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Christmas Capitalism:

I love this:

Sales tags touting deep price cuts were flying like battle flags this week in the electronics department of Wal-Mart in Manassas. Twice each week, about a dozen employees sneak into enemy territory -- Target is just two miles away -- to scope out prices. When they return, the store starts discounting, undercutting the competition by 5 percent or more, manager Beth Melson said.

Matt22191 (mail):
Me too.
12.16.2005 10:20am
visitor (mail):
The Third Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)?
12.16.2005 10:22am
rico:
Funny thing is, price isn't the issue. The Target shoppers know they are going to pay more, but they go to Target for a cleaner environment, perceived better merchandise, more professional clerks, classier co-shoppers - just a better experience overall. In my town, Walmart and Target share a parking lot, and I'd be surprised if more than 10% of the customers in Target ever set foot in Walmart; the different groups are that obvious.
12.16.2005 10:23am
The Human Fund (mail):
That's odd, rico, I've never really thought of Target as a better experience than Wal-Mart. I certainly think Target sees themselves as a better experience, but I've had just as many problems with crowds, clerks, and and co-shoppers at Target as I have at Wal-Mart. I suppose I may be in the minority, though.
12.16.2005 10:28am
Juan Notwithstanding the Volokh:
HF: Those who would never set foot in a Wal Mart will never know, will they?

I went to Wal Mart once and it was incredibly depressing. The place was a maze of dark, narrow aisles that towered 12 or 14 feet high. There was little effort to clean up when things had fallen or customers had failed to put them back. Some boxes were opened and on the floor in the middle of the aisles. Much of the merchandise I saw was of such obviously poor quality that I wouldn't have it in my home for free. I know Wal Mart provides low priced merchandise to many who are happy to get it, but the few cases where I might buy identical merchandise at both stores (CDs e.g.) are not worth the Wal Mart experience.
12.16.2005 11:04am
MaryC (mail):
Wal Mart is like the pornography of shopping -- nobody wants to admit they've seen it, yet everybody seems to know what it looks like. :)

I just think it's sad, though...there are so many people out there, especially kids, who celebrate Christmas with absolutely no reference to why Christmas actually even exists. Even if one isn't religious, they could still say something like "The reason the holiday exists is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that he was the son of God, and that he was born in order to help us be better people." Even if they just leave it at that, at least then kids will know that the name "Christmas" actually derives from something meaningful, and isn't just a made-up word.
12.16.2005 11:12am
MaryC (mail):
Right now, to a lot of people, it's all about Santa and the gifts. Don't get me wrong, I love the Santa-and-gifts aspect of it too. But...there just should be more to it than crowded shopping malls and Wal-Mart/Target espionage.
12.16.2005 11:14am
Nobody Special:
I like my local Supercenter Wal-Mart, and do a lot of my shopping, both for groceries and for other stuff, there.

The funny thing is, though, that Wal-Mart will kick you out of the store on the spot if they see you writing down prices, to prevent exactly this mild form of coporate espionage.
12.16.2005 11:15am
JohnAnnArbor:
I once ended up in Tucson without luggage at 10pm, and I was pleased that Wal-Mart was open. I got decent pants and a shirt and a few other things. But the store was more disorganized than others I'm used to (Meijer in Michigan, etc.), with stuff in the aisles, disordered shelves, general unclean feeling in parts, etc. And checking out took FOREVER. I have no idea how the person at the head of the line was trying to pay--a check drawn from a North Korean bank would not have surprised me-- but it took at least half an hour, with no one taking notice of the increasing backups that were occurring.
12.16.2005 11:16am
Joel B. (mail):
There are definately some target shoppers who won't step foot inside of a walmart, but what of it, a lot of those shoppers are the kind of people who are "sticking it to the man." They're such morally good people because they don't shop at Walmart or some such. Walmart and Target, are just about the same, my experience at one has not been "materially" different than the other, and certainly one has been better than the other at times, but "one" and "the other" have not been consistent.

People who won't shop at Wal-mart but will at Target are free to do so, but I can't help that feel (other than if your local wal-mart is just poorly operated but that can happen at your local target too) there's a little bit of class snobbery going on. Which again, people are free to be class snobs, I just don't have to think it's because of some greater moral worth.

