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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, November 01, 2007

K Mart, WalMart and stuff like that.

I think I should say that I am not like some of my friends. I don't have any aversion to "big box' stores, and I shop at Kmart (sometimes) WalMart (more often, though my wife hates to go in there, since her strokes, because of the crowds) Sam's, and I am, in some ways, a Lowes addict (probably because I don't have a Home Depot to get addicted to). I would love to become addicted to Costco, but there isn't one close enough to become addicted to. (I like to go in when I am with someone who has a Costco Card, just to eat lunch).

I drove past K Mart today and, for some reason noted the rather silly "Big" that was added to the K Mart name a few years ago. Has anyone except someone reading a commercial on radio or TV ever called K Mart "Big K Mart" or the Big K? I don't think so.

Sometimes I marvel at the idiocy of people who are paid to market products, names, stores etc. They seem not to recognize the silliness of some of what they do. Can you imagine the millions of dollars K Mart spent, at a time when business was slipping, to make new signs for hundreds of stores. Signs that were ultimately absolutely meaningless.

I remember the first time I ever went into a K Mart. My family was young, we were poor, and the plethora of things that we could afford was almost mind boggling. Just as I got a little excited about the regular stuff, there was an announcement that there was a Blue Light Special on aisle ????. We dashed to aisle ??? to find a cart with a revolving blue light selling out a bunch of stuff (probably over supplies) at almost nothing, and the money nearly leapt out of the pocket for things that we might not even need, but couldn't resist at that price. We became K Mart regulars.

Gradually K Mart cancelled the Blue Light Specials that were one reason for going into the store in the first place. The selection became a little more limited, but everyone I have ever talked to quit going to K Mart for the same reason. Fewer checkout lines and longer lines at every checkout became the norm. It became a lengthy chore to go into K Mart for any reason. It had nothing to do with the sign on the outside and little to do with the merchandise. It was a simple breakdown in service.

After K Mart began to be identified as having problems (in the newspapers) a fortune was spent to publicize the return of the Blue Light Special. Did it return? No. In K Mart TV adds, little characters that were supposed to be spotlights (blue?) but which had legs and ran around pointing to products, began to show up. They were accompanied by a slogan "Blue Light All the Time", and were, I suppose, to be a competition with Wal Mart's little yellow smiley face that ran around knocking down price tags. For a fraction of the cost of those ads they could have hired a few minimum wage checkers, and actually provide service. (I actually went into a local K Mart to ask if they were going to really return the Blue Light Specials and was greeted with an effusive shout, "We have Blue Light All the Time". Yeah, right, and long lines at checkout.)

Today I walked into the local WalMart to buy something and noticed that the "twenty items or less" checkouts each had six to eight people waiting, and the regular checkouts (there were four out of about twenty open) had six to eight each, and I wanted to scream "Don't you know what killed Kmart.???"

I know, K Mart isn't totally dead, it is now a part of Sears, has a better line of tools, and STILL has very few checkout lines open, with a line at every single one if there are enough customers to make a line, but I resent that a little bit. I have several friends who were stockholders in the original Kmart who were totally ripped off ;when Kmart (not Big K) went into chapter eleven bankruptcy. I keep wishing that they had REALLY returned the Blue Light Special, had hired enough folks to keep the lines to a minimum, and saved my friends thousands of dollars.

WalMart is advertising the equivalent of "Black Friday" sales this weekend to boost an anticipated bad holiday season. I wonder if they will have enough "associates" to keep folks from waiting in line forever. Maybe the crowds will begin to thin enough that my wife won't hate the place anymore.


At 7:01 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I had never shopped in a K Mart or WalMart till I moved here because they were verboten in San Francisco. Our K Mart is on its last legs but I love Wally World.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger DWJ said...

As one of those who invested in Kmart stock and lost my shirt on it. I didn't even get one cent for thousands dollars worth of stock, I consciously avoid going to Kmart even they are only a few blocks from my home. If I do go there it is only for a single item not worth going the number of miles to Walmart.

In my mind I didn't think I would lose money on their stock because I knew they had assets in stock and stores, etc. And my second son had been an assistant manager for Kmart. I should have known better.

When I do go there I notice they only have one or two check stands open no matter how many people they have waiting or in the store. No wonder they went down.

Actually the lines at Walmart are often longer but they do have have check stands there you can take a limited number of items and get through quicker. I went into Costco the other day to get bananas and milk, but all the lines were so long that I left without buying anything. I won't go to Costco again unless I need enough items to make waiting in line worth it.

I really feel sorry for the many stockholders of Delta Airlines who didn't get a dime for their stock when Delta took bankruptcy. At least I got to keep my Skymiles.

My stock in TWA is worth at least a dollar now. That is better than Delta but I can't even sell it without paying many dollars in fees to a stockbroker.

At 4:47 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

The town where we shop, Temple, used to have a K-mart, but it's not there anymore. It simply couldn't compete with WalMart. When it was open and I tried to shop there, I never could find anything I wanted. They didn't have half the stock that WalMart has, and yes, the lines were horrific! WalMart in Temple is still a fairly easy store to shop in, they have plenty of checkouts that are usually manned, and several "self check out" registers which I hate, but that's progress, I guess. There will come a day when there won't be any people at the counter checking anyone out. :(


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