Reflections on Shopping at Walmart

Our local Walmart reorganized itself–again.


I hate rolling in circles to locate little things I need that don’t fall under obvious categories like “dairy” or “automotive,” or “laxatives.”  Last time I braved the store, Liev melted down over the chaos in the toy aisles.  I don’t blame him.  I couldn’t find the Q-tips today. Roll, roll, roll. Are they with the beauty supplies? No. Roll, roll, roll. Band-aids? No. Roll, roll, roll. Wet Ones Wipes? No? Roll, roll, roll. Are they on an overloaded cart abandoned by the dog food? Yes. @#$%&*!!!

Shopping at Walmart saves money and nerves.  Multiple shopping trips wear me out. Plus, few stores have wide-open aisles like Walmart. It’s quiet, especially in the early morning. Well, quiet except for hand-clapping, back-slapping, go-Walmart-go team meetings.

This morning, a short, tubby, bubbly middle-aged woman read the latest sales statistics to her team. Sock sales went up 20%! (Yay! clapped the team members). Women’s bras were up 8%! (Yay! More claps). Children’s shoes up 15% (Yay! clap-clap). I resisted shouting, “Whooo-hooo!,” because a two-minute hate* seemed imminent, featuring films of small businesses juxtaposed with sheep.

wal comrade

The usual morning managers mumble, half-embarrassed through the rigmarole and briskly dismiss everyone. Today’s tiny manager reveled in the procedure. Like a girl who longed to be a cheerleader but was woefully uncoordinated, she found a niche without choreography or tiny clothes. Were the louder than usual “Yays” a result of her increased enthusiasm or a reaction to sinister corporate practices?

Bursts of applause swept me away. I cheered with team members.  My fingers drummed mini-ovations on to the cart handle. If I was so moved, how did the team members react to this ridiculousness?

No boredom, derision, or enthusiasm marked their faces. Instead, their faces were blank, empty, unscripted; as if each meeting were a biological process. Automatic, like chewing. Yay. Clap. Swallow. Repeat. Perhaps keeping prices low requires the sacrifice of a portion of our society.  Would the manager announce, “Newsflash! The war on prices was within measurable distance of its end!”

Alas. Corporate America, you keep stores efficient and shopper-friendly.  Team members, thank you for appeasing the dystopian commercial gods so I might shop quickly, cheaply, and in one place.

*The Two Minute Hate is a term from George Orwell’s 1984. Citizens gather to rage at “enemies of the people.” This deifies Big Brother, and the ideals of collectivism, as well as to refocus anger at the own lack of choices in their lives.

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