I did something last night that I vowed not to do, something that I have studiously avoided doing for months and months and months. Something I actually haven't done in better than a year, if not longer. And even though I was in a position of having no other options, even though I was forced into doing this thing due to circumstances beyond my control, it still left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Yep, I went to Wal-Mart. Believe me, I really tried not to. We had to do some more school shopping, so we went to a discount store called Value's first, where we were able to get the rest of their notebooks (they have a particular notebook made of recycled paper that both Eli and I are fond of, which is why we went there in the first place), a binder, pens and pencils, as well as laundry soap and shampoo and a couple of other things we needed. Just slightly over $40-not bad, not bad at all. I was specifically looking for training pants for Owen, but despite the wide variety of baby items, they did not carry those. Still, we were ahead of the game. We then went to JC Penney to look at socks and undies. There were no good sales going on so we opted not to get them there, and they didn't have training pants there, either. We had to go get shoes anyway, so I thought we could just pick up socks at Payless as well. We did good there, too, getting all four kids a pair of shoes for $73; however, socks were really expensive there as well-I cannot justify spending $10 for three pairs of socks. Please. We went to one other store looking for socks and training pants and underwear, a new one that just opened, but it was a higher-end store carrying Polo and Calvin Klein stuff-no thanks. That left Wal-Mart.
I won't quibble about the prices for the socks and underwear for the big kids; they were about an average price, I suppose, and at least they were Hanes. I love me some Hanes 100% cotton socks, for ALL the kids. None of these cheap nylon spandex cotton blend crap, because they tend to exacerbate stinky feet and toe rot. Just saying. Plus, we hadn't had any luck finding any less expensive ones anywhere else, so whatever. But the training pants? Holy God, those fuckers were pricey. $7.00 for three pairs. Which is not enough for a day, so I had to buy two packages and resign myself to washing more times a day. Also, those vinyl pants to cover them up? $8.00, though at least they came in a package of six. I had ONE option to choose from, and they weren't even the ones I was hoping to find. Still, he needs them, and it isn't as if there are a ton of other options in this area.
So the whole training pants thing set me off, and I spent the rest of the time in Wal-Mart muttering things like, "Save money, live better my ASS, this is a total racket!" And it IS. I swear, each store must have a minion or two going to all the other stores in the area and finding the things that they DON'T carry; then they trudge over to Management,who says "Okay, none of the stores in our area sell training pants, so let's find the cheapest retail price on ONE brand and jack them up; people will pay for them because they have no choice!" And the bitch of it is that it is true. My poor kids; though they well know how I feel and are beginning to succumb to my constant brainwashing (yay for me!), I don't imagine it is very much fun to walk around with me muttering like a mad woman; I think at one point I referred to it as a modern day sweatshop.
And let me ask, WHY are there no other options here? Because of Wal-Mart; we used to have a K-Mart here, and even though they are questionable and went through the whole bankruptcy and closing down scads of stores thing, they were still better than Wal-Mart; it gave us options. However, when Wal-Mart decided to go Super-Center instead of Regular, K-Mart got forced out. In addition to K-Mart closing, we have also had two grocery stores close (and even Albertson's is failing; rumor has it that they might make it another year), our small mall has only two stores left...and up until Wal-Mart expanded, these were thriving small businesses. I am all for free enterprise and all that good shit; it's all about the money, and I am not stupid-I know that's how the world works. However, there is a huge difference between making a healthy profit and raping the customers, and Wal-Mart seems to have the ass-fucking down to a science.
You take a small area like this and promise some 200 jobs; of course we are going to show up at the planning and zoning meetings and say "Hell yeah, that sounds great! We need jobs!" We DO need jobs; however, where is the ability to think it through and see that 200 part-time, minimum-wage, no benefits jobs isn't really going to make a dent in our already lagging economy? Still, the vote got passed by a healthy margin, and the Super-Center arrived. We had the jobs, for a little while people were happy-I mean, really, a one-stop-shopping center? That basically caters to the working individual without a lot of money to spare? Great quality, cheap prices, how could there be a problem?
But then the other stores started closing, and call me a conspiracy theorist if you want, but this is exactly what Wal-Mart intended. Lower the prices until they have effectively shut down any competitor, wait until people get used to shopping for everything there, and then jack the prices up-we have nowhere else to go. Lower the quality at the same time so that things fall apart more quickly, thus ensuring that we have to go back. I also think they have been sitting back in the wings rubbing their hands with glee as the gas prices have risen; that is just one more way to force us to shop there.
I am not EVEN going to start on their poor business practices, and how they do a lot of things that are legal but are totally unethical. That would take me days to fully articulate, and even then I wouldn't be able to truly convey how much I hate this corporation and everything they stand for. Instead, I will say this: that if I, the single mother of four kids, can afford to shop elsewhere in order to avoid Wal-Mart, anyone can. I have learned that while I might pay more at, say, Penney's (which is actually my new favorite store, with Target running a close second), the quality far exceeds the price, and I end up spending less in the long run. Clothes from Penney's and Target get too small-they don't wear out or rip at the seams, therefore I don't have to replace them nearly as often. Sears has the guarantee on kids clothes that if they wear out-including the knees!-before the kid outgrows them, they will replace them at no cost to you, the consumer. This is well worth it when you have growing boys who are rough on clothes just by putting them on. Old Navy, while not as of good a quality as they used to be, is still a reasonable place to shop. While I DO have the problem of living in a rural area with only one of the above stores nearby, I try to wait until we need several items and drive 40 miles to go to a different store-the money I save in the long run by far pays for my gas. I shop at the grocery store in town here, and even though some of the prices may be slightly higher, I get the added benefit of receiving points for every dollar I spend-redeemable for coupons or gift cards or merchandise. This paid for my kids' clothes from Old Navy for the vacation, and last year paid for better than half of their Christmas presents-so again in the long run, I am saving money.
I just wish more people had a social conscience; yes, money is tight for everyone, but I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for; if you buy in a place that sells shit, I am pretty sure you are just going to go home with a bag full of shit. I might have had to go there the once, but you can guarantee that I am SO going online to find the goddamned training pants elsewhere. I wish that more people would stop and think about the negative effects that Wal-Mart has not just on little town, but in many, many others. I wish that people would take a stand and say "Hey, asshole, we are NOT going to shop or work here because we don't support what you stand for!" The people I met from Canada over the summer, Mark and Iris, were telling me that Wal-Mart overrode all public outcry and somehow managed to get a permit to build in their town (can anyone say "bribe?" I bet the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, or whatever the Canadian equivalent is, has a nice little nest egg now!), and the store got built all right-but now they can't find anyone to WORK their. They said, "No thanks, we don't want to work for you because you suck." Last I heard, they still hadn't opened-and I say yay! Too bad more people don't have the same mindset-I think we would see a lot of changes.
Now that I am done ranting about this for a minute, I think I need to go brush my teeth; the bitter taste is back in my mouth, and I am disgusted with myself all over again.