Tag Archive 'Uncategorized'

Mar 18 2012

Wal-Mart Fieldwork

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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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Mar 11 2012


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Wal-Mart is a big business that started out as a ‘hometown’ business. By drawing their capital from local ‘partners’ and family members, Walton was able to gather support in just the place where many other large businesses had met fierce opposition. He knew that he had to represent the small town American Dream, not the big city ways, in order to make it. The evolution of Wal-Mart is truly an interesting story that kept my attention from the beginning to end of the book. I’ve never considered how many political, economical, and religious factors go into running a company and how many are influenced by a large company. The comparison of Wal-Mart to a church at one point in the book is interesting to me because the huge following that Wal-Mart has can definitely fit into a standard definition of religion. I have never had any experience working at Wal-Mart, but in my experiences shopping there, I observed that the ‘associates’ usually did not enjoy their time there, and were often grumpy or distracted from what they should be focused on, pleasing the customers. The book explains that Wal-Mart’s vision and mission is quite the opposite of this, and maybe it is exemplified in some stores, but certainly not any that I’ve seen.

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Feb 29 2012

Mobile Shopping… just for you, Sara

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Feb 28 2012

I Still Have a Dumb Phone – Reflections on Beck

This article was not exactly what I expected. It didn’t really seem to focus on mobile shopping aid apps as much as I expected it to. After the first couple of paragraphs, it seemed to wander quickly away from that discussion. I am aware of the type of mobile applications that the article mentioned briefly, and I assure you, when I upgrade my phone over spring break, I’ll soon invest in that sort of technology. It is certainly the sort of competitive shopping edge I would take advantage of. The phone I have right now provides me some degree of mobile research ability, but it’s a really old Blackberry, so it’s only slightly above average as far as phone intelligence goes.

I will focus on a few things that popped out at me as I read this article.

Presearch. I hadn’t heard that term before, but it is DEFINITELY something I do. I presearch not only for price and availability, but also to help me make my choices. I subscribe to Consumer Reports online services and this provides me a good deal of valuable information when it comes to major purchases. I also refer frequently to other customers’ comments on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I have, however, learned to read between the lines. Many of the customers post with bias or with unrealistic expectations. Reading the text of their comments carefully, it’s generally pretty easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Heck, I even shop for my college professors using the same ideology using RateMyProfessor. I don’t have time to pick a dud!)

Koa quotes a Newsweek article that says if current employment trends continue, “the average woman will make more than the average man by 2024.” Yeah. Right. Girl power. I am woman. Bottom line? I won’t hold my breath.

I was a little surprised to learn that a number of retailers still completely separate their web operations from their brick and mortar stores. Though I suppose I am vaguely aware that this is the case, I just can’t imagine how that is a good idea. I would not purchase a product from the website of a store with a brick and mortar counterpart unless I had the option of returning the item to the store. It’s just bad form and it would put me off of a store.

I do find myself particularly annoyed with stores that don’t offer web-enabled POS assistance. I recently found myself trying to buy a large quantity of wall plates (for sockets and light switches) from Lowe’s. Apparently, everyone in the *world* wanted these things. I could only order online those products that weren’t carried in the store. Products carried in the store, I could order for pick up at a store, but no store near me had them in stock. It would not allow me to search in concentrically larger circles until I could find a store that had them. The only way to do that was to go into Lowe’s and have their customer service reps locate them for me. Even then, it was a cumbersome process. With the amount of money I spent on those stupid things, Lowe’s should have been standing on their heads to help me find them.

Bottom line, I didn’t get a whole lot out of this article, but it did make me think about the features that important to me in an online shopping experience.

– Sara

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Feb 28 2012

Men and Women’s shopping habits

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The Wall Street Journal article reminds me of myself more than any guys I know. I’ve never heard of the high end fashion websites or ‘flash sale’ websites that were mentioned, and I consider myself to be pretty internet and shopping savvy! I would probably rattle off the list that they collected of men’s most likely places to shop online if I was asked the same question. It would be something like Amazon, Ebay, Target, Best Buy, etc. I do have some friends who use those specialty clothing stores online such as Modcloth, etc, but I (as the article states is common) never buy clothes without trying them on. For me, it’s not because trying on clothes is a fun experience, so I completely disagree with the article on that note, but it’s because returning clothes is a hassle, so I’d rather get the right thing the first time.
As for the article on mobile shopping, the part that struck me as interesting is that we, the consumers, are in control. In a sense, this is true, but I think brand loyalty plays into this as well. I like shopping at Target, so I do most of my shopping there, even though I could do price comparisons and get things cheaper at other stores at times. I also like shopping at Macy’s, and if I find something I like, I’m not likely to get onto my phone (which for some reason has no service in any Macy’s stores I’ve ever been to… Conspiracy?) and find it cheaper someone else. I usually will just buy it there. I do agree with the article that a kind of ‘pre shopping’ is becoming a trend. Women can spend short amounts of time during their day or over a period of weeks and plan an entire shopping trip, getting in and out of the store faster and avoiding add ons and impulse buys, making it harder for the brick and mortar stores to compete.

