the embarrassed shopper

oh, the guilt.

years ago, mom and i swore off shopping at walmart. it was back when there was sweeping media coverage about how walmart was able to offer crazy low prices thanks to unfair labour practices and shady (?) supply and inventory tactics.

we’ve pretty much stuck to our boycott. mom sheepishly confessed to buying paper towels and a birthday card (10% off, everyday!) there, once. we’ll forgive her. we both genuinely prefer to shop at local independents rather than support impersonal, big-box behemoths.

but, oh, walmart…you lure so convincingly with your rock-bottom prices.

for this month’s official shopping coupon-of-the-month redemption, the vibe was strong for mom and i to check out the newest walmart in waterloo, up on ira needles boulevard.

this is k-w's 4th or 5th walmart, now

waterloo-ites: have you been up here?? wow, talk about redevelopment. it’s a mini-city of mega-stores (and the fabulous empire theatre!) at this end of the city.

yea for our official august outing!

the first thought that struck me about this walmart: from the outside, the design is very reminiscent of the target stores i visited in florida: for example, there is a main entrance that opens directly to the grocery area, or a separate entrance will take you directly to the pharmacy/housewares section.

we chose door number one the grocery option:

astoundingly huge square footage JUST for the food products

within five steps, we were already exclaiming over the deals:

compare: $1.27 at walmart vs ~$3.79 at valumart

we had no real plan of anything to purchase so we ended up circling the store about seven times. mom has a terrible sense of direction (sorry, mom, but it’s true!) – and i kept thinking of something else to check out that was invariably at the opposite end of the store.

walmart cannot be beat for one-stop shopping. i would defy you to name a household necessity that you could not find here. let’s see: the cheapest prices in the city, convenience…the pluses of being a walmart shopper are adding up here…

we checked out the clothing:

WHY did i not pick this up??? $12! i am going back.

ok! here’s a negative point worth mentioning: whereas the target stores i have seen have been quite organized and tidy, this walmart looked like a pair of two year old tantrum-ing twins had been let loose. talk about messy!

moving on…

i still love looking at school supplies:

just happy that my own "back to school" days are well behind me!

cheaper than indigo/chapters...

the yarn section is quite small, but at least they have one. and – broken record – but the prices are unbelievably great.

my first knitting project when i was five was with this exact colour combo. i will have to invent a project so that i can use this yarn again. i still love it.

mom stocked up! at $2 a ball, we will for sure not find a deal like that at next month’s knitter’s fair!

a project linus blanket will be this yarn's destiny!

we finished off back in groceries. of course, i got a box of cereal:


here’s where mom and i dissolved into a fit of giggles:

laughing + juggling a camera with full arms induces MORE laughing!

every. single. time. we do this type of all-in-one shopping outing we neglect to pick up a cart or basket, and end up with arms full of product. we staggered to the checkout:

we made it! nothing ended up on the floor!

ah, that was a fun outing. i never get tired of shopping with mom.

now, back to my moral/ethical issue with walmart. here’s where i’m at now. first, i really should do my own research to see what walmart’s practices are nowadays. i am basing my boycott on information from 15-20 years ago. second, i think i can strike a healthy balance between supporting the local, independent stores in my neighbourhood while stockpiling essentials at walmart.

if a trip to walmart saved me a few cents, i’d say forget about it. but honestly, when i can save literally DOLLARS PER ITEM, the pragmatic and budget-oriented part of my psyche has a hard time letting that go.

therefore, the plan i think i can live with: hit up walmart 1-2 times a month. take mom to make it more fun. grab a cart upon entering!!!

what influences where you shop: location/convenience, ethics, price?…now i need a trip to costco (hint hint bff debbie!) to compare that warehouse-of-amazingness to walmart!




treat: chocolate glazed donut from tim hortons

oops – poor meg looks like she has a third eye, in this photo. let’s try again:

that’s better! meg says, mmmm! donut!

price: $0.95 (no hst! i’m so confused!)

rating: ** (two stars)

tasting notes: tim hortons is to donuts what kleenex is to tissue: there is no other choice. chocolate glazed has been my favourite ever since i first tasted donuts (donut queen! 1970s!). honey, i shrunk the donuts should be tim’s new tagline – they’re all so puny, now! tastewise, this donut was just ok. the bites with glaze were the best. the donut cake was just menh.

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  • Julie  On August 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Cathy, I agree about the neatness issue with Walmart. Even though I have lived out of North America for almost 9 years, I remember “back then” thinking Walmart looked like a dive. I have been in Walmart on a few visits back home since and nothing has changed. Is it because it is just so big?? open so long?? people just don’t care because of the prices? For me it is a big turn off…plus the stores are just so darn big!! I tried to find my nieces a birthday present in the toy aisle and it took me 10 minutes just to get the right direction! However, if you get to know the store, I guess the “searching time” would get better.

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      totally agree with all of your points, julie. plus, i think the ratio of staff:square footage of store space is just not enough to keep up. i have a strategy in mind: a list, divided into store sections! then after i’ve been there a few more times, i should have a better sense of direction and not have to backtrack so much – you should see THIS walmart – seriously insanely huge. here’s another example of price! have to share! this week at walmart – avacado for $1 each; valumart $2.50 each!!!

