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Huffing and puffing at Wal-Mart

Jackie Carpenter, Managing Editor

Evolution can be a scary thing, but usually it’s all for the best. Our bodies supposedly have been honed to the point we can best survive in today’s society, i.e., stand upright, eat with a fork, and so on.
But there are some things that are changing more rapidly than our bodies ever could. It began with fast-food outlets.
I remember working at Frisch’s on Dixie Highway in Pleasure Ridge Park, southwest of Louisville. We heard McDonald’s was moving in down the street. Our business was doomed. But that didn’t happen, except for a few days while everyone tried out the new spot. What McDonald’s did was give people a choice: eat on the run instead of taking a comfortable seat and being served. Courteously and fairly quickly.
Next were the self-serve “service” stations, where service — a clean windshield, a tank of gasoline, and an oil check — no longer existed. Instead, people in a hurry who knew their oil wasn’t nearly a quart low and the bugs on the windshield weren’t too thick could stop for some gas and be on the road again in minutes.
For a long, long time, real service stations still existed, and there is even one in Corydon, plus one that will fill the tank for an extra penny a gallon, but those are quickly becoming extinct. Especially for motorists in strange surroundings who don’t have a clue where such stations are located or how to get there.
When my family came to Harrison County more than 20 years ago, and I made my first trip to Corydon to buy groceries, I was amazed. First, the cashier took my personal check without giving me the third degree, just noting I was a resident and my telephone number. As soon as I handed over my check, the “bag” person whisked the cart around and followed me out the door, to my car, and loaded all those heavy bags in the trunk. A tip? Wouldn’t take one.
For the most part, things are still the same at the Corydon Jay C Food Store, only now it’s necessary to ask for help if you need someone to cart the groceries to the car.
In the last few weeks, I have spent some time defending a certain practice regarding the customers at that gigantic store close to the interstate, Wal-Mart, in light of recent remodeling and the installation of those round, twirling, check-out stands.
“They expect you to load your own bags into the cart. Can you believe it?” a co-worker asked, indignantly. “No, they don’t,” I said. “They’re just wheeling that thing around, finding the right bag to put something in. They’ll load your cart when they’re finished.”
I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong about something. And I told her so last week.
“Can you believe it?” I asked, indignantly. “The clerk took my $63, said, ‘Thanks,’ and spun around, turning her back on me!”
I stood there a moment or two, befuddled, and finally asked: “Excuse me. Are you going to load my cart?”
She did. And I could hardly hear the huffing.
I can understand the cost savings for someone to pump their own gas. I can understand the time and money savings of a fast-food restaurant. But I fail to understand how letting the clerk stand there, while I load my own cart, is going to save anyone, lest of all me, anything in terms of money or time.
I have nothing against Wal-Mart. Some of my best friends either work there or have worked there. But I don’t want to see another commercial about how helpful everyone is in the store. Sure, some are. But unfortunately, it’s the horror stories about the ones who aren’t that stay with a customer and get told and retold. Falling prices? Sure. Occasionally. But at what cost?
We’ve evolved about enough in that direction, I think. And the more I think and fume about it, I don’t think I left that store with a thing in my trunk I couldn’t have bought elsewhere in Corydon.