All this reminds me of why I disliked it so when I first heard someone say they were going to "Tar-zhay."
12.16.2005 11:25am
MaryC (mail):
I've heard that pronunciation of it too. That is incredibly pretentious, isn't it?
12.16.2005 11:29am
DK:
I always thought Tar-zhay was a joke, not a pretension.
12.16.2005 11:33am
kipp (mail):
"Tar-zhe" is a joke and a pretension. Target has pursued added "glamour" as a corporate strategy for years now. Once you face the facts that noone is better as discount prices and cost-cutting than WalMart, you gotta find some other way to get people into your store. Target ain't a bad alternative, I suppose - but I have rarely found one in any less disarray, nor with any better selection, than all the Walmarts I've ever been in. It's a store to store difference - Walmart is just consistently cheaper on merchandise of the identical quality.
12.16.2005 11:39am
anonymous coward:
there's a little bit of class snobbery going on...All this reminds me of why I disliked it so when I first heard someone say they were going to "Tar-zhay."


FYI, that's irony rather than class snobbery. I am shopping at a mass chain store (now, amusingly, with some nods to designer culture); ergo I will give it a phony French pronunciation. I realize this distinction can be difficult for some in flyover country to grasp.

I shop at neither at present (there's no Wal-Mart close, come to think of it), but have noticed a huge variation in the tolerability of both when I did. With the best Targets the most tolerable.
12.16.2005 11:40am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Exactly a joke, a self-deprecating joke at that. The speaker is acknowledging that s/he is shopping down market, but pronounces the name of the store up market.
12.16.2005 11:42am
The Human Fund (mail):
I agree that those who never set foot in Wal-mart will never know. I just find it hard to believe, given my experiences at both, that there are a sizeable amount of people who don't shop at Wal-mart but do shop at Target because of the ambience, or whatever, of Target.

Also, I would note that merchandise at Target and Wal-mart in many cases is essentially identical, and hardly limited to CDs (which Wal-mart censors in some cases, so they may not be identical). The food and toiletry items at both stores are fairly uniform, and I imagine that the sporting goods, hardware, and electronics are as well. Further, while Wal-mart's stores may not be as neatly stocked, Wal-mart's return policy is much more generous than Target's is. That alone would make me more willing to buy a gift at Wal-mart (knowing that the person can easily take it back if desired, even if I forget to include a gift receipt).

I just find it hard to believe that there is a sizeable population that finds Target acceptable but Wal-mart unacceptable, given that the two are fairly similar.

Last, I, too, believe that the Tar-zhay pronunciation is a joke.
12.16.2005 11:44am
MaryC (mail):
Anonymous coward:

Irony is rarely done well. Most who try, descend into pretension, or shrill sarcasm.

And your comment about flyover country was pretty rude, by the way.
12.16.2005 11:45am
anonymous coward:
Interestingly:
The now-famous "Tar-zhay" pun, emphasizing Target's exalted place in the discount world, dates back to the store's founding in 1962.

From http://www.slate.com/id/2124604/

There is nothing silly about paying 5% extra to shop in an environment one finds more pleasant.
12.16.2005 11:46am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Go K-Mart!
12.16.2005 11:49am
anonymous coward:
Flyover types sometimes have issues with irony. So do Southern Californians. I've spent most of life in flyover country. Rude? Whatever. Deal.
12.16.2005 11:50am
Zywicki (mail):

Wal Mart is like the pornography of shopping -- nobody wants to admit they've seen it, yet everybody seems to know what it looks like. :)

What a great line!
12.16.2005 11:50am
Guest2 (mail):

Target has pursued added "glamour" as a corporate strategy for years now.


Target's commercials are certainly more stylish than Walmart's.
12.16.2005 11:53am
Nobody Special:

Target's commercials are certainly more stylish than Walmart's.


I miss the dog they painted the bullseye onto.
12.16.2005 12:01pm
John Jenkins (mail):
One thing I've noticed about Wal-Marts (having been in retail before my current incarnation as a law student/clerk) is that they are typically located in less desirable retail locations where access is not great, while Targets are located in more desirable places. My sample size isn't exactly gigantic here, not having seen every Target or Wal Mart, but part of the reason people are willing to pay more to go to Target is ease of access. I know in Norman, Oklahoma where I currently reside, the Target is at the intersection of two major streets (easily accessed), while the nearby Wal Mart is located on a highway access road that is much, much more difficult to access easily (and has some beastly traffic snarls). A similar situation existed in other places I've visited or lived.

It would be interesting to know whether this is part of Wal Mart's strategy. They know people will flock to their store, so making it slightly inaccessible isn't that big a deal. I know that at least one company I worked for specifically chose not to enter larger markets because of the rental costs. Wal Mart at one time had a similar strategy, though it has obviously outgrown it now.

I must admit, I don't shop at Wal Mart as much as I did in undergrad, but only because I have more income and the convenience and selection of other stores (i.e. grocery stores) is more valuable to me than the rock-bottom pricing is. Getting in and out is more important than saving a few bucks for me, and I typically can get in and out of Target or a grocery store much more quickly than Wal Mart.
12.16.2005 12:03pm
Joel B. (mail):
There is nothing silly about paying 5% extra to shop in an environment one finds more pleasant.

