In another lifetime, I used to work for The Home Depot. Back then, it was important to me to know as much about big box retail as I could learn. I read the insider magazines and read a lot of the manuals and generally tuned my ear to anything having to do with any of the big box retailers.

I met a fellow once who had worked for a lumber yard who was a competitor of ours. I asked him why contractors seemed more likely to go to his stores rather than mine. He said something which made very much sense at the time and something which later I would participate in as well.

As a mobile home park owner, much of my time is spent doing odds and ends jobs around the park. It is not uncommon for the company pickup truck to be loaded with plumbing parts, tools and other valuable items.

When I go to Ace or to the nursery or the bank I don’t even roll up the windows, much less lock the doors. Around the park, I often leave the keys in the ignition in case someone needs to move it out of their way.

When I go to Wal-mart, I have to unload everything in the truck bed and hide everything in the cab because I know there is a lot of theft in that big parking lot. Everywhere else I go the parking lots are small and I am in and out too fast to lose anything.

Besides the inconvenience of cleaning up the truck, I have found that Wal-mart shoppers are conditioned to believe whatever Wal-Mart tells them to believe. When I worked for The Home Depot, we had a saying, “Don’t believe in your own bullsh*t.” I recently saw a movie where a lead character described it as, “We fell for our own propaganda.” Wal-Mart does not have the best price on everything.

Their corporate philosophy is built on the ideal that they will get their suppliers to reduce the price of their items each year or that they will lose shelf space. This means that you will not be able to find items you have purchased there for years. Suddenly they will have changed so much that they will simply disappear.

I used to buy a nice set of shooting glasses at Wal-Mart. The set sold for about $13 and had three lenses (clear, yellow and tinted) in it. The best part was that they had full wrap around protection like safety goggles, but they didn’t touch my face like goggles do.

I don’t shoot, but landscaping often involves dodging stuff that pops up in your face. I found these glasses excellent for mowing the lawn and operating the weed eater, but I forgot the Wal-Mart way and now those glasses have disappeared from their shelves.

I had a similar experience with a laundry bag recently. The cloth bag form my laundry set had finally ripped too much and I tried to get another at Wal-Mart. Well, to make a cheaper product, the maker had changed the design sufficiently enough that the current bag would not fit on my old set. I hesitated to get another solution at Wal-Mart. By the time it breaks who knows what will be available.

When I shop for a big ticket item I tend to shop around. (A lot!) I have been purchasing my next computer monitor for over a year now. I like to read reviews and search through everything available. Wal-Mart severely limits my selection and choice. They have one or two big shovels. Ace has more than a dozen. I buy all my shovels at Ace. Their quality and selection is better.

I find myself in Wal-Mart about two or three times a year and each time I go, I get less stuff. I just don’t care for all the walking, the impersonal service and cleaning out the truck. The cashiers at HEB and Ace know me. The clerks at the lawnmower repair call me by name. The people at Quiznos make eye contact.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Wal-Mart is a great solution for many people. It’s just not for me. I’ll take service, selection and quality over good price marketing any day.