Confessions of a WalMart Shopper

Piersons Big Hammer Eureka Humboldt CALet’s get one thing straight. I’m well aware of the damage that WalMart inflicts on local economies. Jim and I come from a town whose citizens actually kept WalMart from setting up shop along our waterfront. What a great moment it was, when Eurekans came together to stand up for their small businesses.

Because we didn’t have big box stores in Eureka, I shopped at my neighbors’ businesses. Sure, prices were a little higher than at big city chain stores, but knowing that more of my dollar stayed in the community was worth the extra pennies. At the time, Jim and I had a good income stream coming in, and although I made plenty of frugal choices, we could easily afford to shop local.

But once we hit the road, we came out of our Humboldt County cocoon. In most small towns around America, big box stores like WalMart are the only shopping choice. From Yuba City California to Fort Stockton Texas, most cities have allowed chains to come in and kill off many of their independent businesses.

We Were Only Supposed to Boondock
Walmart Camping Elizabethtown NC When we had an income, I was vehemently anti-big box, and would condemn friends and family members that opted to shop at WallyWorld. But things are different now for us. Our income is a fraction of what it was. All of our money is outgoing. Counting pennies is critical as fuel and food prices rise.

So when I found out we could overnight at Wallyworld for nothing, I was thrilled at the thought of saving money. Once we got the guts to do it, Jim and I made a pact that we’d use WalMart the way they use people. We’d stay in their parking lots and refuse to spend a penny in their evil stores.

But one time I got sick, and needed antibiotics. As someone lacking prescription insurance coverage, I couldn’t refuse WalMart’s $4 generic medications. Another time, we were low on groceries and about to head into the wilderness. Reluctant and feeling like a hypocrite, I bought our groceries at the only game in town, a WalMart Supercenter. Once I saw how many bags of food I could buy with $100, they hooked me.

The Older I Get, the More Crow I Eat
Walmart Boondocking Virginia I can go on trying to rationalize my purchases, or I can just face the truth and admit what I’ve become. I am a WalMart shopper.

Like many lessons I’ve learned on this trip, I’ve opened my eyes up to the fact that for a large majority of Americans, some principles take a back seat when money is tight. I hope that changes soon when a certain presidential candidate gets elected. But until then, I try to console myself for my decision, by shopping locally for organic produce, wines, and specialty purchases (after all, you can’t get Bombay Sapphire Gin at WalMart).

I also take to heart to the advice that our activist friend Dave gave to us long ago;

Commit to doing the least you can do that will have a tangible impact
and then commit to doing at least that much

7 Responses to “Confessions of a WalMart Shopper”

  1. I’m in the same boat I listened to my grama and stayed away from walmart for as long as I could. I grew up in a town that still doesnt have a walmart and Never will as far as I can see. It’s still ran on the local business man. Saxton, PA!!

    I now have to shop at walmart because I couldnt afford to eat otherwise.. I still feel sad VERY SAD when I think about the moms and pops that lost there lifes work because of this retail giant!
    Sign of the Times I guess…:-(
    Thanks for sharing, you’ve got a GREAT blog!!

  2. I suffer from the same angst. I am an organic, local shopper at heart. I refused to go to Walmart. Most people there are unhappy, the place is full of junk from china, and don’t even get me started on the fact that they don’t even give you a choice between paper or plastic bags, let alone not selling reusable ones at the front counter!

    But… now that our budget is considerably smaller, I do appreciate that the orange juice I get being a whole dollar cheaper there than it is at the other store I go to. Also, if I go to walmart’s market place, I can justify buying organic milk to Johnny, as it is only a couple cents more there than the store brand hormone infested stuff.

    We have also stayed overnight in a few of their parking lots too.

    Quite a conundrum, it is.

    I feel your pain.

    – jenn –

  3. Eeek! A fellow Humboldter saw this! Well, I knew I was taking my chances.

    If MallWart ever gets built there, Humboldt will definitely lose more of what makes it so special. It’s easy to avoid shopping at MallWart when you have no choice. But if it ever goes in, I know that a large majority of the area’s resident’s wouldn’t hesitate to shop there. Looking out for number one is human nature. Even the greenest of the green will sacrifice their principles for lower prices.

    For example, last year just before leaving town, I saw a certain politically active, very anti-big box, anti-corporate local in line at Staples, buying a color printer. She could have very easily bought one at any of the three or four independent computer stores in the area. But everyone knows their prices are always higher, and even this person’s hand-to-mouth low budget organization was looking out for number one and going for the cheapest price.

    As for MallWart going green, I hope so. The produce in the supercenters is still kinda sucky, but maybe with the ex-Sierra club president working for them now, I hope that at least their infrastructure and impact on the environment will be lessened. Seems like if that company is so smart, the should be able to figure out that if they keep destroying the planet, nobody will be left to buy more of their cheap plastic crap.

    Now, if only we could get their workers unionized!

  4. I almost wrote a post about this same thing yesterday. Got busy though and didn’t get a chance. My sister sent me a link to an article about how Walmart is now “going green.” It was interesting. I’ll try to make time to type up my post and put in a link to the article I read.

    Now that I am living in a large city, I do try to avoid Walmart as much as possible, but I still find myself going there on occasion. Before this we only lived in smaller towns so Walmart was oftentimes the only choice.

  5. The only time I have ever found anything I cared to buy in the only Walmart I’ve ever been in was when I bought three cotton “bark cloth” Hawaiian shirts that were locally made when we were on the Big Island staying in Kailua Kona.

    Too bad that Walmart is all that is left for so many people in so many towns. They are trying to become more “green”, but ultimately too much stuff isn’t green no matter how responsibly it’s produced and Walmart couldn’t exist without cheap imports from….China. Don’t get me started.

    Hey, though, we’re sitting here at almost 8pm with doors and windows open. Today, at least, it’s been SUMMER in Humboldt County!!! Hope it’s nice where you are.

  6. a man`s gotta do what a man`s gotta do !!

  7. Being a Wal-Mart addict myself……..I understand everything you say. I became addicted a decade ago when I was poorer than I had ever been. Shopping there allowed me to survive financially. It’s hard to break the habit once it’s started. And, like you say, when there’s no other option, it makes it even harder.

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