The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Walmart’

SATURDAY MOURNING

If you read yesterday’s post, “Thoughts On This And That” and are reading this one, then you are obviously not one of those who was a victim of Black Friday bad behavior.

Last year I was able to report only one incident about a couple of people who were victims of pepper spraying as they were returning to their cars after grabbing bargains from the store shelves.  Although I never found the reason underlying this incident, I suspect that it was caused by a fellow shopper who had purchased the spray and wanted to check out the product’s efficacy before wrapping it as a gift for her six year old niece.

There is more to report this year …

Walmart is again in the limelight.  As the world’s largest retailer I suppose it is only natural that they are more likely to be the scene of incidents – just by the weight of the number of stores they own and operate.

One would think that with all the people (including a few Walmart employees) who are picketing the company for its “bad wages and benefits package”, that the more liberal of our friends who otherwise might shop there would avoid Walmart like the plague.  On the contrary, Walmart has released preliminary information that this was the best Black Friday in their history.

Was it Aesop who said, “Never let snagging a good bargain stand in the way of your principles?”

At a Covington, WA Walmart, two shoppers were run down by a 71 year-old female driver who is suspected of being intoxicated.  The driver had obviously gotten into the Holiday spirit and the Egg Nog.  The female victim is in serious condition and the male victim in good condition.  (No report has been issued regarding the condition of the offender – but by now she is probably sober).

In Tallahassee, FL at another Walmart, two people were shot (but fortunately not seriously wounded) as a scuffle ensued over a parking space.  I’m here to tell you that malls are the most dangerous place you can drive your vehicle.  Apparently the shooter decided that getting bargain electronics wasn’t worth the risk of apprehension by the police and escaped the scene of the crime.

So what can we take away from all of this?

As I’ve never held a handgun let alone fired one, it would be difficult to allege that I am speaking here for the NRA.  However, I respect their Constitutional position on the subject of firearms.  My friends who believe that guns are at the root of our problem of violence will, of course, disagree.

Unfortunately, they never consider the statistics that in cities with the most restrictive handgun laws like Chicago and New York, the number of deaths due to them is among the highest per capita in the nation.  It defies logic – but that is not an exercise in which a lot of people engage very often anyway.

Actually, the root of these problems is something far more basic.  All of it stems from self-centered behavior exhibited by people who believe that society is there to serve them.  They act in ways which they view as in their own best self-interest – while ignoring the rights of others if it is inconvenient to them in obtaining their goals.

In the end, it all comes down either to embracing the concept of taking responsibility for one’s actions – or finding an excuse why the rules we expect others to observe don’t apply to us because we’re a special case.  There is a lot of the latter going around.

Fortunately, using the illogic of “exception” I have found the real cause of the two incidents at the Walmart stores yesterday.  It is President Obama.

You may remember back a few short weeks when, during the debates, the President took credit for “saving the American auto industry.”  Now I’m going to ask you to really “suck it up” and believe that he was telling the truth (or at least thinks he is).

Well, if he hadn’t saved the auto industry, we wouldn’t be producing cars.  If we hadn’t been producing cars we would have had to rely on our old junkers for transportation and a lot of those would have broken down by now, removing them from the road and the Black Friday malls.  With fewer cars, there would have been more parking spaces available – not to mention considerably fewer greenhouse gas emissions.  Did I also mention that gas prices would be considerably less expensive since the fewer cars on the road would be using less of it?

Perhaps in his efforts to save the auto industry, the President didn’t consider the implications of his actions.  But then, I doubt that he and the missus shop at Walmart.

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A WINTER’S TALE

I must admit that my favorite season of the year is autumn.  Growing up in New York it meant I was in the midst of another school year which I loved, piano lessons had resumed, which I loved, and the leaves of the trees in Central Park were turning their incredible shades of gold and red, which I loved especially.

In addition to all these, autumn was a precursor to the Holidays.  When the leaves began their transformation, Thanksgiving and then Christmas could not be far behind.  And I always looked forward to those because there seemed to be such a spirit of gentleness and kindness that people naturally acquired during that time of year and freely shared with others whom they met.

When I was seventeen I moved to Chicago for college.  Like New York, Chicago had lots of beautiful trees which performed their rainbow dance in the same way.  But what I discovered was that Chicago, unlike New York had only two seasons -winter and August.  What had been a progression that mimicked a long term transformative counseling session in New York had been transmuted in Chicago into shock therapy.

