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Goodbye to an old comfort zone

Posted Aug 21 2009 10:30pm
There are three Walmarts in our area. A fourth is in the works.

Walmart is one of those catch-22 things. when it comes to your area, the whole flavor of the place changes. Suddenly you find yourself in Anywhere, USA, and its as if everything implodes and all you are left with is Anywhere, USA, for miles and miles and miles round. It is hard to compete with a place that can sell anything you have in your shop for 10% less than you can buy it wholesale. Only they don't. They just undercut your retail price enough to take your customers, while raking in all that extra dough.

At the same time, when you need a can opener, and you can get the same can opener at the local hardware store for $15, or go to Walmart and buy that same can opener for $10, its hard to argue with that, especially these days. It's easier to justify going to the local hardware store if they are selling that can opener for $11, but $15? And in this economic climate?

Walmart can be evil from some points of view, salvation from others, and I'm not here to get into that debate. I have a habit of going to Walmart not to buy things, but simply to wander around someplace that is large, relatively quiet, and full of stuff to look at. I used to develop a lot of film there, now I print some digitals off, maybe browse what's on clearance. Sometimes I have a list of things that its best to get at Walmart than any of the other places around, which are all big-box chains, anyway, and Walmart's a lot cheaper than Lowe's for a lot of things.

I digress.

I shop at a Walmart that is not the closest Walmart to my house. There is one huge, honking reason for this: It is not a Super-Walmart.

Super-Walmarts are so huge, so overwhelming, and so warehouse-ish that there is no pleasure in shopping in one. Even for a completely utilitarian visit, the hugeness of the space is such that trying to find the thing wanted is a pain in the patookas. And to make it worse, they move stuff around, so where it was last month, it may not be there now. The signage sucks. Heaven forbid I have the guys with me, and have to drag them across the store, because the thing that was just inside the lawn and garden door last week is now all the way over in Grocery. Oh. My. God.

No, no, I had this nice little Walmart, just a bit further than the Super-Hellmart, and in the other direction (putting it in a neighborhood that is a good bit safer after dark). I loved my little Walmart. I could wander into the lawn and garden area, and browse the flowers or the holiday wares, maybe get some cat pan liners, pick up some pictures, Meander through the craft section, then wander back through the hardware and toys and home. It was a lovely little circuit, not exhausting, familiar, unchanging. If something moved, it moved predictably, because I knew the aisles that were "seasonal" and the aisles designated as "clearance" and nothing else wandered. If I wanted something, I could go in, get what I wanted, pick up a few other things that were convenient, and be out in 15 minutes, cheerful and happy to give them my money, with thoughts of giving them my money again, no problem.

Note the past tense.

Some schmoo somewhere in the corporate higher-ups of Walmart made the disastrous decision to expand my nice, comfortable Walmart into a Hellcenter. The renovations are underway now. My store is a mess. I can't find anything. They changed the entire location of the entrance and exit, completely disorienting me when I go into the store. And my favorite lawn and garden center? Demolished. DE-MOL-ISHED. Gone.

Some poor cashier, when I expressed my distress after having spent twenty minutes in search of an item that I preferred to purchase there, started telling me how wonderful it would be, because the groceries were so much cheaper, it would be fabulous. I didn't bother to tell her that the Super Hellmart with the groceries was closer to me already. If I wanted Hellmart groceries, I could easily go to the closer store. In fact, it won't make much sense for me to go to my little Walmart anymore, because its gone. I may as well save some gas and just go to the closer store. Except that I hate that store. Its ugly. Its dirty. The people who frequent it are rough. People get mugged there a lot. And on top of that, I've priced it, and the Wegman's is beating them up one side and down the other on grocery prices right now, except for slowcooker liners (the item I spent 20 minutes finding) and cat box liners (hence me picking them up whenever I make a circuit). Everything else I buy? Nobody is touching Wegman's right now.

So the end result is my once-little Walmart is going to lose a customer. I'm sure no one cares that one person is not going to go there anymore. I'm sure so many people in that area will be very happy, as there isn't a nice supermarket on that side of town right now, so folks in those little subdivisions will fill the void I leave. But it is very, very sad to be forced from a place that was so quiet, and calming, and comfortable.

But I bet I save a lot of money, since I won't be wandering about the Walmart.
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