Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Boycotting Walmart

Kaya was just 10 months old and this was Rene's first time out of Europe. I kept reassuring him he'd be fine, I spent much of my childhood in Florida, he's going to love it, and he'll find driving won't be that difficult after all. The roads are big and the cars are automatic. It was late at night when we finally arrived after delays. The first thing he did after exiting the airport area was try to turn onto the wrong side of the road on a major highway. Oops. Enter anxiety and quarreling here.

We got lost and drove 1.5 hours away from our intended destination. Kaya was screaming for her life in the back seat and we were tossing a giant map back and forth and getting tangled in it. We finally arrived at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, just to be told it had been flooded and they reserved a room for us in a hotel. It's only a few miles away. There was no way we were getting back in that car so after a little intense discussion they got us a cab which took us straight to the hotel without any detour.

After we slept off the stress we got our rental back and decided to try to go some place and enjoy our vacation. We were intimidated by the vastness and unfamiliarity of America and weren't enjoying ourselves a whole lot. Until we figured out the route to Walmart.

Insert angelic singing here.

We were sorted. We pretty much spent the next week in Walmart, getting lost in it many times and reveling in the wonder of the huge shelves stacked high with colorful packaging and bold colors and fonts. The clothes were so cheap we bought a new suitcase to bring home as much as we could stuff into it. There was a Dunkin' Donuts near the entrance and lots of new food types with high fructose corn syrup which was a new wonder to us peeps from glucose syrup land. So we spent the vacation going from hotel room to Walmart to hotel room and so forth. It provided food, entertainment and miscellaneous other shopping.

We aren't the only ones. Whenever friends and family come to visit from Scotland, one of the first places they want to visit is, Walmart *insert angelic singing again*. In fact, after 4 weeks of crazy fixing up, packing up and selling our house, getting visas, saying goodbye and leaving the country for an International move with 2 young kids on tow and another one due in 5 weeks, on arriving in the freezing cold Northern Maine in the middle of a blizzard after not sleeping for about 50 hours, one of the first things Rene and I both wanted to do was go to Walmart. We were chomping at the bit. We had moved to the land with streets paved with cheese (or is it supposed to be gold? I watched too much American Tale) and we wanted to jump straight in to this beautiful, materialistic society. It was all such novelty.

I guess we bought into the golden arrow thing that they talk about on The Story of Stuff (click on it! It's a fun 20 minutes of online watching. The kids will enjoy it too)

Of course, the novelty wore off soon enough. We realized we are the poster family for People of Walmart . The obese couple with lots of unruly kids wearing pjs and sporting messy, unbrushed hairstyles. We started to notice how you walk into Walmart to do your weekly grocery shop and you enter some time warp. You come back out hours later hanging onto your sanity by a thread. In the interim, you've exhausted yourself walking around this miles long store, just to realize you forgot something back on aisle 1 and will need to go back for it, dragging unwilling children behind. You've become involved in more than a couple lovers tiffs over whether or not you should buy this brand or that or why they didn't check if we were out of paprika like you asked them to. And the People of Walmart around you are loving this free entertainment and don't mind at all if they start at you. You walk out the door frustrated, exhausted and confused as to how on earth you came out spending twice your budget after you planned it out so carefully.

I watched an interesting bit of propaganda recently called Walmart, High Cost of Low Prices. You can watch it online, and I suggest that you do. Click here to watch online via google video. It's also on netflix view immediately.

And Rene and I have decided to boycott Walmart for a year. Jan 2010 til Jan 2011. Hopefully by then we'll be quite out of the habit and won't go back to Walmart ever again. I'd like to say our reasons for this were noble. But mostly I am just so sick to death of shopping there. I can't stand the place. The produce is so bad. The store smells bad and is dirty. The kids almost always catch a virus after we've shopped there. We lose half a day of our lives just trying to shop for our basic needs every week. We always end up fighting. I grew weary of waiting in line for an excessive amount of time before the senile chic behind the counter finally remembers where she is and why and decides to start serving people. It's just. not. worth. it.

Thankfully here in Lincoln we have many other options. And Rene and I are having fun visiting the other grocery stores and choosing our favorites. We might need to visit a few places now instead of getting everything from one place. Kind of like how it used to be, the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers. We have one place we prefer for produce, another for grains etc. It won't cost a whole lot more than shopping at Walmart if we plan properly and go to the right places. We're buying more local produce and supporting smaller, local businesses.

Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that Walmart is being made a bit of a scape goat in this. It represents the epitome of American capitalism and extreme consumerism. It's not just all about Walmart. But this is a little thing we can do that can be a small contribution to a big issue. Lots of small contributions can have a big impact.

And it's such a relief to drive past Walmart (hold the angelic singing voices please, they're driving me crazy) and know that we don't have to go in there!


MrsW said...

How true! We have booked 4 weeks in Florida this summer and have asked the kids to go look for things they'd like to do and places they'd like to see... I am suggesting St Augustine, Daytona Beach, Kennedy Space Center... the OLIVE GARDEN and Ruby Tuesdays - they have each individually come up with Wal-Mart - and we haven't even been over to the US since they were 5 and 6 - do they spray customers with some long lasting addictive chemical thru the A/C or something?! (secretly I am a wee bit excited at getting to fill a trolley at Publix lol)

Herb of Grace said...

Excellent post! You took the words right out of my mouth! Matter of fact, I think you may have saved me the trouble of writing a post today myself ;)

Herb of Grace said...

