Five reasons to bag buying groceries at Walmart

What hell lies within?
What hell lies within?

In case you haven't heard the collective war cries rising up from the citizens of Boulder, Colorado, they are about to get their first Walmart -- one of the new "neighborhood market" concepts.

Walmart pisses off liberals everywhere, and it's not the big-box chain with the best ethics record -- but people shop there because the products are cheap, and many of the stores are convenient one-stop spots where you can buy food, clothing, shelter and get your tires rotated. I've shopped at Wally's, motivated by poverty-stricken desperation, and I don't mind buying sundries there -- but purchasing edibles at Walmart is a filthy, humiliating, borderline terrifying experience that I hope never to repeat.

Here are five reasons to bag buying groceries at Walmart. At least Whole Foods gives you a kiss and a reach-around before screwing your wallet.

See also: -Walmart coming to Boulder -- and sh*t heading for fan -Reader: Boulder Walmart critics outnumbered by people who'd like to shop there -Photos: Colorado People of Walmart, 2013 edition

I can see the similarities.
I can see the similarities.

5. The Soviet Russian produce. I swear that buying fruits and vegetables at Walmart reminds me of those old film reels showing people trying to buy food in Soviet Russia. Walmart's dirty, half-empty produce bins are not a comforting sight, and the sight of shrunken oranges, limp celery, bags of salad mix with slimy brown leaves smearing up the inside of the bags, and gaping shelf-holes where the bok choy should be is even less appealing.

The sparse, ratty selection is only trumped by the often-steep prices of "exotics" -- which to Walmart apparently means collard greens and yellow apples. And for the love of russet potatoes, don't ever, ever ask any employees in the produce section if they have anything that isn't out on display, because you will waste twenty minutes of your life waiting for them to turn off their iPods, shift their eyes around to look at anything but you, and tell you four different times in four different ways that what you see is what you get.

Isn't this special?
Isn't this special?

4. Not the greatest product selection. I was once searching the aisles in the grocery section of a Walmart, and I couldn't locate vegetable broth in any form of cubes, paste or powder. After asking two employees who both told me I "wasn't their area," I lucked out and stumbled upon an employee who actually had a working knowledge of the dry goods section, and when I asked about the elusive product, she said something like, "You gotta go somewhere else for that specialty stuff -- we just have normal stuff here."

Okay, so I then had to add vegetable bouillon to my mental Rolodex of specialty products, and thank her without appearing to be snotty. Sure, vegetable extract *could be* considered fancy sh*t, but it really isn't -- and it's not any more or less sophisticated than chicken or beef. I don't expect Walmart to carry some of the things I use -- like Indian hing powder, dried organic kiwi fruit slices or squid ink pasta -- but I think that American palates reflect at least a perfunctory taste for seasonings other than ketchup and Italian dressing in a bottle.

This beef is the unfashionable sort of camo.
This beef is the unfashionable sort of camo.

3. The meat and seafood are being held on life support. When I cruise past the seafood "department" at Walmart, I feel guilt and shame when I see the two or three fishes lying in cryostasis with their dry, scaly skins and cartoonish black eye sockets. I hope they had good lives, because their ignominious, funereal appearances are bringing no joy to human customers. And strolling through the meat section is just as depressing, since the rows of frozen chicken parts have price tags on them that seem unnaturally low, and the bins of bleedy beef roasts reflect prices that seem unusually high.

And every time I've broken my own rules about buying ground beef at Wally's, I get a visual reminder of why I made this rule in the first place -- because it might be pink on the outside, but it sure ain't on the inside. The meat and seafood at Walmart might be legally dead on arrival, but the stuff looks like zombie-fied carcasses being kept marginally edible by some evil sorcery, with the spell being broken once you try to cook it.


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