How Walmart Drove Me Away

For years, likely decades, I’ve been a Walmart Shopper. “Why” is pretty simple. I could roll in, fill the cart with all the usual stuff, and be out the door for about 1/2 the price of everyone else fairly fast. Lines were usually short at checkout and they carried most of what I wanted.

About 5 years ago while in Florida, my Florida Friend made some disparaging remarks about Walmart and how there always seemed to be either police or a fight going on… I’m not sure what store he went to, as the one near me in Florida was Tourist focused, had a LOT of stuff folks “on the road” would need, and was largely filled with folks with enough money to travel thousands of miles for a week or two at Disney World. A very fun crowd with the opportunity to hear all sorts of languages (a hobby of sorts of mine… guess that language ;-) I liked it and shopped there for the regular monthly stocking up run. (We used the Public’s across the street for weekly needs)

Well, contracts end and I returned to California.

The nearest Walmart to me was built not that long ago. Maybe a decade? We’ve shopped there from the first opening to now. It is just a neighborhood grocery outlet. For the Big Box experience of their Superstores I’ll drive to Milpitas in one direction or sometimes Gilroy in the other. Call it 1/2 hour drive. In prior years the gasoline in Gilroy (of Garlic Festival fame, and a recent shooting) was cheaper enough to pay for the trip. Lately, a Costco Gas station here is just as cheap so the drive is no longer free. Then there’s another Neighborhood grocery sized store we sometimes shop at in a more seedy urban area.

The point behind mentioning all that is to point out this isn’t one store. This is a broad experience of several stores. I also tend to travel Walmart to Walmart when crossing the country. Many have low cost gas stations and I can fill up the cooler and lunch bucket at the same time. I’ve stopped at Walmarts in every State across the country on 3 different main routes. I’m a Regular.

So what’s happened?

Now I do not know if this is just a California Thing (as we have very high labor costs and land costs and…) or if this is going nation wide. I do know I’ll be watching for it the next time I cross the country. Walmart is making their stores Customer Hostile.

I first noticed it at the Gilroy store. It has a very large Hispanic customer base and is a rural not-that-rich area; but the folks are nice folks. Still, they put all the cosmetics in a Corral area with a dedicated register at the entry. I didn’t care much as I don’t buy cosmetics. Then the local Walmart had a “renovation” and put in a few self check out counters. OK, I can ignore them unless I have like 2 items… Lately, they did another renovation and made a big self checkout corral with a dozen “registers” (and shrunk the actual checkers to one or two and long lines…) That was annoying enough, and I cut back on my trips. I moved to the Other Walmart in the seedier area that had more checkers for the regular weekly grocery run…

But, what put me over the edge, was when we needed a couple of “quick things” and returned to the more local store. One was an eyedrops / moisturizer and the others included dish soap for the machine. The eyedrops are like maybe $5. Cheep enough I don’t even know (and I always watch prices…). The dish soap is the regular old Cascade found everywhere. The spouse and I went in, and immediately were stuck at the “redesigned” pharmacy. Just about everything is behind locked glass doors. There’s a little box on the display where you push a button and someone comes to open it. We pushed. And Waited. And pushed. And waited. Eventually someone came by… and said they would be right back as there was someone else they had to help… and waited, and eventually they returned. Then we moved on to vitamins. And got to repeat the experience. I left the spouse waiting in Pharmacy while I ran over to groceries to quickly pick up the dish soap… It was behind a locked glass wall with a push button… Dish soap.

I decided we had enough for a few more days and I’d get it somewhere else.

At checkout, we tried the corral. Waited in line. Went to the open station. Scanned an item… it announced that it didn’t take cash. I pay cash for things. OK, back to the attendant to ask “which station takes cash?”. The bottom line is that a discussion followed and it was ‘explained’ that they were “Not ALLOWED to put up signs saying what station accepted cash”. As we only had like 2 things, they just checked us out right there at the attendants station…

On the way to the car the spouse and I talked… We both were annoyed at the wait and time loss, peeved at that feeling like we are being treated as criminals, and amazed at the Stupidity of not telling their cash customers which stations will take cash. We agreed we were “writing off Walmart”.

It went from first stop on the shopping run to:
“last stop and only if nobody else has it and you really need it.”

In retrospect, I’d also noticed something else in the last year. Walmart has selected for a rougher crowd of customer. The folks in the store are not the people I see around the neighborhood.

This is California. Houses cost an astounding price. I could not hope to buy my house now. This is a neighborhood where the typical house is a $Million or more in price. Even the crappy 60 year old 1200 square feet plain suburbs house. BUT, it does mean everyone here can either make those payments OR bought the house long enough ago they are a “paper millionaire”. This is not a place filled with poor folks just off a boat.

But, in the local Walmart, on that last trip, I noticed that almost all the shoppers were speaking Spanish, something from India, an Asian language I could not place, and last on the list, poor English. They were very much not representative of the neighborhood. Now this Walmart is right off a freeway offramp, and the poor side of town is not that far away. My guess is that these are all or almost all drive in shoppers. Walmart has driven away the local neighborhood occupants from their “neighborhood” store. There had been a Walmart over on the East Side that is now closed. An area with a lot of recent Hispanic, Indian, and Asian arrivals. It looks to me like when they closed that store, those folks started taking the few mile drive to the next nearest.

