Tuesday, October 30, 2007

...and the agony of defeat

Within the span of two-weeks, my small town has gone from "small" to "a little bit bigger," due to the expansion and world domination plans of two mega-corporations.

Early reports from the newly opened McDonald's are showing long lines at most hours of the day, McTrash and McLitter starting to turn up in the gutters downtown, wooing of the local non-profits with unsolicited $1,000 checks being handed out to a select few "educational" based 501(c)(3)'s in town (including a check to the non-profit on whose Board I sit on - full disclosure here), and even a temporary shut-down for the first few nights of 24-hour drive through access due to the McKitchen actually running out of food.

All reports are pointing to the fact that it may take months, even years, for the local community to figure out that our McDonald's is the same as other McDonald's and that it is, in fact, just a McDonald's.

Fun McTrivia fact...our McD's was the newest McD's to open...for 4 hours. That's right, somewhere, somehow, someplace in the world, Ronald opens a new franchise in the time it takes me to download, install, cuss out, and trouble shoot the latest Windoze Service pack.

Want some fries with that?

If that wasn't enough to send the collective blood pressure of the 4380 residents of my small town into control-alt-delete hyperdrive, our newly constructed WalMart SuperCenter just opened it's doors to all the fanfare deserving of the low price leader in the retail industry.

Here too, people can't seem to get over the fact that it is, in fact, just another WalMart, as opening weekend aisle bombers and cart stuffers were in rare consumer driven frenzied form.

After school on opening day, I scurried the girls over to get C some AAA batteries for her short wave walkie-talkies, and no kidding, we saw a representative of just about every family we knew in town, pushing a cart and gazing in wide wonder at the feast of capitalistic trappings before them.

The lighting was hyper white - more than 8800 kelvin by the light meter in my eyes.

The cement floors were hyper polished - over 50,000 sq feet of floor space, beckoning the question of just how many more "accidental fall" lawsuits will they face this year as compared to their 20,000 sq feet of floor in the old Walmart?

And the shoppers were hyper excited - you know that look that your kids have in their eyes when they're walking down Main Street, USA in Disneyland for the nth time?

Same look, only toss an OU sweatshirt over them, add a few lbs. and put them behind a stainless steel Walmart buggy.

The excitement was tangible...and sticky.

Meanwhile, back at the old WalMart, the sign on the street was being painted over, the 15-foot tall white letters were being brought down off the store facing, and that night, the lights on their side of the parking lot, which they share with what used to be our one and only grocery store in town, were turned off - rendering the lot into 50% darkness.

I'm not looking forward to going into the grocery store later today to get some Halloween supplies.

The air of doom may be too heavy for me to endure.

But maybe I'm being paranoid. Lot's of small town grocery stores survive just fine when a SuperCenter moves into town...don't they?


M&Co. said...

A MickeyD's AND a Walmart. You are moving to the big time.

I have not been in a WM store in more four years. And I think it had been two years before that the one time I did go in and then was painfully reminded of why I didn't shop there anymore

Anonymous said...

Your local grocery store will survive as long as folks keep shopping there. It's both that simple and that difficult.

When the SuperWM opened in my town (pop. around 15,000) about 15 years ago now, the largest and nicest of our pre-existing grocery stores closed relatively soon thereafter. But it was also very close to the SWM. Three other grocery stores are still open.

If yours follows the same pattern as ours did, the food prices will start out ridiculously low and then slowly go up after about a year. Fruit, for example, is generally more expensive at the SWM than at our other grocers, though it didn't start out that way.

And I'm surprised the new McD's isn't in the SWM, as is often the case.

OKDad said...

Fortunatly (or not), the new SWM is at the southern edge of town, while the old grocery store is kind of in the middle, so that may bode well for folks who don't want to travel the extra 3/4 mile.

However, this also means that the town itself is "moving" southward, away from it's roots and historic downtown Main Street.

Don't get me wrong. I'm an enthusiastic capitalist consumer of the third kind, but I'm also rather protective of my small town -- it's small size and fairly remote location being two of the reasons we moved here to begin with.

Last night, my wife half-jokingly said that if we get a Chili's in town, we're leaving.

Patti said...

My old home town now has both of these things, McD's and Super WalMart. THey have nearly driven all the local businesses out, and despite my exhortations that Wal Mart is evil and McD's is bad for you, my parents typically visit both nearly every day. I guess it is somewhat inevitable. They have everything that people want in one place, but it still makes me sad. I remember the days when we would move about the town picking up the things we needed for the family. I live more like that now in a big city, visiting the bakery for bread, the drugstore for prescrips, and other smaller operations. I will enter WM only under threat of death or extreme begging from my oldest to buy her the mascara that they and only they sell.
My parents, though, have few options in their small town.

Trent said...

But, if you want stuff, there is no other place on the planet that can compare. I think that wal-mart is just "capitalizing," sorry, I couldn't resist, on our obsession with stuff. I don't know if the answer is to shop somewhere else or just to want less.

OKDad said...

George Carlin on "stuff."

Before anyone goes shopping again, we should all be forced to watch this classic routine from Carlin.


Anonymous said...

I just riffed on this subject the other day. Wal-Mart is useful as a barometer to see where Middle America's collective consciousness is, but beyond that, I avoid it at all costs.

The small Wal-Mart stores aren't as awful, because they're generally not big enough, diverse enough in their offerings, or convenient enough to dominate the whole market. But the Supercenters ought to be razed and the parking lots cauterized to prevent regrowth. I can't fathom how they get away with using an entire department as a loss leader -- which I am sure they are doing with the grocery department, as evidenced by the fact that prices are MUCH higher at freestanding Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market stores than at the Supercenters.

Unknown said...

Don't worry about the big. faceless corporations. They are probably only coming to your town to 'stimulate job creation' anyway.

Watch for falling wages!

Anonymous said...

Love the blog.

I'm also with your wife on the Chili's thing. Not that I hate their food, I just hate them replicating themselves every 5 miles or so.

Maybe if our town is really lucky, we'll get a Walgreens on one side of an intersection, and a CVC Pharmacy on the other! Everytime I see that in OKC I go into a sprawl rant that prompts my wife and kids to just roll their eyes.

OKDad said...

Thanks OkieCard..and welcome.

I'm assuming you're a St Loo's Cardinal's fan or that your local school sports team sport the red shaded bird...and that you're not an honest to goodness senior ecclesiastical official of the Catholic Church.

re: CVS and Walgreens -- it's telling that two discount druggie firms can still pull in business on opposite corners in the city, isn't it. I've driven by there and wondered the same thing.