Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Why Wal-Mart? The store consumers hate to love

Despite the crowds and myriad other complaints, people still find reasons to shop there.

By Jun 25, 2014 11:14AM
This post comes from Emily Lugg at partner site on MSN MoneyConsumers complain on blogs, on shopper forums, in conversation, and even on the company website that Wal-Mart is disorganized and crowded, sells low-quality products and bad produce, attracts questionable clientele, mounts bad lighting, fields rude and unhelpful employees, and is, overall, a place to avoid.

Wal-Mart shopping carts (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)But as any reader of the financial press knows, Wal-Mart ranked No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list in 2013. Clearly, lots of someones are shopping at Wal-Mart. Do they take a different view of the Wal-Mart experience? Or do the upsides of shopping there simply outweigh all the downsides?

The bottom line is that Wal-Mart has proven time and again to be one of the most affordable vendors for everything from groceries to home goods to clothing, electronics, and automotive supplies. Wal-Mart beat the competition for affordability in a comparison with Kroger and with Target and Kmart. It's no secret that price is a major lure when choosing where to shop, which goes a long way towards explaining why Wal-Mart is so wildly (oftentimes secretly) popular.
In interviews at two Wal-Mart stores in Columbus, Ohio, found that people who admit to frequenting Wal-Mart say they do so regardless of the public darts thrown at the superstore.  Anne Brink of Cincinnati, Ohio, shops regularly at Wal-Mart because she can purchase so many different items in one place. With three kids in tow, Brink must use her time wisely, and rather than taking her youngsters to more than one store, she "throws in the towel" and heads for Wal-Mart. She also finds Wal-Mart to be cheaper than the local Kroger, which seals the deal as her top shopping choice. Another mom, Amy Strapp, from Columbus, Ohio, simply asserts that price trumps all. She says if she can get the items on her list for less at Wal-Mart, that's where she'll go.

Wal-Mart also benefits from its ubiquity. With nearly 11,000 stores worldwide, there is a Wal-Mart close at hand to nearly everyone (except, famously, residents of New York City). Stacey Strapp, from Gallipolis, Ohio, says she would prefer not to shop almost exclusively at Wal-Mart but does so because it is the cheapest store around and open 24/7. She offers a laundry list of gripes about the store, including its disorganization and inconsistency, but out of necessity continues to shop at the retailing behemoth. Rachel Kaschner, of Lewis Center, Ohio, similarly notes that there are times when Wal-Mart is the only available place to shop, as is the case when visiting her hometown. Kaschner adds that the unappealing environment in the store puts her off stopping into Wal-Mart more frequently.

The vast selection of goods is another common reason for shopping at Wal-Mart. Of the several consumers we spoke with, even those who insist they specifically try to stay away admit that the store carries items that can't always be found elsewhere.

Cathy Taylor-Meyer, of Columbus, Ohio, says she tries to avoid Wal-Mart because, in her opinion, the produce and meats lack quality and flavor, the local store always seems messy, and the lines are long. Her experience has been that many household items wind up being the same price elsewhere when you shop sales and use coupons. However, Taylor-Meyer still finds herself at Wal-Mart at least several times a year for certain foods and things like large flower pots and cactus potting soil that aren't available at rival big-box outlets.

The same goes for Jeri Lugg of Marion, Ohio. She complains about unappealing lighting and the abundance of screaming parents and children, but ends up at Wal-Mart for products that don't show up on other stores' shelves, such as refrigerated cherry turnovers and Smith's chocolate marshmallow ice cream.
Overall, the consumers we interviewed shop at Wal-Mart at one time or another -- some more frequently than others -- regardless whether their assessment of the store is positive or negative. Most consumers, apparently, have decided that saving a few bucks outweighs the turn-offs associated with shopping at Wal-Mart. Money always talks, and knowing that you can find what you need at the time when you can shop prompts legions of consumers to conclude it's worth paying the price of longer checkout lines, bad lighting, lots of background noise, and all the rest.