So the net-net is that Walmart now has a large number of people driving to a store in a nicer area while driving away the people who live in that area. Only folks who have no choice have stuck with the local Walmarts. The folks with a bit of money have moved on. Has their “loss prevention strategy” and “cost control strategy” thus selected for a clientele where they are needed while driving away those who have a chioce? It seems that way.

Where I Shop Now

It wasn’t too hard to find a replacement. It is a little more complicated as no one store has what we want. In Florida we just did Publix. An absolutely great grocery store with good products at reasonable prices. They even offer to push your cart to your car and load the groceries. I’d shop there if we had one…

OK, my First Stop is now “Grocery Outlet Bargain Market” (or something like that… why on earth have a name four words long? Pick one.) They have a lot of overstock and clearance stuff. IF they have anything we use, buy it there as it is usually very much cheaper than anywhere else. So if it is on the list, I get it there. IF they have something we regularly use, I’ll buy a load for inventory. All the rest goes to the next stop.

Next stop is COSTCO. HUGE sizes and limited choices, so not the place to pick up a can of oysters (or even tuna in oil as they have decided for you that only water pack matters…). But I do buy some stuff there. Potatoes are better (larger) there. Instant Coffee or Regular Coffee. Fresh fish. Bush’s Baked Beans. (But no peas… for some reason COSTCO hates peas and never had them…) So again IF they have it, and it isn’t such a huge size we can’t possibly use it (carrots by the 5 lbs bag is over the top…) then we buy it. And I gas up the car. (We take a different car each trip so they all get filled up in rotation).

In Florida we’d shop at BJ’s sometimes for a similar experience. There IS a COSTCO but it was on the other side of Orlando 1/2 hour+ away.

Now by this time we’ve got most of the Regular Weekly Shopping run. But there are some things that they either don’t have, or where for a ‘get it quick’ it just isn’t convenient to either make a stop (potentially a second stop needed) to see if they have it, nor drive 10 miles to Costco. So on to the next tier:

Also we make a regular stop at Trader Joe’s once a week for things like Goat Milk that is hard to find elsewhere, nice wine and booze at low prices, really good butter as cheap as Walmart, frozen seafood of quality, nice fresh vegetables & bread; and dog food. Their’s was The Best in our search for food that dogs didn’t upchuck. And it is the lowest price. Note that IF, for example, we need a bag-o-salad or some mushrooms or just olive oil or ‘whatever’, I’ll pick it up at whatever store I’m going to that trip. So sometimes from Bargain Market, sometimes Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s is right next to a regular weekly stop we make for non-shopping things, so it’s essentially a ‘free trip’. It shares a parking lot with Smart & Final, so two for one stop.

I found that for big sizes, Smart & Final has decent prices. Small individual sizes are a bit pricey, but if in a hurry, well, it will do. They also tend to have a Weekly Special on some parts of a chicken; and we like our chicken. Often about 89 ¢ / pound. Nice. Even cheaper than Walmart that runs about $1.29 for the same brand / same parts. So we have a regular once a week stop there for chicken, some fresh vegetables, and things like flats of Dasani Water (it has added Mg and helps with kidney stones for the spouse… and no, other waters don’t quite cut it) and cases of Ramen Cups (that I particularly like). They also have all the misc. stuff that either Bargain Market or COSTCO don’t have, so for a “quick, get a can of soup” run, they are the place in pole position.

Just a couple of miles further there’s a Target and then a Lucky’s grocery. IF the run has not finished the list by this point, we just extend the run another stop or two and it’s all bought. Yes, prices are a little higher, but with Bargain Market and COSTCO being cheaper than Walmart that gives enough advantage on the bulk of it that the other bits don’t matter.

And yes, it IS more stops. OTOH, they are closer, much smaller parking lots, a lot faster to get around the store, way faster checkouts, and overall much nicer experiences. Then figure that we really don’t go to every store every week. I have a grocery list with the store that’s best for a given product noted on it. ONLY if we need to go further down the list of stores do we “go there”. Then, if we KNOW an item is only at, say, Target, we just go straight there. Finally, all these stores are on main roads we regularly travel, so often we’ll just put “that stop” at the tail end of some other drive for some other reason.

In the end, the total costs are about the same or maybe a bit lower, the annoyance is far far less, and the time it takes is about the same or less. Just by adding some stops on our regular trips past those stores anyway.

Oh, and IF, by some crazy chance, only Walmart has something we need, well, maybe I’ll drive over and see. But for that I’m far more likely to go to one of the Superstores as groceries are everywhere so unlikely to be the item in question.

