Monday, July 2, 2007
"Just don't buy anything 'Made in China.' "
Earlier today I made the requisite visit to Wal-Mart and as usual I had mixed feelings about the trip. This time, as I wandered in the "Health and Beauty" section looking for cheap shampoo and anti-perspirant, I encountered a group of elderly customers, pawing the merchandise looking for deodorant. As they chatted, I heard one woman admonish the others, "Now remember, I don't want to buy anything 'Made in China.' " I barely suppressed a laugh and stifled the urge to reply, "Honey, you're in Wal-Mart; nearly everything in here was manufactured in China!" In the end, my son and I managed to wander the aisles and make it to the checkout lines with only four items . . . a miracle for Wal-Mart, where one is tempted by so much "stuff." You'll notice in one photo that yes, we're back in the land of NASCAR. I have never seen so much junk devoted to guys driving cars in circles. I have yet to figure out the sport's appeal.
Having covered the subject in other posts, I won't argue over the problems associated with the Wal-Mart phenomenon. I will note, however, that surveying the crowd and its purchases, one can understand the appeal of Wal-Mart. Given the diminished purchasing power of low-wage Americans, Sam Walton's empire seems a necessary evil. One just wishes that Wal-Mart didn't behave in such a monolithic fashion, particularly with regard to holding down wages, limiting access to health insurance, and preventing unionization of its workforce.
Of course, there were cameras everywhere, no doubt monitoring both customers and "associates." There's probably a "no photos in the store" rule, so I snapped these clandestinely, keeping the camera hidden and snapping only when employees weren't obviously close. Knowing Wal-Mart and its notorious security division (in the news over the last year for its practice of investigating employees, including executives) I would probably be escorted from the store if discovered taking pictures.