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Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Joys Of Wal-Mart

After I had tried to upload another group of pictures to my Wal-Mart photo album this past Wednesday, like I had done for almost two years, and found out they no longer accept them and then allow me to pay for them when I get to the actual store, I closed my account. Or rather, I should say I attempted to close out my account.
I deleted all my online photos and albums that held them and then clicked on the link to cancel my account. The next day, I got a nice little e-mail from somebody named "Monique" saying that she was sorry I had troubles and which order was it that I wanted to cancel? I had clearly stated, with simple English words, my desire to end my account with them, not cancel an order. I couldn't make an order any longer, so how could I have one that needed cancelling? I wrote back to "Monique" and politely told her that maybe this was the reason why more and more people were refusing to shop at Wal-Mart any longer. I mean, it was her department and she didn't even know the difference between "cancel an account" and "cancel an order." As consumers, we don't have to take this.
So, what happens after the whole incident? Today, Saturday, at noon exactly, I get a call from a pleasant-sounding man, who spoke perfect English because he was an American, and who also sounded like more than just a phone-operating schlep. This guy was pretty far up the management chain, let me tell you. He didn't give me his name, but he did ask to make sure it was my account that I wanted to close and he said it would be done. At the end of the telephone conversation, he asked if there was anything else and I said yes. I told him, politely and in a soft voice, (I have laryngitis and can hardly speak very loud), the reason why I had to close my account, being because of their new policy to not accept cash. He apologised for this saying that it was because there had been some orders that people had made and then not picked up. And then he said, "and other reasons, too." He didn't explain exactly what those other reasons could have been. What other reasons can there be? I would like to get some debate going on this issue, so if any of my good readers can think of any other possible reasons, please leave a comment for me.
After he told me about their policy of having to stop accepting cash for online photo orders, I told him that Wal-Mart had just reduced their selection of items to buy that, in the process, they stopped carrying those things I used to purchase. With hardly anything left on their shelves that I would need to buy, I no longer had any reason to shop with them any more. And, it's true. I won't be setting foot inside a Wal-Mart store any more.

Here's what I will be giving up, but I guess I'll just have to adjust to living without these wonderful conveniences:
The joy of waiting in one checkout line behind twenty other customers because they won't open any of the other 19 checkout lines in the middle of a busy day.
I won't have to worry about getting my layaway out on time anymore - they no longer offer layaways.
The thrill of being treated like a criminal as I walk out the door when "the man" asks you to stop so he can see your receipt.
All the great exercise I used to get trying to track down somebody that worked in the store, someone who wasn't stocking the shelf where I was trying to look, or who wasn't on break, or who wasn't the one person at the only checkout line up front.
The pleasures of playing "treasure hunt" every time I went to the same Wal-Mart, because they constantly keep moving everything to a different location.
The pleasant conversations with any employee I could actually find when asking about a certain product which every employee seems to know nothing about.
The surprise and wonderment of always finding that the item I bought last month is no longer carried, but two other brands of the same item are.
The fun of trying to return that item I bought last month because it stopped working and being told I can't exchange it for an identical working model because they stopped carrying it.
The exhiliration of being told that the item I want, (hightop tennis shoes, headphones, cd cases, economy-size bottle of baby shampoo, non-slimline jewel boxes, blank vhs tapes, blank high-quality cassette tapes, Christmas cards with "Christ" -ian themes, blank journals, 100 speed film for my cameras, my favorite brand of breakfast cereal, any article of clothing not made for a 14-year old, a pair of jeans that will last more than one washing and not rip out, etc.) is something that nobody else in the world wants so that's why they have stopped selling them at Wal-Mart.
All the time I will save looking through their music department because it's pointless - they don't sell any group I'd want to hear anyway.
Having to wind my way through the group of Mexicans out front waiting to be picked up for work.
And lastly, all the "beautiful people" that seem to populate Wal-Marts in this day and age.

How will I ever live without Wal-Mart?

Friday, April 4, 2008

What The Heck Is It?