And I wholly agree. I think paying more than 5% more for materially better service is probably worth it. I mean hey, I could shop at a cheaper Supermarket, but I tend to shop at Safeway, because the clerks are cheerier (I know they have to be), the stores tend to be cleaner and better stocked etc. I think that it is a reasonable economic choice to pay more for better service. We all do.

My point is directed more at people who would shop at target but feel that wal-mart is beneath them. No doubt to many people the "Tar-zhay" line is definately a joke, I certainly took it as a joke, but I felt it was a pretty dumb one.

Kipp pretty much summed up my perspective on it. "Tar-zhay" is both joke and pretension, people don't say they're going to 'Wal-meert" as a joke because a. it's not funny, and b. it's not funny. "Tar-zhay" suffers as a joke because a. it's not funny, and b. it's not funny, and c. it's just dumb. Telling dumb jokes here seems like a little pretentiousness or just a lousy sense of humor. And a lousy sense of humor is just more depressing to accept.
12.16.2005 12:08pm
Justin Kee (mail):
"It would be interesting to know whether this is part of Wal Mart's strategy."

Yes, it certainly is. As real-estate is typically greater than 60% of Wal-Mart's cost when building a new store, they save as much as possible even if this results is a less than ideal location for the store. Wal-Mart can get away with this counter-intuitive reasoning in retail because they are such a powerful draw that consumers will change their traffic patterns.
12.16.2005 12:09pm
Joel B. (mail):
I forgot to add in talking about paying more for service, that the problem I have with saying people are just paying more for service by going to target isn't consistent. Target and Walmart once you get away from the branding are pretty much the same store, in the aggregate. Some Target's will be better located than Wal-marts and vice-versa, and have better management etc. So definately there will be individual variations, but I don't assume these individual variations represent corporate variations.
12.16.2005 12:12pm
anonymous coward:
There are definitely some people who decline to shop at Wal-Mart because doing so makes them feel poor. This is usually not snobbery, exactly; class anxiety, really, at least among those I've known who have refused to shop at Wal-Mart.

Of course this is an issue of marketing--both the in-store experience and the advertising. For example, there is no reason that Wal-Mart's ads have to be as bad as they are. It may be that slightly slicker ads and a nicer interior would turn off some especially thrifty customers attracted to Wal-Mart's low low prices image, rather than the few percent discount in reality.
12.16.2005 12:19pm
therut (mail):
It depends on where the Wal-Mart store is. Small rural towns like where I live. Very clean, organized, nice people, helpful, large isles etc. The semi-urban and urban stors are a reflection of where they are. Sorry. I've been to stores in swanky Manhattan and to me they were small, dark, small spaced, rude people working there,bad smell( I call it urban perspiration) and never mind the people who shopped there. The stores reflect the culture of the area. Simple.
12.16.2005 12:23pm
rico:
therut, I'd agree. It seems, though, that Target has found a way to insulate itself from the culture of the area better than Walmart. I remember good experiences with Walmarts in Texas and Memphis, but here in St. Louis they are universally miserable - dirty, cluttered, rude employees and customers. Maybe there is some relationship to the amount of alternatives, too: the first two places mentioned really didn't have any decent alternatives to Walmart at the time, so everyone had to go there.
12.16.2005 12:31pm
CJ:
I'm always surprised if I manage to get someone at Wal-Mart who actually knows their stuff as well as I do beyond finding it on the shelves. You get what you pay for.
12.16.2005 12:32pm
Joel B. (mail):
There are definitely some people who decline to shop at Wal-Mart because doing so makes them feel poor. This is usually not snobbery, exactly; class anxiety, really, at least among those I've known who have refused to shop at Wal-Mart.

You know, it's all too rare that I read something in a comment section that I take away as a really good point to remember. I think that's a good one, and one I hadn't considered so much. People don't like being thought of as poor, and people really don't like thinking of themselves as poor. It's no coincidence that Americans consistently overrate their relative position in society (poorer people tend to think they're average, average thinks they're above average, the above average upper class.)

To the extent that Wal-mart has branded themselves as cheap, some people are going to turn away just because they don't like thinking of themselves as cheap. Now that's not everybody either, but still that's a good point AC.
12.16.2005 12:36pm
magoo (mail):
Chez RoNALD'S...same thing
12.16.2005 1:06pm
markm (mail):
Then do the really rich shop at Walmart because they're secure about their wealth? (My experience is that people who've achieved wealth by their own efforts have more than average appreciation for a bargain. Not that this always means the lowest price - something that costs twice as much and lasts 10 times as long is a better bargain than you'll ever find at Walmart.)

