Thanks, But No Thanks, Walmart

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As a kid who grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, it came as a bit of a shock to me, to end up living my entire working life in a big, indifferent city. I am an introvert, though, so despite the culture shock, there was a great deal of appeal for me, being absolutely swallowed up in a big, anonymous crowd. I think that people who love to sit and quietly think for hours may have fewer issues with big-city obscurity.

Nonetheless, I never did shake the part of me that had grown up in a place where most folks knew one another. Looking as much like my Mom as I do, even as a kid, I never went anywhere without being told: “Oh, you must be Y_’s daughter!” There is something very comforting about being in a place where, as the song goes, “everybody knows your name”.

The part of Canada where I live – and moved back to when I retired – is called ‘the Maritimes’. I had greatly missed its warmth in the decades that I lived away, and the yearning became more pronounced the older I got. The folks around here wave to perfect strangers from their cars. Car horns are never, ever used in anger: their only purpose is to toot a cheery hello as you drive by someone’s house. We always, always nod and say a pleasant hello to people walking along the same sidewalk, even if we don’t (yet) know them: it would be considered very bad manners not to. With no prompting at all, we are known to begin chatting with a person we do not know at say, the grocery store, to talk about that lovely Christmas present we just picked up, or how proud we are to have just become a grandparent. We stop to help people whose car has broken down. We are not terribly worried if it is our car that has broken down because we know we likely won’t have made it out of the car before at least three other vehicles will have stopped to give us a hand.

Human beings are pack animals. While the occasional human really does prefer living in solitude, most of us do better living within the bosom of a community, feeling supported, protected and yes, loved. The folks in the Maritimes understand this as well as anyone I have ever met.

It used to embarrass my kids to no end, when we would travel back to the Maritimes for a visit. “Do you have to talk to everybody, Mom??” my then teen-aged daughter would ask, in mortification. “And do you have to tell them your whole life story??” My daughter is a private, independent city girl, through and through.

Yes, there is the occasional down side to having moved back home, like never really having true privacy ever again. People know your business around these parts and whatever they don’t know for sure, the rumour mill is happy to fabricate or at least embellish on. Health care is sketchy in our province: one community hospital specialises in hip replacements; another – three hours away – specialises in heart issues, while yet another – four hours away – specialises in something else. There is nothing at all in our province for very sick children: families must go to the hospital of the biggest city in a neighbouring province for that. And when it comes to buying anything, you may have to travel a bit to find what you are seeking and you will not have the choice of dozens of stores or dozens of brands.

I struggle a lot with this: I do my best to always buy local and I also do my best to avoid the big-name corporate giants when I can. Unfortunately, I am not made of money, so sometimes my bank account eclipses my moral standards. Nowhere is this more evident than when I shop at Walmart.

In rural areas like where I live, we don’t have a whole lot of choice when it comes to finding affordable prices for the necessities of life such as toilet paper, kitty litter, cleaning supplies or coffee that will not put you in the poorhouse for buying it.  We don’t have dozens of big-name department stores in the rural areas of our province. We have just one. Local stores don’t have the option of buying cheaply – and in bulk – like Walmart can. As a result, I shop in our local stores for as many items as I can, but once a month, I make a detailed list and I head to the closest Walmart – 30 minutes away.

Based on the angry comments I keep seeing lately on Facebook, our little Walmart store (and it is little) recently had to toe the same corporate line as every other Walmart in North America by installing those awful self-check-outs that – I was told when I complained the first time – ‘didn’t cause anyone to lose their job’.

I may be terribly naïve but I am not what anyone could ever call stupid. And I have yet to meet anyone else who believes that hogwash, either.

The other day, I had just completed my monthly Walmart run and was dismayed to find a myself in a line that was easily 25-metres long, all of us avoiding the self-checkout and all of us patiently waiting to go through the ‘real’ check-out, instead. You know the kind: there is a real person there: usually either a very young Mom who’s doing her best to make ends meet or else a grandmotherly-type, frequently older than me, who just isn’t able to retire yet. To a one, our local Walmart cashiers are all about as ‘Maritime’ as you can get (even the ones with the lovely accents who have not lived in this country for very long). To a one, they are kind, professional, helpful and courteous.

