Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wal-Margeddon III: Wal-Mart Vs Target

Wal-Mart and Target are two of the most aggressive competitors in the modern retail market. It used to be that Wal-Mart and K-Mart were, but that was before K-Mart apparently decided to just give up even trying and collapse under the weight of its own extremely inept sucktitude. So now the solemn duty to protect the world from complete retail domination by Wal-Mart rests squarely on the shoulders of Target. And possibly Meijer, Costco, and labor unions.

Yet if one compares the average Wal-Mart to the average Target, one can plainly see that there is not just a world of difference that separates the two retail giants, but more like an entire universe of difference. Maybe several universes. Everything from the appearance of the store to the general customer base is in complete contrast between the two stores. It's mind-boggling, considering that both sell roughly the same crap at roughly the same prices. Here are some of the main differences I have noticed between the two companies, on average, of course:

Round One: General Store Appearance
Target
— Neat, clean, orderly. Almost too orderly. Items are generally placed so neatly on the shelves that the appearance of something out of place practically motivates the average shopper to straighten or return it out of some OCD-like desire to keep things tidy. The design and layout of the store's interior gives it an almost post-modern flair. The aisles are spacious and inviting. It positively glows with warmth.

Wal-Mart
— Sloppy, dirty, chaotic. The stores are constantly caught between such states of decay and disarray, it's sometimes hard to determine if you're actually inside a building or still outside. There are horse stables that have less dirt on the floor and smell more affable than the average Wal-Mart. The raised ceiling and poor lighting don't help matters. The aisles are too close together, and even in the stores with the wider aisles, they are so cluttered with merchandise that they still feel too close together. Nothing is in its proper place. It looks like NASCAR held a demolition derby during a tornado inside the store. Unlike Target, where you almost feel obligated to participate in the store's upkeep, you almost feel compelled to pick up a bag of Hershey's Kisses and chuck it over several aisles just to run over and see how it scattered. And then leave the mess for someone else to pick up. Or steal. Because you're just not persuaded to give a shit about the appearance of the store.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Two: Average Customer Appearance
Bear in mind here, I'm talking about the average customer base of either store. This doesn't apply to every single visitor to either store, just the overwhelming majority. I routinely visit either store for various reasons, and I'm certainly not negatively portraying myself here. I'm probably not portraying you either. Unless you find yourself identifying with any of the scenarios presented, at which point you can evaluate your observations and figure out for yourself whether this is a good or bad thing.

Target
— Well-dressed, upkept, smart and savvy with a decent grasp of fashion. Some Targets I can just wander through people watching because compared to Wal-Mart, Target is a veritable feast of nymphs in Arcadia. Every once in a while, some unruly philistine wanders into the store in hopes of finding some precious piece of junk after being disappointed by their first choice, Wal-Mart, but generally both the appearance and attitude of the customers at Target are far more aesthetically pleasing.

Wal-Mart This just about sums it up. I'll admit that every once in a while I'll find someone with a pretty face or a curvy body or a dignified fashion sense at the local Wal-Mart, but for the most part, I find myself strolling through the store ignoring almost everybody. I realized this when I was reading the afore-linked article and I realized I didn't have any disgusting Wal-Mart stories. I just don't generally observe individual people at Wal-Mart. I've tuned them out, primarily, I believe, for the sake of my own sanity.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Three: Average Customer Attitude

Target
— Polite and congenial. People go to Target to shop and are respectful of other shoppers. Customers will strike up conversations with complete strangers. It's a very relaxed and warm, friendly atmosphere at Target. Even children tend to be polite and don't act up nearly as much as at Wal-Mart, possibly because parents seem more attentive to their children.