Of course, in the small town where I live, you shop at Walmart or you don't shop much locally. ("Locally" meaning within 30 miles.) No Target around here, the K-Mart is pitiful, and most of the small shops are just tourist traps.

As Therut said, this small-town Walmart is clean and well-organized. However, the location is terrible - there was only one spot in 30 miles with congested traffic, and that's where the new Walmart was built. Then there's the parking lot, cleverly designed to funnel all traffic in and out right across the front of the building where people are trying to walk across...
12.16.2005 1:35pm
Juan Notwithstanding the Volokh:
I have to take issue with whether Target and Wal Mart are the same store in the aggregate. It may be true that there is little difference in some merchandise like electronics and toiletries, but there is a large difference in the largest parts of the stores: furniture, housewares, and clothing. I looked at a file cabinet in Wal Mart and was astonished at how inexpensive it was. I looked more closely and could see why: it was primarily low quality pressboard with thin aluminum parts, and the (bolted down) in-store sample was already broken. I might have been willing to overlook the unattractive oak laminate finish of the item for the price, but not the lack of quality.

I was truly amazed at this discovery, because I had thought that the primary differences between Wal Mart and other stores, per the comments above, was price. So I looked more closely at some other display items and noted the same thing: cheap materials; cheap construction; cheap prices. I was not specifically comparing to Target, but I did notice the difference in quality when I saw similar items later at Target.

I believe the other item I looked at closely at Wal Mart was sheets. I did not wind up buying any because they simply did not have the quality that I wanted (high thread count, no ugly patterns).

I suspect that the price cutting activity in the article is on the identical cleaning products, CDs, electronics, and the like that are in both stores. But it is the products that do not overlap that matter for me.
12.16.2005 1:35pm
Brock (mail):
"Tar-zhay" is both joke and pretension, people don't say they're going to 'Wal-meert" as a joke because a. it's not funny, and b. it's not funny. "Tar-zhay" suffers as a joke because a. it's not funny, and b. it's not funny, and c. it's just dumb.

FWIW, my wife and I jokingly refer to the Wal-mart Supercenter we shop at as "Walhalla." I don't remember which one of us started calling it that. I leave it to Joel B. to assess the funniness quotient.

I shop at Target more often because it's more convenient, but I also find that (a) Target is cleaner, (b) there's more aisle room in Target, and (c) Target has nicer housewares.
12.16.2005 1:43pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Chez RoNALD'S...same thing

You mean The Golden Arches Bistro?

Yesterday I saw a sign -- I am quite serious -- for "gourmet water" and "gourmet ice."
12.16.2005 1:52pm
anonymous coward:
This is off-topic, but I definitely think people of similar incomes have radically attitudes towards paying more for their own time, comfort, and convenience--and that this is correlated to industry. Small business owners, for example, seem to be less willing to pay up than biglaw or finance types.

(I have nothing against either attitude, incidentally. If you're willing to pay what the market demands for congenial surroundings and fewer hassles, then that's terrific. And some people genuinely enjoy getting a bargain, even when they'd be better off financially spending that bargain-hunting time to work.)
12.16.2005 2:06pm
Rebecca Oris Davidson (mail) (www):
For me, Target is simply a much more comfortable place to shop. WalMart makes me seriously claustrophobic. The aisles are narrow and absurdly tall, so I spend much of the time I'm in there afraid something is going to fall on my head. The few articles of clothing I ever bought at Walmart fell apart much faster than anything I've bought at Target. Plus, for me, there's a little bit of hometown loyalty: I grew up maybe five miles from the first Target store, which is in Roseville, Minnesota, so Target is just where one goes for sheets and toilet paper.
12.16.2005 2:06pm
The Human Fund (mail):
I largely agree about the differences in Wal-mart and Target product quality (though I'm hesitant to say that anything at either store is of great quality). However, I don't think that most people are buying bedding or housewares for Christmas, or at least I don't think that either store gets a huge percentage of their holiday profits in those departments. Because of that, I think that the pricing plan in the article is probably more effective. The products one might buy as a Christmas present at Wal-mart are largely the same as one might buy at Target, so people are more likely to compare prices.
12.16.2005 2:08pm
JohnAnnArbor:
"Le Mart du K"
12.16.2005 2:11pm
ken (mail) (www):
Around here most Targets have a Wal Mart near (usually across the street). It doesn't seem to effect Target's business much.

