Saturday, January 28, 2006

Blog Stuff: There's a lot of Wally World chatter...

...swirling around on the blogs I visit regularly. Glenn Reynolds' little quip sums up my own feelings perfectly: I'm no big fan, but the squalling of WalMart's foes sounds like advertising to my contrarian heart.

Those wanting the mega-retailer to dry up and blow away might as well wish for a new pony for Christmas while they're at it; there're just some things that a giant retail conglomerate can offer better than any Mom & Pop. Those bemoaning the destruction of Mom & Pop are missing the fact that when Wally World comes to town, it only crushes little businesses foolish enough to try and compete head-to-head with it, when there are plenty of niches that the Blue Collar Nirvana leaves open to exploit, the three main ones being Specialty Items, Snob Customers, and Convenience Addicts.

Wal Mart isn't and can't be everything to everybody. If you need a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale, a box of Buffalo Bore .41 Magnum ammunition, or an odd piece of software for your Mac, well, Wal Mart just can't inventory those things. Similarly, if your yearnings run towards a scary-looking Eeevil Black Rifle, or the controversial raunch-rock album with its naughty lyrics intact, well, Wal Mart won't inventory those. Somebody's gotta sell 'em, though.

This kind of intersects with Snob Customers; I know, because I am one. Some people are willing to spend more to get a better degree of service. If there was a grocery store that charged double the usual prices, but had an obsequeious toady following me around the store to fetch items I pointed at off the shelves, I'd be there with bells on. I'll always spend a couple bucks more to avoid being treated like cattle.

Lastly comes convenience; which may sound ironic, but is one of the main reasons you won't see me at Wally World much. It is just too damned inconvenient to navigate the asphalt prairie, dodge pick-'em-ups with "#3" stickers in the back window, schlep across a store the size of Rhode Island, and wait in a hundred-person-long checkout line just to save a dollar on a six-pack of beer, two tee shirts, and some TV dinners. I'd rather be hit between the eyes with a ball peen hammer. Repeatedly.

Blending some elements of all three of these profiles, I'm obviously not the Wal Mart Shopper, and my retail dollars are largely safe with Mom & Pop. But I am in the Super Store a couple of times a year anyway.

Nobody does bulk bags of socks like Wally World.


BobG said...

I think I've been in Walmart maybe three times in my life (I was with someone else who wanted to shop there); my biggest reason for not shopping there is that when I have been in there, I am very underwhelmed (is that a legitimate word?) by the quality of the stock; I prefer spending more and not having to replace as often.

randy said...

I always admired Sam Walton, based on what I read and heard of him. He seemed pretty much like a down-to-earth billionaire to me. Since Sam's demise, I've been less than thrilled with many of the store's policies dictated by those who succeeded him.

An incident a few years back just blew my mind. It made me realize how far this country has slid down the slippery slope since I was a kid buying guns in the Western Auto store.

I had just gotten off work as a police officer. I stopped by a Wal-mart store (still in police uniform) to pick up a Ruger 10-22 for one of my kids. After signing the "yellow form", clearing the background check, and shelling out currency I was ready to take my stuff and go.

I was informed that store policy dictated that an employee must hand carry my new firearm to the car. Seems that customers couldn't be trusted to not shoot up the place on the way out.

I pointed out the fact that I had walked in with a 1911 on my hip. "Sorry. Store policy" was the reply. The attitude was enough to make me want to shoot the place up. ;)


The chatter I'm hearing is that Wally will soon get totally out of the gun business. If this is true, it will put a hurt on Remington. They could go the way of Winchester in short order.

Yes, the specialty gun shops will still carry Remington, but will the numbers keep the company (as we know it) afloat?

mauser*girl said...

WalMart is the kind of place you go for the everyday cheap stuff you use in life - a bag of socks or underwear, paper towels, a multipack of toilet paper. And 9mm Luger ammo because it's $12 for 100 rounds and nobody here's beat that yet.

BryanP said...

It's nice to know I can stop at most any Wally World and pick up plinking ammo, targets, hearing protection and eye protection.

I admit it - I go there for other things too. Usually when I need a bunch of miscellaneous stuff.

Anonymous said...

Everyone loves to hate WalMart.

I live outside of a small town which is poised halfway between two biggish cities. We moved here about the same time as WalMart did, 10 years ago. I'm told our WalMart is the largest one west of the Mississippi, or it was when it was first turned into a supercenter a couple years back.

When WalMart moved into the town, there was a lot of panic and angst. WM was going to drive everyone else out of business! They are bad neighbors and when you spend money there, only 5% of it stays in the local economy! They don't treat their workers right!! Who wants a job from WM, they're just crap jobs and not a living wage! -- and so forth and so on. We've all heard the routine, I think.

Yesterday I was down in town, driving along the freeway. Where there used to be a couple of battered old stores and a stretch of empty field, there is now a very large, very thriving strip mall with dozens of places to spend money. There's a large Home Depot, a couple new restaurants, a huge crafts store, shoe stores, sporting goods stores ... all shiny new. Lots of traffic in and around the area too.

No more rundown and dusty, nearly abandoned shack stores. A lot of the older stores down in town that have been there awhile have spruced themselves up and are obviously doing a brisk business, at least the ones near enough to benefit from WM traffic.

It occurs to me that 5% of a million bucks is probably a wee bit more than 100% of a thousand. These folks have got to be at least a little bit good for the tax base.

It's moderately obvious, to anyone with half an eye, that the presence of that oversized and ugly big box store has been good for our community and good for employment in the area. Our teenagers have somewhere to work now, other than bucking hay for the neighbors or selling meth to each other. Families have somewhere to buy jeans for their kids that will wear out about the same time as the kids outgrow them -- meaning I'm not seeing nearly as many hick farm boys wearing jeans three sizes too small (thank goodness!)

All those shiny new stores in the new strip mall? They wouldn't be there if WalMart hadn't moved in and pulled the customers off the freeway at that exit.

As for the gun stuff, I buy gun stuff there when it's convenient. When it's not, I pay a few bucks more to the local guys. Either way, I figure I'm helping the movement. When I buy from WM, I'm encouraging WM to keep selling gun stuff -- that's good for us, because it keeps gun stuff in the public eyes and because some folks need cheap gun stuff. When I buy from the locals, I'm keeping them in business -- also good, and a good hedge against the day when WM decides to stop selling gun stuff.