Here’s a little something I wrote circa 2003. Enjoy! (Note: Date has been corrected from “1993” to “2003.” I was only off by 10 years!)
In the name of Christmas cheer, I found myself the unwilling recipient of a Christmas gift in the form of a $50 “gift card” to WalMart. I gave polite thanks for the gift because it’s the thought that counts. Alas, I’m too poor to just throw $50 away, so shopping I went.
I knew that just before Christmas, the store would be psycho, even by WalMart standards. I’m not an expert on WalMart, but I reasoned if I wait until 9 PM, maybe it won’t be so bad?
After engaging in a little game of parking by fear, I got out of my car and was immediately assaulted by the odor of a WalMart patron loading their pickup who was standing 20 feet away from me. I began heading to the store, and after passing a few parked cars, saw a woman, obviously a dog trainer, try to make a shopping cart “stay” at the intersection of four parked cars, even though a place for carts was only a few feet away. Repeatedly she tried with the utmost concentration she was capable of, but it wouldn’t stay. She could have put it in the correct place and left quicker, but that was not meant to be.
At last, I maneuvered my way through the human obstacle course and entered the store.
It was immediately obvious that the logic of my plan was flawed. The place was nuts.
I had only one goal: buy $50 worth of the items on my list and get out. I only had to ask directions once. Otherwise it was pretty quick finding what I wanted. One thing I noted at this time: the employees all wore uniforms with “How may I help you” written in big letters on their backs, yet they all appeared to totally care less about any of the shoppers. Yes, the shoppers were obnoxious. I surmised that being overworked and unpaid while dealing with an obnoxious surly public might not be the best way to obtain excellent customer service.
On my way to the checkout area, I passed the bargain bin of DVD’s. Here I witnessed something that I literally just had to stop and watch. A woman was grabbing up armloads of the DVDs, then one by one, she’d pick one up and look at it. Once she’d determined it was something she didn’t want, she’d THROW it back in the bin like it was a piece of garbage. It was no longer an item of any importance to HER, so why be careful with it??? Pity the poor fool that comes along after her only to get home and find their new prized possession smashed to bits.
OK, focus, I told myself. Checkout, checkout. I got to the lines and even though the store was a hive of activity, VERY few lanes were open. I quickly counted the lines: they were 14+ shoppers deep!
I have this problem when I’m being tortured. Time seems to slow to a crawl. I waited in that line holding my consumer goods for several eternities. Amazingly, the woman in front of me decided to peel out and go shop some more just when it was about to be her turn!!! She’d be standing in line again real soon.
While waiting, the radio that all employees carry there was was cackling away, and I was having flashbacks to Vietnam. “Urgent, urgent,” the voice came out of the radio. “If there aren’t any canned yams on the shelf, does that mean WE DON’T HAVE ANY MORE?!?!?!!? Does anyone know??? Someone please respond!” I had to assume this poor guy must have been lost to the enemy, because no one ever did bother to reply and he wasn’t heard from again.
Looking ahead, I surveyed the various other service areas that WalMart offered. There was a vision center, a portrait studio and more. The ones that weren’t currently open had these mesh chains that looked secure enough to keep Hannible Lecter locked inside. What’s so damn precious in the vision center, I thought, and was the cage a symbolic message from WalMart that revealed how they really viewed us, the trapped animals on the other side?
Suddenly, my thoughts were interupted. It was my turn. My purchases were scanned and I handed over my gift card. BEEP! During our transaction the checker diverted her attention from me to deal with other people no less than three times. It seems I was not of much importance to her. I was about 50 cents short, so I gave her a dollar. She made change, shut the drawer, and then turned to me and said, “Do you have three cents?” as she handed over a quarter and two dimes.
Like a moron, I checked my pockets even though I knew I had no change. “Nope.”
“Well, just wait for me to check in the next person’s stuff, then when I open the drawer I can make change for that three cents.”
I thought to myself, ARE YOU KIDDING???? Get me out of here! I flipped her one of the dimes, which seemed to surprise the hell out of her, like someone would willingly leave a dime behind??? Then I literally FLED the store.
The moral of this story: If you want to give me a WalMart gift card, please do me a favor and just sock me in the face. I’ll thank you for it.