I guess it must sound like such a little thing, but I look forward to those little encounters, as I help the cashier a bit with the packaging and we chat about inconsequential things (all while she maintains the professional and efficient pace her employers expect, I hasten to add).

The other day, the lineup was so long that I had plenty of time to chat with the other people waiting in line with me. In Maritime terms, purposely waiting for a ‘real’ cashier – and not going through that blasted self checkout – was an outright protest.

But it was such a pitiful protest, and so very, very ‘Maritime’.

None of us yelled; none of us threw things; none of us blamed the poor Walmart worker who had clearly been specifically assigned to herd us – to no avail, I might add – toward the self-checkout. Not one of us moved from the line where we were doggedly waiting. Not one of us took the self-checkout option. And the wait was a long one: there was only one full-service checkout open for business. There was an elderly lady waiting in line with us, carrying a small bag of items, and one after another, we all suggested she “go ahead”. None of us wanted to see her waiting any longer than her aging legs should have to.

We were ‘Maritime nice’ about the whole thing but make no mistake, Oh Mighty Walmart Corporation: we were all very, very, angry.

At some point, the beleaguered manager must have picked up on just how irritated we were, as we stood watching all those staff members assigned to the self-checkout, just standing around, wondering what on earth to do with themselves as they waited for the customers who refused to step forward. Eventually, someone must have understood it was a stand-off and Walmart was losing face: they finally opened three full-service check-outs and in no time, everyone had paid for their purchases and left for home.

I did speak to the service manager on my way out and – typical of where I live – we were both polite, understanding and courteous; neither unaware of the other’s plight. I asked Amit (he said I could use his name) who I should complain to (he pointed me to the comment section of the store’s local website). I thanked him for the fact that we still have a checkout where ‘real’ human beings can provide us such a service (last time I complained, I was told that we only have a real check-out in our local store because our local Walmart managers insisted on it, knowing – as they would know – the local community dynamics better than some distant Walmart executive).

I could use the argument that I have seen all over social media: if you want me to bag my own purchases, well then, pay me for it. But you know what? It was never about that. A lot of us spend a lot of money at your stores, Oh Mighty Walmart Corporation. And we will continue to do so because there just aren’t a lot of choices for us, here.

You killed our downtowns a long, long time ago.

It is too much to ask that you pay decent wages to a few folks in your very-profitable stores (folks who happen to be our friends, family and neighbours) who really need the money and who provide your customers with a little human interaction? I know you don’t give a hoot about human interaction but you should: happy people would likely be spending even more money in your stores than they are already.

Having lived in an impersonal city for decades, it’s been disheartening to observe all the vacant faces of the shoppers around me since you (and a number of grocery and pharmacy chains just like you) chose ‘efficiency’ over connection. One of the reasons I moved back home was because I really missed that human interaction. Sadly, just like our beautiful old downtowns (that I, for one, am old enough to remember well), you are now contributing to the killing of the last bastion of community connection, too: real human beings, providing a service for other human beings.

And hopefully being paid a living wage for it.

I know these must be really difficult concepts for all you fine folks who have likely never stepped foot in your own stores but down here in the real world, we common folk actually kind of like and support one another.

And we will continue insisting on real service.

Shame on all of you…

Patti Moore Wilson/©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

15 thoughts on “Thanks, But No Thanks, Walmart”

  1. Well said, Patti!!! I also enjoy the face-to-face connection with the cashiers in our supermarkets, banks, drugstores/pharmacies, and shopping centers. I also refuse to use the self-checkout aisle and choose to wait in line for a real person. I miss the human warmth among strangers that I experienced when living in Brazil and my native land Guyana, very similar to the one you describe in the Maritimes. We humans are social beings that crave real connections. You would think that we had learned that during the pandemic lock-down of 2020-2021.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I thought the very same, Rosaliene! It would be wonderful to think that our standing up would make a difference but alas, as long as we are still purchasing things in their stores (or worse, online: a really excellent documentary series up here proved – with trackers – that most anything we ‘return’ ends up in a landfill), they will keep doing what they’re doing. I feel, most days, like humanity is a runaway train 😔