As best I can tell Walmart always has more stuff. The difference is that the items which the Target has are the "higher quality" Walmart items; it doesn't have the really cheap stuff you see everywhere at Walmart. As well, when I want to buy a prefab, walnut stained, kit table at Target it's usually in stock. Walmart probably has an equivilent on display at a cheaper price but it's touch and go as to whether it will be in stock. BTW, I've seen lots of pressed wood at our local Target; it's heavier and more solid but it's still pressed board.

Anyway, the local Walmart is a couple minutes closer than the Target and it's on this side of a mall, so I can avoid traffic. Thus, every so often, I shop at Walmart. It's funny when I stop by after leaving the office and walk in there with a suit on. I get the strangest looks from both the customers and the employees. I am clearly an alien who has no business stopping in Walmart to buy a screwdriver or cereal.
12.16.2005 2:12pm
ken (mail) (www):
Around here most Targets have a Wal Mart near (usually across the street). It doesn't seem to effect Target's business much.

As best I can tell Walmart always has more stuff. The difference is that the items which the Target has are the "higher quality" Walmart items; it doesn't have the really cheap stuff you see everywhere at Walmart. As well, when I want to buy a prefab, walnut stained, kit table at Target it's usually in stock. Walmart probably has an equivilent on display at a cheaper price but it's touch and go as to whether it will be in stock. BTW, I've seen lots of pressed wood at our local Target; it's heavier and more solid but it's still pressed board.

Anyway, the local Walmart is a couple minutes closer than the Target and it's on this side of a mall, so I can avoid traffic. Thus, every so often, I shop at Walmart. It's funny when I stop by after leaving the office and walk in there with a suit on. I get the strangest looks from both the customers and the employees. I am clearly an alien who has no business stopping in Walmart to buy a screwdriver or cereal.
12.16.2005 2:12pm
ken (mail) (www):
Sorry about the dual post. I swear I only clicked publish once.
12.16.2005 2:15pm
countertop (mail):
I love shopping at Wal Mart, look forward to it everytime. You never know what your going to find on sale there. Here in DC I tend to use either the Dulles Town Center Wal Mart of the one in Fair Lakes - both of which are failry easy to access (though admitticly placed in a lower cost section of a larger shopping area). Whenever I go to Tar-zhay I am nauseus at the color schemes and pretension, driven mad by the idiot yuppie drivers, and furious by the lack of service.

Frankly, while Target may have 25 check out lines, they never have more than 1 or 2 open. Wal Mart ALWAYS has its checkout lines staffed. The staff is nicer at Wal Mart too (when they can speak english - like they do in Georgia, generally both the clerks at Tar-zhay and Wal Mart here in DC aren't native born Americans).

Plus, Wal Mart sells guns and ammos and other fun things. Tar-zhay is owned by that super lib - Mark Dayton, Senator of Minnesotta.
12.16.2005 2:16pm
countertop (mail):
as far as Tar-zhay being a pretentious name, don't forget about Jacques Penni
12.16.2005 2:17pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
John Jenkins
I know in Norman, Oklahoma where I currently reside, the Target is at the intersection of two major streets (easily accessed), while the nearby Wal Mart is located on a highway access road that is much, much more difficult to access easily (and has some beastly traffic snarls). A similar situation existed in other places I've visited or lived.


For those of us who use the bus system, that particular Wal-Mart is twenty minutes walk from the nearest bus stop. The one on the east side of Norman, on the other hand, is near the intersection of two major streets and fairly near a bus stop.
12.16.2005 2:49pm
Target shooter (mail):
My local Wal-Mart has guns, but the Target doesn't. But then they put up all those target logos, just to be frustrating!
12.16.2005 3:06pm
B. B.:
Countertop: You must live in some bizarro town, everywhere I've lived it's the Walmart with far too few lines open, and Target with open checkout lines.

I don't shop at Walmart these days, there's a Target a short distance from the El line closest to my apartment. To be honest, I don't even know if there's a Walmart in Chicago, they might all be in the 'burbs.

I don't see a huge deal with this 'espionage', given they can walk right in to a more or less public place to get the information. Price wars are nice for the consumers (though not for the stockholders, see, e.g., the airlines)
12.16.2005 3:19pm
Donald (www):
Don't underestimate the importance of corporate pedigree in assessing the differences between Wal-Mart and Target. Wal-mart began as a "five and dime" store. Target, as "Countertop" almost notes, is part of the corporation formerly known as Dayton-Hudson (which also owned Marshall Fields through much of the 1990s).

As "Mr. Sam" Walton expanded his chain, he always looked for the cheapest land on which to build. Target's planners were much quicker to recognize the value of location, particular when that location was an anchor position in a mall. The Dayton-Hudson image was always reflected in Target's merchandise selection, while Walmart's roots as a 5-and-10 were always evident in its own merchandising and pricing structures.

