Wal-Mart and low, low prices….

OK. I confess. I went to Wal-Mart again.

It all started when Leah and I decided to drive to Boerne last Saturday to pick up a mare. I borrowed a trailer from a brother—his is a two horse—smaller and easier to navigate in tight places than my gooseneck.

I noticed the tread on one of the trailer tires was cracked so I stopped by a local tire shop. He had nothing used that’s fit the trailer. Apparently the change to larger wheels in modern trucks has left a dearth of 14 and 15 inch tires, once easily acquired for a spare $20 bill.

I asked how much a new tire would be.

“Do you really want to know?”


“One hundred and twenty bucks.”

I passed on the deal, thinking the tire might hold up, or that I could acquire another elsewhere for less.

About ten miles before reaching Boerne, the tire exploded, spewing shards and scraps of rubber into the air and onto the highway behind. I called the man with the mare only to learn that all tire dealers in the small town closed for weekends, except for my favorite-in-the-whole-wide-world establishment, the friendly Wal-Mart, home of low low prices….

We limped into the parking lot and found the tire and battery section. I went through the door that you can get in but can’t get out of and told a woman I needed a tire.

With a go-to-hell look, she asked what sized tire I needed.

I went out and retrieved the number after she let me out of the one-way door.

Number in hand, I returned and gave her the info.

“That tire runs $130.”

“OK. Guess I have to have it. It’s on my horse trailer….”

“We can’t change tires on trailers. You’ll have to take it off and bring it in.”

Which, I did.

And then we waited for three hours. I shit you not.

During the three hour wait I went shopping twice and Leah went once. What the fuck else you going to do? Of course, each trip in the one-way door necessitated getting let out, reminiscent of jails and prisons I once inhabited.

When the tire was fixed, I hunted down the friendly “staff member” who was hiding elsewhere in the store so I could pay and leave, only to learn that when all was said and done, my new low, low price Wal-Mart tire cost me $180 and change to retrieve and I got to put the damn thing back on my trailer in their parking lot for no additional charge.

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Don Henry Ford Jr.

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  • The one time I went into a Wall Mart was in Fort Stockton because I broke my sunglasses and nothing elese was open. Horible experiance. Looking around at the customers, there were plenty of oil patch folks paying high prices on groceries. The Wall Mart model worked in Fort Stockton, most of the small specialty shops were long gone leaving Wall Mart an alomost monopoly.

    The prices were high compared to the quality.

    • The place I work at always grocery shops at Wal mart, it drives me nuts because their prices are not cheaper than the local grocery stores and their produce sucks. They always have cheap sales prices in the paper, but at the end of the day you end up spending more for lesser quality.

  • I’m glad to hear that you had a bad experience. The company I work for, a family-owned business with about 80 team members in corporate-speak, which speech we use because that is the ocean we swim in, can only compete with the real corporations by providing actual service to our customers. My worst nightmare is folks going into a Walmart and having a good experience.

    I do not begrudge people that patronize Walmart, I just regret that they so often have no other real choice.

    • Wal Mart prices are not cheeper, limited selection, store was dirty, shelves not properly stocked, marginal quality, and poorly lit.

      Also, depending on a marketing view the layout was confusing and had a walled off feeling in the different sections. This is the new version of the Company Store.

      For having one of the most advanced electronic inventory sytems in the world, what I noticed in reality is many shelves not being stocked, missing items, displays 50% empty such as sunglass racks.

  • I suspect the management of individual stores varies considerably. There are two near me: one small and understocked; the other much larger and stocked/run better.

    There is also a Costco near us which I prefer, but I only visit either place when I have no choice. We’re somewhere between suburban and rural, so choices are slim for some items.

    Our small, independent grocers closed over the last 20 years, but we have seen a big jump in farmers’ markets and we joined a CSA this past summer, so we are getting fresh, quality foodstuffs. The problem is extracting ourselves from mass-produced-goods economy which constitutes 99% of what Walmart is.
    We’re getting there, but it’s a slow process to dig out from a mindset built by 70 years of Madison Avenue and propaganda.

    There’s a story of a cowboy (Don?) wandering into Nieman-Marcus and looking around in a daze, the remarking, “I never saw so much stuff I didn’t need”.
    My goal is say the same thing when I walk into the Walmart in Albany, NY (their largest store).

    • Walmart reminds me of the true irrationality of the Great God Market: namely, that if you offer the Market a choice between “Cheap, but flimsy” and “somewhat more expensive, but reliable and well-made”, the market will choose “cheap” every time. Never mind that you show the Market that the more expensive initial outlay is the cheaper one over time, due to their having to replace the “cheap” frequently due to the “flimsy”; the market will nearly always choose “cheap” for the initial outlay, because of the short-term gain. They don’t care that it costs more, only that they see the “cheap” price tag in the early going. Walmart was founded on this notion, and takes it to the bank.

      On that note, the Walmart nearest to me increasingly reminds me of a 1980’s-era Soviet department store…lots of cheap inestimable crap I don’t need, with vast swathes of empty shelves which would have the stuff I am looking for.

  • You were better off just giving them the wheel. I’ll admit to having two stem replacement, bead resets done on my old truck tires at WalMart, but i took the wheel off at home both times and only went to that shithole because it was the weekend and no tire shop was open.

    My better half was in a pinch two years ago and took the Civic’s snow tires to WalMart for mounting. Those fucks managed to cross thread two wheel studs (one on each front). Replacing a stud on a Civic requires disassembly beyond the wheel bearing. Luckily my mechanic was able recut the threads, and i only have to make sure that anyone removing a wheel knows that one lug nut absolutely must go on a particular stud. Otherwise, it would have been $1000+ for the work to fix their incompetence. And they told her they screwed it up before she left, saying, “You’ll want to go to your mechanic because you have one too few lug nuts on each drive wheel.”

    It’s shocking how much a 14 or 15″ tire costs, and while i know that quality isn’t much of a bother on a trailer, try tire shopping for 14″ tires of the summer only, decent performance but less than full racing tires. 15’s are hard enough, which is what my e30 came with (aftermarket wheels). I’m finishing up restoration on OEM BBS 14″ wheels and i’m dreading the tire shopping.

  • I lived up a mountain in the Cascades (12 miles to the nearest town) and found it was best to shop locally; especially for tires, chainsaws, and such. The few times I had emergencies I could generally get what I needed, the owners being local.
    There’s cheap (which I call false economy) and there’s real. I chose to go with real/local and saved, along with good will in the long run…
    To the best of my recollection I set foot in a Wall-Mart once; on my only visit back to the states in ’07; didn’t buy anything though. It’s really a disgusting place, IMO.
    Not trying to aggravate; just relating an experience/opinion. Cheers.

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