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Friday, October 31, 2003

WalMart versus Target. There's a huge difference, but I've had trouble putting my finger on it exactly. All I know is that when I walk into WalMart, I feel utterly overwhelmed by the mass of humanity and screaming children and crap for sale as cheap as possible. I hate the feeling I get when I walk in there. On the flipside, I really enjoy shopping at Target most of the time. It's easy to find what I'm looking for. The prices seem reasonable without screaming at me about how low they are. The store feels clean and easy to navigate. And it has a warmer feel to it. Less sterile and warehouse-like.

There's a couple of things I've been able to pinpoint. At WalMart, many of the shelves are very high. So high, that you can't possibly see over them even when standing at a distance. This leads to a sort of claustrophobic feeling. Also, WalMart has a tendency to place large displays in the aisles even when there's no room to pass comfortably. Beyond that, it's smaller things. Target seems to use more color, especially rich reds and blues. While Target puts sale prices on things in font about 3 inches high, WalMart tends to put up big plastic numbers that are a foot tall. WalMart seems to focus exclusively on low prices where Target also seems to have a desire for some level of quality. Employees at Target are easy to spot by their red shirts and khaki pants with a small name badge, but at WalMart, employees must wear incredibly tacky blue vests with "How May I Help You" in huge block letters on the back. That doesn't make WalMart employees any more helpful (especially as evidenced by the pregnant woman asking one about microwaves on Sunday, who completely ignored her and kept walking). It does increase the load as far as visual stimulus goes. And I think that's one of basic problems with WalMart. There is just too much text, too big, too omnipresent. Add to that the towering shelves and narrow, cluttered aisles, and it just feels oppressive. Add to that hoardes of bargain-seeking parents dragging their squalid packs of children of dirty children behind them.

All I know is that from the moment I walked into WalMart on Sunday, it felt overwhelming. We left without purchasing what we'd planned to purchase, and drove a mile to the Target, found what we wanted quickly and easily, and left very happy.


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