Mar 18 2012

Wal-Mart Fieldwork

Published by at 5:00 pm under Uncategorized

At 11:00 on Friday the 16th of March, I went to the Wal-Mart in Central Park in Fredericksburg. The weather was clear and warm at around 55 degrees and sunny. Felicia drove me in her car, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to find the store as I am unfamiliar with the area. When we first got to the store, I was surprised to find the huge parking lot so full at such a time of the day. When we found a parking spot and finally went into the store, there was no one to greet up as we walked in, which was incredibly surprising as that is such a mark of Wal-Mart. Just like many Wal-Marts I have been in, there were many displays set up as you walk into the store, sale and seasonal items mostly, though there was a large selection of Trojan condoms in your face when you walked near the pharmacy section. Walking further into the store, but still near the door was the huge section of Easter things; pre-made Easter baskets of all kinds were lined up (ones with toy cars or pink bunnies), special Easter candy was well organized in about four rows. What I did like about this particular Wal-Mart that I haven’t seen in my own, was the organized and clean feeling that I got. While the employees still seemed distracted and busy and the many customers were walking around, the store seemed well-stocked, organized, and clean and I was impressed by that.

By walking through the store, I noticed the family atmosphere that the store tries to portray in the setup and the advertising. The electronic section had many pictures of children and families enjoying the TVs and electronics sold. (The selection of TVs was enormous, I felt like I had left Wal-Mart and stepped into Best Buy.) On the commercial playing on the many TVs, I heard a quote: “family plan, family price”. Along with the electronic section, Felicia, Katy and I walked through a furniture section, a baby section, a fabric section, a Do-It-Yourself section (with pictures of women hammering happily), the hunting/sports section (which sold BB guns, fishing poles, an impressive amount of equipment, shells and scopes for guns, but no guns). These sections wrapped around together so that, for example, the hunting/sports section merged into the kids section with all the toys (the section merged nicely with the bikes connecting the two). The toy section was separated between girls and guys along with age.

When my group finally made it to the other side of the store, we noticed there was no greeter at the second entrance either, though customers did get to walk in to the smell of the in-store McDonald’s (pretty typical of some Wal-Marts, though the one I go to at home has a Subway, which I like much better). The McDonald’s was paired with many other typical in-store features such as the Gameplay Arcade, the Photo Studio, and the Woodforest Bank (which Katy told me was owned by Wal-Mart, I found that interesting).

When walking along the front of the store near the checkouts, I realized that they were all full which was not surprising considering the amount of cars in the parking lot. Also, impulse items were strategically put along the checkouts as well as along the walk-way such as the “As Seen On TV” items, the “Dollar Station”, “98 cent candy”, “$5 music and movies”, and many more.

Some things about the store that I noticed and found particularly interesting were that the craft and fabric section were far apart, which does not make sense to me. The saint candles which did not surprise me, since the store is known for being religious. The placement of the garden section, hidden in the back, I can’t think of where else they would have put it, but hidden behind the toy section did not make sense. The employees seemed to be more diverse than the customers. Though I did see some varied, non-white customers all in the section that had sale balloons hanging above the clothes racks.

As far as transportation, I figure that most all of the employees and customers drove to the store and all of the merchandise arrives in 18-wheelers and are stored in the back of the store where, I image a warehouse type of room is set up. I didn’t have any particular connection or disconnection with the store. It’s a Wal-Mart and except for some unusual placement and the cleanliness, it was no more different than many other Wal-Marts I have been in.

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