So warm and fuzzy that Walsh is rolling over on her convictions for what she considers the “inevitable”—that Wal-Mart will build a new store in her neighborhood near the intersection of Foothill Drive and Parley’s Way. Besides Walsh, Wal-Mart knows there are plenty of other east-side Salt Lakers already driving all over the valley to shop at Wal-Mart. All Wal-Mart is doing is locating closer to them—fishing where the fish are, so to speak. What struck me wasn’t that Walsh shops there or not, but how she revealed the fact that she does. Reading her column today, I felt like Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos. Melfi never looked comfortable listening to all of the rock-and-a-hard-place guilt dumped on her by Tony Soprano—going to church by day then boinking a Badda-Bing dancer by night.
Today, I couldn’t tell if I were reading a tome against Wal-Mart or a public-relations piece. By the end, I felt like I’d been transported to a 12-step recovery meeting—“Yes, yes. I shop at Wal-Mart and I need your help to stop. It was only going to be one time. Now I can’t drive past one without getting a strong desire to buy a water filter. Or a watermelon, I forget. They have both, right? Right? They have everything, right? Validate my guilt. Validate my guilt. Oh, God, this hurts. Help! I give up.”
I’m here for you, Rebecca.
I’ve never set foot in a Wal-Mart. Not once, not ever. Before you readers go on with some left-wing liberal elitist jab, I’ll explain why. First, I grew up shopping at Kmart. I loved Kmart for all the reasons that current Wal-Mart shoppers love Wal-Mart—it was cheap and deep. I guess I was a teen when I first shopped at a Kmart. I couldn’t believe that God’s good fortune placed several of them in the middle of the valley where even a kid from Bingham with more holes in his pockets than money could easily drive to on a Saturday afternoon. How could anyone not like a place that sold garden hoses, kitchenware, shoes, lunchboxes, jigsaw puzzles and everything else I could ever need?
When Wal-Mart came along and pretty much sent Kmart to the cleaners, I never made the transition. I’d heard about their right-leaning politics. I read how they were merciless in getting the lowest prices possible from overseas manufacturers. I was told how all of that somehow benefits local consumers (no need for an economics lesson here, but the opposing thesis is that while some jobs are created locally, and while the cash saved at Wal-Mart is spent on other vital economic items generating a positive scenario for some retailers and manufacturers, it’s still a Wal-Mart legacy that a great many jobs are lost from America forever). I understood how some people made a big deal of that. I didn’t really need to, since it was plain as day that when Wal-Mart came to town, the Kmart people began to suffer. I’m not that big a spender, so I couldn’t help them much, but I did stay loyal to Kmart, though now I’ve quit on them, too.
I stayed loyal even though it’s quite likely that when I first began shopping there, Kmart was doing to local merchants the same as what Wal-Mart is doing today. So, it’s likely that the elitist liberals of the day (once known as responsible Republicans and fiscal Democrats) were carping all over the place about people like me who didn’t seem to care about job loss, outsourcing or wage equity. I was too busy listening to the James Gang on my eight-track to pay attention to that kind of stuff. I woke up only after I got in the newspaper business.
That’s when I found that when a Wal-Mart came to a small town, an early casualty was the local newspaper. Wal-Mart doesn’t spend much in local print. When Wal-Mart installed a plumbing department, the local plumber tanked and when they began selling linens, the local linen shops went under. Main Streets all over America began looking like abandoned movie sets. When those community newspapers lost their local advertising base, I just said to myself, “Screw Wal-Mart. I care more about the press than I do about press-on decals.”
So I don’t shop there. You can if you want. My mom does. I don’t judge her and won’t you. My attitude about Wal-Mart is selfish, not altruistic nor elitist—I’m only both of those when I buy Heinekens for my beer-drinking friends over at the Tribune. With apologies to Walsh, I, too, have a confession to make. The only way I can confess is to use her own words from her Sept. 16 column, basically substituting her references to Wal-Mart with references to the Tribune:
“I’m not a regular Tribune reader. I just have no willpower. Every time I read it, I feel guilty. I look at the columnist and wonder if she’s making a living wage. Do her children have health care? Has she been locked behind her computer overnight for rewrites? Did her publisher call her to a meeting this fall to scare her about Barack Obama’s labor sympathies (and tell her why the Tribune will endorse McCain?)”
It’s inevitable, you know.