Wal-Mart
— It's as if the selfish greed of the corporation itself is instilled directly into each customer's consciousness. When it's not overwhelmingly mindless self-indulgence, it's blind, ignorant indifference. The average Wal-Mart customer is so completely wrapped up in their own insatiable gluttony that they are utterly unaware of their affect on the store or any other customer. They are indifferent to the staff, other customers, their friends, their children, and even themselves. Their only focus is on their desires, which more often than not are indulgences rather than necessities. If you feel affronted by any other Wal-Mart customer, don't ever dare confront them, even if they are obviously in the wrong, because they will surely pause from chewing their cud, let out a bellow of doom, and stamp their foot to prepare a stampede of ignorance which you will in no way survive. It's like every single customer in Wal-Mart feels entitled to publicly gratify their own twisted perversions, to the detriment of everyone else.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Four: Employees
Target — If you go by the appearance of the store alone, you can deduce that, for whatever reason, the employees at Target seem to care several degrees more than those at Wal-Mart. Maybe it's because Target employs more people to upkeep the store, but if you've ever needed assistance in a Target you'd realize that's not the case. The store is almost as barren of employees as it is of customers. Maybe it's because Target gives its employees more incentive to actually care about their job, such as breaks and benefits. I do know that when I go into a Target, I see a dedicated team of teenagers who look like they climbed out of an Abercrombie catalog dashing about shouting commands over walkie-talkies like soldiers in the desert. And if you do need help with something and are fortunate enough to flag one down, possibly with the aid of a flare gun, they are friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable.

Wal-Mart — Take every single thing I said about Target employees and imagine its precise antonym. Unlike Target, where you might have as much chance of spotting Bigfoot camping out in the lingerie section as an actual employee, Wal-Mart employees are everywhere. You can't so much as walk down an aisle without tripping over two or three. However, if you need help with something, you're about as likely to get a friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable response from an expired can of beets as you are a Wal-Mart employee. They'll just stare at you with their cold, listless eyes as they continue ambling on their way to look for fresh brains to consume. If you're lucky enough to get one to answer your query, they'll likely tell you that whatever they have is on the shelf, even if your question is something along the lines of "How much is this shirt?" "Where are your restrooms?" or "Do you think it's going to rain today? It looks like it's going to rain today." Whereas the average employee of Target is a comely and vibrant young person, the average Wal-Mart employee is an indifferent, middle-aged person with at least one genetic defect. I'm not saying that every single person employed by Wal-Mart is butt-ass ugly, not by far, but for every person Target employs who is not a circus freak, it seems Wal-Mart staffs the mutated failures of the company's own genetic research projects. If you go by the appearance of the store, it's obvious that the employees really don't give a shit about their jobs. I don't necessarily think this is the actual employees' fault. Most likely it's because Wal-Mart has a very widely known reputation of treating their employees not much better than cattle and
not compensating them for it. Also, dealing with the endless barrage of customers would undoubtedly wear down even the most dedicated of souls.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Five: Corporate
Target
— I don't know much about Target Corporate. I do know that they stopped the Salvation Army from ringing their damned bell in front of the stores' entrance doors every Christmas. Whereas I do agree that the Salvation Army is an important service that does a lot of good for communities, but I think everyone can agree that they need to take that bell and shove it someplace really uncomfortable, like the back seat of a Volkswagen. The only thing I have to go on for Target Corporate is that their employees seem much more eager to do their jobs than Wal-Mart employees, who always have the uncanny appearance of souls who have died and gone to Hell and after countless aeons of torture have simply resigned themselves to their grisly fate.

Wal-Mart
— Where can I possibly begin? Sam Walton might have started the company with the best of intentions, but it seems abundantly clear that each of his children has dedicated their life to raping his memory and pissing down its throat. They have turned the corporation into such a corrupt, greedy, and soulless enterprise that it makes the Bush Administration seem benevolent in comparison. From their cutthroat stranglehold on every possible market to their shady business practices to their abuse of their employees to their callous disinterest in customer satisfaction, everything about Wal-Mart as a corporation just reeks of pure evil greed. I'm not naïve enough to believe Wal-Mart is the only evil corporate entity in the world. It's just that Wal-Mart is so unapologetically forthright with it. Whenever anyone tries to call Wal-Mart on what corrupt bastards they're being, not only do they admit to it, but they even defend their actions. Wal-Mart pretty much is to corporate enterprise what the Bush Administration is to politics. At least if Target is doing anything anywhere near as heinous, they're smart enough to keep quiet about it.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Six: Advertising

Target — Generally creative and clever, with enough variety to not wear themselves out through the campaigns.