More from
Jun 25, 2014 1:59PM
I am one of these people.  I don't purchase food from there, but I do buy my clothes, housewares, meds, pet, garden and seasonal supplies there.  If you're a plain jane gal like me, you can get 4-5 shirts for the price of one at a department/mall store.  I've had clothes far more expensive fall apart in the same amount of time a Walmart shirt will.  The sad truth is, a lot of hard-working people have a lot less money now, and you are basically forced to support these stores if you want to get by.
Jun 25, 2014 3:30PM
There are 2 (Super) Walmart stores within 5 miles of me.  They are a story in contradiction.

One of them is consistently unclean, unstocked and for the most part can not seem to employ anyone with an IQ above 10 (eg: me - "You don't have to put the drinks in a bag."  cashier - "OK, so would you like a paper bag instead?")

The other one is kept extremely clean, well-stocked and virtually every employee I've encountered there is very nice and helpful.  Checkout lines can be somewhat long, but they move quickly and efficiently.  I don't understand why they are so different, unless it has to do with management of the store, but it proves that Walmart CAN do better in their stores if they have the right people. 

At least that's what I'd like to think...........
Jun 25, 2014 3:17PM
Complaining that your house is full of crap is a pretty pathetic complaint. There are many people in this country alone that would love to have all that Walmart stuff, and how can you blame Walmart? Nobody forced you to buy all of it. 
Jun 25, 2014 1:52PM
And MSN's fetish with Wal Mart continues. If Wal Mart sucks so bad, why, as the article states, is it #1 on the Fortune 500 list? 
Jun 25, 2014 5:24PM
A lot of people hate Walmart but can't afford to shop any place better.
Jun 25, 2014 2:22PM
where does a one-armed man shop? at a secondhand store.
Jun 25, 2014 2:56PM
Shop the ads in your weekly fliers and you can beat Wal Mart prices (and stock up).  We eat good and save a lot of money shopping the weekly fliers.
Jun 25, 2014 2:44PM
The only reason I shop at Walmart is because I can buy pretty much whatever I need in one store instead of going to several stores, and I prefer one-stop shopping--especially since I had to give up driving because of health and have to depend on others. I know of NO other place where I can get my meds, food, and whatever else I need all under one roof. Also, I like the Walmart brand of foods, Great Value, as much as brand names. It's cheaper and just as good the name brands, and in some foods it's better.
Jun 25, 2014 3:31PM
I used to work for them, so maybe I'm a little biased. I wouldn't say I love Walmart, but I do a lot of shopping there, and I'm sick of all the hate they get. People act like they are the only company that doesn't pay everyone high wages, or offer everyone benefits, or give everyone full time hours. They are not the only store that can be messy sometimes or have long lines. What you have to understand is that each individual store is run by a store manger, and they make their own hiring decisions, their own decisions about where to have employees on the floor for that day, what gets priority in stocking overnight.

And complaining at the store level doesn't work. Because the store managers mostly don't give a good crap about what an individual customer says. They will do things their way. If you want something changed at your local store, either get a whole bunch of your friends to call and complain about the same issue, or call corporate.

Sadly calling corporate won't help the long lines issue, because corporate is who allocates the amount of hours each store can have on payroll per department, and if there are only so many hours scheduled for that day on the front end, managers CANNOT schedule more people/give someone an extra shift. Its all based on sales on that day the previous year. And from what I understand, all big retailers work the same way.

I admit that I don't buy chicken there, because it comes in frozen and tends to go  bad fast, and I don't buy certain produce there just because the supplier doesn't have good product. But for the most part I get good products there.

Jun 25, 2014 3:07PM
Walmart DOES!!!!!!!!!!! NOT!!! I REPEAT DOES NOT HAVE THE cheapest prices.
Love it how walmart keeps trying to get it into peoples heads that they have the "cheapest prices"

