The Sociology of Wal-Mart (or: Shopping In Sweatpants)

It's sort of like when people complain about friends who talk about them behind their backs. "But aren't you now talking about your friends behind their backs?" "Yeah, but that's different." "How is it different?" "Because I don't enjoy it."

And so goes the rationalization for anyone who has ever shopped at Wal-Mart, mocking the type of people who shop at Wal-Mart.

"I went to Wal-Mart. You should see the type of people who shop there."
"But if you were at Wal-Mart, doesn't that make you the type of person who shops at Wal-Mart?"
"No. That's different."
"How?"
"Because I don't enjoy it."

I enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart. It's a consumer oasis of bargain-priced baked goods, huge selections of beach towels, and- if you can actually find them, since it's almost guaranteed that the friendly stock boy will direct you towards the wrong aisle- AA batteries. Plus, Wal-Mart is open 24 hours. I'm pretty sure I could live there for two or three weeks without provoking any suspicion.

I don't feel judged when I'm at Wal-Mart. You can wear old, crappy clothes that don't fit and nobody notices or cares. Heck, you can wear old, crappy clothes that don't fit inside out and nobody notices or cares. Coincidentally, that exact same sentence applies to the runway of a Kanye West fashion show.

Wal-Mart shoppers wear outfits that range from appropriate to bizarre to some sort of tangible material that more-or-less covers their body parts.

Interestingly, the clothing sold at Wal-Mart is perfectly nice: jeans and shirts and skirts that look just like the jeans and shirts and skirts found at any typical mall store. The outrageously wacky outfits worn by Wal-Mart shoppers can't be found on any Wal-Mart clothing rack. In orders words, Wal-Mart doesn't sell Wal-Mart clothes. Weird.

Wal-Mart has a grocery section, which could be its own separate supermarket. The frozen pizza aisle gets a little crowded. And the snack area tends to be filled with way too many people. The produce section is pleasantly empty, though. Sometimes, when I just want to be alone with my thoughts, I hang out by the kale bin at Wal-Mart.

The cliché is that Wal-Mart shoppers tend to be a bit overweight. And that's probably true. But let's get real; this is not limited to Wal-Mart. Obesity is also a serious problem at Target, at Bed Bath & Beyond, in parks, in high schools, everywhere. Do you know where the fattest people hang out now? America-Mart.

I can't speak about the Ladies Room, but as for the Mens Room, the bathroom toilet stalls at Wal-Mart are always occupied. I mean always.

Theories?

1. People are indeed living in Wal-Mart for two or three weeks at a time. (giving double meaning to the word "squatter.")
2. There is something about being in Wal-Mart that prompts one to need the bathroom.
3. People go to Wal-Mart with the specific intent of using the restrooms.
4. It's the free toilet paper.

Nevertheless, while the facilities, in my experience, are kept clean, pooping in a jam-packed restroom of Wal-Mart men falls somewhere between a prison strip search and the Netflix Fuller House reboot on the "discomfort" scale. With all this talk of transgendered bathrooms, people are missing the real issue; what kind of psychopath is comfortable going to the bathroom next to any person, male or female? What- are we zoo animals?

Some people boycott Wal-Mart to protest the store's poor working conditions. Wal-Mart, we've been told, treats its employees unfairly. Fine. But I hope these protesters are not the same people who vacation in Dubai, wear Nike sneakers, or use Apple products. You know the Chinese factories where your iPads get made don't have free coffee and La-Z-Boy chairs in the employee break lounge.

Regardless of whether or not Wal-Mart stays in business, those quaint old-fashioned Mom & Pop stores, where everybody knows your name, aren't coming back...which is a shame, because that's where I bought all my hardcore pornography. The death of superstores gives way to the rise of Internet shopping, where corporations are far less regulated.

If you really care about the rights of blue-collar workers, fight for government legislation that increases the minimum wage and requires businesses to provide reasonable employee benefits and vacation time. Your vote counts; your boycott does not. And, also, it wouldn't hurt to stop the condescension and mocking of low-wage workers. Working at Wal-Mart or McDonalds's is not a punchline and it's not a failure. There is honor in all* work. Not working is the failure.

* exceptions

Hitman
Sea World orca trainer
Pimp
Vice-President

Contrary to popular belief, Wal-Mart isn't always cheaper. The Wal-Mart brands are low-priced. And you'll definitely save money on toiletries: toothpaste, soap, Luke Bryan CDs, etc. But the mainstream brands sold at Wal-Mart are usually around the same price as other stores. Say you spend a hundred bucks on name brand items at Target. The same shopping spree at Wal-Mart will probably cost you, oh, maybe ninety-eight dollars, or the price of a Mega-Millions lottery ticket. So, really, you're only saving about 400 million dollars, give or take a few million, depending on that week's jackpot.

Popular at Wal-Mart are the motorized scooters. I believe these scooters are for legitimately disabled people, rather than for shoppers who simply don't feel like walking. That doesn't always seem to be the case, though. Nevertheless, just as it's chivalrous to give up your subway seat to a pregnant lady, I do hope that obese people offer their scooters to the Wal-Mart customers who literally have no legs. It's common courtesy.

There are websites dedicated to making fun of people who shop at Wal-Mart. The sites feature unflattering pictures of unusually-dressed, offbeat-looking Wal-Mart shoppers, who don't appear as if they know they're being photographed. They're simply fodder for hateful amusement. Personally, I'd rather spend my time with a misshapen dude wearing a pink halter top than a mean-spirited dick who mocks innocent people and invades their personal space.

That some of these shoppers might suffer from mental illness doesn't negate, apparently, the joy of bullying.

Nevertheless, when poor people dress ridiculous, they're the targets of ridicule. But when wealthy people do it? We call it "having fun with fashion."

Take, for example, the spectators at the Kentucky Derby. (They're rich.)

And here's Princess Beatrice. (She's rich.)

And here's... oh, right, I already mentioned the Kanye clothing line.

I shop at both Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. I just like stores. Stores are fun. But, as with our neighborhoods and our schools, stores exemplify the socio-economic segregation that leads to misunderstanding and mistrust.

It might be a multi-million dollar company, but Wal-Mart is still a "poor" store. In my hometown, Wal-Mart is right across the street from Target. Yet everyone in my hometown knows that poor people go to Wal-Mart and wealthier people go to Target. And we look down on what is poor. More than that, we're "angry" about it. Hence, people have such an irrational animosity toward all things Wal-Mart.

But, at least when it comes to buying basic household items like Apple Jacks and shaving cream, poor people and rich people aren't so different. Hence, rather than separating us, stores can be a place to unite people. Because it doesn't matter how much money you make, the Wal-Mart greeter will still ignore you.