Wal-Mart
— The price-reducing smiley face of doom that floats around the store bastardizing classic music anthems. Everyone in the commercial seems happy to see the giant, floating smiley face wielding hedge clippers or a samurai sword or a pistol to reduce prices on items anywhere from ten cents to two dollars. In real life, people would be freaking the fuck out, either believing they were quite literally going insane or that the black tar heroin they just injected in the restroom stall was really high quality shit.

Advantage:
Target
.

Round Seven: Price

Target's prices are generally comparable to Wal-Mart
's within a few dollars. However, if you can prove that any other place is underselling Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart will match the competitor's price. Also, Wal-Mart offers a far wider range of their own versions of just about every single item they sell than does Target. Wal-Mart's in-store brand of items usually only costs pocket change, whether it's a box of macaroni and cheese or a window air conditioner. How they can afford to make products and sell them so much cheaper than the name brand equivalents is absolutely beyond me. They're probably forged from the bones of unicorns and the raping of pixies, put together by child slave laborers in third-world countries, and comprised of the failed genetic experiments too impractical to put to work as slaves. Or something like that. Whatever the case, Wal-Mart is able to dominate the market in the area of price, which is next to the only reason that, despite its excessive shortcomings, I and almost every single other average American can't afford to not shop there. So keep up the good work, you magnificent bastards.

Advantage:
Wal-Mart
.

Round Eight: Product Availability
Target
— The disadvantage to keeping an uncluttered store is that it generally has to carry fewer products in smaller numbers to give it the uncluttered appearance. There are also some markets where Target seemingly refuses to tread where Wal-Mart possesses no such qualms.

Wal-Mart
— They carry a wider variety of products and more of them. They have no shame in the sloppy appearance of the store as long as products are shelved in mass volume. They also tend to stock specialty items faster than the other stores. Take, for instance, Transformers. Target doesn't typically stock new Transformers until about six months after they are released, and then they wonder why the product isn't moving. It's because everyone already bought it at Wal-Mart, who got the shipments in before they were even reported as released from the manufacturer. Every once in a while, Wal-Mart will just be inexplicably out of every single item of some bizarre commodity to have a sudden rush on, like windshield washing fluid, baking soda, unscented laundry detergent, grape soda, but for the most part, Wal-Mart is the guaranteed go-to place to satisfy any need. Prices aside, if it wasn't for the fact that Wal-Mart will invariably have whatever product I desire when Target has a good chance of not, I would have no reason to go to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is, however, the only known retail giant pompous enough to demand music artists censor their work for sale in their stores, despite the fact that they can sell unedited R-rated movies. Still, advantage:
Wal-Mart
, narrowly.

Based on this careful, multi-faceted comparative analysis between Wal-Mart and its primary competitor, it's apparent that Wal-Mart should lose in every conceivable way. If this were a football game, Team Wal-Mart would not be making it to the Super Bowl with its two lucky points. So why do so many more people insist on shopping at Wal-Mart as opposed to Target? One possible explanation is: Have you seen the types of people typically found at Wal-Mart? They're as much a part of the problem as they are utterly blind to it. Target would probably prefer Wal-Mart entertain these neanderthals, mouth-breathers, reprobates, and other disgusting blights on the shit-stained underbelly of mankind.

The only other possible, and equally likely, explanation lies in the significance of the point spread. Whereas Target has succeeded in scoring victory in practically every important field, they have yet to dominate Wal-Mart in the two most important fields. Even though Wal-Mart only has two points in their favor, they have managed to score in the two areas with the most weighted significance, as can be demonstrated by the following pie chart:


If ever there was a case for Pyrrhic victory, Wal-Mart exemplifies it. Wal-Mart may have only scored two points, but by scoring the two most important points, they were able to dominate Target despite having sacrificed a great deal of the dignity that Target still retains. Granted Target may have yet to realize the sheer sales volume that Wal-Mart enjoys on a daily basis, but all one has to do is set foot in any Wal-Mart at any time of day or night and bear witness to the live off-Broadway production of Idiocracy that Wal-Mart is to realize that Target probably would probably rather have it no other way.

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