I just happened to notice something moving around in my backyard Tuesday, right before the sun went down. At first, I thought it was a chicken. It was big, white and plump like a chicken, but it wasn't a chicken. You need to know that I live in the city limits, but there are all kinds of animals that happen to pass through my yard on different occasions. I've seen Skunks, O'Possums, Raccoons, Squirrels, Deers, Doves, Quails, Hawks and who knows what other critters. Here is what I saw that Tuesday afternoon:

It wouldn't let me get very close to it, and in this view, it had left the back edge of my yard and flew up on my neighbor's garage roof - about 10 feet past my property line. I chased it to get a better shot, but all it ended up doing was flying back into my yard, to the top of a tree, the tallest one in that whole area. After I studied the pictures, I thought it was a turkey. The above photograph was even broadcast on the local television station about two hours later! My cousin called today to say that she had seen the picture. Then, somebody told me they thought it was what is called a "guinea." Well, maybe. The very next morning, it was back again! After chasing it again for about a half hour, I did manage to sneak up on it once from behind some bushes to get this clearer shot of it's face.

Looking at this view, I revert to my original assumption that it's a turkey. If it decides to move into my backyard, it can stay and more the welcome to. At least until next Thanksgiving, that is!

If you need to go to the store today, please try to buy at least one item at a store other than Wal-Mart. It can be done. There are people that work at the other stores in your community that need to live, too. And think how good you'll feel knowing that you're giving them much-needed business, and that it's actually helping to put food on their table! A little kid might not go hungry tonight because of you. The good thing about helping in this way is that it doesn't take any more time or cost you any more money than you were already going to spend. Maybe if more people did this, we could revitalize our towns.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Camel's Back Has Been Broken

