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Friday, August 16, 2013

Tales from a 1:30am visit to Wal-Mart

Its Friday.. end of a lovely August week and as a reward for comfortable weather and pretty much sunny skies, we won't dwell on the drek which is the stock market..

Today's topic is Wal-Mart..

They've been in the news lately because as we reported yesterday their domestic profits are in decline and because they're the #1 employer in the US and the biggest retailer, their success or struggle tends to represent the overall retail community that caters to the non-affluent..

A CNBC article today made the argument that Wal-Mart is struggling because the poorer classes are financially being squeezed at all sides and its causing the store, where those people mostly shop, to feel the pinch..
Ehh.. Perhaps..

We think in this case the problem isn't so much the US economy or the US consumer but Wal-Mart themselves..

Our offices are located near a 24 hour Wal-Mart..  Yours truly needed some odds and ends-- milk, cheese, etc so I stopped over at 1:30 this early morning i.e. the dead of the night...

Here were my impressions..
Entering a Wal-Mart during the graveyard shift hours and shopping about is admittedly one of the most wonderful experiences one can have if not liking the normal hustle-bustle of stores...

The parking is premium i.e. the first non-handicapped space closest to door was available, you don't have to feel that tinge of tenseness when wanting to go down a narrow aisle because no competing shopping carts or people blocking..

Best part is no wait to check out... no standing in line which definitely makes up for the inordinate amount of life-wasting time one has to deal with while waiting behind others to make returns!
~ Wal Mart in Mexico

So the food list was small.. skim milk, eggs, cheese, cereal..

But since I was in no rush, I strolled around the entire circumference of the store rather than go directly to the dairy section.

The first thing I noticed was that I was the only non-employee in the store.  To many it would spook them out but as stated before, that is a most heavenly experience.

So as I am pushing my cart past all the empty registers I see displays for one fatty junk food item after another and in such bulk as I've rarely seen..  A box of 90 Rice Krispies Treats for $8.97...  A 40oz bag of M&M's for the same price...
~ Wal Mart in Japan; store is called Seiyu

Don't know about others but a normal box of 8 Krispies treats lasts me at minimum a week so had I purchased 90, I would have saved a dollar or so in the long run but that's 11+ weeks of one a day to finish..

A standard medium size bag of M&Ms is 12.9 oz and honestly if a bag that size is consumed any quicker than 3 weeks, there's weight issues going on...   Each serving is 220 calories so the entire bag equals 2,640 calories, give or take a couple.

Next I pass by the jewelry counter for a quickie look..  The watches are basically two kinds-- cheap and gaudy.
~ Wal Mart in South Africa; its called Makro (say it as 'macro')

You can purchase a knockoff of a knockoff for as low as $7.96 which is nice or spend $50 and up and buy something gold plated with hundreds of 'genuine crystals' to give the impression its cubic zirconia... all for $50

As I continue walking, I notice the nauseating brown floor I am walking on and how hundreds upon hundreds of florescent lights above me are needed to convey any sense of cheeriness.  The store is bare-bones basic and makes no apologies for it..

There's not even a place for the elderly or exhausted to sit except for by the pharmacy and the 'Subway' at the very front.  We are all there to shop and get out.. nothing more or less..  My local store doesn't even use greeters anymore during the day.. $7.25/hr saved..  Cha-Chingg!!
~ Wal Mart in South Africa

I then stop for a moment because I am in need of a hair dryer..  problem is none of the dryers seem to match the description labels and thus I've no idea what the price of anything is..  So i put 4 different dryers in cart and hunt for nearest price checker..

And I hunt..and hunt..  Ah..found one.. Nope.. Broken..  Shit..

Once I do find one and choose the right dryer for my needs, I continue to the food section..  Of course I had to go across the whole store to find a working checker but I rationalize what good exercise I'm getting while working that Gluteus maximus
~ located in Manchester, England

So now I'm standing in the dairy section in front of the milk and honesty I am Pissed!!

Once again this damn store is out of their brand 1/2 gallon skim milk which costs $1.80.  They seem to have plenty of a local brand name milk which would cost me $2.75...

This more than anything tenses me up..  I can put up with the vast empty gaps of space on shelves where cereal and microwave dinners should be, but milk too?

And its not a late night 'thing'.. happens during the day as well..
~ Wal-Mart in Germany

The store refuses to take any kind of loss; refuses to risk any kind of overstock or allow things to sit on shelves to be available and what is available for purchase tends to continually rise in price five cents here, six there.

Wal-Mart has turned into such a backwards operation that its newly installed self checkout lines can't even accept their own gift cards!!

Think about that.. you possess a $100 gift card and have items you wish to buy.  But nope, can't use self checkout with gift cards because essentially your convenience doesn't matter.. We already got your money so go wait in the 30min line...
~ Wal Mart in Quebec

So I am tired and annoyed and I simply leave..

Seems the last 4 times I've visited, I end up departing with nothing purchased due to lack of stock or spite on my part not to give them my money..

So I drive another mile to the local super market.. they're 24 open as well..  They're pretty much fully stocked even in the dead of the night, the store is cheerful, their self checkout Does accept their gift cards and even though I may pay a tiny bit more overall, its well worth it.
~ Wal-Mart in China

So in summary what is turning people away from Wal-Mart and causing lower profits is the store chain itself..

Can't speak for all stores but my local one is depressing, common, poorly stocked, its hard to find any true quality in a store which promotes.

If as some have stated, Wal-Mart is an accurate reflection of the current state of the US consumer then things are bit drearier than even we realized