From the Road: A Trip to Walmart
When my globe-trotting husband and I first met, I was surprised to learn that he’d never been to WallyWorld, aka Walmart. In disbelief, I wondered how you could reside in America and have missed visiting the world's biggest and most successful retailer. He’d been to Harrods; the notorious “wet” markets in Asia; chaotic fish auctions in Tokyo, and the Huaxi Street Market aka Snake Alley in Taiwan . . . but he’d never been to the Walmart store, fifteen miles away in Temecula.
“Where do you buy cat food, fizzy drinks, pool chemicals, Campbell’s soup and wine?” I asked. He shrugged, shot his cuffs and smoothed his hair. His retail needs had been met by Home Depot, Major Market, Joe's hardware, Costco, and a yearly visit to Macy’s menswear in the mall for clothes. Tolerating my enthusiasm (we were still dating), for what he clearly considered a second-rate experience, he agreed to give the store a try.
I began planning his virgin trip. For this excursion, the shopping list had to be carefully planned. I wanted to make sure we’d be visiting all the highlights and that he’d be seeing them in the best possible order—in a crescendo.
For example, would you take a first-timer to Rome and begin with the Vatican? No! You’d likely get in the mood at the Spanish steps, follow with a walk in a funky neighborhood, do a tour of the Colosseum, and end up at the Vatican with all its splendor.
Thus, we would begin our WallyWorld tour with the garden department, progress to men's wear (underwear and socks), customer service (wire money to France, get an advance on a paycheck or an income tax refund, buy stock), and the grand finale—the grocery department—where you could buy frozen herbs from Israel, inexpensive unsalted butter and the cheapest name-brand bacon in the county.
“Think of it as visiting a foreign country,” I said.
I planned to have my tires rotated so he could get a whiff of WW testosterone and enjoy the sweet sound of air guns and tools clinking against metal, every gearhead's dream.
It was a bright sunny day when we climbed into his shiny black BMW and drove the twisty roads from De Luz to Temecula. Once a backwater, now you can get anything you want in T-town: Learn to speak Russian, go to a jazz concert, catch a wine tasting or gamble in a casino. We parked at the back of the lot to be sure his car wouldn’t get dinged.
A big smile from the official Walmart greeter launched our exploration. A paunchy man, he heaved himself out of his chair and adjusted his ball cap. We could see his five-year pin glinting. While we breathed in the comforting aroma of french fries from the McDonalds just inside the door, he rolled a mammoth cart in our direction. Puffing from the exertion, he passed the cart to Richard.“Welcome to Walmart folks. Have a good day."
Richard laughed at the size. “Not subtle,” he murmured.
I had to remind myself that this was his first time. “You’ll see...we’ll need it.”
We pushed the cart together over to the gardening section where I pointed out the many sights including the generic brand pool salt stacked two bays high.
“Notice the price,” I said, swinging a forty-pound sack into the cart. “And the bags have handles.” Left unspoken was the comparison to the name-brand product he regularly purchased at Home Depot, slippery and awkward to move around. He raised an eyebrow at my grandstand move. In our courtship phase, as we were, this could have been a serious strategic error. "I get the point," he said. I moved us along briskly to the pet food section.
Richard’s Somali cat, Baci (Italian for kiss) ate well and preferred an expensive brand of cat food. Pleased at the low prices, we filled our cart with cans, added a couple of cat toys and a bowl. The display of branded pet fashions left us both open-mouthed.
“Dolman sleeves?” Richard asked, rolling up his own, suddenly aware of his conservative blue button-down shirt. We resisted buying Baci a Dodger’s jacket and matching cap.
The rest of the sections held their own delights, including the garage where a skeptical Richard agreed the staff was polite and efficient. “I’d come here for some things,” he admitted, reading the price list for oil changes and tire rotation. I was excising the snob right out of him, pulling it out of his persona via his calf-skin wallet—a gift from a former girl-friend who shopped at Nordstrom and Whole Foods.
He continued to walk the aisles for the rest of the trip, hands clasped behind his back, Prince Charles-like, stopping occasionally to shake his head in wonder. His single biggest find was a loaf of Pumpernickel bread, a bit of bakery exotica rarely spotted in Fallbrook. “Who would have guessed?” he said with a grin as he tossed a loaf into the cart.
“You wouldn’t believe what I saw at WW today!”
Walmart Temecula: 32225 Temecula Pkwy, Temecula, CA 92592
Nearest hotel: Ramada Temecula Old Town
Nearest airport: San Diego