A Foodie Who Likes Wal-Mart
In response to a comment by Jerry Hausman in my Forbes column, Pam Regis writes:
I'm a foodie, but I live more than an hour's drive from high-end gourmet markets. My life improved enormously when a Wal-Mart superstore opened just 15 minutes from my house. It sells food. And although Hausman is probably right when he says that "diversity isn't as good" in the food selection at Wal-Mart compared to a fine gourmet market, this much-maligned store has added enormously to the culinary diversity available to me in my life pre-Wal-Mart. The jasmine rice (brown and white), the couscous, the chiplotle peppers in adobo sauce now in my cupboard are from Wal-Mart, and every week I find an ingredient, usually ethnic, that, before Wal-Mart, I had not been able to buy locally. Of course, I also find low prices on Diet Coke, paper products, and cleaning supplies.
I don't buy Wal-Mart's produce, bread, or fish. My "old" supermarket supplies these needs. Two stores are always better than one.
As I've often noted, in many places even boring old chains can increase the quality and variety available to consumers. There's also something to be said for Wal-Mart's basic business competence in keeping the right products on the shelves. The only Wal-Mart near me is a small "neighborhood market" with relatively little variety. But at least, unlike Albertson's (the slightly closer grocery store), they manage to keep Diet Coke in stock. And their employees are supernice.