Friday, May 29, 2015

Walmart has become the social hub in many rural communities where there is not much else to do

Teenagers don't hang out at malls anymore; they hang out at Walmart, mostly because in many rural areas Walmart is the only game in town, Rachel Monroe reports for Talking Points Memo. "In some towns, Walmart may be the only grocery store, or the only pharmacy or the only place to buy books and DVDs. Walmart’s supercenter stores are open 24 hours; in many small towns, they’re the only store with lights on after dinner time."

"All of this, of course, is part of the Walmart plan: they move in, push other stores out of business while simultaneously expanding their services—at some supercenters you can get new tires, new glasses and a teeth cleaning—until suddenly you find yourself buying everything at Walmart because there’s nowhere else to buy it," Monroe writes.

"So as Walmart encroaches on more parts of life, more of people’s lives happen at Walmart," Monroe writes. "The chain is the third biggest vision care provider in the country, the fourth biggest pharmacy and the biggest grocery store. People sell drugs in Walmart and make drugs in Walmart. In one Florida town, nearly half of all crime takes place at Walmart. Some people live in Walmart parking lots; others try to live in the stores themselves."

"It’s the omnivorous quality of Walmarts—how they seem to consume surrounding communities, pricing out the competition and building ever-growing parking lots—as well as their infamously poor treatment of employees, that has won them many opponents," Monroe writes.

Monroe visited the local Walmart in Fort Stockton, Texas—surrounded by ranch land, on the fringes of Texas’s oil country—to get a glimpse of how the store impacts the town of 8,384. The store, which opened in 1986, is now a 95,000-square feet supercenter open 24 hours. In February 2016, it will begin paying employees a minimum of $10 per hour, about half of what someone can make in the oil fields. Fort Stockton only has one other grocery store. (Best Places map: Fort Stockton)

Some customers said they visit the store daily and that they consider the store a social hub, with Girl Scout cookie sales, bake sales and plenty of social interaction with friends and neighbors who are easy to find also shopping at the store, Monroe writes.

"The parking lot outside the store was its own whole scene, too," Monroe writes. "The far corner of the lot seemed to be an unofficial overnight camping location. (Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, was an avid RVer and has made a point of allowing free overnight parking in most of his store’s parking lots. They’re such a popular overnight destination that there’s even an app that purports to review every Walmart parking lot in America.)"

But inside the store, lines are often long, meaning customers have to stand around for long periods of time to check out, Monroe writes. "Those of us waiting in line shifted from foot to foot, companionable in our shared frustration. We murmured complaints, looked at the time on our phones, discussed leaving but didn’t leave. After all, there was nowhere else to go." (Read more)

No comments: