Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I don't hate Wal-Mart


This is SO open-ended now that my entire focus isn't on unschooling.  I have so many thoughts and so many passions that it's hard to choose which one to talk about, plus the past month has been CHAOS in our family.  So, I guess I took a break.  I thought of doing this post a couple of months ago, but thought...what does this have to do with unschooling?  So, I didn't make it happen.  Now, I don't have to follow any plan, so I'm just gonna spill it! :-P

I don't hate Wal-Mart.

Obviously, a LOT of people don't hate them, that's why they are what they are.  But, in the social circles I involve myself...I'm usually the only one who goes there. Weekly.  Mmmhmmm...I admit it.  I used to be SO embarrassed...humiliated...worried that I'd see someone there and they'd know my dirty little secret.  It's where I do a fair amount of my grocery shopping and almost all of my "household goods" shopping.  It's where I manage to make my husband's salary provide everything our family-of-four needs.  We don't have debt like most people do.  Our debt is 100% medical (and we have insurance!!)  We buy what we can buy and we don't "charge" anything.  If we need help purchasing something, we put on our grown-up underwear, take a deep breath, and ask our parents.  I think it's only happened a couple of times.  Why?  Because we live within our means.  Thanks Wal-Mart! :-)

I've done some serious comparison shopping(again...I'm kinda' really good at what I do-running this house.)  I've done the Whole Foods ingredient checklist, I've shopped there for produce, I do go there for my local honey, cheese-substitutes, and seafood.  I'm not anti-Whole Foods.  But, I do think their stuff isn't worth the LOADS of extra money it usually costs.

I've shopped Safeway.  Same brands on lots of things, but at significantly higher prices.

Natural Grocers has REALLY clean foods.  I LOVE that.  But, most of it is out of my price range and with two stores-each of them clear across town-it's simply not feasible for me to go there for much at all.  If I'm in the area, I'll swing by and get whatever produce they may have on sale that I can use.

Super Target is just stupid.  LOL!  Most of what they carry is ready-made stuff, they have very little that fits our family eating style, and they're overpriced on what we would eat

EVEN THE FARMERS MARKET sucks in some ways.  Last year, I made it my mission to find the best one in town, since we have so many on different days.  Well... most of them have the same vendors, so if you're wondering like I was...no worries.  The same ones go everywhere(smart, right?  That's their job, Shannon.)  What I did notice, though, was that more often than not, produce is not organically grown.  AAAANNNDDDDDDDD what really pissed me off was how many of them get food shipped in to them and they bring it over like it's local.  Jackasses.  Next time you're at the market...ask them for each item you want to purchase.  Ask 'em, I dare you!  "Did you grow this?  Is it organic?"  I got so many "no"s last year you can tell I'm still mad about it.  Grrr.  The local, free-range goat's milk cheese I was checking out, too.  Nope, the goats aren't really free range.  They have pens they're kept in.  So, why do they even say free range?  Cause when the goats aren't lactating they get to roam free.  But, when they're producing...they're penned.  Stupid.

What's this have to do with Wal-Mart?  This is how I see it: If I'm going to get food that's shipped in (like at the Farmer's Market), I'd like it to be clearly labeled where it's from (like at Wal-Mart.)  I know which tomatoes are from Mexico, California, and Argentina.  And, I can pick which one I want.  I also have a clear label for organic produce.  Woot!  No asking someone who may or may not be honest with me about it.  And, I do see the associates switch out the labels when new product is placed, so I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be true.  Wal-Mart knows most of their customers don't give a rat's ass where their food comes from, but they also know that some of us are watching and they're catering to us.  I think that's nice (and, well, of course... commercialism.)  I know that EVERY PACKAGE of seafood from Wal-Mart is from China.  So, I don't buy any there.  Gross!  They can't get lead paint right...I'm not eating food from there. PERIOD!  But, again...Wal-Mart tells us these things, in plain sight.  If we want to make conscious choices about food, we do have the option.  Now, I think I'm fortunate to be living in an area where people are more particular, because I can get the following at my Super Wal-Mart: locally-raised and packaged (although not free-range or loved, so I don't buy it, but again...my point is they're catering to us little by little) sausage, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, goats milk (and organic of a few of those varieties), gluten-free pastas, cereals, baking mixes(I make my own and I'm not gluten-free, but...my point...), various organic produce, LOTS of Kashi cereal, cracker, snack bar choices, true free-range whole chickens, organic ketchup, organic canned veggies and fruit, as well as a whole myriad of food choices that aren't organic or local, but don't have a bunch of additives.  Really!

I know food isn't the only thing available there, but I think it's a starting point for what sets people's shopping experiences apart.  I also buy lots of baking soda there (we haven't used shampoo in, I think, 2 months and counting and I'll be whipping up my first batch of homemade deodorant here shortly as well as toothpaste.)  They don't offer a lot of clean products for keeping house-dish soap, laundry soap, regular soap, etc.  But, they do have most of the products necessary to make your own.  And if you make your own, you probably already have your favorite suppliers.  I don't really know.  I'm still using up all of my fancy detergents for cloth diapers and I use Dawn dish soap so I can help support the funds and supplies given to clean up the animals who fall victim to oil spills (the oil is still a problem, by the way... It's still there...just in case you forgot!)  As for clothing and toys, I prefer to buy second-hand.  Wal-Mart is no better than most other large retailers (they all get most of their stuff cheap, from overseas.)  But, I feel like I can't advocate enough for buying things USED!!  There's lots of really good stuff out there and it's still usable.  I can't stand the idea of how much is wasted and perfectly fine.  Again, we make our choices...  Everywhere.  With every purchase.

Does Wal-Mart ship in tons of things from overseas that are made cheaply, by (I'm assuming...)children?  Mmhmm.  So does Target, Toys 'R Us, K-Mart, and every other corporate retail store you can find (yep, even all over every mall in America).

Does Wal-Mart pay their employees "retail wages"?  Mmhmm.  So do so many other retail stores (and even locally-owned ones!)

Does Wal-Mart do everything they can to turn a large profit?  Only one way to go corporate...by being a CORPORATION.  Of course, they do.

Does Wal-Mart donate a lot of those profits to charities?  Yep.

Does Wal-Mart provide an opportunity for people to work even weird, odd, part time hours?  I can't say first-hand, but I ask employees a lot and they all say they're really flexible (a plus to NEVER closing, I guess.)

Does Wal-Mart allow people to sleep in their parking lots in their cars, RVs, trucks, vans, etc?  Yep.  Always have a well-lit porch if you need one. ;-)

I could keep going on and on and on, but it's late and I'm getting distracted.  My point, however, is that Wal-Mart isn't the devil himself and while the gargantuan status of the store is intimidating it's not all bad.  It suits our family very well as PART of our shopping experience.  Conscious choices can be made anywhere we go and, often, what seems "better" is really just equal with a different light.  So, there.  My secret's really out now.  

Oh.  And, sometimes you just want to eat something really crummy that's yummy.  At Wal-Mart...the choices are plentiful!


  1. Great post, Shannon! As a total anti-WalMart shopper myself, it was nice to read this to see all sides of the box. I haven't been to WalMart in 13 years (since I was 17), and the WalMart: High Cost of Low Prices movie definitely helped push me over the edge of that corporation. HA!
    I am glad you wrote this and are a smart enough person to have reasons why you shop there, for your convictions, etc.
    Mike Callicrate of Ranch Foods Direct wrote a great letter about/to Wal-Mart a few years ago you should check out. I think you can find it on his blog or the Ranch Foods Direct website.

  2. think i'll go to walmart for my next shopping trip.

  3. I didn't say it when I read it but I loved this post!