Oct 27 2014

Fieldwork: Wal-Mart

Published by at 7:56 am under Uncategorized


I visited Wal-Mart on Friday, October 24th around 11:15 in the morning. It was a beautiful fall day outside. Wal-Mart is located in the middle of a major shopping center, so the easiest way for shoppers and employees to arrive is by car. There is a huge parking lot outside of the store, and a bus stop in the shopping center for those who rely on public transportation. Wal-Mart goods arrive in trucks.  The store itself is massive; no department seemed to be lacking in space and the displays were far apart from each other. The customers were diverse, but most appeared to be working-class.

My first stop was the toy department, which was divided up into aisles by age, gender, and type of toy. There was an aisle for Legos, an aisle for Barbie, an aisle for baby and toddler toys, and so on. I noticed a huge display of Frozen merchandise in the middle of the department, presumably because of the popularity of the film. There weren’t many shoppers in the toy aisle, and I only saw a couple employees who were busy working and didn’t stop to offer assistance. Next, I visited the Christmas department. This department appeared to have a “temporary” look to it, as if it had just been put together and will be taken down right after the holidays. The department was organized logically, with fake Christmas trees in the front, then lights and tinsel, and finally an aisle of ornaments. There weren’t many shoppers in this department either, and the employees were busy with other tasks. Lastly, I visited the pet care aisle. Wal-Mart sells live fish, and because of this, has a huge selection of fish tanks and accessories, presumably so that shoppers can buy all of their fish needs from Wal-Mart. A young woman was shopping for fish tank accessories while her mother took her young son to watch the fish in the tanks and an employee did come over and ask if I needed any help.

“Socialization” is not one of Wal-Mart’s selling points. Because of the sheer size of the store, customers have a lot of personal space. I was able to walk through two departments before I encountered another customer very closely. Employees leave the shoppers to their own devices, as well: only two employees asked me if I needed help with anything. I assume because of the nature  of the store customers are expected to know exactly what they want in advance.

Overall, Wal-Mart is a store that relies on low prices and variety of goods, not customer service or personal attention.


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