  • Nicole  On August 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I love Wal-Mart. I simply can’t justifyibly spend more elsewhere when I can get it for way less at Wal-Mart. They employ a slew of people, so we have less Canadians unemployed. That’s a good thing, right? I make a trip or 2 a week to pick up something there. Not sure if you know this, but they’ll also price match if you bring in a flyer (from a competitor grocery store) with a lower priced item. Get that Target here and I’ll ditch Wal-Mart in a heartbeat!

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 18, 2011 at 6:29 am

      good point, nicole, about all the people they DO employ. and also the tip about price matching – i didn’t realize that. it’ll be very interesting to see what happens to walmart when target arrives: loss of sales/customers, no effect??? i’ll be with you in the target line!

  • Johanna B  On August 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I shop in stores which are on a convenient bus route. There are 3 Wal-Mart stores directly on routes which pass near me. Can’t be a coincidence, can it? I only shop at one and then only about once a month but I do stock up when I go. Their Udi’s granola is $4.50 a bag and it’s almost $2 more at the Health Food Mart that’s within walking distance of my house. I go through at least one bag a week. If I get nothing else there I buy granola and $5 candles. So much for boycotting them….

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      what a great price on cereal, johanna! walmarts on the bus route – very convenient to draw in lots of shoppers!

  • Holly  On August 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    First off — I love the pictures of the donut on the plate — so cute!

    Walmart — I don’t go there often, mostly because Target (my favorite!) is so much closer. And you pointed out what I love most about Target — it is CLEAN and organized. Most of the Walmarts around here are open 24/7, so maybe that is why they don’t appear as clean as Targets (which are not open all day/night).

    I have known a few people who have gone to work there — they had no luck finding a job and needed income. So I can’t hate them too much since I know they helped out some friends and family members.

    What I look for in a store — how close is it to my house, prices, sales, quality of clothing/products, etc.

    And you should definitely get the GTL shirt 🙂

    • Holly  On August 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Oh and one other thing — I too never grab a cart and end up with my hands full. I once had a customer go get me a cart because she saw how I was struggling to hold onto everything!

      • 1970kikiproject  On August 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

        thanks for sharing TWO feel-good walmart stories, holly! gtl shirt – oh, yea – it’s mine! walmarts open here for 24 hours at christmas time – or maybe they are open all the time now and i just don’t know it!

  • Zo  On August 17, 2011 at 9:05 am

    It is hard sometimes between all the ethical/social responsibility/financial issues to know what to do sometimes…I don’t go to Walmart much because there are closer stores (target) and I’ve always felt claustrophobic at Walmart! My big thing is trying to buy cosmetic/skin/hair products that aren’t tested on animals. I’m willing to spend more for that, but even that is tricky as far as what the label says v. the truth.

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

      ooo, you raise a good point, zo, and open a whole new can of worms: can we believe what’s printed on labels, and by extension, can we believe media reports??…target will be opening at waterloo’s main mall in 2012, and i can see already that i’ll be living there!…

  • Lisa  On August 17, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Wow–I know, it’s hard to totally avoid wal-mart when the prices are low. I try to frame it by looking at how overall social change will happen. First….we have ALL stop shopping at wal-mart…and based on the economy (at least in the US), that is just not going to happen. Second, people have to know about the issues…and the majority of people pay no attention.
    So I do value the little piece of the world that I have an influence on (and I like to think of myself as casting my vote when I shop), but I also think it’s ridiculous to spend dollars more for the exact same item! Also…there’s no nice walmart near me (it’s quite traumatizing to go in the one nearby here), so lately I haven’t really been. Maybe I will though 🙂
    I’m kinda partial to target!
    p.s. I think you and your mom are twins with me and my mom — down to the no sense of direction and no cart/basket thing!

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

      great feedback, lisa! thanks! i totally agree, and find it fascinating that there are so many political, social, and economical issues associated with “being a walmart shopper.” not having one close to you (“traumatizing” – sorry, that made me laugh!) – > a bit easier for decision making!

  • The Orchard  On August 17, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Were you there just yesterday? I just ventured into that exact store last night for the first time. Just like you, I don’t usually shop in that particular store for the reasons that you mentioned. I am sure that I will go there again sometime, but man, it was hard to find anything. It felt like I was walking for ages to find what I needed. I have to say that I thought the store was actually pretty neat and tidy, but maybe they do a major clean-up at night (it was around 9:00 pm) when I was there.

    I like the convenience of the local stores close to home, but ValueMart definitely has higher prices. When it comes to buying my books, I like to buy them from WW uptown, but getting even more books for cheaper prices is appealing.

    Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!


    • 1970kikiproject  On August 17, 2011 at 8:51 am

      oh, i love reading your thoughts, tricia! thanks for sharing! we were there sunday aft…so yes, maybe it looked “stirred with a spoon” from the weekend shoppers. and yes – it feels like the size of about 8 football fields, strung together!

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