August 13, 2007

WalMart ShmalMart

Am I allowed to like this? Am I allowed to have not just read, but devoured David Olive's piece yesterday on WalMart's stumbling? Let's pretend I am.

I don't like WalMart. Their win-at-any-cost strategies are deplorable, and have left towns and, more importantly, people, sucked into the undertow of their wake. I won't shop there because there is literally nothing I can't find somewhere else at similar prices. At stores that pay their employees decent wages and benefits, at stores that are clean, and at stores that actually staff areas to help you.

I used to go to a WalMart for toys, because most other places had no toys, and I had two little kids I bought toys for. The Bay is a joke for toys, Sears is nearly as bad, and Zellers, at the time, only brought in toys at Christmas. I was stuck in tumble down aisles looking for Lego, dreading having to head to a surly check out. You get one, and only one, smile when you go into a WalMart - the greeter, who usually scared the crap out of me. Same at Blockbuster, for the record. You scare me. And if I've now just offended some WalMart employee ('I always smile!), well, I sincerely hope you're one of the few who are getting paid a decent wage with proper hours and full benefits.

They have okayed a WalMart to open near me. I live in a downtown core. There is already one huge WalMart a couple of miles away. Somehow, they are going to shoehorn another one into our tiny downtown, and create traffic nightmares. Our town council should all turn in their paycheques for this boneheaded move, as far as I'm concerned. You fight for the people that elect you - you don't cave to a monster of misplaced retail hell. And don't tell me there was nothing you could do: optics are everything, and the optics have left me steamed.

Olive's piece notes that WalMart is having trouble. Their growth has stalled, mostly because they've been unable to capitalize on foreign markets they believed were theirs for the taking. Germany kicked them out - the greeters spooked those staunch Krauts, and sent them running. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe it's my German background at play with my similar response.

Admittedly, when you're as big as WalMart, to experience growth becomes harder and harder. There's a Stephen King short story about a guy who's stranded on an island in the sea, and eventually has to start eating pieces of his own body to survive. It's a really gross story (classic twisted King), but I was reminded of it when I read the WalMart piece. Maybe it too will just start consuming itself until it goes away.

It's not a snobby thing - I can't afford to be snobby. But I truly believe that if you wander around a store big enough to house airplanes long enough, you will eventually fill your cart with all kinds of junk you never wanted and don't need. Over-consumption is the bane of our existence, and WalMart is a wunderkind at convincing you - and your kids - that you can't live without everything parked beneath a big yellow smiley face.

Buy better, buy smarter and buy less. Support stores that support their employees and keep this country's manufacturers working. Look for quality over quantity, because in reality, it's the only creed that will sustain you while you sustain it.


Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

Sounds as if Hamilton’s council is as forward-thinking as the council of Peterborough -- I live about 15 minutes northwest of that burgeoning metropolis.

I have come to believe that most councilors start off as well-meaning, progressive- minded citizens, devoted to their wards and constituents.

Along the way, something happens where common sense is quashed to make way for individuals I like to call "shlemmings" -- a unique hybrid of a lemming and a sheep.

Consequently, all bets are off and anything that used to make sense is replaced by boneheaded decisions by these individuals that are now part of a scary collective thingy where is becomes, for the most part, their term’s work to alienate themselves form constituents and reality all at once.

And yes, for the record, I severely dislike Wal-Mart – Blockbuster, too! I cringe walking into that store to hear the shrill and mindless warning, “HELLO!” squealed out by some dazed, pimply youth looking to find the most effective way to remove a distant booger from deep within a nasal cavity while going through the motions of recommending cool yet annoying films to anyone within earshot, such as “When Harry met Armageddon” or whatever the latest Bruckheimer extravaganza happens to be.

Having read a little about the long departed Sam Walton, I doubt whether this present day incarnation of his mega corporation is not quite what he had in mind. A long time ago, this company found a way to make easy money by the bucketful while preying on the lower end middle classes all to make that next dollar. While doing that, local councils, sensing an opportunity for increasing their tax base, see “opportunities” like Wal-Mart as being irresistible – to the point that poor short and long term decisions are often made that may ultimately have an adverse effect on the community they were elected to manage and prosper.

Nurse? I believe it’s time for my meds…!

August 17, 2007 12:15 PM  

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