Adjusting to Wal-Mart |

Adjusting to Wal-Mart

Scott Miller

I like Wal-Mart.

Actually, my bank account likes Wal-Mart, and yes, there is a difference between a warm glow in your heart and one in your wallet, but in these days when fuzzy-puppy feelings are hard to come by, this will have to do.

Before readers in the “Wal-Mart (inhales)!” crowd fire up your angry e-mails, believe me, I share some of your opinions, if not your rage.

I’d mostly managed to avoid Wal-Mart before moving to the mountains in late 1989. Living on the Front Range, the big retailer was one choice among many, and, frankly the stuff at other retailers was often better, well worth the slightly higher prices. Moving to the High Country, though, Wal-Mart soon started pulling in a big part of my shopping dollars. The fact was, and is, there is no place closer that has more stuff people need at anything near the price. Like most facts of life, Wal-Mart soon enough became something to curse even as my wife and I spent loads of money there.

They may be almost-lost memories now, but I remember when Wal-Mart was distinguished by its affection for American suppliers. And who else remembers the big “You’re next!” signs in the Avon store? Those signs proclaimed that if more than three people were in line, another checkout stand would open.

Yes, that was a long, loooong time ago. The closest thing now to “You’re next!” on a busy day (which is much of the time), is the self-service check-out lanes, mostly, I suspect, because relatively few people are comfortable with the concept of checking, bagging and paying for their stuff themselves. Those still wary of that concept often stand in long, slow-moving lines

And while Wal-Mart may still rely on American suppliers, the 800-pound gorilla of U.S. retailing’s constant demand for ever-lower prices from vendors has pushed heaven only knows how many jobs to other countries.

The big gorilla creates big ripples when he jumps into a local pond, too. Columbine Market in Gypsum has felt the impact of the 30-miles-distant superstore in Avon.

However, as Pee Wee Herman once said, “Everybody’s got a ‘big but’ …”

The big but in this case is the fact that millions of Americans – including this one – are willing to put aside their moral ambivalence because those big, service-poor, line-rich stores provide the opportunity to buy stuff cheaper than it can be had anywhere else.

That price pressure is good news even for those who won’t go near a Wal-Mart, like the Eagle resident who told me he would never, never!, drive on William J. Post Boulevard, the street to the store named for the head of the Village at Avon development team.

The good news for people like him is that our local grocery stores have adjusted their prices to meet the competition from the big gorilla.

When it first opened, a fill-up-the cart

shopping trip at Wal-Mart for my little family was between $20 and $30 cheaper than buying similar items at City Market. That gap has closed in the past few months to the point that careful special shopping makes the price difference far less glaring.

For those of us who sweat our debit card approvals three days before payday, that’s good news. Yes, it takes a hard gulp to say, but Wal-Mart has made life in an expensive valley a little easier. That’s worthy of thanks, from the bottom of our wallets.

Staff Writer Scott Miller can be reached at 949-0555 or

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