Odds 'n' Ends
Can Walmart Make Their Aisles Any Narrower?
by Steve Wood
September 26, 2011





I recently sent the friendly folks at Walmart a letter of complaint about our local Walmart. Their stocking practices seem to reflect a systematic effort to replace lower cost items with more expensive brands. I know because I've actually kept a list of items they've stopped carrying that were replaced by higher priced and/or inferior brands.

WalmartSince our local Walmart was one of the first in the area, it's square footage is a good deal less than the current superstores. It is almost physically impossible for two shopping carts to pass each other in the narrow aisles of the store. Walmart stockers cleverly leave their carts of merchandise to go onto the shelves strategically placed to impede access through the store. I think there must be some kind of a contest going on between the Walmart stocking team and third party vendors, as the Coke, Pepsi, and Lays folks are even worse. They often leave one cart of stock at the end of an aisle and take another into the aisle, turning the cart so as to close off the aisle where they're working.

"Clean-up on Aisle 6"

Adding to the inconvenience of the narrow aisles and the stockers is the "fat family." Yes, that's probably politically incorrect, but you already know who I'm talking about. It's the group of incredibly obese folks dressed in outrageous outfits who always shop at Walmart in herds. They seem equipped with a sixth sense that helps them trap poor shoppers in an aisle while they cluster at either end of the aisle. Escape from the aisle is impossible as they do their slow motion shopping frenzy. God help you if you suddenly need to use the restroom while the fat family has you trapped in an aisle.

Contacting Walmart has produced iffy results for me. Our local store's management includes some of the grimmest, rudest people I’ve ever encountered. They know Walmart has already driven almost all of the locally owned competition out of business, making their store the only show in town. They don't have to be friendly, polite, or even fair.

My limited success in dealing with Walmart has only come from contacting the retail giant's corporate offices. So I recently and anonymously shared my list of dropped and replaced items and a few gripes about the store with the folks in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The List

Here's the list of items I shared with Walmart corporate that our local store has systematically replaced with more expensive brands:

  • Williams Shaving Soap - replaced by a brand costing 50% more
  • Spic ‘n Span powder - replaced by expensive liquids that just don't do the job
  • Decent pushmops that don’t break in just a few months - Walmart may get a pass on this one, as no one seems to carry a quality, American made kitchen mop anymore.
  • Da Vinci sugar free vanilla syrup for coffee - first replaced by a more expensive brand, then just gone
  • 5 pack - 5x8 inch “legal” white notepads (still carried in another regional store) - replaced by single pack whose per unit cost is astronomical compared to the 5 pack
  • Ting antifungal spray (actually was never carried in our local store, but was in a regional Walmart...until pulled and replaced with, all together now, "a more expensive brand")
  • Right Guard Fresh anti perspirant spray - all spray deodorants were inexplicably removed from our local store several months ago
  • Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer
  • Folgers French Vanilla coffee - Yeah, I know. There's no accounting for my bad taste.
  • Brown (unbleached) coffee filters - better for the environment, but not available anymore at Walmart (Kroger still carries them.)
  • Downy fabric softener refills - recently returned to shelves after a yearlong absence, but at about 75 cents more than the local grocery (Hmm, can I spell "gouging?")
  • Real-Kill Wasp and Hornet Killer - replaced by more expensive brands
  • 8 gallon clear (no frills) trash bags - replaced by more expensive, vanilla scented bags
  • Finesse Shampoo - still available at our local Dollar Store

For good measure, I also included a few words in my letter about my frustration in finding American made products at any Walmart. Does no one in America make a quality garden hose nozzle, toaster, or kitchen mop anymore? For that matter, does any entity in America even make a crummy hose nozzle, toaster, or kitchen mop, guaranteed to break in twelve months or less, like the ones now sold at Walmart? I often pass on items at Walmart if I can buy an item that is American made elsewhere. But since Walmart, as the nation's leading retailer, sets the price point on many items, other stores have felt compelled to carry cheap, inferior imports to compete. Besides putting Americans out of work, the inferior products will have to be replaced in just a few months, making Walmart all the richer.

Network 1976In the 1976 film, Network, Peter Finch plays a longtime network news anchor, Howard Beale, who is going to be fired for bad ratings. Given the opportunity to continue broadcasting for two weeks after the firing notice, he flips out on the air and threatens to commit suicide on a future broadcast. Not terribly surprisingly, he is allowed to remain doing the news by jaded news executives looking for higher ratings. In an impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation with his rant, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" The movie shows Americans shouting the same out their windows during a lightning storm.

While I'd like to do a "Howard Beale" with Walmart, I'll probably just go "moo" like a cow in the chute on its way to slaughter and continue spot shopping at our local Walmart. I guess I am doing a bit of a "Howard Beale" with this column, but Walmart really doesn't listen much to old, retired schoolteachers.

I'll add the contact address I used for those of you who may want to share similar experiences with the retail giant. Just don't expect much improvement. Consider it an exercise in improving your writing skills.

Walmart Home Office
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611


My listWanting to be fair beyond a reasonable doubt to one of the leaders in our coming national plutocracy, I went back to Walmart before publishing this piece with a hand written copy of my list in hand. I furtively checked each of the items on the list for availability and was surprised beyond belief to find that Walmart had actually returned two of the items to its shelves! A small, six row section at the very top of the deodorants carried several spray deodorants, including the one I'd listed. Room had also been made in the shampoo row for the shampoo I'd listed. Four waxed paper containers of Downy refills were on the bottom shelf of the laundry row still sporting a price that discouraged environmental responsibility and were well above the local grocery's price.

But wonder of wonders, there was one five pack of white, 5x8 inch "legal" notepads sitting out-of-place on top of some other products in the school/office supply area. There was also a stocker working the row who gave me a quick "go around" look when I started to enter the blocked aisle where she was working. She never budged from her position until I inquired where the stack of such pads were. She dismissively told me she didn't know and showed that she obviously didn't care to check, as she had the shelf map in her hand!

I carefully took the precious, only five pack of white 5x8 tablets in the store to a price checker mounted on a pole. When I scanned the tablets, it said "See an associate for assistance." The old saying, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you" rang clear in my head. Was this single five pack bait to ensnare the anonymous letter writer (moi)? I returned to the aisle, putting the tablets back in their out-of-place place, getting yet another dismissive glance from the rude stocker.

Williams Mug Shaving SoapNow fair's fair, so even though I didn't currently need any, I purchased a bottle of Finesse shampoo and a can of Right Guard Fresh to show the powers that be that there is a demand, maybe only by me, for those products. Of course, the Dollar Store, a CVS pharmacy, and the local grocery all consistently stock and sometimes run out of many of the products Walmart won't sell. On my last trip to CVS, I purchased just one item - a bar of Williams Shaving Soap. The checker commented that it was her husband's favorite shaving cream/soap.

Mine, too!

About Odds 'n' Ends

I've written columns for a couple Macintosh specific sites, published my own education news site/blog and a garden site for years, but always seem to find that there's something I want to say that is way off subject or totally inappropriate to appear on those forums. So, I took the Odds 'n' Ends section title I've used for a couple of years at the end of daily postings on Educators' News and now am making it my column series for some off the wall, eclectic commentary and columns. I still have a few things to say about my years long search for an American made garden hose nozzle and an American made toaster. I also have my sights set on the lack of progress in photographic electronic flashes over the last forty years.

See, I told you, eclectic.

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©2011 Steven L. Wood