Oct 27 2014
Erin and I visited Wal-Mart on Friday, October 24, 2014. By the time we arrived, it was roughly 11:15 and we promptly entered the store. The first thing I noticed was that the well-known Wal-Mart “Greeter” position has been removed, or maybe there wasn’t anyone assigned to that task. Either way, we were free to enter, as the employee by the entrance/exit was more concerned with people exiting. Obviously, this was for shop lifting purposes.
It was a clear morning, and I’ve seen the store much more crowded in the past. Maybe everyone decided to take their lunch break in other more… scenic places. Erin and I were able to grab a parking spot relatively close to the store, which is saying a lot because of the vast parking lot full of one-way rows. The local Fred bus does stop near Wal-Mart, but it seems as though the majority of the people drive themselves, painstakingly searching for a parking spot. Employees also compete for parking, though I think they park in a side lot rather than the front one. The turn over rate for front spots is high – it was hard pulling in and out with seemingly everyone moving their cars. There are no signs of delivery trucks, but we know that that is how the goods arrive, thanks to our peeking along the back wall of the store and into their supply area.
Wal-Mart is organized into various “shops” or departments. We visited the toy area first, and while we didn’t go out of our way to focus on where things were made, it was hard to not notice. A Frozen themed child sized couch had “Made in America” on its tag, something that surprised me. I didn’t see any pink lego sets, but Wal-Mart certainly does not discount girls who appreciate things that go beyond princesses. As we passed through, looking confused about girly lego sets, an employee did cross paths with us and ask if we needed help. We said no, and I think she was grateful because she was clearly busy with inventory. We left her to her work and headed to another toy aisle. The stuffed animal wall was full, with every animal under the sun. A side wall featured currently trending longboards, skateboards, and cruzer boards, which even piqued my 20 year old female interests. Their prices were fairly low ($45 for a cruzer board! My own brand name board cost me nearly $120). To be fair, I don’t think Erin cared about boards, so we moved on.
We noticed that Wal-Mart didn’t carry the #Unapologetic Barbie line, and I wondered if Mattel had dropped that marketing idea as soon as they introduced it. As we’ve discussed Barbie’s careers in class, I wasn’t surprised to see her in her various trades. What did surprise me, however, were all of her accessories. A pink, obviously fake iPhone with her profile as the home button just seems excessive.
Erin and I also planned to visit the sporting goods section, which is a nice way to say “hunting and fishing with a little bit of baseball and a soccer ball” section. Lines of fishing poles and guns were on display, but this section didn’t have any shoppers in it. The same went for the toy section, and I can only assume that those at Wal-Mart on a Friday morning were those dropping by to pick something up like groceries, and not spend forever mulling over Christmas gifts or game necessities. No one asked us if we needed help, probably because it was clear that we clueless beyond wanting to potentially take up hunting or tackle-box assembly. Buying already dead, soaked in hormone fishing bait seemed like cheating to me. In the few times I’ve fished, my dad and I (mostly him) would put live worms on the hook. But then, we are far from serious fishermen, so my knowledge is limited and maybe buying shrink wrapped Wal-Mart bait is acceptable.
After seeing the poor dead fish, I dragged Erin to the fish section of Wal-Mart. The selection in the tanks all looked healthy, minus one dead one, but what struck me was that finally, there were other shoppers near us. Two women were looking at fish tank accessories, and jokingly warned me that a fish isn’t worth the commitment. I think they were afraid that I would just buy one on a whim, disregarding quality pet care. Wal-Mart, to my knowledge, does not spend time making sure their neon colored, quarter sized tropical fish go to good homes. I did appreciate the women’s advice, however, because I already have one fish and do not need more. Actually, I have a Beta fish and everyone knows that Betas do not play well with others.
Because the tanks require help, an employee was standing nearby. It would be upsetting to any Wal-Mart manager to lose a fish sale because no one was there to get the fish from the tank, and so I understood why her presence was so required.
Each of the sections Erin and I attended were rather empty, and as I said before, I think it was because everyone was in the grocery area. Even the two fish women were simply picking up fish food, not having the time to mull over a new fish. It seemed unusual at the time, because the parking lot was so crowded, but everyone was confined to the one main section of the store.
No matter how large or colorful Wal-Mart’s displays were, shoppers simply weren’t there to commit to a long time in the store that day. I’m sure that on Saturday, families crowded in to do larger shopping trips, and maybe adopt the fish they’ve been eyeing. Wal-Mart, a big box store, really lets sizes do the promotion here – the large tanks lining the walls are eye-catching, and the displays of hunting and fishing gear beg for attention. Wal-Mart employees themselves are not promoting items, making it a less personal experience.
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