Honorable Mention also must go to our local Asian Grocer and the local Italian Grocer. As they are only local I won’t bother with the names. For specialty items they are the best. We make a regular sushi run… but oddly, it is to the Italian store. They have a great fresh sushi counter making it while you watch.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Food, Human Interest and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to How Walmart Drove Me Away

  1. Quail says:

    Our lovely city has pushed the homeless out of town and into a creek bed between Walmart and the freeway. Now when I shop there I have to keep a hand on my mace and don’t go at night. Walking tall and bluffing works there.
    For some reason the Home Depot parking lot next door is even worse. I only go there with my large, intimidating dog to scare them off. I had more than one approach aggressively only to shy off when I unloaded her from the back. Bluffing doesn’t back them off at all.

  2. Nancy & John Hultquist says:

    Grocery Outlet story is here:

    https://groceryoutlet.com/our-story

    Our local one seems to be staffed by street people, but are always helpful and friendly AND can be found. However, it is on the small side. Deserves a visit.

    Kroger owns Fred Meyer. One now here. They have gone the route of self-checking. Wednesday noonish they had 2 regular checkers. An in-store jewelry place had 6 workers that I counted. Maybe Freddy rents the space to another outfit. Generally do not like this store.
    I was there because they had a good offer on Progresso Soups – buy 8 and pay 99 cents each. These are one of our emergency stockpile items. A ‘Cheez-it’ sale required the purchase of 5 items.

    I like places that have simple and basic pricing, with simple flyers.

    Safeway and Fred Meyer are confusing in all sorts of manners. Safeway’s register tapes are indecipherable.

    Winco (cash only), Walmart, and Costco are 50 miles away, and only Costco has gasoline. Once a month or during another trip will we hit one of those.

    Our go-to store is called Super 1. It is part of the 20-store Spokane based group that began with Rosauers, now with stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

  3. H.R. says:

    @E.M.: I think the added security is only at some Walmart stores including yours. Cosmetics are small and high dollar; easy to slip in a purse or pocket. When I take my wife there on the occasional cosmetics run, I can’t believe what a bit of blush, a highlighter pencil (?), lipsticks, foundation(?)… anyhow, it’s 5 or 6 items in the brands that have the colors she wants. The total is usually between $40 and $60!

    I did read an article a few weeks ago about Walmart beefing up security, but I didn’t read much more than that, other than they put cameras on all those self-checkout stations to watch for customers failing to scan items. There was more, but I wasn’t particularly interested since I’m not a shoplifter.

    Anyhow, they haven’t done the full monte beefed up security at my local store… yet. They added little auto-opening gates at the entry/exit areas that swing into the store. The entries have always been ‘manned’ by greeters but I noticed that along with the gates, the greeters suddenly got a lot younger and are more security-like. I also see them stopping people on the way out here and there to check receipts against what’s in the bag. I think they get a heads up from someone watching the cameras when something doesn’t look right at the self-checkouts. They never stop me and it struck me like it’s not a random check of the people they stop.

    The Walmart I shop in Florida also has large tourist clientele as well as a mix of blue-collar to upper middle class base from the surrounding area. As of the end of February, when we left Florida, there was no particular uptick in security measures at that store. I’ll be interested to see if that has changed when we are down again this Winter.

    I like the self-checkout corrals in Florida. They have plenty of registers and always have two attendants to help with balky readings or to punch in the OK for alcohol purchases. I never have to wait more than a minute or two, if at all, for an open register.

    At home, the self-checkout area has half the registers and only one attendant. It isn’t nearly as easy as the Florida set-up.
    .
    .
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    Oh, I have always hated the regular checkout lanes at Walmart. Even when they had all or almost all of the lanes open the checkers were the worst evah! I believe Walmart’s practice is that when you become too old to be a greeter and start falling off the stool at the entry, they put you on a checkout register. I think Walmart would have been better off hiring three-toed sloths as checkers.

    It has been a rare experience for me at any Walmart to get in a lane with a speedy, competent checker. Is it bad luck that I very rarely get a good one? I don’t think so.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    I have noticed some of the same issues but it is mostly store / neighborhood specific.

    Over all Walmart stores and others like K mart etc. shift clientele over time, it seems to be driven by changes in the neighborhood and availability of other stores. For example the old Kmart in old town not far from my home slowly declined in quality over about 10 years, it was an older smaller store, and then Kmart built two new super Kmarts a few miles away in both directions in upper class neighborhood and Walmart also built a new super Walmart a couple miles away. This killed the high end traffic to that older store and soon only poorer shoppers from the “less desirable older neighborhoods shopped there.

    I bet if you look around there is a newer larger walmart that has opened in your area that has pulled the upper tier shoppers away leaving only the seedier shoppers who are more transportation limited.

    It is also probably tightly coupled to the homeless flood into California changing the demographics of the shoppers in those stores. A clientele much more inclined to shop lift etc.

    Over the years I have seen that play out a dozen times in different neighborhoods the newer cleaner stores draw away the upper cohort of shoppers and at the same time the slow decay of neighborhoods gradually lowers the class of shoppers at the older stores. Eventually they become a bit shabby, dirty in poor repair and there is a drastic shift of clientele, and necessary measures to control shop lifting etc.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    Except my local store IS the newest store…

    In this case I think it is the closing of the one in the very poor seedy area just a few miles down the freeway. This neighborhood has not gone downhill at all. It’s doing very well. That’s what makes it so strange. OTOH, go about 5 miles beyond that Walmart and… not so good.

