Sunday, October 21, 2007

Values: Do I Have Any? Or, Should I Shop at WalMart?

Some years ago, I read an incredibly informative article . And after I read it, I decided that I would no longer shop at WalMart.

Truth be told, this was not a hard decision to make. After all, Target is so much nicer! With cleaner aisles! And prettier clothes!

But, seriously, I stopped shopping at WalMart that day. I really do believe that WalMart is systematically putting America out of business. And every so often someone would tell me about a bargain at WalMart, and I would say, "I don't shop at WalMart," and they would look at me funny and hold their children just a little bit closer, and that was fine.

Then I moved to a new city, one which is BIG into WalMart and Super WalMart and freaking everyone I know shops at WalMart ALL THE TIME and they seem to have made a little game of "Show WG a new kosher product she has NEVER heard of and then tell her she can ONLY get it at WalMart." Or "Tell WG about the crazy low price you paid for her pantry staples at WalMart." OR, and this is BY FAR my favorite, when you hear where WG shops, say, "I could not possibly shop there. It feels like I'm being raped."

Yes, those are comparable: paying a little more than you'd like, and being sexually violated in the most violent desecration of intimacy.

Anyway. So, I don’t shop at WalMart. But lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps I should. I mean, could I really be saving that much money? Money I could use to pay for D’s therapies, pay tuition, pay the mortgage, get my hair cut? I’ve been thinking I’d take one of my receipts from the grocery store, head to WalMart, and figure out what the same order would cost me there.

Here, let’s give you a closer look at what I’m talking about. This is an actual excerpt from an actual receipt from my actual purse.

Eggo Maple Cereal 3.45
Golden Pierogi 2.99
White potatoes 1.59/lb
Shelled edamame 1.99
Tater tots 2.11
Frozen veggies 0.41
Curly fries 2.19
100-cal snack packs 1.39
8-pack fluoride H2O 2.99
Organic yogurt 1.19
12 med eggs 1.34
white bread 1.01

I think I do well on a lot of things, but others kill me. Eggs? UGH. I’m also generally stuck with the brands I buy because they’re the kosher ones. But lately, a lot of WalMart brand stuff is kosher, so my friends say.

I guess it all comes down to a fairly simple question: Do my values end where my purse begins?

What about you? Do you shop at WalMart? Why or why not? Should I?


Kate_Teyssier said...

I didn't shop at Wal Mart. The building is too big. I've been challenged to too many games of "chicken" with other shoppers carts. The cement floor hurts my legs and feet.


About a month ago, my husband got a new schedule at work, and I had to go grocery shopping alone. I was also dealing with healing from a toe operation, and faced with traveling the aisles of the bigger grocery stores was daunting.

We have a weird thing here. It's called Wal Mart Market.

It is smaller than a regular WM. It's actually only a grocery store. Seeing the size of the building, I figured I could handle getting the groceries in less time, and get home to soak my toe. ;-P

Many of the staples I buy for my pantry are cheaper at WM Mrkt. Lender's Bagels are only .97ct a bag. I'd been paying $1.67 when I found them on sale at other grocery stores. My daughter eats a bagel every day.

I have my choice of organic eggs there, the price is less than other grocery stores, and when I have a coupon, it's almost 30cts less.

The vegetable selection at this smaller WM isn't great. But 15 pounds of potatoes were $2.39 last week, so that was a good bargain.

Milk is $4/gal there. FORGET THAT! I can go one block over, and get it 2gal/$5 at the other market.

I do shop around. I'm a bargain whore. I don't have a price book yet, but I do have prices floating in my gray matter.

I have 4 stores that I check for bargains and sales. WM Mrkt is now one of the four.

I believe that with the cost of food going up, and incomes staying the same, I have to wisely spend the money we have.

redtex said...

We shop at Hell-Mart's grocery section, and only because we have compared the prices to Kroger's and Food Lion. We otherwise boycott on the principle of unethical business and employment practices. If I can find what I need anywhere else, I'm willing to pay a little more for it most of the time. I guess food is different, just because we got through it so much faster. There is a K-mart in town, and hopefully Target will be coming soon. But I've been keeping a more natural/green house, and since I sew and craft, a lot of stuff I either make or get off the Internet ( or other supply sites).

Jess said...

As a rule, I don't shop at Wal-Mart. For one, the nearest one is about 20 minutes away, and I can get to a Target in 30 minutes.

But, really? I just get stressed in Wal-Mart. I mean, I do at other stores; just yesterday, my husband, daughter and I had to leave Target (despite not finding what we wanted) because he and I were both feeling that the people and all the stuff were just too much. I feel that way in Wal-Mart a lot more quickly.

