Katya Loves Walmart

Since arriving in North America, Katya has developed a love for, nay, an obsession with US super-chain Walmart. She will use any excuse to go in there and getting her back out in a timely fashion is damn-near impossible.

It all started a couple of weeks after Katya arrived in Victoria. It was winter and due to rough seas and deep federal cutbacks my job as a Fisheries Observer was non-existent. This meant I had to find savings from the budget and Walmart offers some of the best, particularly in their grocery department. I took Katya to the Victoria Walmart at the swanky "Uptown Centre" and I couldn't get her out again!

The Victoria Walmart
In Victoria the Walmart sprawls across two stories, with special escalators that grapple your shopping cart and bring it up to meet you on the second floor. Up there you can find the electronics, household, automotive, arts and crafts and furniture departments. Katya spent a good hour and half on the second floor before we even made it downstairs to the clothing and shoes and grocery departments!

The Victoria Walmart is spacious and modern and clean and well-planned and the discounts are good. When shopping at large department stores in Russia, such as "Ashan", survival is more important than discounts. People push and jostle and trample and run over with shopping carts. Russians can't seem to stand in a line, and instead shove and elbow each other out of the way to get to the deli counter or the cash register. In Victoria, Walmart was calm and orderly and peaceful, and it's no wonder why Katya fell in love with it.

I personally hate Walmart. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against big department stores. I'm not one of those eco-snobs who regurgitates the well-used anti-Walmart lines: "Well you know [insert annoying nasally voice here], Walmart drives out small businesses and enslaves entire towns into minimum wage jobs." "Well you know, everything Walmart sells is produced by child laborers in Indonesia." "Well you know, every time a new Walmart opens up, ten African children lose their mothers." etc etc.

I don't care about any of that stuff. Keep your moral outrage in your pants, as it were, because as a consumer I'm looking for the best deal I can get for my money and if some little fifty-year old shop downtown can't compete, that's not my problem. Maybe you should lower your prices or think of a new creative way to attract business. Change your business model which obviously hasn't evolved with the modern markets. That's how free markets work. Organic evolution dominated by a few super-giants that devour anything which can't evolve. So, evolve. Or die. Either way I'm going to try to save a buck.

No, I hate Walmart because I can't stand the regular overweight white trash welfare crowd who frequent the stores. I hate waiting in line at the cashier behind a five-hundred pound woman with ten undisciplined kids climbing over the shopping cart stuffed with Kraft Dinner and frozen chicken nuggets, asking passing males "Are you my daddy?" While Victoria's Walmart is a diamond in the rough when it comes to the regular clientele, I've been to other Walmarts and know what they are normally like.

When we went to Edmonton in the summer, I took Katya to the nearest Walmart. Voila! A real Walmart! Katya was disgusted! This Walmart was particularly nasty, with dirty floors and even some kind of browny-reddish goop dripping off the wall near the bread section. "Welcome to Walmart!" I said, laughing, but Katya didn't get the joke. A large family of veiled Somalian Muslim women and their children literally shoved us out of their way as they went for the milk which was on special. Katya had a look of uncomprehending horror on her face.

But she wasn't going to give in so easily. She's Russian, if there is one thing that Russians are known for, it is stubborn resistance. So with something approaching fatalism, Katya defiantly continued to give that Walmart her business. Often times I would just wait in the car in the parking lot, listening to music and playing with smartphone, while she went looking for whatever. At least half the time she came out empty-handed because the employees at this particular Walmart never had the shelves stocked.

Nevertheless, Katya never gave up trying. When we moved to Guelph, and drove past the big shiny new Walmart for the first time, Katya's first words were "Walmart! Let's go check it out!"

Guelph had resisted Walmart for more than a decade. Determined to protect its downtown core, Guelph City Council had continued to refuse an application from Walmart to open up shop in town. Debate raged in the editorials of the local paper, and year after year city councillors campaigned on an anti-Walmart bandwagon.

However, when Walmarts opened up in every surrounding town, such as Kitchener 18 km away, and consumers started flocking there (the same people who were vehemently anti-Walmart at election time), city council had no choice but to give in. Only a couple of years ago a giant Walmart opened on Woodlawn Road.

We went in and I have to say that it was more like the Victoria Walmart than the Edmonton or Kitchener ones. Clean and spacious and well-stocked, with a real mix of people shopping. There didn't seem to be enough cashiers because the lineups at the cash wound back through the women's clothing department. We had picked up some croissants but put them back due to the long lines.

That was a month ago, and Katya has been back there at least four times since then. Her faith in Walmart has been renewed, and every time we drive past it she always suddenly remembers something that she has to "quickly run in and get" ("Quickly"..ya, right).

Katya loves Walmart, and a Russian with an obsession is an unstoppable force. So, I guess we're a Walmart family now.

Guelph Walmart


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