    But “whatever”… I’ve finally joined the relatives and friends in shopping at Target ;-)

    (I avoided them for years due to the all red motif – not fond of red – and the higher prices).

    @H.R.:

    Our exit guards now have a hand held scanner that scans a bar code on the receipt. (Oddly, the one in the seedier area near downtown still just has an old guy with a pen…) and everyone gets scanned…

    Our checkers were usually pretty fast. There’s a good supply of Mexican / Hispanic and Asian workers here and they tend to be very fast. One or two were duds, but not many. It was fun to talk with them a bit and when they would stumble on a word answer in Spanish ;-)

    But now it’s just a long line at a ( I think deliberately slow) checkout to push you to the DIY line. I’d rather do the other stores with FAST checkout and a pleasant person to banter with… and no question on where I can use cash.

    I very much hope it is just the incredibly higher land, power, and labor costs here pushing them to absolute minimal staff. As it stands now, they are driving away the honest shoppers and selecting for people who are used to being treated like a criminal when in stores…

  6. Ed Forbes says:

    I live in Fresno, in Calif’s Central Valley and the Walmarts have not yet shut down security so hard. They have contracted with the local police so there is always a patrol car and officer at the door. Otherwise, not to bad.

    The bay area is VERY different. Took an extended vacation that went through the north bay and stoped to shop at a Walmart. Large numbers of items under lockdown, requiring staff that they didn’t have to open up. Getting a package of socks and underware took forever as they were in lockdown. Staff said losses to shoplifting was so high due to the homeless problem they were forced to change procedures.

  7. Ed Forbes says:

    One advantage for COSTCO is that they prescreen their customers at the entrance. This reduces the problems with the homeless to a very large degree.

  8. Pouncer says:

    H.R. says:” I think the added security is only at some Walmart stores including yours. ”

    I think so too.

    I speak about stores around Dallas, including WalMart but also Target, Kroger, and others.

    The stores in the “nice” areas have fairly light security. The stores in the “rough” areas have individually decided what sorts of items their neighborhood shoplifters are most likely to boost, and taken steps to “secure” them. In one store the spray paint is behind bars. In another, it’s the baby formula /powder. Some stores can’t keep tools on peghooks without a “security” plastic plug on the end of the hood — requiring an “associate” to release the item to a “guest”. A nice store can keep outside, overnight, lots of bikes or PVC kids’ pools, or garden center plastic bags of topsoil and mulch with no problem. A rough area’s store has much more limited inventory and spends the first hour or so of each day on forklifts hauling it out of the aisles and into the parking area, then back at closing.

    The rough stores re-sell, at steep discount, a lot of items that have been opened and returned. It’s a bit of a gamble to hope the $10 futon or $5 weed-wacker or whatnot has all the parts. But as often as not the item is complete, just opened, resealed, and external packaging blemished. The rest of the time the missing components are fiddly bits of fungible hardware that can be scrounged up from stray hardware collected over the decades and loosely organized into baby food jars in the garage. (Those lacking such hardware might not be so willing to gamble on return-retailing. )

  9. Bob K says:

    I’m in Connecticut just outside Norwich, a mostly lower middle class income town(about 40,000 pop.). On the outskirts there is a two store plaza with a Big Y chain grocery and a Wal Mart adjacent to it. It’s a full not super size store. Mixed bag of vehicles of all ages in their lot. Foot traffic is rare.

    In the many years I have been going there, I’ve never seen anyone question a customers receipt on exit. No locked up selections tho’ they do have cameras in at least some sections.

    When they installed the self-checkouts an attempt was made to cut the regular checkouts down to two. For a while they tried having someone with a hand scanner try to shorten lines by scanning and bagging some of the people in line if they were using a credit card. I think they decided it was too awkward doing that so now they usually have three to five registers open depending on line length. A lot of customers like me prefer having the scanning/bagging done by them unless only getting an item or two.

    Other than self-scan I haven’t seen much change in how they do things locally in the past 20 years.

    The state has just outlawed free plastic bags. Now they are 10 cents each. I heard Wal Mart is going to do away with them entirely in the near future at least in state. So I’m going to be bringing old plastic bags for them to fill. What a PITA! I’ve always felt having people bring their own reusable bags was more unsanitary for the bagger and the customer as the bagger puts their hands into everyone’s bags. I’m sure people use those bags for some gross purposes without cleaning afterward.

  10. philjourdan says:

    What happens when you have no felons, just “Justice Involved Persons”?

    You treat everyone as a felon. That is the real story of California Walmarts.

    I dumped Wally world a long time ago when they screwed me on a Christmas present for my son. After screwing up Christmas (Amazon bailed me out), no apology, no sorry, nothing. So they get nothing from me.

    I am old enough and well off enough that I do not care about paying more, I care about being treated right.

