February 21, 2018

everyday low prices

I need a shower.  A hot, soapy shower.  And some mouth wash.  And probably a two-week detox diet and some Miralax, just to be on the safe side.

I had to go to Wal-Mart today.

I boycott Wal-Mart and have for almost twenty years, mainly because they can't be arsed to pay employees the thirty-three cents an hour minimum wage in Bangladesh.  But sometimes I'm forced to break that boycott, when they've run everyone else out and made themselves the only game in a small mountain town, or they've positioned themselves so that they're the only place I can turn to when I have exactly four point two minutes to obtain ground beef, a tie, dress shoes, potting soil, and a three-ring binder or some kid's birthday gift for my son's exciting educational and social life.

A Wal-Mart store is a throbbing vortex of bad.  It's IT from A Wrinkle In Time.

The parking lot does a good job of painting a succinct picture of the experience.  The spaces are just a little too narrow, the better to fit more cars.  People are rude and basic vehicular and pedestrian courtesies are absent.  No one makes eye contact, though they do so in other parking lots a mile down the road.  Rogue carts left in parking spaces gather rain drops in testimony to the attitude of "fuck it, it's somebody else's problem, let them deal with it."

Inside, everything from the font of the price tags to the exhausted visages of the wage-raped employees pulls on my psyche like someone turned up the gravity.  Bins crowd and clog aisles and make it impossible for two cart-pushers to pass each other, so more rudeness ensues.  Displays are cunningly arranged to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Every year on Black Friday, someone is trampled to death when the doors open at midnight.  Seems it's always at a Wal-Mart.

This is not cultural snobbery.  I don't laugh at "The People of Wal-Mart" pics.  I'm normally a fan of social commentary, but they're mean.  Those are just people and when I pass them on an aisle in a Wal-Mart, I make sure I speak and turn them into persons.  The fact that breathing the air inside Wal-Mart prevents them from returning the courtesy is, I feel, not their fault.  I don't believe that I'm too good to walk around the clothes and hangers and various other bits of merchandise lying on the ground.  Never mind that I compulsively put things where they belong when I'm in the grocery store, and the floor-to-hanging-up ratio at Wal-Mart leaves my OCD in helpless shreds.

It doesn't stop at the unpleasantness of being inside a store.  What Wal-Mart has done to our society, to our mentality, to our future.  It has fifty-six years of abhorrent practices and gross irresponsibility and pervasive damage to the world to answer for, and those answers will never be forthcoming.

Where are all the local shops?  Where are the places in America that don't look like every other place?  My generation feels the phantom ache of something missing that it never had.  We hear stories.  They seem quaint and otherworldly.

I had a conversation with my mother long ago, when I first began boycotting Wal-Mart.  She shopped there weekly (and still does).  I explained carefully and at length about sweat shops and bribes to corrupt governments in third-world nations.  I explained the practice of reverse-vendor price setting and how it erodes our economy.  I explained the effect of harsh union-busting practices.  I laid out the information in such a way that anyone could plainly see that Wal-Mart is nothing short of dangerous and vile.

At the end of all of this explaining, her response was this:  "But their prices are so good!"

And there you have it, Earth.  Everyday low prices, courtesy of the magnanimous Waltons.

They distract us from the other price tag.  The one we're already paying.

"There's a monster on the outskirts,
says it knows what your town needs,
And it eats it up like nothing,
And it won't spit out the seeds .... "

Dar Williams, "Bought and Sold"

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