"Walmart, Walmart? Wherefore art thou Walmart?" OK, so I know this isn't what Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote Romeo and Juliet..or even the original version of Ethel and the Pirates, but it kind of still gets the point across. Like most everyone who might read this, I've been a frequent Walmart shopper for almost 20 years. Not only locally, but regionally, and to a degree, nationally. I just have one question: "Whatever happened to the Walmart of my ancestors?"
It seems that the reliability, and the very reason for which I have shopped at Walmart has vanished...been vanquished even. It reminds me of a verse from James 4:14 "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that apeears for a little time and then vanishes away."
Alright, I know this probably isn't going to be the most biblically sound use or interpretation of this scripture, but the point is valid. It seems in my travels, and in the straw poll estimations of others in different parts of the country, that the Walmart of yesteryear is no longer the same Walmart we became hooked on. It almost seems as if the shelf life of the corporate giant is beginning to vanish away. Perhaps going the way of the Roman empire...still mighty on the outside, but decaying within.
What makes me, and others say or think this way? Well, have you noticed how all Walmarts are no longer layed out identically. You know, laid out in a way so that the branding effect would become so strong for us and would be reinforced everytime we frequented a Walmart in a different location from our usual shopping place. There use to be a time where you could go in any Walmart around the country and find the same things on the same aisle, and even save significant time when you had to make a quick stop or Quick Trip. No longer.
There was a time where, whether you were in Michigan, Oklahoma, Arizona or any number of other states, you could count on product costs to be exactly the same, or at least within a few cents of one another. Not necessarily the case anymore.
Remember how Walmart was famous for carrying the brands you were expecting week after week. Well, in some of the Walmarts I've been to in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and a few other places, I've been met with momentary frustration over looking in multiple aisles and not finding in one store what was carried in another. Perhaps you have, too, but I've even been to my local shopping Walmart options only to find that they no longer stock something I had grown accustomed to buying, items it seemed they had in stock only days before but now no longer offered.
I know that even though you might be tempted to start a petition, these aren't necessarily things to contact your congress person about . After all, this is the way of modern business. Competitive brands are smartly negotiated with to drop their wholesale costs for a penny or two more or risk being eliminated from the retail network. Different markets may have higher cost of living, energy and shipping costs attributing for the variances in product costs. One geographical location may have a different landscaping or architectural feel, demanding a different look or unique interior layouts.
But perhaps the biggest change I've noticed are the people who use to be such smiling assets to the corporate atmosphere driving Walmart. The greeters are for the most part trying to be courteous and helpful. But there are times where I've walked in or out of the store parading my sales receipt as proof of purchase all the while noticing the gaze of suspicion from the "door monitors" that I could perhaps be the guilty party to a shoplifting.
How about this: when was the last time you went into a Walmart bathroom and it was clean with a pleasant fragrance attempting to do it's job no matter the traffic and activities deployed in a public restroom? I know you can't account for 24 hours of activity every moment of the day, but there were some of these store restrooms that I wanted to use (but I, nor my daughter could use) that were a small step above one of those old time highway gas stations. You know, the kind that hadn't been cleaned all that much since Route 66 first opened to nationwide travel.
Even more great a concern to me is the impression that's been left on me too many times that I was actually an imposition on the cashiers who were receiving my money so that ultimately they could get paid for "serving" me. It was almost like they were going out of their way and doing me a favor as they rang up the sale. Makes you want to go through the "self check out" line if you know what I mean. At least if that self serve "cashier" had an attitude, I would be able to deal with that unpleasant fellow. I know God would for sure.
I've wondered a time or two, do the higher ups at Walmart know this is going on? I've also pondered over what Sam Walton would do if he saw any performance and market slippage like this in even one store?
You have to understand, my purpose isn't to rain on the Walmart dynasty. But I probably won't be personally making the Walmart runs as frequently as I have in the past. There are still a lot of reasons I like Walmart, and there are probably some really well run Walmarts that still exist. Admittedly, the prices at Walmart are still currently the most competitive and have been through the recent economic issues our nation has faced, so bravo to Walmart for that. And as far as I know, Walmart still carries pretty much the most comprehensive product lines in a "one stop" shopping place on the planet. So convenience is still a great attraction.
So this isn't unrestrained Walmart bashing to bring up any particular societal or international talking points. It's more to ask the question of whatever happened to the reliable institutions we've come to depend upon as beacons of excellence, public service, consistency and responsible care? Shouldn't we be able to rely upon the mighty to help the needy? Is there the slightest twinge of arrogance to leave the impression that "this is who we are and we're big enough to tell you this is how it's going to be?"
Oh, wait a second...I guess I could also be talking about the church when it comes to the principles behind some of these same types of deficiencies. I wonder what's happening to the church as a whole when it comes to service, social responsibility, consistency, public dependability and integrity. Is the world running to the church because of seeing the love that Jesus said would be the shining reflection and proof of His disciples and followers in the earth? And except for the mega church or country church "star" examples, do they likewise find that many of the things that should be in place are no longer there or hard to find?
Though many things may come to mind, it leaves me with one question: I wonder who's going to remedy the inconsistencies first? Walmart...or the church?