  11. Gary says:

    No problems like that at VoldeMart in RI. My biggest complaint is that they’re always moving items around so you go back to a spot and the thing you wanted isn’t there. Second complaint is that when you do locate the item, they’ve replaced it with a less desirable brand or type.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    From further up that thread:

    The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards claimed a small rancherwas not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate him.

    GOV’T AGENT: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

    RANCHER: “Well, there’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

    GOV’T AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to – the mentally challenged one.”

    RANCHER: “That would be me.”

  13. Power Grab says:

    Our town has 3 Walmarts (2 big and 1 neighborhood market). I usually go to the “Old Walmart”.

    About the time they started encouraging people to use the app and order their groceries for pickup, they moved a bunch of stuff around. During my first trip to the store after they did that, I had to ask stock clerks where 5 different things were. It took a lot longer to shop that day.

    I guessed the moving of merchandise was to help the “pickers” (I don’t know they really call them) gather stuff quickly that people often order at the same time (eggs, bacon, coffee, butter, etc.)

    They have some self-check “corrals”, but still have a goodly number of traditional, manned checkouts. I think that store still has 8 or more manned checkouts. I prefer to deal with a real human instead of a self-check terminal. It just feels like they expect you to be less honest at the self-check terminals. Also, I prefer to keep humans employed instead of being put out of work by a self-check terminal.

    Recently they have put up signs saying that they’re going improve things. I’m skeptical. I wonder if that means they’re going to “enhance” the order-and-pickup protocol, or something like that. I have never used the order-and-pickup service for groceries. Sometimes walking around Walmart is the most exercise I get that day! It almost always takes an hour to shop at Walmart. I usually rack up at least another 1,000 steps when I shop at Walmart.

    If I used the order-and-pickup method, I would be afraid that I would be stuck idling my car at the entrance on a 100-degree day, burning more gas and over-stressing the cooling system of my car. Maybe that’s just the worry-wart in me. But I also don’t like how they keep criticizing Americans for not exercising much, then try to get us to sit at home and order in our fast food or groceries, instead of using the opportunity to move a bit. Are there really that many people who don’t want to stir themselves to actually shop in a brick-and-mortar store?!?

    I had wondered if they were encouraging the order-and-pickup service so fewer people would “clutter up” the store. Is it a strategy to reduce shoplifting? But it seems to me that the better-off folks with good transportation and a few extra discretionary bucks to spend on impulse items would be the ones most likely to use the order-and-pickup method. But then when do they ever get to see the impulse items if they just sit in their car waiting for their groceries to be brought out?

    Re cosmetics: I remember reporting to a clerk that I saw a customer actually put on some makeup in the cosmetic aisle, then put the container back on the shelf. They didn’t seem to do much about it then, but I notice they now have noisy cameras in those aisles. When a shopper walks past the aisle, the camera makes its noise, I assume to get you to look toward the camera. I never look. I don’t like being played. That feels like I’m being played.

    I do assume I’m being watched by the many cameras in that store, however.

    I don’t think I would shop much at a Walmart that put everyday consumables behind bars or in plastic, locked cabinets. They do put things like printer ink into individual, locked containers that are removed at the checkout.

    I wish I had access to the numbers on how bad shoplifting has gotten in various stores around the country. Apparently it’s worse in California than in flyover country. I would assume that to be the case, but just how much worse is it?

    We do have some other grocery stores that take less time to get through than Walmart. One of them is employee-owned. They seem to care if you can’t find something and ask them to carry it. Another one keeps their prices low by making you pay to use a grocery cart (you the money back if you return the cart to where you got it), and making you bring your own bags.

    I would like to find some string bags to use instead of plastic bags, if I have to bring my own bags. At least you could wash them when they needed it. I know you can wash those weird fabric bags, but I figure the string bags have the added advantage of not being opaque. If the stores are so concerned about preventing shoplifting, wouldn’t a string bag let them see what you’re carrying more easily? Also, I figure it would be easier to stuff a string bag into a pocket than one of those weird fabric bags, which usually have a cardboard base in the bottom.

  14. Another Ian says:

    E.M.

    Re the cartoon you quoted – I resemble that

    And the one further up un the survey on spare time

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Nancy & John Hultquist per:

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2019/08/22/how-walmart-drove-me-away/#comment-116009

    We don’t have Kroger or FredMyer here. I’ve shopped them when up north.

    We do have Safeway, and I go there for one thing: Lamb chops.

    For whatever reason, lamb chops have good quality and a fair price there. Same for leg-o-lamb. For most other stuff they are overpriced so their “club” price can be set back closer to other stores. They typically have 3 to 6 prices on everything…. just nuts. I usually can’t figure out what price I will pay, so I don’t…. pay, that is. Costco has Australian leg-o-lamb at a good price too, so unless we really want chops, we drive past Safeway to COSTCO… Very nice stores though…

  16. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    When i have visited Boulder Colorado i really like Trader Joes. They might not have all you need but nice shops and good price.