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Feb 28 2012

Looking For a Few Good Men – Reflections on Smith

I found Ray Smith’s Wall Street Journal article interesting for a few reasons. First of all, I do *a lot* of internet shopping and I hadn’t ever heard of any of the sites he mentioned in the first 4 paragraphs of his article. Interestingly, I had heard of all of the same sites mentioned by the men. Maybe it’s that fashion thing again. Oddly, as technologically stubborn as my spouse is (he’s 54 years old), he does shop online. I started thinking about the things he buys online and how he shops. I even asked him a few questions about his online shopping. He *detests* the physical act of going shopping, so online shopping is quite ideal for him. He is also possibly the stingiest man on earth, so he’s always looking for stuff to be really cheap. He only shops on a handful of websites, though. He shops on REI, 1-800-FLOWERS, L.A. Police Gear (he buys clothes there, khaki pants and polo shirts, but also knives and other manly things) and he shops on eBay. Most of his eBay shopping is window shopping (haha – no pun intended), but as eBay collects his clicking habits, they send him targeted emails. Those emails took him to two different eBay “storefronts” at Christmas this year off of which he purchased an expensive recurve bow for my oldest son and a .22 rifle for my youngest son.

I’ll be very interested to see what happens with the next generation of adult males, though. Both of my sons (18 and 12) head *straight* to the internet when they want something. They are already both relatively savvy online shoppers and don’t hesitate when it comes to online purchases (except when it comes to the actual buying part, because I still have to do that for them!) They also do a lot of window shopping on the internet on sites like ThinkGeek and Maker Shed and other sites for nerdy kids. My artsy-fartsy older son likes to browse sites like Etsy and Threadless and TeeFury where he can see other artists’ and craftsmen’s work.

I can’t imagine my sons will ever turn into the consummate internet fashion shoppers that this article seemed to focus on trying to create, but I suspect as adult men with their own disposable income, quite a bit of their money will vanish into ethereal cash registers in the sky.

– Sara

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Feb 26 2012

Polyvore, meet Pinterest – Reflections on Jacobs

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The Polyvore article was interesting, but the whole time I was reading, I couldn’t help asking myself, “What am I supposed to be getting out of this?” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be considering how women use the site, how the site’s parent company and advertisers utilize the activities of the site’s users, or something else entirely. I found the whole concept a little bizarre because I’m not a slave to fashion. Even watching Today show segments or makeover shows on TLC, I find myself aghast at the thought of paying $80 for jeans, much less several hundred dollars. I’m a practical kind of girl when it comes to clothes, so much of the site’s draw would be completely lost on me.  I kept comparing the site to the little bit that I know about Pinterest. Everyone I know right now is totally into “pinning”. I thought it was amazing that a site like Polyvore that is focused solely on fashion wasn’t using the same sorts of technology as Pinterest when it comes to marketing. In a several-page (click-wise) article I found about sites like Polyvore, I read this nugget about Pinterest: “While curation not consumption is its strength, the site outdid Google+, Linked In, and YouTube combined in leading shoppers to retailers last month, according to Shareaholic.” I found this particularly interesting because Pinterest topics (at least from my understanding) are limited only by the users’ imaginations and range from funny kid and pet pictures, to recipes, to fashion and exercise where as Polyvore is focused solely on fashion. Mostly, knowing how easily distractible I am, it’s incredibly fortunate that I have not fallen prey to the lure of either of these time-wasters. I was probably too busy shooting at colored bubbles and “liking” stuff on Facebook!