Finally...those of you who have described Walmarts as being stores with narrow aisles surrounded by too-tall sidecounters: you're likely shopping in older Walmarts. Walmart's built in the last 5 - 10 years do a much better job of making sure aisles are wide and lighting is adequate.
12.16.2005 3:30pm
mike (mail):
Yeah it's awesome how Wal Mart uses its monopoly to operate at a loss in certain areas until all other businesses go out of business and then jack their prices back up. Real free market competition there.
12.16.2005 3:30pm
Jesse (mail) (www):
I've heard Target referred to as "Tar-ghetto" almost as often as "Tar-zhay."
12.16.2005 3:52pm
countertop (mail):
Target, as "Countertop" almost notes, is part of the corporation formerly known as Dayton-Hudson (which also owned Marshall Fields through much of the 1990s).

Does Dayton-Hudson not own it anymore?


those of you who have described Walmarts as being stores with narrow aisles surrounded by too-tall sidecounters: you're likely shopping in older Walmarts. Walmart's built in the last 5 - 10 years do a much better job of making sure aisles are wide and lighting is adequate.


Yes, two closest Wal Marts to my house in Georgia are both Super Wal Marts. Very well organized, with friendly staff and large wide shopping lanes. They are clean and bright and put the old and dirty and dark K-Mart out of business (though there is talk of a new Super K owned by Sears coming into town to compete).

Countertop: You must live in some bizarro town, everywhere I've lived it's the Walmart with far too few lines open, and Target with open checkout lines.


I live in McLean, Virginia right outside of DC. We don't have either a Target or a Wal Mart in McLean, but both are within a 15 minute drive. As for the open checkout lines, Target's continued failure to staff their checkout lanes was the inspiration for Lileks Samuel's Idea (and Glenn Reynolds has also complained about it too) so I know I am not the only one who has noticed.
12.16.2005 3:54pm
Jaime non-Lawyer:
Mike,

haven't you read all the comments comparing Walmart and Target. Wouldn't that make it at best a duopoly? What share of the retail sector does Walmart have? Probably in the single digits. Some monopoly.

I'm with those who see little difference between Walmart and Target, and I've never had a problem with the quality of goods.
12.16.2005 3:55pm
Aultimer:

countertop: Whenever I go to [NoVa] Tar-zhay I am [...] driven mad by the idiot yuppie drivers

Perhaps the other annoyances just sensitize you back to normal human standards - one can not escape idiot drivers whether yuppie or otherwise anywhere past one's driveway in the DC metroplex.
12.16.2005 4:04pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
B. B., Countertop:

I have never been in a Wal-Mart, but have shopped @ various Target stores frequently and never had long delays checking out. You wanna see genuinely lousy checkout service, try Ross. (Speaking from experience of the ones in Berkeley and in SF's Mission District; the one in Seaside [near Monterey] is better, and maybe the two I mention are just particularly bad.)

"Do you love it"? Nope, but I'll deal with it for the cheap clothes anyway. And unfortunately they know that, and count on chumps like me to keep them in the black. Since I hate shopping even when the servicepeople are friendly and the ambience is calculatedly delightful (well, especially then, as it happens), I don't mind Ross's surly clerks and messy aisles; the only real peeve is the time it takes to get out of there. Be rude, be messy, just let me pay for this stuff and leave. 'Kay?
12.16.2005 4:25pm
Jody (mail) (www):
On the use of Tar-zhay:

My dad and I referred to Target that way, but we also referred to the Waffle House as "Le Maison du Guafres" (as well as referring to McDonald's as "that Scottish themed restaurant").
12.16.2005 4:28pm
Juan Notwithstanding the Volokh:
I don't know where there is a Wal Mart within 15 minutes of McLean, but the dirty, extremely tall and narrow-aisled Wal Mart that is described in my previous posts is in Fair Lakes, in Fairfax County Virginia. I'm pretty sure it was built within the last 10 years.
12.16.2005 5:11pm
Coppinger (mail):
We have plenty of Targets and Walmarts in New England; we shop quite a bit a Target. Not so much because we are taking a moral stand (over what, anyway?) but because the slightly-cheaper diapers at Walmart don't compensate for the claustrophobia induced by the towering shelves and narrow, cluttered aisles.
12.16.2005 5:12pm
Mark H.:
I find the local Target much cleaner and neater than the WalMart, but I don't mind going to WalMart because of it. Yes, I've noticed too that Target never seems to have more than 2-3 registers open, neither does the WalMart, but the Walmart has the self-service checkout lanes that are perfectly acceptable unless you have a lot of items.