  17. Ossqss says:

    It is Wallyworlds reaction to demographic change and loss management that impacted you EM. You simply are experiencing what has to happen with the patrons now involved to mitigate losses. All of the self checkouts should be cash capable. Typically, the accepted currency is dollars and nothing else in those machines. I don’t think the currency template providers (counterfeit stoppers) care much about anything else. Think about it. They could fill that machine up with some other country’s currency real quick ( think Bolívar) -)

    You can’t recycle that stuff through the machine either. In Cali, you are now an immigrant.

    I would be Snaggle Puss, and exit stage left.

  18. Matthew W says:

    Walmart
    I pretty much only go there for the low ammo prices.

  19. Larry Geiger says:

    Publix. Where shopping is a pleasure! Our Walmart is just down the street from the Publix. My wife gets a few things there. Pretty much an eclectic crowd as it’s always been. Installed the self checkouts. It’s faster to get out now with those.

    It “appears to me” that the guy at the exit checking people going out is profiling. Just my opinion. He always waves my wife and I by. Not so easy for some of the ethnic folks.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @Svend:

    We make a once per week stop at Trader Joe’s. It is nice with good prices. They have the best wet dog food too. Love their house chocolate bars. They are also the preferred stop for butter, wine, Scotch, goat milk, and more.

    @Ossqss:

    Working on it….

    @MatthewW.:

    Here the Walmarts have basically closed their gun /hunting departments… camp stoves is about as adventurous as they get.

    @Larry G.:

    Publix is a dream. I hope to be back in Publix country soon..

  21. philjourdan says:

    @MatthewW- you can forget the low ammo prices now and just not go to Wally world

  22. Pingback: Walmart Goes “Woke” On Guns – Time For Broke… | Musings from the Chiefio

  23. Jason Calley says:

    When I lived in Florida we always did most of our shopping at Publix. Now I am in the rural Ozarks and shop with a smaller chain, Harps, that is operated similarly to Publix. There is a Walmart in town, and the crime rate here is low enough that security is not an issue there. Essentially no locked shelves with only a few very high value sections included. There is, however, a push to remove cashiers and replace them with self-checkout. I suspect the self-checkout adoption is being promulgated at a high corporate level. Works fine for one or two items, but not so well for large orders.

  24. philjourdan says:

    @Jason Calley – that is the purpose of self checkout – not to replace the regular lines at the store, but the express lines. They purposefully keep the staging space small for that purpose.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    @PhilJourdan:

    Walmart is expanding their self checkout areas (at least here) to be the majority of checkout space. They now run just 2 lines of checkers, even at busy times, in my local Walmart.

    They have also implemented some kind of “scan as you load the cart” thing where when you get to the checkout it already knows what you put in the cart. (Don’t know if you still need to unload the cart and weigh each item on the platform or not).

    So they are definitely trying to push even big volumes through the self-check process.

  26. rhoda klapp says:

    Trader Joe’s is best for tea that a Brit can drink. Publix is my usual shop when in Fl. The best groceries in Dallas were at Central Market, which is really a South Texas chain moving north slowly.

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    @Rhoda Klapp:

    Don’t Even get me started….

    Mum made proper English Tea. I grew up on the stuff. I can not abide the CRAP that passes as tea in America…. I go to an Iranian “Mediterranean” shop to get decent Earl Grey tea.. but I CAN get it! (AND I know how to properly make it… Water AT THE BOIL,. warm the pot and one for the pot and all…)

    The CRAP that American restaurants serve as “tea” is an abomination! Tepid water and a tea bag of unknown ancestry “on the side”. My GOD man, it’s just uncivil!

    (And yes, my preferred tea is Earl Grey, 1 sugar + milk, in a warmed cup from a warmed pot…. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the citrus notes….)

  28. philjourdan says:

    @EM – I heard of the “scan as you go”, but did not think it was in use yet. Yes, that is for all volumes. I cannot speak to the wally world in your area, but around here, it is as I described. Scan as you go is not what I was referencing when I made my statement. At least here, self checkout seems to be aimed at the express, not the major purchasers (where you find it, you usually do not find any express lanes open).

  29. H.R. says:

    OK. I’m a backslider already on my Walmart boycott.

    I have been eyeing the Pit Boss Austin XL since last year. This is a smoker, BBQ, and high temp grill all in one. It’s a pellet grill and they now have a variety of wood pellets for the grills.

    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pit-Boss-Austin-XL-1000-sq-in-Pellet-Grill-w-Flame-Broiler-Cooking-Probe/793230399

    Buy it now! from Walmart online for $458.00 or, as I did, run down to the store and buy it on clearance for $200.

    I missed getting one last year on clearance. We were headed for Florida and I didn’t want to fuss with getting a grill. Then about 6 weeks before we left for Florida, we visited my wife’s cousin who had bought the same model online for around $500. I got a good look at the grill at his place, liked it, and decided I wanted one. Alas, they were all gone when I got home.

    This year, I was ready to pounce if there were any left over at the end of the season, and by golly, there were a few. So I snagged one today.

    My first go with it will be tomorrow with chicken leg quarters (@99¢/lb). The wood pellets I bought to use are a compressed blend of Maple, Hickory, and cherry. I’ll be doing those leg quarters just above smoker heat.