Well, the advent of winter was alright with me as it was my second most favorite season of the year.  The fact that it seemingly lasted forever until the first few brave crocuses would poke their heads out of the ground in early spring in the park across from the apartment didn’t bother me.  Nor did the cold winds or the streets filled with snow, then snow with salt, then slush.  Because I had a defense against all these.  That shield which held off all assailants was flannel and it never failed me.

Most people are grateful for the weekend because it is a respite from going to school or work.  I never minded either of these and yet I looked forward to my weekends because it was then that I could set aside the business attire I had worn for five days and slip into a warm, comfortable, ever-so-soft flannel shirt.

Once upon a time Lands End had graced my mailbox with one of their catalogs.  Now I have never been someone who could be described as a clothes horse and I think their first attempt to gain my interest resulted in my placing this rather hefty document in the recycling bin without thumbing thru it.  But then they struck a chord on a subsequent effort.  There was the picture of a beautiful flannel shirt on the cover and it intrigued me enough to turn to that section of the catalog.

I bought four flannel shirts from them in various bright and vibrant colors, two solids and two plaids.  I remember removing them from the box the day they arrived.  Taking off the plastic outer wrapping of each shirt, the cardboard stay in the collar and removing all the pins which held the shirts in place.  I knew that I was going to enjoy these shirts.  Their quality was apparent in each garment.

And so began my love affair with my flannel shirts.  And the bond between us grew deeper with each washing as these amazingly soft shirts became even softer and more inviting.  While I could only wear them during winter, still they got a tremendous amount of use and were hung in a special place of honor in my closet.

After ten years of wear I noticed that the cuffs on several of the shirts had begun to fray slightly and the same had happened to one of the collars.  But I viewed this as a badge of honor – a job well done and lovingly performed.

But the frays got more noticeable, so I reversed the cuffs and the collars and held on to those treasures for another four years.  By now, with their frequent washings they seemed to me to be less like shirts than they were outgrowths of my own skin.

One day I realized that I had worn a thin spot in the elbow of two of the shirts.  But I still wore them around the house until the thin spots became tears in the fabric.  After fourteen years of a beautiful relationship I realized that my shirts had done their duty and been good and faithful servants.  So I removed all the buttons and turned them into rags to dust and polish around the house.  It was a sad moment when I took them apart – as close as we had been for so long.

Although for my friends in the northern hemisphere it is not winter, I am writing this now because I wouldn’t mind if it were.  Hundred degree plus heat becomes tiresome after awhile (which for me is about two hours).  Talking about winter cools me off almost as effectively as a quick dip in the pool.

My point in this post is not only to reminisce about my flannel shirt fixation but to speak of merchandise that is made with quality.  I do not know if these Lands End shirts were manufactured in the United States or elsewhere.  What I do know is that the retailer obviously insisted in providing a high quality product for its customers.  I think you would agree that a shirt that withstands the ravages of fourteen years’ wearing meets that definition.

This occurred to me this morning because as I put on a pair of cargo shorts which I had purchased a few months ago at Walmart I noticed that the cuffs were already starting to fray.  As I examined this I also noticed that the material where the cuff met the leg of the short was beginning to separate.  I don’t think these shorts have been washed more than five or six times.

I thought to myself, “Where were these things made?”  So I looked at the label and saw that they had been manufactured in Bangladesh.  Who knew that the Bangladeshis made garments for sale in America?  I certainly didn’t.

Now I am not trying to make a case against the quality of workmanship that is the output of the people of Bangladesh.  These workmen are doing their job with the materials that are specified in their company’s contract with Walmart.  I am sure that they do so in a very workmanlike manner.  But they are obviously starting with inferior materials – and the result is an inferior product.

If we think about it, Walmart which bills itself as the “low price leader” may well  live up to their motto.  But we should remember that “low price” and “low cost” are not synonymous terms.  These cargo shorts have a life expectancy of about one more wash before they start falling apart completely.

It makes a great deal of sense for us to stretch our dollars as far as we can.  But making decisions based simply on price do not accomplish that goal.  The difference in the value I received from my flannel shirts and my cotton cargo pants demonstrates that principle.  So I learned something from this and will not be making further purchases of cargo pants or any other clothing at Walmart.  I simply can’t afford to buy clothes that are that cheap.

This reverie about winter has made me feel a deep need for some spiced apple cider, so I think I’ll go downstairs and make myself some.  But as this is a winter’s tale as told in July, I believe I’ll serve it over ice.

And what better way to enjoy that than by listening to some Vivaldi:

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