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit I love the self checkout. I am on a low-dose chemo drug (I don’t have cancer) and because of it, my immune system is pretty much out of order. I try not to mingle at places like grocery stores. At the self check out I can sanitize the keys and or converter belt as long as I please and nobody comes too close. I wear my mask for my protection, don’t have to explain anything. I am in and out.
    As for the interaction with the cashiers. I suppose that’s soon going to be part of our past. Robots and computer operated electronic assistants will take over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping in, Nonsmoking Ladybug 🙂 I do know a few people who love the self checkout. Young people like my kids tend not to mind it and I know it’s GREAT for people with social anxiety disorder, who get panicked with even the most well-meaning social interaction. I just wish Walmart had considered its individual clienteles : i.e. more self-checkouts in say, the big cities but always a more personal option available, and fewer self-checkouts in rural areas. Thank you for the gentle reminder to show both sides of the story! I’m happy to have found your blog, and am now happily following…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Walmart is possibly and probably right when they say no one has lost a job to a self-checkout. What they cannot say is that it was not the person that was lost, but the position. For every self-checkout machine in a store at least two people are not hired, possibly more. And when people leave their employment fow whatever reason, some of them are not replaced. Their positions are phased out.
    I am glad to hear our Maritimers are sticking to their guns and not using self-checkouts. Not just Walmart but a lot of the great big stores are using the self-checkouts to avoid hiring paid employees who cannot get sick, who do not need “paid” vacations, lunch breaks, etc. People who “might”decide to quit for a better job!
    But seeing an expensive self-checkout sitting unused is money out of Walmart’s pockets.
    I live in a small town in Far Northern Alberta, and there are no self-checkouts in our town. The nearest Walmart is 300 kms away and has three of four self-checkouts sitting unused. Raspberries to Walmart!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here in Phoenix there are self check outs everywhere and even in this cruel cold city of millions, people still prefer interacting with a real cashier. We also just got new street lights installed where they look purple. More cell towers made to look like giant robot trees are built everywhere around this city and some are so close together it makes you wonder what that is all about.

    They are tearing down groves of orange and lemon trees, what our state is known for, and building huge apartments in place of real trees with food growing on them. And the scariest thing of all is how so many places where food centers are (that supply food to poor and homeless people) are burning down. Chicken egg laying centers are also burning down.

    Crime is so bad now since our government has changed here in the city, that people are afraid to go out at night. But even during the day people are being hurt. It is almost like these things are happening on purpose.

    At night the street criminals race their cars and make all kinds of loud noises, letting other solders in this spiritual war know they are out there together like a code of some sort, evil roaming the city streets late at night and making all kinds of noises to keep people stressed and awake.

    People in their homes at night, locked behind their doors, can hear the gangs, the racing car noises, the loud bangs, barking dogs and then helicopters.

    Every Saturday like clock work the police sirens of police cars driving up and down the freeway/streets, early in the mornings to cause more noise stress in my opinion. How strange that everything seems to happen like clockwork, like a pattern.

    I fear this state and this city has been over taken by some bad people, and we are all being tested right now…just an opinion of course, but something sinister is happening in this city to try to break the spirit of the people here.

    They even stopped picking up garbage in some areas…all to create hopelessness, stress, fear and terror, again, just my opinion. Stay strong, that’s what I tell my family. Stay strong until we can get out of this city.

    There are still more good people out there in the world then bad, for now, but every time I go out there into this city I was born in, I can feel that tide changing…people are breaking, people are becoming angry, bitter and hate is slowly taking over more and more. There is an agenda here I fear. I fear it’s going to break many. For now, I pray, as I know so many others are also praying really hard that this city goes back to the way it was. Lots of prayers.

    Love this post and the kindness from your part of the world. Keep that close to your heart and don’t ever change. You and the people of your town are the good guys. Have a Merry Christmas and may only good things always come your way for the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well this hurt my heart…😔😔😔 There are no real words of comfort for such a thing, but oh, I hope you do find a better place (and I know that’s so much easier said than done). I do think it empowers the powers that be, to keep us angry and divided. Keeping sewing your beautiful seeds of love and kindness. There MUST be so many there, who are feeling as you do. My prayers – and all my positive energy – are flowing your way…🙏💕💕💕


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