    Okay. Now I can resume my Walmart boycott.

  30. E.M.Smith says:

    @PhilJourdan:

    I wasn’t “talking down” your assertion about your Walmarts so much as saying what’s in your future. We seem on the leading edge. At first, and for a few years, we had a quad of 4 self checkouts and one clerk watching them. They kept the 10 or less line (and a 15 or 20 or less) and all the other checkers. Just about a year ago, they ripped out several of the checkstands (including the 10 or less) and made a self checkout “corral” of about a dozen? stations, with one clerk at the entry (with a register who can check out if needed). I think they still have a “20 or less” register, but they don’t seem to staff it when I’m there. Just 2 checkers far far from the exit door…

    At a more distant, newer, bigger Walmart (Milpitas) they had also done this, and earlier. Last time I was there (6 mos?) ago, they had added the “Scan and go” thing where you pick up a hand scanner and scan your own stuff as you put it in the cart. (One presumes someone watches on camera overhead throughout the store… otherwise not sure how they would check it… unless you still have to unload the cart onto the scales… but having not used it I’m speculating) This is one of their SuperStores. My local one is a regular store, and the one that’s an alternate is a Neighborhood Groceries only one. They don’t have the “Scan & go” (yet…)

    To me, it looks like they are just slowly herding people into more self checkout and weaning them off checkers. Inevitably they have made the lines longer at the checkers and added more self-check stations. It also looks like they are rolling out the (more expensive? ) Scan & Go equipment / systems at the higher volume bigger stores first. It looks to me like a combination of early adopter debugging the processes along with spend the money first in places with the biggest ROI.

    FWIW, the SuperStore in Gilroy (about 35 miles south…) does not have the Scan ‘n Go stuff (yet…) and I don’t know if that’s due to the roll out plan schedule, or differences in the population (more rural poor, less Silicon Valley Rich and Tech oriented…) So clearly there is a lot of variation (as we have all types inside 50 miles of me…)

    So my comment was more about trend and intent. The trend at Walmart is to move to ever more self-check and the intent it so gradually keep raising the usage volumes / cut the checker lines and convenience… So rather than a fixed “just the small stuff”, to me it looks more like a “start with just the small stuff, then push over a few years to larger”. That’s what’s happened here.

    @H.R.:

    I’m not so much viewing my change as a “boycott” as a “last on the list”. I’ll still go there and buy some stuff, but only after the other options are used up. So, for example, they sell pumpkin in cans for 87 ¢ / can. We mix about an ounce with each dogs wet food. (Why? It is asserted to taste good in the food, but once “processed” makes the “poo” undesirable and we’ve got a poo-eater… Seems to work.) Well, at $2 / can at the local grocery store, I’m willing to make a monthly stop at a Walmart to buy a case (or maybe every other month…). Smart & Final has expensive small cans, but their #10 can is about on par. HOWEVER, it would take forever to use up a gallon of the stuff and I’d need to repackage it and store it (freeze or re-can) that kind of defeats the purpose… So until I find an alternative source, I’ll occasionally grit my teeth and buy a basket…

    What they are losing is my “every week run to the store”. Where they had been in #1 position and got all the canned goods, meats, staples, snacks, etc. etc. that now goes to the other stores. They get the “leftovers”… So Trader Joe’s has butter just as cheap (and seems a bit better) and Smart & Final has chicken for less(!) and COSTCO has lots of frozen foods, meats, fish, and dry goods and Grocery Outlet Bargain Market has an eclectic mix of about 1/3 of what we use at cheap prices (and nice checkers). Vegetables available at all of them. What’s left for Walmart? Well, this month, it looks like cans of pumpkin and nothing else…

    FWIW, I’ve bought a few things like 4 TB USB hard disks from Walmart online, local pickup. ($120 when I bought them a couple of years back) I’d be willing to do it again if the discount were big enough. Yet yesterday COSCO had an 8 TB disk for $130 (after a $40 instant rebate) and that’s quite a nice deal… So Walmart didn’t get that sale ;-) Nor any future disk buy opportunities as just that one will cover my needs for a year or three… All because I was now in the habit of a weekly / bi-weekly COSTCO run. (It is near the spousal church so while she is in being ministered, I’m gassing up the car and shopping. Effectively zero time lost or added trip distance)

    So it doesn’t take a full on “boycott” to have an effect ;-)

    Oh, and we’ll all be expecting a BBQ Report ;-)

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    I think it is mostly a training process as far as the self checkout process. One thing I will give Walmart credit for, their self checkout scanner kiosks seem to have the best human interface on them.

    King Soopers on the other hand their scanners a a royal pain in the ass, you have to push a half a dozen buttons to buy a single item.

    They went through the same drill here at my Walmart store. At first there were just a couple of the scanners, and a manned express checker, which gradually be came less and less commonly manned. They also had all that torn out and a coral setup at each end of the store which has 6 kiosks in it now, and the watcher to sort out minor problems and show people how to do things they have not done before in the store. They currently have 15 conventional check stands but during the day only about 4 of them are normally staffed. The only time I see all or most the check stands staffed is on peak flow days like July 4th or Thanks giving or Christmas peak days and Saturday when most people shop.

