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Points of Articulation

yo go re
I Like Big Box and I Cannot Lie

I like big box and I cannot lie.
You other shoppers can't deny
That when you find your stuff for very little cash,
That you buy it very fast.
You get change, can afford some more
'Cause their discounts are hardcore.
Grab your bags and you start walking.
Aw, yeah! Already re-stocking!
Oh, big box, I love those prices.
They are the nicest!
I don't mean to annoy,
But big box stores are great for toys!
Some knucklehead moans and cries
'Cause he don't like their size.
Owned a store but had to close down,
He drove it into the ground.
So shoppers, if your budget's tight
And you wanna spend your money right,
Then get your butt to a big box store:
They got deals from ceiling to floor.
Go, blister pack!

Okay, no more embarrassing, lameass songs. I promise.

Hang around toy message boards long enough, and you're sure to hear the complaints: Wal*Mart sucks, they drive local companies out of business, they homogenize everything, blah blah blah. Well, I'm here to say that I love Wal*Mart. And Target. And Kmart and just the idea of "Big Box" chain stores in general. Who wouldn't?

Big Box stores are the children (or maybe the grandchildren) of the old-timey general store - the one place in old towns where you went to buy food, cloth, medicine, tools and whatever other goods you needed. Even those simple, old-timey general stores got turned into chains - by 1912, James Penney was operating 34 of his Golden Rule Stores all over, and the next year they were re-incorporated as the J.C. Penney Co.

As local population increased, so did the customer base. Rural general stores grew up to become urban department stores - clothes in one corner, housewares in another, appliances, shoes and all manner of things everywhere else. Wal*Mart isn't a new idea, it's just got a new name and a bigger form.

Big Box stores use the same principles as their commercial ancestors: by collecting all sorts of useful, quality merchandise in one store, you save your customers time as you cater to their needs; if you need, one afternoon, to buy pipe fittings, baker's chocolate, tube socks and cough syrup, would you really rather go to four stores or one?

Wal*Mart and its ilk have thrived for one main reason: they're cheap. They're big enough to buy in bulk and, in some cases, to buy directly from manufacterers, cutting out the cost-increasing distributors. People complain that Big Boxes' low prices drive local owners out of business, and it's true - the lowest price wins, but that doesn't mean that Wal*Mart is evil.

Wal*Mart can offer the prices it does because it has the size and the customers to support them - more importantly, Wal*Mart has the size and the customers to support the low prices because they worked hard to become the best and the biggest.

No company starts out large - Kmart, Target and Wal*Mart all started out as the little guy, whether it was in Garden City, Mich., Roseville, Minn., or Rogers, Ark. But through determination and smart management, they managed to grow into today's corporate powerhouses. Low prices will always pull in the customers, and the Big Boxes know it. I'd rather buy three $7 figures than two $10 figures any day.

Detractors claim that by setting up these Big Box stores, companies are contributing to the homogenization of America, destroying that "local town" feel. Okay, so what? I like knowing that I can stroll into any Target in the land and find exactly what I'm looking for; that I can know, walking up through the parking lot, precisely where things are inside. It saves me time. I don't go shopping so I can chat with the store clerks, I go shopping to shop.

The "personal touch" offered by small local businesses is over-rated and definitely not worth paying more to put up with, and obviously a lot of consumers feel the same way. Going shopping is business, not pleasure, and if that's all that mom and pop stores have to offer in lieu of good prices, well, then it's no surprise that they're going out of business. Blaming your poor business practices on your competitors is pretty cowardly.

This isn't a wholesale defense of Wal*Mart: the company definitely has its problems, particularly in the way they treat their workers. I heartily encourage people to look into that and to do whatever they can to change it. But if people keep attacking Wal*Mart, Target and the other Big Boxes for things that aren't really problems, then it's easier for those companies to get away with the things that are.

Some toy fans complain about the lack of selection at Big Box locations: that unless it's an ultra-mainstream toy, the companies will never carry it. Well, as we previously explained, you are ultimately in charge of what stores will carry. Big Boxes want your money, and will listen when you tell them what you want to buy. Speak out!

So yeah, I shop at Wal*Mart. I support Target. I love finding deals at Kmart. Their low prices pull me in regularly - I go every week, if I can. Generic, undercutting and omnipresent? Hardly! Dependable, affordable and convenient. I like Big Box and I cannot lie.

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