Wal-Mart luxuries

Yantai has a new attraction — a Wal-Mart! It opened on June 15th. Normally I wouldn’t shop at a Wal-Mart (and by “normally” I mean back in my old life when I was too good for KFC too), but the possibility of American products and my curiousity about Chinese Wal-Mart employees was too much for me, so I went with Will on Friday.

There’s usually a strange employees-to-work ratio in Chinese stores. Most shops have a few greeters to stand at the door saying “Welcome!” loudly and “That foreigner is very fat,” quietly. They also have people standing in each aisle to… well, I’m not really sure what they’re doing. Maybe they’re watching to make sure I don’t shoplift. Maybe they’re there to help me find things. Maybe there’s a union regulation that requires a certain number of employees per square foot.

At any rate, there are always a lot of people standing around in a shop or restaurant, in uniforms but not actually working. (It’s a little like working in the UStore again!) I was in the Jiajiayue few weeks ago when a kid knocked some boxes over. A few stockboys and some sales girls stoond and looked at the mess until a janitor arrived to pick up the boxes.

Yantai’s Wal-Mart was surreal. First of all, Wal-Mart is the classy place to shop, full of rare imported goods. It’s like the Greek grocer in Key To Rebecca, only with smiley icons all over and crowds of uniformed employees.

We ran around Wal-Mart like crazed hunter-gatherers, exclaiming over things like olives and Snickers bars and throwing them into our cart.

“I don’t like potato chips, or any chips for that matter.” I told Will. “Raised by hippies, remember?”

“Do you want soda?” He asked, pointing down an aisle.

“No, I don’t like that garbage either, it’s so unhealthy — OOH! Look! M&Ms! Coffee!”

I noticed that the locals, who presumably aren’t brought into a frenzy by seeing Western brandnames, were elbowing each other out of the way to fill their carts. I was going to make a snarky comment (or ten) when Will pointed out that the consumerism, exactly what we don’t like about Wal-Mart, is like a dream in China. The array of food, clothes and other products in the supermarkets simply didn’t exist a generation ago. In my parents’ lifetime, the average Chinese person wore the same gray uniforms and ate rationed food.

When we got in line to pay, there was more staring. I knew there were places on Earth where the locals had never seen a white person, but I expected them to be beating their tribal drums or something, not buying Coke and Crest in a Wal-Mart.

Of course, this was no ordinary Wal-Mart. The cashier gave me the correct change on the first try.

This entry was posted in Yantai and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Wal-Mart luxuries

  1. Stick says:

    Dammit! I didn’t get to see China and now it’s ruined.

  2. The Humanaught says:

    Unions? Walmart? Huh? haha.

    I think it must be an American thing to have so much distain for Walmart (as I’ve received flack about visiting it from you Yanks on my blog). Not sure why this is… us up in Canada must have just been late to the game, so we sort of accepted Walmart as the new Zellars.

  3. ?? says:

    Mainland (New Zealand) Cheese and Bacon from RT Mart in the city is all I need other than that I can live of chinese food quite easily.

    Wasn’t that impressed with Walmart in terms of a oasis of western luxuries.

    Now I know I’m staying in China I’m definately buying an oven though.

  4. Ruby says:

    Why is it that there is a certain class or kind of American that just loathes WalMart? I never understood that. For some people, they are happy just to have the chance to get what they need at a good price, but others look down their noses with contempt. I guess they rather that those other people not have Coke and Crest at all. Obviously Carrefour is a much better store…

  5. Meg says:

    Since you asked why I loathe WalMart:

    WalMart is not good for it’s employees or the manufacturers of it’s goods. For example, WalMart’s policy is to hire part-timers for 38 hours per week to avoid having to pay for benefits that a 40-hour employee would require.

    WalMart’s price slashing can put suppliers out of business, especially smaller companies who aren’t able to keep lowering their prices. Other suppliers start to use sweatshops or similar to keep their prices low.

    I’m not rabid about buying only products made in the US, but I can’t be “happy just to have the chance to get what [I] need at a good price” when that “good price” come at such an expense.

  6. Kris says:

    When you told me they had put in a WalMart, I thought you were joking.

    Do they have the Jaclyn Smith collection, too? Or is it Kathie Lee? I don’t remember. Some hasbeen daytime celebrity that utilizes sweatshops in Malaysia to make tacky dresses and women’s sportswear. They’re all the same to me.

    Well, I guess the upside is you can get the comforts of home (sorta) easily than through a carepackage 🙂

  7. Magnus Jorem says:

    oh my god… yantai has an actual wal mart… after 10 months in yantai i left right before it opened! i guess the imported foods section in darenfa (you know, the huge grocery store on parkson’s basement floor) has a competitor then!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *