Wal-Mart: Lowering the Bar Low Since 1969

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 them.

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 time.”

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 as well.

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 unfamiliar.


Unknown said...

Oh. My. God. That was awesome. Cracking up at the entire last paragraph. Also about the kids: they’ll roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, so?” SO true.

Loved backhand into next week & eternity minus 4 months.

The descriptions are priceless.

I don't shop at Walmart b/c it makes me sad. It has a horrible reputation for how it treats its employees, which is why they have such bad ones & nobody knows where the hell anything is. They're not trained or paid fairly or cared about & I feel bad - although I completely understand avoiding Delores & wanting all the cold stuff in 1 bag. I understand you aren't making fun of the ppl just the situation, which I find totally hilarious (and true) and which I encounter - only at Shop Right.

Tracy said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it!

I know what you mean about the people. In spite of what I said here (which, let's admit, may or may not be the absolute verbatim truth--although Delores IS real, and she IS crabby as hell), I actually generally go out of my way to be nice to them.

If I had another discount store--Shop Right, Price Chopper, whatever--that I could go to, I would. But for bargain groceries where I live, WalMart is the only game in town.