That said, my daughter loves the movie Cars. When the little character-cars were impossible to find, and I heard Wal-Mart had them, I went to a Wal-Mart to buy them. If it had been something I wanted, I probably wouldn't have gone.

My daughter (age 5) goes to Wal-Mart regularly with her grandmother, but will announce to the world that I don't like Wal-Marts, when we pass one. Honestly? Fine with me.

It's probably easier on the wallet to go to Wal-Mart, but I would rather just not stress myself out that much.

kimkimeri~ said...

Well, being that i live in Wal-Mart country and that is all that we have here. Wal-Mart Supercenters, Gas stations, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets (grocery Only--like you spoke of) on every corner. They make sure that is all we shop here--inless we want to drive an hour to Target. Which i do sometimes. Its that or Harps and Harps here is twice the price on everythng. So yep, i shop Wal-Mart. Mostly grocery and household items only tho!

1coolmama said...

If you're ever in upstate NY, try out a Wegman's. Best damn grocery store ever (and we're in a pretty kosher friendly place, and there's a whole section of kosher foods). But I digress...

I only shop at Wal-mart on very rare occasions. We have a target right next door, and Wal-mart, besides their horrible business practices is farther away. When I have shopped there, I have not noticed any difference in prices. All I noticed is that I end up walking out with far more than I went in for.

Manda2774 said...

I DO NOT shop at Walmart. I dont like the products, I dont like the employees and I dont like the customers (in general, save the notes)

At my baby shower my moms friend gave me a onesie that said "Walmart shopper in training" I dropped it off at goodwill on the way home from the shower.

Dramalish said...

As a rule, I avoid Wal-Mart, but my reasons are hardly ethical. To me, it's messy and more hastle than it's worth... and for the most part, the products are low end and break easily.

That said, there are some things that one needs on occasion that can only be found in a Super Mega Mart. I love Target, but it has next to NO crafts, and a girl needs her crafts, you know? (and yes, I HAVE heard of Jo Ann's and the like, but we live a good hour from places like that)

So I don't lose sleep if I come home with one of those plastic bags with a smiley face on it.

lisa said...

Wal-Mart grosses me out. And I'm lucky enough to not have to worry about whatever the price difference is between Wal-Mart and Target or Kroger. However, I DO shop at Sams. I'm ashamed to admit it. But they carry Pampers and Costco doesn't. Yes, it all comes down to Pampers.

I saw a Frontline episode on Wal-Mart that echoed a lot of the same ideas in that article you linked to. I guess if I really and truly cared, I wouldn't shop at Sams either but, well, I do. Another lazy American here.

WriterGrrl said...

Wow, you guys have a lot to say about WalMart!

Kate-yes, I'm talking about the grocery store only. I'd never be able to justify shopping at the giant monstrosity.

Redtex-yeah, I guess that's what I'm trying to justify to myself. Just the food.

Jess-totally with you on the stress level.

Kimkimeri-I think that's what scares me most: the idea that WalMart will one day take away all my choices.

1coolmama-right, I have that same danger at Target, but my purchases there make me happy, even when I never intended to buy them.

Manda-I would have done the same thing with the onesie!

Dramalish-I used to live MINUTES from JoAnn AND Michael's. Here? SO FREAKING FAR. Makes me nuts.

Lisa-ACK! I can't stand the club stores. I hate the membership fee, and that's the kind of store where I go in for eggs and I come out with a new sofa. YIKES!

dana said...

I like Trader Joes, lots of kosher products, the eggs are REALLY cheap. the cookies are good. the butter cheap, though not as cheap as Costco, but a lot easier to get to. And the Kosher Chicken is great in a pinch.

Miriam said...

I shop Walmart, though in my case Target (4 of them in fact) is much closer.

I don't understand how capitalism has become inherantly evil. Especially in the example from the article, if Vlasic really didn't want to sell their pickles at that low price and ruin all their hard work convincing us to pay more for their brand, then they could have given a good deal to all the other grocers instead. Or limited the size of the jar. You don't see every product at Walmart- alot of my yuppified favorites are not there.

The clothes are terrible quality, but they are undeniably cheap. The people I hear railing about WM are usually those with enough money to go elsewhere.

I wish there was a way to make foreign workers less attractive to retailers, but in fact almost all of it is made overseas anyway. Look at the tags at Target- or at Macy's, for that matter.

Speaking of Target, have you noticed how in the last 2 years they have gone for more upscale stuff? And some of it (like the International Market, ironically) is not marked down to total clearance prices for long or at all before they remove it. Every store chooses its intended shopper- just because Walmart's is as low as possible doesn't make them worse than those who charge more for the same stuff, while paying the same to their manufacturers.

