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Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game

Have you ever believed something, believed it in that moral highground, privilege-showing kind of way? I have; that was me and Walmart.

Walmart, at least among white, educated, high earning professionals is a favorite company to hate. They treat their employees poorly, don't you know? They run small businesses out of town, don't you know? They pollute the earth, don't you know?

This is what I believed for most of my adult, high income earning life. My parents repeatedly told me that their prices really were cheaper and that Walmart provided an affordable shopping option for those on fixed or low incomes, including the very employees we felt we were defending and the elderly. I was unmoved. Didn't they realize that Walmart was part of the degradation of the social fabric of our country and a scourge to be eliminated?

And then we quit our jobs and proceeded to drive across the country in a van. There's nothing like perspective to knock someone off of their moral sandhill.

Here's what we now know:
  • Prices ARE cheaper at Walmart. This is important for those on fixed incomes; i.e. Us. Mom and Dad, please take this as a formal apology for my hard headedness and insensitivity.
  • Walmart is the one of the only places to safely and legally park our van for the night.
For those of you not traveling cross-country in a vehicle that you sleep in, that second point is a BIG deal. Staying in a hotel every night would cost us between $1500-$3000/month; staying in a KOA every night would cost us around $900/month; staying in campgrounds every night would cost us between $450-$900/month. It doesn't take a genius to realize that staying in Walmart parking lots saves us tons of money.

And you know what else? It isn't that Walmart just tolerates people in their parking lot; they actually welcome travelers. From their website:

"While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able."

And I believe they welcome us because they are smart. This is a value added service to offer their customers which is exactly what we have become because of their policy. We generally always need some sort of supply, even if it is just ice, and many of these purchases are made at Walmart the morning after our stay.

Walmart is not without it's very legitimate faults. But they are also not the devil. They are a company who is thriving in an environment where the norm is externalized cost and where rises in the cost of living have outpaced rises in minimum wage. They are responding to a system that puts profits above people and efficiency above social responsibility.

So we're coming out of the closet. The "We Don't Hate Walmart Anymore" closet. In the wise words of our generation: don't hate the player, hate the game.

Photo courtesy of Brave New Films


  1. I'm really glad they let you stay overnight in their parking lots.

    But they pay the low wages that force people to buy at their store.

    So even though I am an elderly person on a fixed income, I buy at local stores even when it's more expensive if I possibly can.

    Love you, hope your van stays alive and well.


  2. Hi, Lila! Thank you for your comment!

    I was certainly not endorsing Walmart breaking the law (which they do sometimes do) or saying that people shouldn't continue to shop their conscience. I was just hoping to convey that it is a much more complicated situation than "Walmart is the Devil" and that it is the system (capitalism in general? US capitalism? Some other complicated economic and social structure that I don't know the name of?) that is the problem.

    I used to HATE Walmart. Irrationally hate them and I think that sort of emotion should be reserved for the cause not the symptom.

    The van is in the shop and we are hoping that the repairs they make will fix it for good!


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