Law School
Personal Finance

On Not Shopping at Wal-Mart

I had long been opposed to Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons that I think don’t need to be explained. But despite the sick feeling in my soul shopping there gave me, I continued to patronize their stores on the assumption it was too expensive to shop elsewhere. But after I saw the great documentary “Wal-Mart: The High-Price of Low Cost,” I decided to quit Wal-Mart cold turkey.

In the last year and a half I have only been to Wal-Mart a handful of times (only in a emergency situations where the Wal-Mart was really close by). What has been truly surprising is that my grocery bill has gone down, not up as I was worried it would. So I need to declare to the world: “Shopping at Wal-Mart will not save you money on groceries!!” I cannot speak for cosmetics and electronics and such, in which Wal-Mart is sometimes the cheaper choice (although sometimes the price rollbacks are laughable), but I can speak decisively about groceries.

Recently we got a very late wedding gift in the form of a Wal-Mart gift card. So I swallowed my scruples and went to the newest Wal-Mart in town. Wal-Mart is definitely trying to class up their stores-this one was humongous (the biggest Wal-Mart I have ever seen), had a light green color scheme as opposed to blue and red, and the employees were decked out in their new classy uniforms.

As I checked the prices of the food products I realized that the prices simply were not cheaper than where I shop now (Reasor’s). I have long prophesied that as the Wal-Mart empire pushes more and more grocers out of business (which has certainly happened in our town), they will be able to raise their prices. Simple economics: less competition, higher prices. I seriously think this is already happening… Wal-Mart prices do not seem as low as they once were.

But what really stood out was that they had almost no “Bonus Buys,” or special sales. Reasor’s always has products that are specially on sale that week.

That is how we save money by not shopping at Wally World. You just buy the products that are discounted that week. This almost always works-there is always one brand of cheese, or one brand of soup, that has a special low price and you just choose that one brand over the other.

I think just as important as the weekly specials though, is that not shopping at Wal-Mart makes you a more careful shopper. When you shop at Wal-Mart you shop with the mindset that everything is a bargain (although this is not true). So you are liable to throw more things into your cart that you hadn’t planned on buying. But now we carefully plan what we need to get and are not tempted by 5 acres of other goodies.

And the best part about ditching Wal-Mart is that the shopping experience is 100 times more pleasurable. I remember one of the last times I shopped at Wal-Mart and the aisles were so clogged that both “lanes” were filled with carts and you had to slowly “wait in line” to even get through the aisle. Yuck.

Bottom Line: Wal-Mart is bad for the soul. And it ain’t so great for your wallet either.