Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Wal-Mart & Target: Unwashed Masses vs. The Bourgeoisie
Kathy has a post up comparing the two heavy weights of the discount world, that was inspired by another post by JB at Fraters. The question JB brings up is the whole issue of whether some people don't shop at Wal-Mart because the feel it is beneath them, that associating themselves and their dollars with the Walton Family somehow makes them into trailer trash, so they shop at Target instead.

Is it possible that such ridiculous, class-conscious idiots exist? Alas, yes. Would I count myself among them? Not on your life, or mine for that matter. Which is funny, because all my life I've been labeled "snob" by them who felt I was too big for my britches.

Let's be honest here. Neither Wal-Mart nor Target is Marshall Fields or Dillards. They aren't Macy's or Saks or Bendels.

These are discount stores, defined by their abilty to offer up cheap goods and discount prices to the masses. Anybody who feels the need to show their caste placement by shopping at one over the other isn't just insecure, have illusions of grandeur, or imagine themselves the long-lost Anastasia, but they smoked their breakfast. If you are buying your goods at any discount store, you aren't quite 'all that'.

I shop at both Wal-Mart and Target. I've shopped at both stores all of my life.

First, Wal-Mart: I, as regular readers are well-aware, am from the great unpopulated state of Kansas, where there are 2,000 people living in the county. That's county. We have one stoplight in the county and it only actually works for 2 hours each day: in the morning when the high school kids are going to school, and in the afternoon when school lets out. The rest of the time it just blinks caution. So, now that you have a feel for what sort of place I'm from, I must defend Wal-Mart a bit. Wal-Mart, for the vast majority of my life, was the only non-grocery place to shop. You could go to Emery Drug and maybe find an item, but Wal-Mart always had what you were looking for, and had choices. Going to Wal-Mart was great fun! The toy aisle alone was like Christmas! Wal-Mart employed lots of people and brought goods to the area that we would otherwise have to travel hours to get. I'm serious about those "hours" of travel. We often went school clothes shopping in either Denver (7 hours), Colorado Springs (5.5 hours) or Amarillo, TX (4 hours). Naturally, that means that trips like this to "the big town" as we called it, are few and far between. This only made Wal-Mart all the more important locally. Can Wal-Mart be a nasty place, with grimy floors and full of people who fit the description of "trailer trash"? Yep. But that's not Wal-Mart's fault. They are in the business of selling goods, the more customers they get through the door, the better. And, let's not forget that it provides goods that would otherwise not be available in smaller communities.

Now for Target: Growing up, I was a rent-a-kid. My parents divorced when I was 5, meaning I spent lots of time in Kansas, and lots of time in the suburbs of one city or another. I have to tell you, when I was a kid, Target grossed me out. Our local target (in Suburban Chicago) was where the undesirables hung out. These were the toughs and the people who didn't speak English. They were the troublemakers and the shoplifters and the local police always had a car in the parking lot. We still shopped there, though. And ever since Target's acquisition and makeover/renovation, it has been a very pleasant shopping experience. But, don't kid yourself, it is still a discount store, even if it does sell goods designed by Mossimo and Mizrahi. It isn't exclusive. They'll let anybody in the doors. The carts are safety orange in color, for criminey's sake, not some fashionable alternative. And, come on, they have a sleezy snack bar in every one.

I still shop at both stores, but mostly I shop at Wal-Mart. Why? Our local Wal-Mart is a Super Wal-Mart, meaning I can buy groceries and all of the other goods I need each week in one convenient stop. My time is precious. I'm not going to run all over hell if I can avoid it. However, I do get to Target too. Sometimes I won't like the particular choices at Wal-Mart and instead will find what I desire at Target. It just depends.

But neither place is reeking of exclusivity. Neither place speaks to culture or class. I've seen trashy bimbos in tube-tops in Target just as often as I've seen them in Wal-Mart. Neither discount store has particularly good customer service or knowledgeable staff. For that, I'm afraid, you are going to have to shop a little higher up the ladder.

The whole idea of someone being "too good" to shop at Wal-Mart makes me think of Paris "What's a Wal-Mart" Hilton. And if ever there was "white trash," that chick defines it. No class, whatsoever.
posted by Phoenix | 11:10 AM


At 2:37 PM, Blogger WitNit said...

Kansas? Hey, I missed that! Maybe I was tying Phoenix to Arizona. I lived in Colby and Salina as a kid (Age 7 to 11.) My dad was a DJ at KXXX in Colby.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Phoenix said...

A Kansas Connection? Wa-hoo!

Yeah. Kansas. People who haven't lived there just don't understand it. Actually, I grew up on the farm which is 2 and a half hours South and West of Dodge City. After my parents divorced, we lived in Dodge for a while before we moved to Salina. I went to Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade in Salina until we moved to South Carolina.

We could have played in the same parks!


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