A little while ago Steph over at We Don't Chew Glass wrote about an experience she had at Wal-Mart. I go to Wal-Mart every week to do some of my grocery shopping, and her post reminded me of all the experiences (read: nightmares) I’d enjoyed (read: suffered through) at my own Wal-Mart.
I do about half my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart because I am
cheap and have four children. I can’t justify paying 30% more (which is how
much it is; I did the math) at another grocery store for crap like cereal bars
and tortillas. So nonperishables and brand name products I get at Wal-Mart, and then I go to a local grocery store
that has higher quality meats and produce.
But saving 30% doesn’t come without a sacrifice. Someday my
children will understand what I endured so we could save money on Fritos and
yogurt and afford to buy them shoes, take them to Disneyland, and invest our retirement savings in Pokemon cards and Beyblades. And they will listen to my
tale, and no doubt they will do what children all over the world always do when
faced with the story of the suffering their parents have undergone on their
behalf: they’ll roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, so?”
The most important thing about my Wal-Mart is that as far as
I can tell, the people in it apparently have nothing better to do than to be there. The way they meander up and
down the aisles, stopping to read the labels on the shower curtains, the Miss
Clairol hair color, the Cup o’ Noodles. Stopping, I might add, in the middle of the goddamned aisle.
Completely oblivious to the fact that there’s anyone else in the store with
When this happens—the twenty thousand times that it happens
every time I go there—I say, “Excuse me” and almost inevitably the idiot kind
of starts, like he or she is stunned
to realize that there’s someone who might want to go down the same aisle they’re
on. I give them a small smile, which I presume they interpret as “That’s OK.
Have a nice day!” but which really means, “Get the fuck out of my way, you asshole.
Some of us have better things to do
than hang out in a goddamned Wal-Mart all day.” I actually don’t give a shit if
they interpret it exactly as I intend it.
What is it about Wal-Mart that all over the country it
attracts the same kind of people? I saw a woman in there one day with a t-shirt
on that said, “I used to be fucking stupid, but we broke up.” If that’s not
class, I don’t know what is. A couple of weeks ago I saw a woman who quite
clearly had the word “Nokia” tattooed across her chest (her boobs were not
visible—the tattoo was located right below her collar bones, and she was
wearing a tank top. Although I probably wouldn’t have been surprised if it had
been across her boobs, and she had been walking around with no shirt on.
Because I was at Wal-Mart, after
all). She had the name of a cell phone manufacturer tattooed across her chest?
Who does that? And why? Another time there was a woman in front of me in line with a little girl. The little girl kept lifting her shirt up to her neck, exposing her
chest. Her mother kept telling her not to do that, because, “We don’t show our
tatas.” On the one hand, at least she was trying to instill some modesty in
her daughter. On the other hand, our “tatas”? What if she’d been lifting her
skirt? Would the admonition have been, “We don’t show our hoohas”?
The employees are no better. Every single time I’ve ever
overheard anyone ask an employee for help finding something, they preface their
response with, “Uh, I don’t usually work in this section.”
Every. Single. Time. I actually once had this exchange with an employee:
Me: “Excuse me, where are the seeds?”
Employee: “I don’t know.”
This was not delivered as a tentative, slightly embarrassed,
“I don’t know…” about to be followed up with, “but let me see if I can find
someone who does,” or similar. This was “I don’t know” delivered as the first
part of, “I don’t know; why the fuck are you asking me?” I was kind of surprised
she didn’t say the whole thing. When I responded, “Seriously?” she quickly added, “I don’t usually work in this section.”
(To which I replied, “Of course you don’t.”) Either the management of the store
can’t seem to assign the staff consistently to the same section(s), or when
they’re hired, they’re told, “Don’t bother learning where shit is. When someone
asks you, just tell them you don’t normally work in this section. Works every
Then there are four types of checkers at my Wal-Mart.
Cranky, apparently mentally deficient, out on parole, and Asian women.
The queen of the cranky cashiers is Dolores. Customers, in
her mind, are sent to her so she has someone new to share her problems with
every three and a half minutes. And share she does. Except it’s not so much
sharing as spewing vitriol (takes one to know one, as they say). The subjects
of her complaints include: her lazy coworkers who “call out” because the
weather is nice, the weather is bad, the weather is just like it always is
here, or because they’re hung over, drunk, or on their way to being one or the
other (or both); all the new businesses being built in the area around the Wal-Mart,
and how they’re all fast food restaurants, mattress stores, or tanning salons,
and how incredibly useless those things are (Sweetheart. It’s a Wal-Mart—what
were you thinking they’d build nearby? A Neiman-Marcus? Saks Fifth Avenue?); how
much her feet hurt; how much it bugs her when people buy any of the following: bedding
plants (they make her “belt” dirty), big plastic storage totes (what the fuck else do you buy at Wal-Mart?), bras
(hard to get them off the hanger), large electronics (heavy), and anything with
a theft sensor on it that she’s supposed to deactivate (I have no idea why this
matters—I have seen people walk through the theft detection panels with flat
screen TVs that set the alarm off, and no one even looks twice at them, never
mind a store employee stopping them and asking to see a valid receipt for the
item). So Delores is a gem, and you can understand why when I see her on
register 9, I quickly move on to register 14 to find someone (almost anyone) else.
The apparently mentally deficient cashiers all seem to be
playing an unending game of, “Try to get one cold thing in every bag.” I get
home and unload my groceries only to find that the two pints of ice cream, the
heavy cream, the sour cream, the four cups of yogurt, and the buttermilk, are each in a different bag. Now, I am
sufficiently OCD that I put all the cold stuff together when I pull it out of
my cart. For them to get one cold thing in every single bag means they had to try. I am sympathetic to their
challenges, but for the sake of my refrigerated products, I tend to avoid them
The best choices for cashiers are the guys who are clearly
out on parole, and the Asian women. Both are reasonably efficient, bag
everything in the order it’s presented to them (thank you, cold groceries all
in one or two bags) probably because they’re too lazy to bother doing it any other
way, and they rarely say much beyond, “Hey, how are you today?” and, “Find
everything you need?” Plus if something fails to scan, they’ll take you at your
word for the price (“I’m sure that digital camera was on clearance for $2.99”)
instead of trying to get someone to find out the real price for them.
I figure with my weekly trip to Wal-Mart I’m sort of eating
away at my tenure in Hell for being a sarcastic asshole. Every 45 minutes I spend
there is 45 minutes less that I have to spend in the real Hell after I die.
Every fucking clueless idiot that I don’t backhand into the middle of next week for hogging up the whole aisle with her cart while she
reads the instructions on a package of sponges is one less fucking clueless idiot that I’ll have to
encounter in the hereafter. At the rate of 45 minutes a week for the last three
or so years, if I were to die tomorrow, I’d only have to spend eternity minus
four month in Hell. If I can just find a
way to avoid Delores, it might be tolerable, since I’m pretty sure it won’t be