As a practicing photographer, there are times when I need photographs fast. That is, actual pictures I can hold in my hand and work with. And, I had found a great online tool that really fit in with my needs. At Wal-Mart's website, they have an online photo-uploading tool where you can upload your pictures, choose the 1-hour developing option, and then go pick up your pictures. Seeing as how there is no Wal-Mart store in the small town where I live, I always have to drive either 15 or 30 minutes to the nearest one. At least one night a week, this isn't a problem for me, as I have a regular musical gig that I play my guitar at in Fairfield, Illinois - the site of the store that's 30 minutes away from me. I would simply upload the pictures before I left that afternoon and usually after running all my errands and getting in Fairfield, they would be ready and waiting for me to pick up and pay for. And now for the rest of the story....
This method worked so well for me for over a year until yesterday. I uploaded some pictures and planned on picking them up once I arrived in Fairfield. They uploaded fine, but when it came to the normal checkout part of the transaction, gone was the choice to pay for them when you pick them up. That's right - they no longer offer that as an option. All they accept is one of their own gift cards or a credit card as payment. Knowing that I don't like to have my personal information such as this floating willy-nilly all over the internet, just waiting for some unscrupulous person to intercept it and use it to their advantage, (oh, these types are out there, all right - believe me!), I don't like to pay using those kind of methods. What was wrong with cash when I picked them up? I've never had more than a $20.00 order at one time, and instead had smaller orders, but more of them. So, why did Wal-Mart stop accepting the "bill-me-later" option that is still mentioned on their website as a method of payment? There are several reasons but I'll tell you why.
You may remember an earlier post of mine, here, about the trouble I had trying to by an ordinary pair of headphones from Wal-Mart. In that story, I related the incident of trying to ask one of their sales representatives where they kept their headphones. I was told by this person that, "they say nobody wants headphones anymore." However, she didn't know who "they" were, so that wasn't any help in my trying to convince her that she was wrong and that people did, in fact, still use headphones and not "earbuds." In a similar incident two weeks ago, I searched for a CD Case, something to hold and protect about 100 cd's in their cases because I deejay car shows at times and need something bigger to carry all my oldies cd's in to these events. Well, in Wal-Mart and indeed no other store in Fairfield could I find one. I was told the exact same thing - nobody uses them anymore. Surely I'm not the only person in the world that works as a deejay - whose tools are their music and their headphones!
There was a time when I could find cases to hold my music, be it in albums, 45 rpm's, 8-tracks, cassettes or cd's. You needed something to hold your music in, you bought a case for it, it was that simple. And these cases could be purchased in many places in Fairfield and towns everywhere else. But, this was before Wal-Mart moved into town. Now, the places in Fairfield that used to sell music and musical supplies such as cases, have all went out of business because they couldn't compete with - guess who? Give yourself a pat on the back if you said "Wal-Mart." Everyone has heard of the stories of how when a Wal-Mart moves into a community, the small "mom and pop" stores go under. This is nothing new and I need not detail it again. Just understand that it is a fact and it happens everywhere. And as a matter of fact, Fairfield had a Wal-Mart already before this latest one was put in. This new one is a "Supercenter," one that stays open twenty-four hours a day! The old one wasn't a supercenter, just a regular store that closed every night and then opened back up the next morning. Wal-Mart convinced the city of Fairfield that it needed a supercenter instead and got the financial tax breaks that allowed them to build another store.
The word "Supercenter." What do you think that means? Wouldn't any normal person think that it meant something better than the average store? That's what I would take it to mean. However, once these "Supercenters" get in a community and drive all the small stores out of business, they start offering less and less items in their inventory. Having been a regular shopper at their old Wal-Mart, I was quite familiar with all the products they sold and all the ones I bought there myself. When the new "Supercenter" opened, I noticed several of the items that I used to purchase were no longer sold at this newer, more "super" Wal-Mart. Have you been to a Wal-Mart lately? Chances are, you have. Look around - are there things you used to buy that aren't on their shelves any more? In just this year alone they have closed their section where material and patterns to make dresses and the like were housed and even shut down their layaway section! The layaway section at Wal-Mart was always one of their selling points when their founder, Mr. Sam Walton was alive and in charge. He always believed the customer came first and that he would sell American-made items to keep Americans working. He believed in that and that's why Wal-Mart became so big. Since his death, things have really changed. Practically everything is "Made in China," yes, the very same country that makes all that stuff you hear about on the news that is always being recalled because it's hazardous or poisionous! And since his passing, there is much less selection on the shelves and have you noticed their "low prices always" have started creeping up higher than any store ever had them at before? And to top that off, now this "Wal-Mart Supercenter," which is supposed to stay open 24 hours a day, closes at the regular time the old one did and opens back up each morning. Let's see, same hours, less merchandise, less conveniences such as layaway - tell me again how this "Supercenter" concept is better?
The practice of not accepting a payment of cash to pick up my pictures like I used there last month, (when, apparently, it was agreeable for them to do so), has suddenly changed. Have you noticed a general decline in a variety of places that are getting away from the practice of wanting to accept cash? Why do you think this is? It's not because they can make more money if they accept credit cards. It's a fact that they have to pay a small transaction fee for every credit card purchase that is made. So, why would any store want to make less money? I have one word to say and you've heard it from me before. "Amero."
In Europe, they have created something called "the European Union," a group of countries all banded together for trade purposes. Their new method of currency, which supplanted the monetary system in the countries of all it's participants, is called the Euro. Doesn't that sound familiar? Euro. Amero. They are similar. In every way. There are those in our government right now, from President George Bush on down, who are trying to bring about an "American Union," and create a new monetary system for Canada, the United States and Mexico. This new monetary unit is to be called the "Amero." They are actively working on bringing this about. How better to impliment something such as this than to make our American dollar harder to use and spend or worth less than it's ever been? For further insight on this scheme to do away with our dollar, which by the way, contradicts our Constitution, search for "The NAFTA Superhighway," "Kansas City SmartPort," or even "GATT."
You may have heard the phrase "cashless society." All that means is that any money you have will be held by everybody but actually you yourself. If there's no cash, you won't need any to pay for that hamburger you want for lunch. You'll just use the money in your account somewhere and pay for it with a credit card. You ask, "what's wrong with that?" Aside from the fact that it's actually costing you more money for everything you purchase with a credit card, have you ever heard of computer glitches? If you're reading this, chances are, you have. On a good day, a computer can have a problem and lose all it's information - forever. We all know this to be the truth. And computers that have your accounts on them can have glitches just the same. Just think if the worst possible scenario arose and someone had a score to settle with you and could access your account information. Do you think the Golden Rule would stop them from taking everything you have in that account? Not on your life. Forget about all those "conspiracy theories" you hear, about a "New World Order" taking over everything. All that needs to happen is one unscrupulous person to come along and your account, along with every penny you've earned, could be wiped out. That is why a cashless society is something you or I do not want to see come about. Well, I certainly know I don't want my money under somebody else's constant control. I can only assume that you would feel the same way about your finances.

So, please think about it the next time you have a twenty-dollar bill in your hand. Feel it. It feels good having money in your hands, doesn't it? If it's a feeling you'd like to continue having, please understand that you can't continue having it if you don't speak up about it. I'm speaking up about it right now, because I like money and I want to keep on liking the feel of real money in my hand. (However infrequent that might actually be!) And one of the ways I'm speaking up is by telling you here. Another way is to stop giving my business to the stores that are actively getting away from wanting to accept my perfectly legal and tender cash. Such as Wal-Mart. That is why I will never set foot in a Wal-Mart again. I can still buy shampoo, and anything else I need, at plenty of other places!