I agree with the gist of what Ben Stein has to say-
And I do look at labels and buy American when it's still possible. I recently helped my parents shop for a new BBQ and we could not find US products anywhere until you get into the serious $$ items. At that point, we definitely made a trip to WM to see what they offered.

Thanks for the interesting discussion!

Andrea said...

No joke - I was JUST having this discussion with a friend of mine.

Our Super Target and Super Wal-Mart are right next door to each other, but because of Target's environment, I prefer to shop there. Recently I've been having problems finding the items on my list at Target, so I end up having to go next door to Wal-Mart. I feel guilty for stepping foot in there, but diapers are a must. Also, because money is tighter around our house lately, shopping at WM is actually more beneficial to our finances. While one product may only be 3 cents cheaper at WM than Target, some things like diapers are $2 cheaper. The amount of $$ saved at WM can really add up.

So, I'm currently waging my own little inner war with myself over shopping at WM, though I prefer getting my groceries from Kroger. That may be changing soon, too, though. How powerful is the almighty dollar and the convenience of making only one stop?

Sally J. said...

Friends of mine wrote a pee-yr-pants funny musical called Walmartopia. (Now playing off broadway!)

They have two boys in grade school. At one point this summer they went camping and were missing a specific item. The nearest store was WalMart, the next one pretty darn far away.

You know what their son said?

"So, it's OK to go there because it's convenient for us? What about the hundreds of people who are inconvenienced by WalMart's practices?"

Ya see what happens when you teach kids your the truth?

-Sally J.
The Practical Archivist

P.S. I found your blog thanks to that awesome wire display for kid's art on Asha's Parenthacks. I'm going to try that in our stairway. Lo, you do rock!

TuttleTree said...

I'm not trying to pick a fight or anything, but I honestly can't comprehend some of these reasons for not shopping at WM. I can sort of understand if you disagree with their ethics and can afford to shop elsewhere, but the parts about anxiety...

How does one store make you more anxious than another? Unless it's some sort of weird phobia of the color blue, a happy face, and low prices all being in the same place at once...

... Are people being raped in the aisles? Are there peeping toms stationed outside the dressing rooms? Are you being followed by clerks like you are on a car lot? It sounds very irrational to me...

I agree with miriam. Capitalism is not a bad thing. Even if it forces some smaller local operations out of business. That's an indicator that the businesses couldn't compete in either price or quality, or finding the right ratio between the two. Any business can coexist with WM by offering similar products at competitive prices. If not? That's called business!

My wife and I shop primarily at WM for groceries and miscellaneous household products. As others have said, the clothes are very cheaply made (and ugly to boot). We also shop around for the best price/quality combination - we typically buy meat from Giant. I would estimate that on groceries and miscellaneous items (toiletries, medicine, etc) we save on average $20-$30 a month, and that's just for the two of us. I can't imagine how much more that would be if we were feeding, diapering, and caring for children.

That $20 can then be used to go out to dinner, see a movie, or a bunch of other things that all improve our lifestyle. Heck, $30/month for a year covers a single car payment on a pretty nice car if you have half decent credit. I wouldn't mind having one free car payment every year due to shopping at WM.

I'm very grateful to have a WM close by.

Xteener said...

It's the dirty floors, gobs and gobs of people, poor quality products (including food), rude or nonexistant customer service employees, and the lack of open check-out lanes that keep me from shopping at Wal-Mart.

Meredith said...

My husband used to work at and we had a 10% discount card to be used on everything we would buy there and we still didn't shop there. My husband felt bad about working for the evil emppire but gosh darn we were not going to shop there. Plus the one near us was miserable and like you said, the Target is so much nicer and cleaner. But now that money is much tighter than it was, I am wondering if I should give them a go? I don't even know where one is around here but maybe it is worth a looksie? I mean, the damage is done, he already worked for them for several years.

Lisa b said...

oh how I wish we had Target in Canada.
I shop at Walmart when I get the chance but we don't have one near where we live.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I don't shop at WalMart -- in large part for ethical reasons. (I also try to buy organic when I can, even though it's more expensive, because I believe it's better for the planet). But in addition to ethical concerns, the one time I actually entered a WalMart it was disgustingly filthy, the employees looked so unhappy and the customers equally so. We don't have a WalMart grocery anywhere nearby, so that's not even an option.

Honestly, I can't keep track of what things cost anywhere. I just don't have a mind for money, so I went and looked up how much I pay for eggs. They're $3.99 a dozen where I am. But I suspect that rather than shopping at WalMart, I should just move. ;)