A Wal-Mart Dilemma

After I got home last night, I made my routine trip to the mailbox. Inside was a solicitation from Wal-Mart, but not just a circular like you'd normally find amongst the ads for Papa John's and Kohl's. This parcel had a card inside that, when activated, is redeemable for $5 at any Wal-Mart location.

For anyone else, they'd just throw it in their wallet and try to remember to use it the next time they're there (like tomorrow). But for me, receiving this card calls into conflict two of my core personal beliefs.

It's no secret I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart.

It projects itself as a warm, friendly environment where you can get everything you need to live a good life at a price you can afford. While the last part of that statement can be evaluated as true, the first part cannot.

The place is a dump.

I don't care which one of the 2,700 supercenters you go to, it's populated by folks who otherwise would never have left the house to do anything. And they dress the part, too.

The Neighborhood Markets are no better. One night after work, I was planning on re-stocking the pantry with the usual regimen of bachelor chow, and the place was absolutely crammed full of overweight single mothers with three or more unruly children in tow and a cart overflowing with junk food.

I wondered what could possibly be going on – it wasn't wintertime and Gary England hadn't predicted some freak snowstorm.

Turns out it was the first Monday of the month. No big deal.

Except those crowds of people were cashing in their food stamps for Cheetos and Slim Jims like they were discontinuing them.

I don't need to deal with accidentally running into that.

I probably wouldn't mind the crowds of people that are always there if I felt like the store respected me as a customer. But since the place is so ridiculously oversized, customers are forced to walk the same distance as the Israelites did en route to the Promised Land just to procure what they went in for.

I really just want to get my stuff from a place where it would be unusual to find an abandoned infant on a shelf next to the toilet paper.

I suppose for a lot of folks, low prices are more important than things like cleanliness and being in an environment where the employees are content and where the management actually cares about managing a business.

A few years back, when I was furnishing my first post-college apartment, everything was purchased from Wal-Mart. And since I'm anal-retentive, I saved all the receipts.

After a period of several months, when the time came that I no longer required a shower curtain, I simply shoved it back into the plastic bag it came in, grabbed the receipt and made my way toward the Wal-Mart customer service department.

Without so much as the bat of an eye, I returned the shower curtain and received a full refund of the purchase price.

A former Wal-Mart employee also told me that Wal-Mart 'Associates' are not allowed to prevent shoplifting. And, while managers are, they give up chase as soon as the perpetrator sets foot on the asphalt in the parking lot.

That's how to run the largest retail business in the world.

I choose to shop elsewhere, at stores that value me as a customer and want me to come back.

That's why I haven't purchased a single thing from any Wal-Mart stores in 9 months.

And as far as I can tell, the place has only gone downhill since then.

The topic of Wal-Mart comes up fairly regularly, and I can only express my disgust with the company so much before I throw my hands up in frustration and disgust. Evidently, very few people enjoy shopping there, but the majority of folks I've asked still shop there regularly as if it were the only store in town.

It's not.

And thank goodness it's not. I was having a Wal-Mart-themed conversation with a bandmate on Monday who delivered goods to them on a consistent basis. One day he was dropping off an order and was informed they wouldn't be receiving that order. Those goods were no longer being carried.

Way to treat a supplier there, Wally World. I guess you can get tortillas way cheaper from China? I guess you've fully turned your back on the old 'MADE IN USA' campaign you were running back in 1992...

But the question remains: What is to become of that $5 gift card?

On the one hand, I never pass up free anything.

But, Wal-Mart.

I know what their plan is. They expect me to show up and shop like normal, and they'll just deduct $5 from the $127.48 that I'll inevitably spend while lost in their labyrinth of Hannah Montana outfits. $5? That's nothing to a Wal-Mart whose loss prevention department looks like a Maytag repair shop.

If I were in a state like California or Massachusetts, I could just walk in there and get cash for the card and go about my day, only feeling slightly depressed that I had to go inside.

But here in Oklahoma, if I wanted the $5, I'd have to actually purchase something.

Something under $5. They're not getting any of my money. The only cash I'd be spending is the free cash they sent my way.

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