Ex. Organic milk walmart- around 3.90-4.20 
Organic milk my HEB- 3.48

and so much more!!!
Jun 25, 2014 4:23PM
Also I'd like to point out that this so called greedy corporation also contributes millions of dollars to food pantries every week and huge donations to Children's Miracle Network charities. and scholarships for college for it's associates and that so called bad lighting is a solar system designed to help save the company huge amounts of money in electricity as well as help keeps it's carbon footprint at a minimum, by recycling it's cardboard refuge and plastic refuge. The store I work for created over 50 thousand dollars in recycling alone last year and those money's generated is never wasted. It is spent on research and developing more recycling centers so eventually we'll be able to go even further to help save our environment. So Please actually listen to the good things they are doing for our community for a change because one day all their efforts in saving the environment will eventually pay off. Also it might seem like the store is dirty all the time but the store never closes it's cleaned at night and restocked at night it might be inconvenient to shop while the pallets are everywhere and the maintenance crews are scrubbing or sweeping etc but the point is the store is open for your convenience so you can even shop in the middle of the night if you need to. For this convenience there must be some sort of understanding on the customers part because we can't make more hours in the day to clean to make it even more convenient for you.
Jun 25, 2014 2:20PM
Wally is a good place for most of the common things in life....there you won't get ripped off and the product usually is okay for what you need it for. I can't understand why so many want to badmouth Wally..... Great place for the average shopper in need of throw away stuff, which is most everything these days.
Jun 25, 2014 4:13PM
For many, many items, you simply cannot find them cheaper than at Walmart.  It is your perogative to purchase the item elsewhere even if you know it is cheaper at Walmart, but all you are doing is making a statement that you hate Walmart and are flush enough to pay a higher price.  Food, on the other hand, can easily be purchased more cheaply at a grocery store, specifically if you shop specials and use coupons.  In any event, with a weak economy and few good jobs, many people simply have no choice but to shop where they can spend the least money.
Jun 25, 2014 2:11PM

I don't love Walmart. Only go there if it is an emergency and I can't find the item I need in another store. Never even think about going there for non-emergency items. Would rather shop online and wait for the iyem to be delivered, than go to Walmart. Probably get the item at a lower price.



Jun 25, 2014 4:11PM
I'd like to point out people, that walmart buys it's meat and produce from the same distributers that sells to all the other food chains they do not butcher their meat in store and package it in store it's pre done at the same distributing company that sells it everywhere else so why spend 5 dollars more for it at some more expensive store. That is what I always find laughable. come on it's Tyson's the same Tysons that distributes to Hy Vee and Krogers so on and so on.....Okay it's Johnsonville yep that one is Oscar Meyer... and the same goes for cuts of meat same distributers same people processing for every store. So stop with the hating and wake up.
Jun 25, 2014 1:51PM
I never go to Wal-Mart. There are better places to shop.
Jun 26, 2014 9:02AM
Most of the objectionable things about Walmart are not their fault, they are the fault of their customer's deplorable behavior.
Jun 25, 2014 7:23PM
As with any business, the manager of a store plays a big part in it's presentation and running.
Headquarters need to know specifically if a local Wal-Mart is under performing.  Good managers are on top of their store's merchandising and stocking.  As for rowdy kids and the bad rap of clientele that some publicity loves to magnify, look around you in the other stores.  It's everywhere.
Parents often feel entitled and don't discipline children anymore.  I see it in the most upscale stores too.

Jun 26, 2014 8:25AM
I think perhaps the problem with some people is that the Unions can't get into Walmart.  That is not because of the company - it is because the employees don't want the Unions.  So just get over it!  I find nothing wrong with Walmart, we are thankful to have it as we are retired and every year, things seem to cost more, but our income does not go up. 
Jun 25, 2014 4:45PM
you know I really can't stand it when people bash the company that I work for because no other company absorbs loss as well as Walmart does. Their customer service is second to no one absolutely no matter what. Their associates are also customer abused more than anywhere else on the planet but still they stand there and try to smile even while they are humiliated and degraded by someone only trying to save a dollar, we aren't allowed to defend ourselves we just have to stand there and take it but hey someone gets to save a couple dollars off their bill it makes them feel better so that should be good enough, it's just another couple of dollars us employees will not see in our bonus in the next quarter, but whatever!!! Yeah if that isn't customer service I don't know what is, but still we get up put on the company approved clothing drag ourselves into work again for yet another round of complaints day after day. Why you ask? because it's a company worth standing behind. Ask yourself could you handle it?
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.