Oct 26 2014


Published by at 10:42 pm under Uncategorized

When I visited Walmart on Friday, October 24, the weather outside was fair. Walmart is a “big box” store located in a busy commercial area. Large quantities of a wide variety of merchandise arrive by truck, while most employees and shoppers arrive by automobile. There are places to lock a bicycle outside, but there are rarely bikes there.

I observed Walmart between eleven am and noon on Friday. It was busy with shoppers and even busier with employees. Even though there were a lot of shoppers present, there was a lot of stocking going on. However, there were apparently enough employees to handle both the stocking and the customer service.

I entered on the grocery side of the megastore and noted the toy vending machines that grab childrens’ attention on the way in and on the way out. As I entered the grocery, to one side of me an employee showed a family to something they needed, and to another side a product representative offered free slices of Fuji apples topped with Lactaid cottage cheese. I tried one and took a coupon for $1 off of a package of the cottage cheese. The grocery area turned out to be one of the busier areas for shoppers. I observed all sorts of people, mostly lower to middle classes and  all races. The time of day is such that many shoppers are unemployed such as students, stay-at-home-moms and assorted family members, and the elderly.

I noticed in the grocery, and in every other area of the store, people moving extremely slowly. People shop and move through Walmart at a very leisurely pace. I also noticed there were not many single shoppers about which surprised me because I usually do my grocery shopping alone. There were couples, families, and friends. Odd couples, sketchy looking people, older couples, entire families (except for school age children). People seemed to wander around as if they were more likely to be browsing than shopping with a list.

In the grocery as well as certain other areas of the store, space is divided by huge makeshift islands of stacks of products, often straight off the pallets and still in the original cardboard casing. The dairy cases had lights out and others flickering. In addition to the many stockers, I noticed an employee from the meat department out on the floor, taking stock of his inventory.

I walked right next door to the clothing department following the grocery. The clothing department had plenty of shoppers but fewer than the grocery, and more stocking going on. The place was a mess. I ran across internal paperwork hanging off a shelf of clothes, and multiple carts sitting in the middle of tiny aisles with inventory, or empty cardboard boxes in them. In one spot near the edge, I passed a cart full of individually wrapped juice treats blocking a clothing pathway. It had a computer printed sign taped to it indicating that the juice treats used to be $0.50 and were now $0.25. Clearance shelves were especially chaotic.

I passed two young women shopping together with their babies, each pushing their own cart. A couple of the employees in this department were feeling super casual because they were just about shouting as they were carrying on a conversation across the aisles as they worked stocking shelves. Across from the clothing I found accessories and jewelry. There were more overflowing clearance bins. Hello Kitty has her own little space where she hawks books, clocks, bags, jewelry, key chains, and lap desks, among other things. Around the corner, another craze becomes apparent with several shelves of “piggy” banks in every theme possible: a ballerina pig, an astronaut pig, an angry bird pig, a yellow duck pig. I passed a lone shopper who was wearing ear buds.

Almost every kid I saw was either trapped in a cart or was touching whatever was in front of them. As I crossed yet another aisle into the seasonal area, children were trying on costumes with parents. I passed through that area pretty quickly and headed toward the exit. As I did so, I noticed new movies for sale near the registers which made me think of Walmart’s consistently high prices for new-release movies, an area in which they are apparently unable to be competitive. I also made a note of the stream of businesses occupying Walmart’s front exterior wall. There is a place to buy eyeglasses, a nail salon, a bank, and a McDonald’s, among others. The McDonald’s gives that entire corner of the store the distinct aroma of whatever it is McDonald’s fries its food in.

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