– Sara

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Feb 26 2012

Fashion Democracy

Published by under Reflection Blog,Uncategorized

I have never heard of Polyvore, but it does not surprise me that such a site exists. How they want to democratize fashion was interesting, empowering people to share their own style. After Friday’s discussion about websites keeping tabs on you, it doesn’t surprise me that this site does the same thing; though, that doesn’t make it any less unsettling. Lee thinks too highly of the people using the site, I think; she makes a comment on how kind everyone is to each other and how you can tell how they are good people from their style. I thought that was ridiculous and naïve and her quotes made her seem like a teenager by saying “like” constantly. Though, I am guilty of using the word too often myself, I would not speak like that while being interviewed for the New Yorker. With my tangent aside, I was surprised at how prevalent the site is in the fashion world, pop starts and designers keep tabs on the site and watch for inspiring ideas.

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Feb 20 2012

Downtown America, Part 2

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This second part of Downtown America began with the 1960s and worked its way to the 1990s. I thought Chapter 6: ‘The Hollow Prize?’ was the most interesting chapter in the section of the book. It is hard to accept that this kind of violence really happened. In a way, I pity most of the parties involved; I pity the African Americans, but I also pity the retailers who lived in fear of their stores getting destroyed or watched it happen. The were torn, whatever their personal beliefs, on what path would be better for business – to integrate or not? On page 206 it says that, “retailers could not decide whether integration would ruin them, save them, or have no impact at all.”

I thought the pictures in Chapter 6 did a fantastic job of showing the horror, sadness and desolation of the time. Figure 6.1 (the peaceful demonstration), 6.6 (the tear-gas victims), 6.9 (the destruction of downtown), 6.11 (the threatening white posse), 6.15 (the retailers fear), and 6.17 (the shoe-shiner) were the most captivating. The shoe-shiner in particular reveals a struggle but is also an inspiration.

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Feb 20 2012

Downtown Fredericksburg

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On February 17, 2012 and 11:00 am, I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Fredericksburg for the first time. The weather was unexpectedly beautiful; it was sunny and warm enough to take off my sweatshirt. I drove to Downtown in my little Nissan Versa and as small as my car is, I was still nervous about  finding a parking spot as I do not know how to parallel park. When I arrived with my friend, Alexandra, I noticed many cars lined up the sidewalk but I lucked out and found a space that I could roll right into.

First and foremost, I noticed that Downtown had character and it felt familiar with its historical aspect. With the exception of the many cars, it felt like stepping into a bubble of the past and I had an instant connection with Downtown.

I noticed that the people roaming the streets were quite diverse in age, though most were white; I was surprised at the amount of people who looked homeless. They didn’t seem to be bothering anyone and no one seemed to notice them in return, almost as if they were part of the architecture.

Unfortunately, I had to get back to a class at noon so I didn’t have much time to explore many of the stores. One store I did not have the opportunity to go into was the toy store. The moving displays and the bright colors of the toy store even drew in my friend and me (both of us over 20 years old). If I had had my little sister who is 11, we would have had a good excuse to spend the entire hour in there, but we resisted the toy store in order to observe the rest of downtown in time. I did go into a few of the many antique stores which were run by elderly men and women. I appreciated the fact that there were many antique stores as I am a fan and love looking through all the old artifacts. There was one antique store in particular that had many old postcards which reminded me of last weeks reading in Downtown America. I also went into an adorable pet boutique; this store had many interesting things for dog owners such as dog clothes of many sizes as well as leashes and snacks. What I loved the most about this cute little store was the bakery counter full of dog treats that looked like delicious pastries. I window shopped at few of the jewelry stores which had beautiful and irresistible displays of sparkling diamonds and though I am not a huge fan of diamonds, I couldn’t help stopping to look.

The retail goods, I imagine, are shipped in many different ways. I saw some smaller retail trucks were driving around. I imagine than many of the employees would drive to work, unless they live in downtown, in which case they would walk or ride a bike. As far as public transportation, I assume that buses go to and from the downtown area, though I did not observe any myself while I was there. My friend and I, both from smaller towns, had a hard time figuring out the ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ lights. We didn’t know what it meant when it flashed ‘Don’t Walk’ so we remained on the curb as people with children quickly crossed the street. We felt especially ridiculous when a retail truck slowed to let us cross and we were visibly unsure about whether to cross or not. Needless to say the truck finally passed while laughing at us.

Other than the difficulty of crossing the streets, I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Downtown Fredericksburg and hope to go again soon. I would love to go into a few more of the Antique stores as well as the Toy Store. One thing in particular that stood out was a beautiful mural. I admired it from afar, however, as I couldn’t tell if the man sitting on the ground in front of it was the artist or a hobo.

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