Thursday, July 19, 2007

As a rule, I don't shop at WalMart. There's probably a political reason for this; not so much concern for the Ma and Pa merchant, as for the most part I shop at chains or the internet, nor necessarily for the way they treat their workers, as I shop at Target, which arguably has a worse record on providing health care. Mainly, I boycott Wal-Mart because of the glee with which they work their evil, and their willingness to rub it in your face. They take out ads comparing anti-Wal-Mart forces with the Nazis. They funnel their charitable giving to advance their right-wing agenda, and, of course, devote an obscenely wasteful amount of time and money to defeating unionizing efforts, which I am convinced is a self-defeating strategy (compare this to CostCo's policy of discouraging unionizing by just treating their employees as human beings). But to be honest, the main reason I don't shop at WalMart isn't so much politics, but the fact that I just can't stand to be there. I used to shop there with some regularity, when it first showed up in my neck of the woods, mainly because several were open 24 hours, and I worked late and had chronic insomnia. At night, they were fine (I'm not sure that any local WalMarts are still open 24 hours). But today, when I go to a WalMart, or even drive by a WalMart to get somewhere else, I find it an incredibly unpleasant experience. Finding what I want is difficult, maneuvering the parking lot usually sends me into a blind rage, the staff is not helpful, and (here's where my left-coast elitism shines through) I always encounter the most disturbing people amongst my fellow shoppers.

In other words, I hate shopping at WalMart, which makes staying away on some principle very easy. But I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I wish to tell you that I had a pleasant experience today at a WalMart, taking care of what is, for me, a rather unpleasant matter: getting my oil changed. I never know where to take my car, and wherever you go, you end up sitting through a sales pitch for all sorts of services and additives. They know I don't know much about cars, yet I do know just enough to know that much of what I'm told at those places is bullshit. Occasionally, I've found a place that's okay, but the turnover at those places is so high, the service received changes with every visit. I was going to my dealership, which actually had reasonable prices for oil changes, but apparently, they decided the business wasn't worth their time, and jacked up their price. I remembered Mom spoke well, after having problems with other stores, of the WalMart oil change experience, so I decided to go ahead into the belly of the beast.

For $25, I got an oil change and tire rotation, no fuss, no muss. It took an hour, and they don't have a waiting room, so I just wandered the WalMart, and the CostCo across the street, for an hour, and then picked up my car and was on my way. They keep the experience as low-key as possible; they informed me one tire had a bent rim, but didn't even ask if I wanted to replace it while I was there. And as all they handle are lube jobs and tires, they really don't have much to sell. As long as they keep the experience as hassle-free as it is now, I'll gladly give WalMart my oil change business. Even if it does mean wandering the store, and overhearing a mother tell her five-year-old daughter (with a disturbing glee) why her grandfather is going to hell.

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