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Suns & Shields Christian Inspirational Writings by Rachelle Hamlin

Selected editorials from Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.





By:  David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal

August 15, 2018


   I used to be a dedicated and loyal Wal-Mart shopper.  I’m sorry, but the fact that millions of dollars per month were being pulled out of Aroostook County’s economy and sent overseas didn’t really weigh on me that much when I was younger.  But a time came—a “wake-up call” if you will—when in a flash I realized what Wal-Mart was and instantly changed my habits to reflect my newfound revelation.

   People in general are creatures of habit.  We generally get up the same time in the morning, do the same routine in the same order, eat basically the same things at the same time and go about our day in the same way.  When shopping, people are also creatures of habit.  They get used to going to certain stores and buying certain things at certain times.  Being in the newspaper business now for fourteen years, I’ve been able to observe how newspapers are bought and for each store the same number of papers on average is sold, likely to the same people, with some adjustments for seasonal variations.  If a newspaper rack gets moved even two feet, or to the other side of a door from its original position, sales will drop by fifty percent because the newspapers are not in the spot people are used to looking and most won’t search for them.  After several weeks sales levels will return to normal, if the newspaper rack is left in its new position, as customers relearn its new location and adjust their shopping routine accordingly.  If a store goes out of business, it could take months for the newspapers that were sold there to be purchased at new locations as customers must radically change their shopping habits to new locations.  And that’s just for newspapers, think of all products sold at retail in general and you will see that it can be quite a challenge.  I’ve never been to college to learn any of this information, I just picked it up along the way out here in the real world.  But, I’m sure there are whole classes dedicated to the subject.

   The social engineers at Wal-Mart, and other big-box stores understand this quirk of human nature.  This is why from time to time they will reset the floor plan of the entire store (except for the coolers and freezers in the grocery section, which can’t be easily moved).  This technique is designed to force people who walk through the store on their routine route to see different scenery, different products and different selections as they walk about their pre-determined path.  This tactic is designed to force you to see new products you otherwise wouldn’t have seen in a large store when you only follow a certain path to the section you want to buy from.  That’s all fun if you’re not on a schedule and you have the time to hunt and peck through a new maze of shelving and display space. 

   A time came in August, 2008 when I was walking through Wal-Mart with a list of things in my head that I needed to pick up in a hurry (summer is my busiest season of the year with sound system rentals and this newspaper going at the same time).  I knew exactly where everything was, about how long it would take me to walk to each section to get it, and budgeted enough of my scarce time to get in and get out as efficiently as possible so I could move on to my next project.

   Or so, I thought I knew where everything was.

   It seems that evening when I walked into Wal-Mart they were in the middle of another one of their monumental floor space shifts.  Nothing was where I knew it to be and I found myself aimlessly wandering around looking for those items I needed.  I don’t bother asking for directions from store employees anywhere because I usually end up following them around the store looking for it because they don’t know where it is, either (I was at a popular auto supply store in Presque Isle recently and asked the young lady who worked there where the WD-40 was.  She then called her manager to ask if they sold WD-40...really.  But, I digress).

   At any rate, on that fateful evening, lost and wandering through an unfamiliar maze of shelving and display space at our local Wal-Mart, I found only one item on my list:  toilet paper.  To make a point to the cashier (I don’t know why I even bother, these days) I only picked up one roll.  When I approached the cashier, I told him since the store was in such a state of disarray, the only thing I could find was this one roll of toilet paper and that I would have to get the rest of my stuff at K-Mart.

   He responded smugly, “Fine, go to K-Mart!”

   That was the beginning of my new revelation.  Rather than asking me if he could help me find what I was looking for, he came off  with the ‘you need Wal-Mart more than Wal-Mart needs you’ attitude.  That doesn’t sell very well with me, and I’m sure it doesn’t with other people, either.  Or, at least it shouldn’t.

   Sensing his passive aggressive hostility, I responded.  “Okay, I will and maybe I won’t come back.”

    He responded even more smugly, “Oh, you’ll be back,” as he handed me my receipt.

   At that point I saw a challenge.  I was thinking I might not be back to Wal-Mart, but he was sure I would be.  Since I didn’t appreciate the hostility and tone of the conversation, I decided right then and there to see how long I could go without shopping at Wal-Mart.

   Habits are hard to change.  As I drove out of the Wal-Mart parking lot and on to my next project I pontificated on my options for acquiring all of the things I need from other locations in the area.  After all, most of us around my age lived in a world before Wal-Mart was established in this area and we got along okay.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to buy groceries, office products, electronics and auto supplies all under one roof and in one stop anymore.  But, I was willing to give it a try.

   At that time, ten years ago, internet sales weren’t what they are today.  Amazon was just getting a name for itself and Ebay was the go-to place for buying used stuff, so those weren’t really options at the time.  As I readjusted my buying habits, and retrained myself to the new routes I would have to travel, I found myself buying groceries at the locally owned grocery stores and moved all of my department store purchases over to K-Mart.  The benefit of the latter move was at the former K-Mart in Presque Isle, there were no lines, no waiting most of the time.  I quickly learned where they kept their product and they didn’t seem to flip their store around anywhere near as much as Wal-Mart so I was able to get in and get out much more quickly (I was sad to see them close their location at the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle, but still won’t shop at Wal-Mart to fill that void).

   After a few months of “Wal-Mart withdrawals” it started to get a little easier to get through town, run my errands and buy the things I needed without going to Wal-Mart.  I just kept driving by.  After awhile those months turned into a year.  I did it!  I was able to buy everything I needed without shopping at Wal-Mart. 

   There was some “collateral damage” to Tim Horton’s sales, however.  As most of you in this area know, you have to use the Wal-Mart driveway entrance to access Tim Horton’s.  I like Tim Horton’s coffee and some of their donuts, but in the first four or five years of my Wal-Mart boycott I wouldn’t even turn in to their driveway.  Ergo, I would not go to Tim Horton’s.  A few years ago I allowed myself to at least use the Wal-Mart driveway to get to Tim Horton’s by envisioning nothing but a grassy field of daisies and clover where other people see a Wal-Mart Super Center.  It works for me.

   At this point, you might be thinking that I was paying more money by not shopping at a location where there are “always low prices.”  You are correct.  I was paying a little bit more by shopping at other stores, but not that much more.  The extra fifteen or twenty-five cents per item was an acceptable investment in my community in order to keep more of that money local.  I was also willing to pay more money elsewhere just for spite.  That smug employee had issued a challenge that he thought I would not be able to overcome.  Paying more money to not shop at Wal-Mart was part of that challenge and now, ten years later, I believe I have succeeded.

  While it may have cost me some extra money, think of the cost to Wal-Mart.  I was spending on average $500—$600 per month with them between groceries, consumer electronics, office supplies, automotive products, etc.  At a conservative $500 per month over the past 120 months (ten years for those of you who can’t wrap your heads around abstract concepts), that amounts to $60,000 in lost gross sales.  At a modest 15 percent profit margin that’s $9,000, which represents how much money one employee cost Wal-Mart with just one lost customer.  (But, I don’t think the major stockholders of Wal-Mart are too concerned.  Some of them can potentially waste that much money putting on a backyard barbecue for all their rich, snobby buddies.)    

   This should be a lesson to all who are trying to run their own business.  Customers are hard to get these days and when you do get some, you’ve got to do everything you can to keep them.  If you have employees, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right type of people who won’t run your customers off.  Finding those good people, who are willing to actually work for a living, is also getting very hard to do these days.   

   So, will I ever return to Wal-Mart?  Nope, I don’t need to.  I do not need them more than they need me.  


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