Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Wal-Mart & other consumer ramblings

I keep telling people that I try to "boycott" Wal-Mart, but I think I may be coming closer & closer to actually doing a REAL boycott.

Except for Sams Club. I've still got one of those groovy memberships. :D (Hey, it comes in handy when you want to buy an 18-month supply of soap...) Or the music downloads at (only 88 cents per song, plus tax)... but I may just download from iTunes instead (I think the sound quality's better).

The other night after work, I spontaneously decided to get some stuff that I needed at Wal-Mart. It was about 12:45AM, but hey, they're open 24 hours, right? Well, I got INTO the store OK... the elderly dude who greeted me was very nice & even sold me on the idea of getting a shopping cart. Then it looked like they were stocking the shelves, so I walked around the stock crates & made my way to the electronics section. But it was blocked off with boxes.

Hm. No problem, I'll just get the toothpaste I need. Mission accomplished there... but WAIT! Some dude walks by with a floor buffer. It looks like he's waiting for me to get out of his way while he's adjusting his cord. No problem... but WAIT!! How do I get out of here??? I walk halfway across the store (with my shopping cart that's holding only my purse & toothpaste) just to untangle myself out of the labyrinth that was once the Wal-Mart aisles.

What happened was they were roping off most of the store so they could buff the floors. Did they notify me about this? No. Were there signs posted anywhere, maybe with one of their trademark smiley faces telling me Sorry, we're buffing? No. Did I even get eye contact or any other type of acknowledgment as a human being as I walked around the boxes, trying to shop?? No way. Hello, I am a paying customer!!

I decided that they didn't want me to shop there that night, so I simply paid for my toothpaste & got out of there. (The cashier's teenage kids apparently were there in line in front of me, at least I assume they were her kids, because she grounded a couple of them... that was interesting. :> ) The elderly greeterdude was very courteous at saying goodbye, but still I was frustrated. I decided I would go to Target and/or HEB later instead.

I usually don't even GO to Wal-Mart. Not unless I'm super-desperate & broke. (Or accompanying a family member just to hang out.) The store is almost always dirty & smells funny. And crowded. And huge. You park your car then it takes 5 minutes to walk to the store, then when you're in the store it takes you 10 minutes to walk to the other end of the store, and -- crap! -- you forgot something on the other side so you have to walk 10 minutes all the way back. Then the CHECK-OUT line... you stand in line 10 minutes & then wait while the cashier takes their sweet time, usually around 10-15 minutes, to ring up & finish bagging your stuff. Then it takes you 5 minutes to walk to your car, 5 minutes to get out of the parking lot, & about 5 more minutes waiting to pull out into the super-busy street... Sigh.

Then you make it back home, exhausted, & are proud of yourself for saving a grand total of about 20 cents.

When really if you had just gone to HEB, it would have taken you only 2 minutes to walk to the store, 3 minutes to do your shopping, 3 more at the checkout, & then 3 more back in the parking lot and -- viola -- you're driving home. And still have energy to spare.

While we're comparing prices, say you're a bachelorette (like myself) who likes to buy microwavable canned meals. HEB sells a store-brand can of spaghettios & meatballs for 75 cents, & Wal-Mart sells their own store brand for the same price. You microwave the food & HEB's tastes light & yummy. Wal-Mart's tastes OK, but it is greasier & the meatballs are shaped weird & are smushier in your mouth. Which, I ask, is the better value?

Fried chicken at the deli. HEB sells a yummy assortment of pieces that taste just as great hot & fresh as they do if you let them sit in your fridge & eat them cold a few days later. Wal-Mart sells chicken (I'm not sure of the price) that tastes OK too, but is much greasier... sort of like Albertson's, only shaped more normally.

If it sounds like I'm an HEB fan, I am. I guess their efficient service, reliable products, & less-smelly stores have won me over. (Except for that one in Bellmead... WOW was there a pungent odor coming from the dairy section before they rebuilt the store a couple of years ago... yeesh!)

I am beginning to discover Target. We don't have the supercenter version with grocery section here, but I've found some pretty good deals at their electronics section. And the Hallelujah chorus would have fit in perfectly with the look on my face when I saw the 60-foot giant rolls of bubble wrap. Like, WOW!!! Hmm... I may have to rethink my Sams Club membership...

My personal opinion is that Wal-Mart takes advantage of poor people. They charge like 5 cents below what everyone else charges, so everyone & their dog flocks to the bargains. Then their products, scuzzy stores, & horrible customer service all combine into one subtle insult to the modern consumer. Like, blech.

I read somewhere that nobody can compete with Wal-Mart, so what the other stores do is compete AROUND Wal-Mart -- try to be something it's not. Like a clean, efficient store (HEB). Or a store with really huge candy & soda sections (Albertson's). Or a resource for cutting-edge products & services (Target). Or just plain less crowded (KMart). Well, whatever these stores are doing to compete around Wal-Mart is working, at least for me. For the most part, they've won me over.

[I realize I have written this at the risk of offending hundreds of loyal Wal-Mart customers. Please realize that this is my opinion only. :D Many people I know & love do their shopping exclusively at Wal-Mart Supercenter.]

But remind me not to do any more spontaneous shopping at 12:45AM.

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