If there's a new release DVD that I plan to buy, I go to Target as they're always on sale the first week and they have an electronics register right next to them, so rarely a line -- for older DVDs I find WalMart better for their $5.50 and $7.50 piles.
12.16.2005 5:48pm
Mad Anthony (mail) (www):
One fun thing about Target is that they have excellent clearances - items are marked down nationwide on a regular schedule. Sites like Fatwallet have whole threads devoted to Target clearance items.

I've been able to make some decent money buying stuff on clearance at target and putting it on ebay - ie a couple playstations with LCD screens that were 75% off @ $38 that I ebayed for over $100.

I do find that Target has some pretty good, decent quality stuff, like their Michael Graves lines and Mossimo clothing. Target is more convinient for me, so I tend to shop their - but the clearance sections can make it worth the trip.
12.16.2005 8:58pm
SKlein:
Are the people who claim to find no difference between Target and WalMart serious, or just engaged in reverse snobbery? I think WalMart is unjustly maligned for its success, but it is a lousy shopping experience and completely unlike the Target experience. You may find that the cost savings worth the lousy expereince, but I frankly can't comprehend anyone who doesn't find it a lousy experience. Maybe they have better ones elsewhere.
12.16.2005 9:50pm
Cynicus Prime (mail) (www):
Around here (Houston), the major difference I have found between Wally World and Tarzhay is not in brand, but in age and location. The newer, more accessible Targets are nicer than the older, more urban Targets, while the newer, more accessible WalMarts (all Supercenters) are nicer than the older ones. There is a slight difference between the newer Targets and newer WalMarts, but that is almost exclusively due to the customer base. Those in nicer areas are nicer, whether it's a T or a WM.
That said, I generally prefer to shop in Target unless I'm going in for one or two things that are definitely going to be cheaper at WalMart. And it's also a bit closer...and open 24 hours.

And on the price stealing technique, it's standard operating procedure on sites like Half.com and Amazon Marketplace. I bought several hundred dollars worth of CDs, DVDs, and video games that were steeply discounted the day after Thanksgiving to sell on Half. But as soon as we listed our items, other sellers had dropped theirs to a few cents below ours, and continued to do so for a week or so. We made sure to keep above our bottom line, but we definitely made much less than we would have without the immediate price comparison.
I think that the more that online shopping and store inventory listing becomes prevalent, stores are going to have to do a much better job at monitoring other outlets' prices in these areas.
12.16.2005 10:49pm
therut (mail):
The comment above about how the evil capitalist Wal-Mart cause small businesses to close is just dumb. This has happened for 100's of years. It is not just Wal-Mart. Let's see when I was a child way back in the 1960's in my little town of 150 my Granny had a General Store (think early Wal-Mart). She had a full range of hardware, clothes, groceries, kerosene,gasoline,resturant. Years before there was a blacksmith and grist mill to the mix. There was another new grocery store that sold gas also. Two other filling stations and a resturant. Now this little town was 10 miles from the Big Town of 1,200 people. It was not Wal-Marts fault all these places are gone it was the increase in income and more automobile ownership and better roads. Don't forget school consolidation really closed down small towns and that was the government. Now, I have a relative that has an Ace hardware store about 14 miles from a Wal-mart and he does real well. How?----- he sales on credit a large number of tires and appliances. Something Wal-Mart does not do. Capiltalism is wonderful.
12.16.2005 10:50pm
countertop (mail):
I don't know where there is a Wal Mart within 15 minutes of McLean, but the dirty, extremely tall and narrow-aisled Wal Mart that is described in my previous posts is in Fair Lakes, in Fairfax County Virginia. I'm pretty sure it was built within the last 10 years.


Yep. Thats one of them. It takes 5 minutes from my driveway to the entrance ramp for 66 at Idylwood and Rt. 7. Its only about a 10 minute drive from there (without traffic, of course). I agree, its fairly dirty with tall and narrow aisles (and the staff doesn't speak english) but they are 1 exit past the NRA range and sell 100 round packs of .45 ACP Winchester White Box ammo for $19.00. I go there often - or at least as often as I get over to the NRA range.

BTW, the other Wal Mart is down Rt. 7 at Dulles Town Center. I hop on the toll road and am there in no time, or I can take Lewinsville Rd from Tysons down to Rt. 7 by McLean Bible Church and it takes about 15 minutes (again without traffic).
12.16.2005 11:32pm
Humble Law Student:
Every Target that I have bever been in has been much nicer that its equivalent Walmart. However, I just can't stay away from that Walmart smiley face... It draws me in every time...
12.16.2005 11:52pm
Donald (www):

Does Dayton-Hudson not own it anymore?



