I hate Walmart. I mean, I love Walmart. I mean, I hate to love Walmart. It’s a complicated relationship, and their new car-side Walmart grocery pick-up is not making it any easier. What do you do when a company’s brand of capitalism is SO problematic — preying on their employees, shutting every neighborhood grocer down — but the services they offer — competitively priced food, and now groceries brought to your CAR — are so beneficial?
I remember the day our Super Walmart opened. I live in a small-ish town (60K people), and the Super Center was literally front page news. The sheer size of it alone was breathtaking. And for me, a mom of three on an 18th-Century-Corset-Tight-Budget, it was a godsend. I knew I was supposed to be upset, angry even, that this multi-million-zillion dollar corporation had descended upon our tiny town, but I couldn’t be mad because I was saving so much money.
Eventually, I had just enough money that the $.47 I might save on a bottle of ketchup wouldn’t make or break my budget. As a town, we grew to a population large enough to warrant a Costco, and my time shopping at Walmart became less and less frequent.
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This was convenient for me because it’s a lot easier to say you hate something when you do actually go there. As I went back to shopping local though, I watched local businesses shutting their doors left and right. The shoe store that had been a main street fixture for over a hundred years, gone overnight. Inventory liquidated. Corner vacant. It happened again and again. The bakery. The small, friendly fabric store where women congregated to sew and chat. The uniform supplier. The store that sold Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots to the area farmers for 75 years. Gone. Gone. Gone.
The truth is, for all it is bad, Walmart, especially Walmart in a small town with a high unemployment rate and a large population of migrant farm workers, is good, even necessary. Walmart has made available many products and services that would once have been entirely out of reach for huge segments of the population.
Bringing groceries to your car is one of them.
I can shop pretty easily. I have a car, and I’m mobile (most of the time). But there are plenty of people in the community that aren’t. Single moms (or just really busy not-single moms) who work full-time and still have to manage to shop and get the kids to soccer practice on time. Elderly folks who rely on neighbors to drive them to the store and wait while they shop. Folks like my best friend’s mom, who is having surgery next week on her face and won’t really feel like traipsing through a giant store alone, or being seen by the public at large while she’s bandaged.
Can we expect these folks to put their own needs aside for the sake of making a largely political stand against a mega-corporation?
For those of you saying, “But I hate Walmart!”: Do you shop at Amazon? I do. And not infrequently. Which makes me a hypocrite at its very finest.
Because Amazon is as guilty, if not more so than Walmart, of crushing every small business in every small town. Amazon Fresh takes Walmart’s service a step farther, and brings the food to your door. It’s not available everywhere yet, and I imagine Walmart figured it was a good time to try to fill that gap.
There’s a reason services like these are so popular — because we need them.
It’s a lot easier to say you hate something when you have the capability or privilege to make an alternate choice.