I believe in Wal-Mart.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate corporations just as much as the next 20-something American male who voted for Ralph Nader … twice. But when our economy is plummeting and the only remedy seems to be a big fat blank check from the federal government, it’s hard to pass up every day low prices. Shopping at America’s most successful retail store wouldn’t be the only thing that makes me a hypocrite. I’ve got a liberal arts degree and a list of consumer needs. I can’t afford not to be a hypocrite. Where else am I going to purchase a week’s worth of groceries, the new AC/DC record, and Guitar Hero III without breaking the bank?
Wal-Mart Supercenter, that’s where. That great templar of American materialism. Some say cesspool. Teeming masses navigating carts stuffed with chips, frozen dinners, and conscience clearing cases of Diet Coke (2 for $12!). I say that the Wal-Mart Supercenter is a burgeoning bazaar. The modern day marketplace with every product and service available. I can walk into a Wal-Mart, withdraw $100, grab a bite to eat, pick up my prescription glasses, have my portrait taken, and still have a few bucks left over to tip the nail lady. All this without even leaving the front end.
Sure Wal-Mart has its issues. Abuse, neglect, fraud, crappy food. But what is Wal-Mart if not the prototypical American family? We’ve all got our problems and money is tight. Who else is going to provide us with cheap clothes at cheap prices? Only in America can wage slavery look so good.
Frankly, I’m tired of people telling me what stores to boycott. Isn’t this the land of the free? If my dollar can stretch farther at one store than the other, who’s to say I’m wrong? Maybe some can afford to buy 100% organic, earth-friendly products, but that kind of privilege is reserved for the bourgeois elite, and I’m not quite there yet.
I suppose there’s always Target. At least they have union oversight, something Wal-Mart has been opposed to. But even Targé[t] is a bit too snooty for me. And I prefer to shop with people who pronounce the T’s at the end of their words. So don’t tread on me. Your cynicism leaves more of a carbon footprint than a Madonna concert.
With all the ruckus about poor working conditions, insufficient benefits, child labor violations, outsourcing, globalization, and corporate despotism, my own spending power has the impact of a garden hose on a California forest fire. Not since Jay Gatsby has disillusionment been this real. It’s a matter of picking my battles. I’m going to buy what I’m going to buy, and in the meantime I can pray that my vote counts, the price of oil will fall, and the workers who made a dime on the clothes I wear get what they want for Christmas. Until then, I’m not going to feel bad dropping three bucks on cat food.