small item I'm looking for, I get to spend another 30 minutes in a checkout line because the store won't pay enough cahsiers to cut down waiting time.

Posted by: Anthony at October 21, 2004 12:19 AM

As some folks say in these here parts: that was extry funny. Thanks for the chuckles and chortles - I needed that.

I'm reminded me of an old Yogi Berra saying: that place is so popular nobody goes there. It's funny how much people will endure to save a few bucks, but what else are you going to do with your free time, surf the web?

WalMarts is not so hectic in smaller towns except on Friday nights, when everybody goes to see and be seen. I wonder how history will remember the Age of Walton.

Posted by: MarcV at October 21, 2004 12:19 AM

Naw, you wanna hear a Wal-Mart intercom, go down South, like somewhere in MS. When that chick came on there talking in that...I can't even call it a twang, it was more like a...a...gutbucket, I thought my head was gonna explode from trying to keep the laugh in.

Posted by: avery at October 21, 2004 12:20 AM

What I wanna know is why are they the most packed after 10:30 p.m? For real, the lines go all the way back into the cosmetic section at night. At least here in Dallas.

Posted by: Lori at October 21, 2004 12:22 AM

YES Lori! Late night is the busiest time. It's ridiculous. I heard in certain states there are 24-our Wal-marts. Are you joking me? 24 hours of foolishness is too much for me.

Posted by: ambra at October 21, 2004 12:23 AM

Yes! There are 24 Hr Wal-Marts! There's nothing like waking up at 2:30 AM and realizing that you need new shoes, light bulbs, or a pencil, and being able to go to Wal-Mart and get it right then! It's instant gratification!
But yes, I think your experiences recently are not indicative of Wal-Marts as a whole. I don't think I've ever been to a Wal-Mart as crowded and unorganized as the one you described. Their sole money-maker (really) is their extreme organization. And the only time I remember seeing that many people at a wal-Mart was the day after Thanksgiving. And I've never heard an employee chastised over the intercom like that.
I don't think that it's necessarily contributing to a poverty mentality. . . although I see your point.

Posted by: Casey Peterson at October 21, 2004 12:24 AM

The first time I went into Wal-Mart I was taken aback by the enthusiastic "Welcome to Walmart!" which was followed by them taping my shopping bag shut, presumably to keep me from shoplifting. Talk about mixed messages.
Also, I don't know what the Walmart advertising is like in the US, but in Canada it is SO completely nauseating I wouldn't even consider shopping there. I'd rather pay twice as much. Seriously.

Posted by: Font Goddess at October 21, 2004 12:28 AM

Two thoughts on Wal-Mart. They offered me a job I probably should have taken out of college 25 years ago, but I chose an even more evil business to indulge in, one that the granola eating Volvo driving market economy hating crowd really despises...

Second, whenever you think Wal-Mart is the root of all evil look at the affects of the not so successful retailers like Wards, and that pathetic Kmart. If you live anywhere near one you know how they have added such vibrance to the community. There is something to be said for a successful company and I imagine there are numerous cashiers with million dollar asset accounts that had the sense to buy their company stock 30 years ago. They all live in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

God's country.

Posted by: vanyogan at October 21, 2004 06:19 AM

Vanyogan, I agree with everything you said. I still feel like catttle everytime I go there.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at October 21, 2004 08:23 AM

I was in College Station, TX both before and after Wal-mart. We were SO happy to get our Wal-mart. It was SO much cleaner and easier to shop (as well as cheaper and less annoying) than K-mart. The ONLY like shopping place in time. (Since then Target has also come in. But I still find Wal-mart cheaper than Target. Plus I'm not pleased with Target's decision not to allow Salvation Army ringers outside their stores anymore so I'm not shopping there right now)

Here in the Puget Sound, though -- well, the Wal-mart in Renton is SO crowded that it just is a place that I don't want to go.

Lynnwood is better. Both for parking (if you're willing to park out.) And for the crowdedness potential of the store. Both stores tend to have lines at the cash register. (Though again, they are shorter at the Lynnwood store)

However, coming home from the Lynnwood store has ghosts for me because that's what I was doing last year when thinking about getting in touch with the friend who I hadn't haerd from in a week to see how she was doing only to get home and find out she'd gone to the hospital in an emergency... and well she died that night. So it is hard to make that "going home from the Lynnwood Wal-mart" trip now.

But yeah, there are 24 hour Wal-marts. The ones I know about (Columbia, SC and Bryan, TX) are Supercenters -- selling groceries as well as Wal-mart goods. Many grocery stores are 24 hour without the snide thoughts about it, I see no reason that Wal-mart grocery stores shouldn't be open all hours as well.

Posted by: Sarah Schreffler at October 21, 2004 11:43 AM


Agreed, let it be said however that cattle eat cheap and often as do I.

I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart's perishable goods or durable goods. But let me at the rest of it.

A note on Wal-Mart's durable goods. Their buying power works against them in this case because they are so big that companies can't pass on their orders so they change their specifications to create a margin. But then I suppose it's not such a big deal because Wal-Mart does stand behind their sales if you look them in th eye and growl.

I bought a car battery there one time and placed it underneath the shopping cart. I loaded all the groceries. Went home and forgot the battery. The next day I returned and told the sad story of my idiotic behavior. They just gave me another. Don't worry, be happy they said.

You got to love em...

Posted by: Vanyogan at October 22, 2004 08:55 AM

I always feel like I am in the way of the employees at Wal-Mart. On a recent trip, I was attempting to look at some girl's clothes for my daughter when an associate literally pushed me out of the way to hang up more. She said she HAD to get those up and that it was her job (very rudely, I might add) I told her that I wanted to apologize for being in her way and asked if the clothing I was attempting to see was indeed for sale. She said that it was and I told her that while I was sorry for inconveniencing her while she was working I was trying to shop and that the last time I checked Wal-Mart was a store. I don't think the people who work there realize that if we, the customer, weren't there, they wouldn't have a job.

Posted by: Katie at November 11, 2004 09:55 AM

Every time I walk into a WalMart Supercenter all I can think of is what would a person from Ethiopia think about all that food.

Posted by: Katie at November 11, 2004 09:59 AM

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