Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Further news from Walmartgatory

I always take great interest in the ebb and flow of merchandise at Wal-Mart. Prior to hurricanes, for example, there will be a run on bread and Sugar Frosted Flakes -- this will be true even if supplies of batteries and masking tape remain strong. Being Southerners, we see hurricanes as Trouble. (Visitors to Charleston, Wrightsville Beach, and New Orleans don't count, since they seem to think a Hurricane is a mixed drink in an ornamental glass, and behave accordingly.) I learned a few years ago if I buy our normal four to seven gallons of milk on the way home from work, people see my power company ID or the logo on my shirt and get uneasy. I have to assure them we're not stockpiling, just feeding seven kids.

In contrast, unlike folks who really live with it, we Southerners think of winter precip as a Holiday. When snow is predicted, Wal-Mart runs low on sugar and chips. As the 21st-century analog of the Trading Post or General Store, W-M serves as an indicator of sorts, holding clues to what's on the popular mind, and snow = fun to us.

This year, a few days before Christmas, it was plain that Johnston County was due for an onslaught of sausage balls. Witness the condition of the meat cooler at the Clayton-Garner Wal-Mart; nearly every kind of bulk sausage, except the expensive Jesse James variety, is gone. Even the frozen pre-cooked patties we like for breakfast were in short supply.

On the other hand, a few days later, after Christmas, the ramen noodle department had been ransacked. Beloved Wife's theory credits a popular salad made with crunched-up ramen; I wonder if it's repentence over too much ham and good cheer ("No thanks … just a little soup, I think").

For what it's worth, though, there seemed to be less repentence over gifts than I've observed before; the return lines were not nearly as packed as I've seen in previous years. Maybe the gift card business has something to do with it. John Hood at the Locke Foundation has a few observations of his own today.

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