Monday, 30 June 2008

The WalMart Culture Shock!!

I wish that I could tell you that I was one of those wonderfully creative consumers. You know the type! They are the coupon clippers, the bulk store shoppers, and the bargain hunters. They are the shoppers with a separate wallet for coupons and they are the shoppers that instinctively know the price of blueberries at every store in the area. (When it gets to 2 for 5 dollars--BUY!!!) They are the consumers that store "tub-o-mayo" in the cold storage and only buy cereal when it is on sale, and then purchase it in quantities of 12! In fairness, I do descend from this stock. My dad is notorious for going to the store to buy aspirin and coming home with 12 boxes of blueberries and 24 rolls of toilet paper. The husband's maternal grandparents (lovely people whose memory should be forever a blessing!) used to drag me around from store to store while they purchased their groceries. In their later years, I was their designated driver. Of course, the sale items would never be located at one store, so I was forcefully told where to point the car for eggs at Loblaws, bananas at the Price Chopper and day-old bagels (God forbid they should be fresh, because day-old is cheaper!!) at Dominion. I was happy to provide the mitzvah, but it used to enrage the husband. He would complain that I was spending more in gasoline driving around the city, then they were actually saving in bargains. He would beg his grandparents to simply give me their list and I would happily shop for them. His idea was that I would spin a small white lie and tell them that I actually store-hopped, when in fact I would simply do the entire errand at one stop and shop. Of course, they never bought into it because the bargain hunting was more than a simple money-saving exercise. It was in fact, time well spent with their granddaughter-in-law and a way to get out. The frugality that they exhibited was a fabulous bonus. As for my own frugality, I really suck at this creative approach to shopping. I have always felt that my time is worth as much savings as a few pennies here and there. Until now!

You see, WalMart has opened in my neighbourhood. I am no stranger to WalMart. There has been a store at the corner of my block in the sunny south for many years now. It is a true convenience. It is, for the most part, a one-stop shopping experience with extraordinarily reasonable prices. Just by walking through the door, you the consumer can buy everything from a bra to pool chemicals to video games to candy!! I am also not naive when it comes to WalMart. I know that their labour practices can best be described as questionable and that in areas where they invade, they have a tendency to cannibalize small Mom and Pop stores. They also have a self-censoring policy that I personally find reprehensible, but I suppose that if the Walton family has an issue with the "seven dirty words", who am I to argue. But, WalMart is kind of like a train wreck! You simply cannot drive by without at least a passing curiousity and a gawk or two.

WalMart opened up here in the northern nether region back in March. It took me a few months to succumb to the spell, but succumb I eventually did. First off, it is without a doubt the cleanest and most neatly kept WalMart that I have ever visited. Typically, WalMart has a reputation for clothes strewn all over the shelves and floor in no discernible order and it's food stuff is rarely re-stocked. The Thornhill WalMart has thrown those stereotypes out the window. It is not scummy. It is well-kept and well-stocked. It has a very extensive grocery area in which you can purchase almost everything, with the marked exception of produce and meat stuff. It is quite a massive store, and in typical WalMart fashion, it is attracting a full cross-section of this economically affluent area. But, it is still WalMart!!!

The husband and I made a quick pit-stop at Sam's favourite haunt today. He was in need of razor blades and I wanted to pick up a few odds and ends for the upcoming Canada Day holiday. WalMart is close by and seemed like a logical destination. Given the fact that the kids are now out of school and that it is a pseudo long weekend, the place was packed. Everybody was in search of bargains and they were sending their shopping carts careening in every direction. The husband, while happy to buy his razors and bottled water at tremendously discounted prices, made the very astute observation that no matter nicely it is dressed up, it is still WalMart and the shoppers had that WalMart shopper appearance. He wondered aloud if we now looked like the masses in the store. "Absolutely", I responded. Isn't that the point of WalMart? To give us all the mass illusion of conspicuous consumption? Way to go Mr. Walton!! You have succeeded in making me look at and participating in your train wreck. I am soooo screwed!!!!

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