I know I’m not supposed to shop at Wal-Mart. I know I’m not supposed to support a store that uses strong-arm tactics on their suppliers. I know I’m not supposed to give money to a company that discriminates against women and minorities. I know I’m not supposed to take business away from small local retailers that actually take care of their employees.
But sometimes, I can’t help it.
Like today, when I thought I’d drive 15 miles down the freeway to save money on cat food. It’s not my fault the damn cat turns her nose up at anything but premium canned Iams. Talk about fussy! Ocean Fish flavor. One can per day. At 58 cents a can, Wal-Mart’s price is pretty appealing, compared to the inverse, 85 cents, at QFC.
When I arrived at the store today, all the parking lot entrances were blocked off by police cars, their red and blue lights flashing. Puzzled, I made my way to the Home Depot next door and parked. It was drizzling.
As I got out of the car, I could see a huge procession, a bedraggled parade, of blue smocks making their way from the Home Depot to the Wal-Mart. I followed them, about a half block behind. When we arrived at the store, the ragged group of employees went in, but customers were stopped. “Sorry, ma’am, but we’re not ready. It will be about a half hour.” Someone asked what the problem was. “We had a bit of an emergency,” was all the woman would say.
One customer, a tall blonde lady, rolled her eyes and turned back to her car. I asked her what was going on. “Bomb scare. They swept the place with nine dogs…I’m sure it’s fine now, don’t know why they won’t let us inside.”
I wandered back to the car and sat listening to a Keb Mo’ CD for a while. I moved the car near the store entrance, where customers stood, waiting, resigned. I gave it twenty minutes before trying again. A stocky fellow in the doorway was still turning people away. “We had an emergency,” he repeated over and over. I shared a chuckle with another customer, an older lady waiting to go inside and pick up her husband’s pills. “What’s the matter, are they afraid of the ‘b’ word?”
A half hour had passed, and the word was still that it would be “a half hour.” I gave up. Nearby, a tall young fellow wore a bright yellow nametag that read “management trainee.” He looked like he enjoyed bossing people around.
“Excuse me, but is there a grocery store nearby?” I asked him. He frowned, offended, then gave me directions to the Fred Meyers across the highway. As I turned away, he added, smugly, “But their prices are really high.”
I burst out laughing. “Yeah, but I bet they’re open!”
So what really is the story about the bomb? Was it a scare, an honest mistake? Or a threat, from someone who feels more anger than guilt about Wal-Mart? I don’t know whether I’ll find out, but one thing is sure: I wasn’t meant to shop at Wal-Mart today. Maybe the gods don’t want me to shop there, ever.