A few years ago, Dayton-Hudson Corporation changed its name to Target Corporation, because Target accounted for such a huge fraction of the corporation's total revenue.

And for those who were discussing Wal-Mart's market share: I'm quite sure that the chain cannot be fairly described as a "monopoly." Last time I checked (which was a few years ago), its total sales were greater than its next three highest-ranking competitors--combined.

Its power to influence manufacturers and others cannot be overstated. Walmart has the national number 1 brand of dog food. It's the largest retailer of toys. It's paint brand is number 1 nationally. And as was well-publicized several years ago, record CD producers routinely create two versions of an album: one for the real world, and a sanitized one for Wal-Mart.

Want to know how to tell if you're walking into a REALLY old Walmart? The sign out front has a hyphen (Wal-Mart) instead of an asterisk (Wal*Mart). The asterisk was put in as a memorial to Sam Walton after his death (1993 or so?). And a really, really old store that hasn't been remodeled will have an orange and brown interior, instead of the now-familiar blue and red.
12.17.2005 12:20am
A different anonymous coward:
markm said:

Then do the really rich shop at Walmart because they're secure about their wealth? (My experience is that people who've achieved wealth by their own efforts have more than average appreciation for a bargain. Not that this always means the lowest price - something that costs twice as much and lasts 10 times as long is a better bargain than you'll ever find at Walmart.)


I'd say that "Mr. Sam" has a brand for the self-made rich that appreciate a bargain and that's Sam's Club (nee Sam's Wholesale Club). If you are serious about cost savings, you buy in bulk. If I were self-made rich and had the huge house (and therefore storage) to go with it there's a pretty good chance that I would buy staples/nonperishables in bulk at a place like Sam's or Big Lots.

As an aside, it's rare to meet an American that's "secure about their wealth." For example, to be secure in one's wealth, wouldn't one be out of debt? Locating the percentage of Americans in debt is an exercise for the reader.
12.17.2005 12:24am
Smithy (mail):
I find the local Target much cleaner and neater than the WalMart, but I don't mind going to WalMart because of it.

I've got to agree. I know that Target is supposed to be the "liberal" store and Walmart the "conservative" one, but the fact is Walmarts are dirty and depressing whereas Target are bright, well lit, and most importantly, actually have lots of nice housewares. I also get the impression that the people at Walmart are treated very poorly. This is one thing that I think the liberal press gets right.
12.17.2005 1:23am
davod (mail):
Color me cynical but, I wonder how many of you honest posters are part of the union campaign to discredit Walmart. Then again you may be Zogby employees just getting ready to do another union paid for poll.

I used to shop at Target. Now that I have found out that they do not allow the Salvation Army Santa kettles I will take my business elsewhere. This will inconvenience me. Remember also that Target does not seem to have as many problems getting its stores built than Walmart. Is this anything to do with the fact that the owners are liberals.
12.17.2005 5:02am
Ketzl Brame (mail) (www):
My experience in Georgia with Walmarts and Targets has been the same; Walmart is an unpleasant shopping experience with dark, claustrophobic aisles and untidy, shoddy merchandise, whereas Target is brightly lit, clean and nearly universally of higher quality.

Consider the case of the cheap bookcase. At Walmart one can obtain a cheap Sauder pressboard 5-shelf bookcase for $30. Target's lowest bookshelf price is more like $50, but the shelves are slightly thicker and the pressboard more dense. My Walmart-bought bookshelves have sagged over the years but my Target-bought shelves bear up under the weight of books, like one might hope.

The ubiquitous Dollar Stores around here carry the same merchandise as Walmart, but it's often false economy to buy too cheap.

One final note: my SuperWalmart's Garden Center often has really nice stock. Of course the high school kids who run the place have little idea what most of it is or how to take care of it, but if I can get there soon after they've unloaded the truck I've gotten great deals on good quality plants. I don't have any moral objection to shopping at Walmart and if they'd clean up their store, lose the crappiest of their stock and improve the skill and attitude of their employees it might be a fine place to shop. Sam's Club is.
12.17.2005 10:34am
Smithy (mail):
Ketzl, my experiences with Walmart were also in Georgia and I agree that Dollar General down there seemed to carry more or less the same stuff. I didn't get that depressing feeling about Dollar General, so I'd go there when I wanted something really cheap.
12.17.2005 12:35pm
Aaron:
My problem is as follows: I can't shop at Wal*Mart because of the union thing. Now I can't shop at Target because it's pharmacists are fascists. K-Mart suks. Where can I go??!!
12.20.2005 5:42pm