Like many other shoppers, I have this love-hate relationship with America’s supermarket/superstore giant, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart burst on the scene over the last few decades and has reshaped the way America shops. With its big box stores, the joke is that you can buy almost anything at Wal-Mart these days.
For the budget-conscious shopper and those strapped for time, Wal-Mart does give you the ability to find a large variety of items ranging from groceries to furniture to tires to auto service to check cashing. In our rush-rush society, we think we need to have a store where everything on our shopping list is in the same place.
However, I’ve come to realize that shopping at Wal-Mart has become a battle with what I could term a necessary evil and I’m ready to give up the fight and take my business elsewhere. Here are the major reasons why I’ve started to deplore Wal-Mart and relish shopping at other stores. My focus is mainly on grocery shopping but these reasons also apply to the other departments.
Lack of Everyday Items On Its Shelves – I don’t know if it’s the constant throng of shoppers that keeps its shelves empty but at my local Wal-Mart I have noticed that it has been consistently unable to keep some of the everyday items stocked. It’s distressing to shop for soup, bread, ketchup, or even Kool-Aid, and not find it on the shelves. With all the talk about its automated ordering process, why can’t Wal-Mart keep the basic items stocked? Some items are plentiful one week and non-existent the next week. I believe that Wal-Mart gets a great deal on a particular brand of an item and has row after row after row of it one week but once you come back the next, that brand is nowhere to be found. Perhaps they have low-balled the producer of the product to such low prices that they’ve driven them out of business. Or they get a great deal from another company, and quickly switch to that vendor. That’s why I can’t find the particular brand the next time.
Congestion – I know that I’m complaining about the congestion and my presence adds to that congestion but the stores are really getting to the point that you can’t get up and down the aisles. Sometimes it’s because Wal-Mart has too many “hot items,” those products that they hope you will buy on impulse, lining the main corridors in the store. This causes it to become a slalom course with all the people and baskets. Then you have people with baskets chatting in the aisles causing further congestion. I tend to leave my basket at the end of a food aisle and go get the product I need since it’s difficult getting down the bread aisle when there are already 145 people with baskets on the aisle anyway. Sometimes, the helpful associates will commandeer my basket because they believe that it has been abandoned, even if I have it half-filled with items. When you’re ready to check out, there may be a million people in the store and yet they may only have ¼ of the zillion registers open. It’s tough finding a time when there aren’t a million people in the store unless you want to shop at 3 a.m. Of course at that time, there may be a smaller crowd but there will only be one register open.
Dirty Stores – This is something that I’ve begun to pay more attention to because there was a time when Wal-Mart kept the store reasonably clean. Now I have noticed that the half-empty shelves are in disarray, there are dirty tracks from the shopping carts that have rolled through spilled items, and items are not where they’re supposed to be. Even the parking lots have become trashier and laden with baskets. Have they reduced their cart crew down to senior citizen that also greets you at the door?
Poor Service – Although this is an area that I utilize the least, it is disheartening that when you do need an associate, it is difficult to find one. If you need help to find an item, usually there is not an associate nearby. I’m not picking on the associates because I have several friends and family members who work at Wal-Mart and I know that they give the best service that they can but they are overwhelmed trying to do multiple tasks during their shifts. I believe this is due to the reduction of associates in the store and having the associates cover many different areas than they did years ago. Also, as I stated earlier, I’ve noticed that they have started to limit the number of registers open at check-out. This has increased the long lines adding to further congestion in the store.
Yes, the low prices are what keep me returning to Wal-Mart but I have started to limit my visits to only for some items that are priced significantly lower than other places. I have started giving my business to the other grocery stores, drug stores, and dollar stores that have competitive prices, less congested and cleaner stores, and have the items that I am shopping for. I want to ensure that they around to provide healthy competition.
I believe that the things mentioned above in addition to the predatory practices that Wal-Mart has become known for are eventually leading to the downfall of Wal-Mart. I know the day will come when another store will begin to offer the things that will draw people away from Wal-Mart. Whether that store will be Target, Costco, Whole Foods, or other supermarket and discount chains, remains to be seen. But, I feel Wal-Mart is starting to have a backlash from shoppers and decline of its empire has already started.