Oh yes, we've been boycotting Wally World for years now... Buy Fresh, Buy Local!! We have a little grocery store, locally owned, down the street from us that's been in business since the fifties. I try to buy there whenever I can. The rest of the time we're all over the county avoiding WM. Pretty much the only thing I ever buy there is underwear. Weird, huh?

Allison Burleson said...

SOOO true! I find that the prices aren't that much cheaper than our local grocery stores (as long as you don't buy a lot of processed and/or frozen foods, which it sounds like you don't). Coupons, BOGO Offers, and utilizing CVS extra bucks programs has saved us more than WalMart ever could!

2Shaye ♪♫ said...

We only have two grocery stores in our town (and for a couple hours drive): Walmart and Safeway. We used to go to Wally World a couple times a week...just to get out of the house. Now we hardly ever go there. The produce is HORRID! Thought it's more expensive we buy from Safeway and we get as much stuff as possible from our Natural Food Coop. In the summers we delight in our own gardening and visiting the square to buy local farmer's organic produce. It's sometimes even cheaper than through the grocery store and SO much better than the stuff they ship in from other countries or way down south.

I'm glad that you acknowledged that it's not just Walmart. Most large national corporations (even Safeways) contribute to this issue. We're working harder to buy local whenever possible and to buy American outside of that. But boy that's hard these days when most everything comes from China. And don't even get me started on the working conditions and treatment of employees there. I hate to know that many of my purchases through the years have supported those business practices. :(

Kathie said...

Niecey, if you are going to multiple stores already, check out They list the better deals going on in-town, and also tell ya when there is a sale and a coupon that you can use together. I haven't spent less money since going there...but I've noticed that I'm getting more food for my money (so I guess I am spending less, essentially).


Laura said... crack me up!

I love me some Walmart, but we buy our groceries on base. Walmart is good for cheap electronics, DVD's, pet supplies, and underwear. :)

The Jaworski Family said...

I was a Walmart addict and didn't know it until I moved to Alaska (and 5 hours from the nearest Walmart in Anchorage) 4 1/2 years ago.
My detox went like this:
-First month we made a "Walmart" list and drove to Anchorage to fulfill our "Walmart needs".
-For the next few months my husband would swing into Walmart when he was in Anchorage for military duty. Each time he grew more weary of this venture alone.
-By the six month I was making a list that would need to be filled just quarterly.
-The second six months we went only once and I realized that if I could go six months shopping locally (where you literally cannot purchase underwear)and not going to Walmart for my "needs", then maybe they were just "wants" in bulk.
-I haven't been to Walmart in over 18 months.
You can do it! Just say no mass materialism. Grow a garden, can your produce, shop wisely and locally. More power to ya!

Anna said...

Here here!! Niecey, I Just spent a good hour catching up on your blog. Man, I miss you in the digi world. Your art and you photography is SO inspiring!

Di said...

Oh I really admire you guys. I used to be the same everytime we went to the USA. But I also love Target (do they still have that there?) and going to any shopping mall for the little "country" gift kinda stores. (Aaahhhh must visit States sometime soon!!)

It's a bit like that at the moment here for us. We shop mainly at Tesco or Asda but just lately both of us have been upset by the drop in standard at both stores. We're also trying not to buy imported produce - in fact, we are doing very well in that effort and have found a farm shop and local butchers (farm is there and animals are all orgnically farmed and freely roam etc..).. not that we eat much meat at all. We're also trying to eat "seasonally" and that's kinda hard to do when going to Tesco as you can buy anything "in season" ha!. So the farm shops are better.

Anyway, good for you! Sorry for the rambling hahaha! *hugs*

Violetstone said...

Hi, just started watching the video, but have to go cook. Very interesting and sad watching. Here in the UK we have ASDA which is owned by WalMart but our biggest supermarket is Tesco and they are trying to take over the world. Perhaps it will all end with a giant battle between Tesco and WalMart sort of a consumer Godzilla Movie. With any luck they will destroy each other and leave us our local shops.

Stacy Carlson said...

Niecey, we stopped going to Walmart some time ago, for many of the same reasons you stated. I got tired of buying fruit and having to throw them out soon after. We are devoted to HyVee. Go there some time and say "Can you tell me what this apple tastes like?". The guy will whip out a knife and cut off a part of the apple for you to try.. and if you're not happy with that kind, he'll find you another and you can taste it! I have never had a bad experience in HyVee, ever... and their customer support rocks!

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lady mommy said...

I shop at our local store for produce but always look forward to farmers market summers. We do head to walmart once a month for things we can't get at Maines (a bulk buy store in the area)and once a year at christmas time we get thier super clearenced decorations. We rarely buy clothes there (I got sierra a pair of leggings for a dollar at christmas) and normally hit up burlington coat factory or kmart, both of which carry better quaity at cheaper prices. More often than not we go to thrift stores for anything but socks and underwear. What we buy most at wally world is what I call housewares, anything that doesnt use up that goes in the home such as dvd's, cd's, broom/dustpan, coffee carafes, etc. even then targetis comparable and less stressful. I think if the walmart is limited, it still has its benefits, but when your whole life depends on it, it can be very miserable. Good luck and I hope you find some nice places to replace your habit. We are very pleased with the stores we shop at.

Michelle M. said...

I am sorry that I am so far behind on reading/commenting on your blog. Life just got a hold of me for a while, but things are calming down and I am trying to get back to reading blogs again.

I can definitely relate to your feelings about Walmart. Everytime that I go there, I leave feeling angry and frustrated. I just hate how they take advantage of people on so many levels.