Hippies love to hate Wal-Mart. Actually, a lot of people love to hate Wal-Mart. It's easy to rant on and on about how they're taking over America and are the enemy, and other such nonsense. Offering an opinion like that makes one seem socially conscious and intelligent.
Although it may not surprise anyone who has read my Secrets of Buying article, I LOVE Wal-Mart. In fact, when people offer the opinion that Wal-Mart sucks, I immediately want to punch them in the face. Luckily I'm a huge wimp and never punch people in the face.
The most obvious thing about Wal-Mart that makes it so awesome is that it offers insanely cheap prices. They manage to do that by being really efficient, and by strongarming merchants into offering things at the lowest possible price. Getting into Wal-Mart's distribution chain puts your product in front of millions and millions of people, so merchants can be pushed to keep only a small profit margin for themselves. That's capitalism at its finest, and I'm happy to have low prices. Sometimes the merchants lower their quality to be able to afford to do business with Wal-Mart, but who cares?
The truth is that Wal-Mart isn't where you're going to buy fine furniture, a watch, or your car. It's a great place to get all the little things you need, but don't care much about. For example, a couple months ago I needed a tripod to video my Survivor application. If I had gone to some photo or video store, I'm sure I would have paid way too much money for something I'm rarely going to use.
Wal-Mart? $9.84. Holy Jesus, people! The fact that I can get ANYTHING made out of metal for $9.84 is a miracle, let alone a tripod. I was expecting it to be a flimsy plastic piece of junk, but it was actually decent! It had all the different adjustment angles, including the ability to tilt a camera for a Dutch angle. That's a feature no consumer is going to use. The thing was made out of aluminum with rubber and plastic pieces. I was blown away and thought, "Man. Wal-Mart rocks!"
Then I went back today and found myself excliaming the exact same thing. When you walk into the store they have someone (usually disabled or elderly) who has already positioned a cart so that you can just walk into it and start pushing. WOW. Now that is service! If Macy's or Saks had that, people would be raving about their attention to detail and service, but since it's Wal-Mart, no one cares. After all, they're the evil corporate empire.
And this brings me to a slight tangent. Evil corporate empires are GOOD! Wal-Mart started out small and because they were SO INCREDIBLY GOOD, they rose to the top and are now able to compete in any market. Want to compete with Wal-Mart? Do something they can't do. If you're a mom and pop who's reliant on inflated prices, but aren't offering better service than Wal-Mart, good riddance! Just because you've been relatively unsuccessful and stuck around for a while doesn't mean you get a free pass.
Also, Wal-Mart is open 24/7. That means that if I need ANYTHING at ANYTIME, I can get it at the LOWEST POSSIBLE PRICE. How can you possibly argue with that? It's absolutely incredible. This is, of course, especially valuable because of my polyphasic sleeping.
Wal-Mart has some incredible policies, as well. Did you know that any RV or other vehicle is allowed free overnight parking at any Wal-Mart? When we were on some nondescript stretch of road in our school bus, we always knew we could count on Wal-Mart to provide us with bathrooms we could use at any time, a place to park, and a place to buy cheap supplies or food.
Another time we were really into pellet guns. We bought some at Wal-Mart late in the night, and the employees set up some boxes from that night's shipment for us to practice shooting at. This may not be an official policy or anything, but it leads me to my next point.
Wal-Mart employees tend to be pretty helpful and nice. I don't know why this is. Maybe Wal-Mart has a system for hiring good people. Maybe they're brainwashed. Maybe there are snipers in the rafters of the stores who will take out any employee who isn't cool. I don't really care what the reason is, though. The fact is that more often than not, I have a good experience with Wal-Mart employees.
I'm sure some lamos are going to post comments about how Wal Mart destroys the rainforest or homogenizes culture or some other hippie crap. I don't really care, though. If a few forests go down so that I can get anything I want at any time anywhere at the lowest price, fine with me. I think I read somewhere that they plant forests in an equal area to any new development they build or something. If you're concerned with that, you can look it up yourself. No store can homogenize culture - that's up to people to be dull. As an example, I could dress up anyone in Wal-Mart and have them look totally unique and cool. If you make the choice to be like everyone else, don't blame it on Wal-Mart.