No, not the Wal-Mart effect: the Walmark effect.
The Wal-Mart effect is well-documented. It is the title of this recent book. (Click on the link for a good synopsis of the book.) Wal-Mart puts small stores out of business. Wal-Mart drives production out of the USA and to places like China so the prices can always be the lowest: “Always.” Some friends of this blog (including one of the Fat Triplets) think Wal-Mart is the bee’s knees because it makes products available more cheaply. Others (such as Cancerman and Chewymom) see it differently, and I tend to agree with these latter two more than I do with the former.
Go read those posts and follow those threads. Read The Wal-Mart Effect. Watch the Wal-Mart movie. All good stuff. Interesting. Infuriating. Nauseating.
But that’s not what I’m talking about today. Not the Wal-Mart effect, but the Walmark effect.
The Walmark effect is this: every Wal-Mart, no matter how squeaky clean, neat and new it may be, will eventually become a Walmark. What is a Walmark, you ask? Well, the name comes from my college roommate, who worked at a K-Mart one summer and swore that people not only referred to it as “K-Marts” and “K-Mark”, but wrote both of the above on their checks! From then on, Kmark and Walmark, for me, have denoted the less-than-glamorous side of shopping at either one of these establishments.
Allow me to illustrate. Wal-Mart is who they are in the TV commercials. At Wal-Mart, all the sales associates are friendly and helpful, and they all love working at Wal-Mart and helping customers. At Wal-Mart, the floors are always clean and the popcorn is always fresh. At Wal-Mart, the customer is a special person. At Wal-Mart, a happy little smiley face dances around lowering prices, to the delight of customers and employees alike.
When a new Wal-Mart opens in a town, it is a Wal-Mart (well, except a smiley face doesn’t really dance around, unless you go to Wal-Mart after having downed a few of these). It remains a Wal-Mart until it has effectively neutralized or eliminated all serious competition in town. Not long after that, it becomes a Walmark.
At Walmark, the employees are surly, underpaid, and overworked (which, of course, accounts for the surliness). At Walmark, the floors are dirty and the whole store has an unidentifiable, yet altogether unpleasant, aroma. At Walmark, the popcorn machine us usually empty or contains a yellowish product that somewhat resembles popcorn that is leftover from Dwight Eisenhower’s 4th birthday party. At Walmark, customers are cattle.
At Walmark, half the shelves are empty. At Walmark, they have neither the brand nor the size of the product you need. (For example, we had to go to Walmark the other night–note, “had to” because the fact that it has become Walmark means there is nowhere else to go–to buy dog food. In the brand we usually get, they only had the teeny-tiny three-pound bag. The only brand in which they had the 20 pound bag, the size we usually buy, was the Walmark brand, but it was only in the puppy food. The only adult dog food in the Walmark brand was the 8 pound bag, so we left with a bag that was neither the size nor the brand we came in to buy, but what else could we do?) At Walmark, they assume you are a thief (see Chewymom’s post, above).
We have been looking for an electric griddle for some time (or as they say in Scotland, a girdle). Several months ago, we looked at a Wal-Mart to get an idea of brands and prices. (It was a Wal-Mart and not a Walmark because it was in a place that had several nearby Target stores and large grocery chains, thus real competition. Competition in a market tends to keep Wal-Mart stores from becoming Walmarks.) We looked at many different brands with many different features. So the other day, with Bannock Night fast approaching, we began to look in earnest for a girdle 🙂 on which we could cook lots and lots o’ bannocks, not just for us but for the whole church. During the aforementioned trip in which we had to buy the brand and size of dog food that Walmark forced us to buy because we’re cattle, Buster and I steered our excessively bumpy cart (oh yeah, at Walmark all the carts have bad wheels) down the small appliance aisle, assuming we’d find the same selection we found several months ago. After all, this may be a Walmark, but it is a Super Walmark, right?
Uhh, right. Turns out, about the only brand of small appliances they have at Walmark are G.E. Note: G.E. small appliances are not really G.E.! G.E. (as in General Electric) sold their small appliance division to Black & Decker many, many moons ago. That great G.E. waffle iron your mom had is still around: only it has the Black & Decker name on it now. (We had this waffle iron, with the G.E. name on it, when I was growing up. It was great. We have an identical one now, only with the Black & Decker name on it instead of the G.E. name. Still great.) Ditto her G.E. mixer, food processor, steam iron, whatever: all still being made, all with the Black & Decker name. All still really good small appliances.
The small appliances you see at Walmark that bear the “G.E.” name are actually a Walmark brand. They have licenced the G.E. name to put on products that they have made for them in (you guessed it) China. This is very similar to the way K-mart licenced the Philco name several years ago for TVs VCRs, radios, etc. Philco hasn’t really existed as a company in a long, long time, but whoever owns the rights to the Philco name licensed it to K-mart to put on its store-brand (the industry term is “private label”) electronics. So, Walmark pretty much only had its own “G.E.” appliances, including two griddles (girdles — I love saying that). Both were about as flimsy-looking as they could be and screamed “fire hazard.” The larger of the two was 8″x14″ and was $35.00. Needless to say, I did not get it.
However, when Buster and I got home, we learned that the SmockLady had been to a nearby hamlet and had been to the store with the round, red logo. The one that sells Choxie. The one that Don Wildmon thinks is going to take your children in the middle of the night and bake them into a pie. Anyway, she came home with a Rival (nice brand) electric girdle (there I go again–but hey, it’s the Scottish term) that is 10″x20″. The thing is the size of an Australian Rules Football field. One could cook pancakes for the Osmond Family on this thing at one time and have leftovers. The cooking surface is nonstick and is removable and can be put in the dishwasher (neither of the Walmark brand items had a removable cooking surface). I want to have pancakes every day now. Not that I actually would do that. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
The price at the red-circle-logo-we-have-Choxie place? $29.00.
That’s Walmark for ya: always the inferior product, overpriced for its quality.