    There is clearly an effort to reduce personnel costs. I expect it to continue. The last adopters will be the folks buying $250 worth of stuff at a time, or the older and infirm crowd who want nothing to do with self checkout, I imagine the will for a very long time keep a few staffed check stands but they will slowly train their clientele to use the self checkout.

    When they first came in I made a point of not using the automated checkouts and went to manned checkout lanes when ever possible but those slowly got phased out.

    In the late evening that is simply not an option any more, unless they get a big queue waiting to check out the only staffed checkout is the watcher at the self checkout area. If they get a big back log, which happens right around 10:00 pm when folks try to grab stuff right after prime time TV is over or just before going to bed (mostly college age or early 20’s ) with a few late workers like myself, then a couple additional staff magically appear and open one or two check stands long enough to clear the queue.

    Same thing is happening at my local King Soopers the other night when I tried out the new store on my way home from work, they had no staffed checkouts and a couple of people standing around near the self checkout kiosks, but I had to get one them to come over.

    Their software on the self checkout is not too bright. If you finish scanning 5 items and slide a $20 bill into the scanner, it is not smart enough to instantly figure out you want to pay with cash, it insists on asking to scan your King Soopers card and offers you a panel of buttons ( credit debit, gift card cash) If you don’t constantly push buttons for options you can’t just scan and item stuff a bill in the money scanner and walk out, you must jump through all the hoops first.

  32. H.R. says:

    OK. Here’s the BBQ review on the Pit Boss Austin XL.

    I fixed chicken leg quarters seasoned with sea salt and coarse ground black pepper. No fancy-schmancy marinades as I was looking to test how well the smoke flavor was added to the meat. I used Traeger brand Competition Blend wood pellets (Maple, Hickory, Cherry blend)

    The Austin XL has a digital temperature controller as well as two meat probes to monitor internal temperature. I skipped the probes and set the temperature to 300 (F). BTW, the readout is selectable for C or F. Cooking for 6 large leg quarters was 1 hour and 15 minutes based on experience and the Mark III eyeball for doneness. There was always a goodly amount of smoke coming out of the stack and the cover seams.

    Result: There is no need for me to ever visit another BBQ joint ever again.

    Beautiful smoke hazed golden brown exterior. Moist and juicy all the way through, even the thinner part of the drumsticks, which can sometimes be a little overcooked in order to get the thick cooked through. Great smoky flavor; strong but not overpowering. Wunderbar! I have had BBQ chicken as good as this in BBQ joints, and too many times a bit dry and not-quite-as-good, but I have never had better BBQ chicken. Perfect 10s all the way across, even from the Russian and East German judges, on my first effort.

    The Competition Blend flavor is very much like what a lot of BBQ shops use. It is very good, but I prefer a single wood smoke (aside: I also prefer single malt Scotch. There’s something going on there). I picked up a bag of Mesquite wood pellets to use after I go through the Competition Blend, which will run out in another 1-3 sessions. That’s depending on whether I go with a high heat meat like steaks or a low and slow meat like a whole brisket or pork butt or shoulder.

    They didn’t have Pecan pellets in stock. Love Mesquite, Hickory, and Apple but I’ve never had Pecan smoked BBQ. I’d love to give that a try, so I’ll soldier on through the Mesquite until I run across the Pecan pellets.

    Technical note on the 110v electrical power:
    – Runs the ignitor, which shuts off once the wood pellets have caught.
    – Runs the convection fan, which adds air to the pellets and circulates the heat and smoke all around the meat.
    – Runs the pellet feed auger.
    – Runs the controller/thermostat/probes, which makes it all work together.
    I was surprised, but not really, that they included a section in the manual on running the grill using a car battery and an inverter. I think they found quite a few people use the unit tailgating or set it up in a pleasant location away from the house where 110v isn’t available. They recommended a minimum 1,000w inverter, which tells me the manufacturer worked through the remote usage scenario.

    Oh, I bought the grill on Sunday at about 10:00 am and there were 6 grills left for clearance, 5 if you subtract the one I bought. I stopped by yesterday (Monday) at about 2:30 pm because I had forgotten to snag a grill cover when I bought the grill. All the Austin XL grills were gone. Heck, they may have all been gone by mid-afternoon Sunday, for all I know. That was an incredible deal on the Pit Boss grill.

  33. philjourdan says:

    @EM – After I wrote my response, I thought it sounded a bit defensive,and was going to clarify further, but then – Squirrell!!! – forgot about it until reading your response. I did not think you were talking down my post, merely pointing out how things are going in California (where Wally world cannot afford to hire workers anyway). California still leads the nation in many ways (just not all ways fortunately), so I saw your comment as a wave of the future. Just not here (in my area) yet.

    Sorry for sounding defensive.

  34. jim2 says:

    Walmart has been using RFID tags for many, many years now. In principle, if they had a way to ding you credit card, you could just walk out the door and that would be that.

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