Friday, January 23, 2009
"Welcome to Wal-Mart"
A new Super Wal-Mart, or rather, Hypermarket, has just opened in town (Vineland, NJ). Make no mistake this is big for the community here in South Jersey. The corporate behemoth is going to employ somewhere between 700 to 800 people. It will have the convenience of being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the selection of things that one can buy is pretty much second to none. That is the good news. The bad news is (if you take the picket signs that the two dozen or so local union people standing next to the giant inflatable rat were holding said) that when a Super Wal-Mart comes to town wages go down unilaterally 5%. A Wal-Mart is designated as “Super” when it has the ability to put local supermarket chains out of business as well as all of those ‘Ma & Pa’ hardware and department stores that you may remember from days of yore. To soften these blows Wal-Mart has made several different donations to local charities, put in “green lighting” and has put down flooring made of recycled tires; and between you and I, that’s a LOT of flooring.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t completely buy into the notion that Wal-Mart is an evil corporate empire. Nor do I believe that all evil corporate empires are necessarily exceptionally evil. No. I enjoy the convenience, the ease, and multitude of choices that a Super Wal-Mart provides; not to mention how many sweat shops we support and boatloads of Yen we supply the Chinese economy with.
After a quick walk through just two corners of the massive structure; seeing the sports celebrities, robots shaped like toothpaste tubes, the people flocking to the dancing logo characters from several companies who sell their wares at the mega-store and the populous’ reaction to the experience and thrill of it all I realized that that there was more to the concept of the Super Wal-Mart than meets the eye. Super Wal-Mart is a place where the lines blur between the things we need and the things that we want. It is important to remember that there is a distinction between the two. Sam Walton built an empire on this blurry line. Something that he may have not planned on initially was the idea that such a large supplier of jobs, needs and desires under one roof would also begin to encompass the local culture. Make no mistake, the Super Wal-Mart that just opened is now a cultural hub for the community; a Wal-Mart community that is going to grow. We will never get a Borders or a Barnes and Noble since the illiteracy rate in the Cumberland County area is too low and those corporate entities don’t see the point in investing here. Unfortunately, the laws of supply and demand just don’t make that a wise business choice. Hey, but that’s ok; the book section at the Super Wal-Mart books can be found somewhere towards the north east section of the building and it’s only a 0.2 mile hike from the first of the three main entrances.
There are a number of festivities scheduled to celebrate the grand opening including visits from “Buck the Buckle Up Dog”, the “Pepsi Prize Wheel & Free Sampling”, the “AMP Car Fathead Drawing”, the “NASCAR Racing Simulator Competition”, an “Oreo Cookie Character”, “Live Radio Broadcasts”, the “Dale Earnhardt Jr. 88 Car Show”, “Kool-Aid Man”, “Swoop” the Eagles mascot (with cheerleaders), the “Phillie Phanatic”, an appearance by the “Oscar Meyer Weiner-Mobile”, and the ever popular “Much, Much, More”! Ultimately, I suppose, the desire for “More” it the emotion that we are all toasting, celebrating… worshiping.
So open up those new credit lines! Tell the kids to smash their piggy banks! Raid their college funds (if you can afford to have such a thing)! It’s all there at the hypermarket!
…Wal-Mart has come to town and it will never be the same again.