Posts Tagged ‘wal-mart’

Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.

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Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.

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It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817

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From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.

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Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!

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Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.

 

Where “Customer Service” Is Not An Oxymoron

The degree of mentschlichkeit by complete strangers (the art of being a nice, kind, decent and upstanding person) found in rural New England never fails to delight and surprise me.

Conversely, I am sorry to say that when I return to my hometown on the East Coast, I am frankly astounded not only by the huge number of rude and unhelpful and apathetic people; but also how nice, normal people living there seem to think “that’s just how things are” and that they’ve become complacent and put up with such bad behavior.  They feel dread and defeat before they even go into the store!  (Not to mention the fear of being mugged in the parking lot.)  I will spare you the ugliness of my daily shopping travails in my home town, but I do wish to relate what is more typical behavior in New Hampshire and in Maine.

When you walk into a store in rural New England, whether it’s a mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall or a Big Box store, you are greeted with, “How can I help you today?”  The thing is, they really mean it.

Too many times to count, I’ve asked a Wal-Mart employee where a certain item might be located in the store.  They will never say, “In Aisle 10.”  The employee will take you by the hand, smile, and actually walk you to Aisle 10, even if it’s at the complete opposite end of the extremely vast store, and even if they were busy doing something else at the time you asked for assistance.  Even if you insist, “Oh, that’s okay, you can just tell me which aisle it’s in,” they will say, “Oh, it’s no problem!  Let me show you the way!”

At first I was taken aback – – do I really look that old and helpless?  But I noticed that neither age nor gender is a factor.  This is just what they do.  The customer comes first and so does his satisfaction, even if the employee leading you by the hand makes a measly minimum wage and his prospects for promotions or long-term employment in that store do not look particularly bright.  And it’s not just a particular Wal-Mart (or Home Depot or Lowes, supermarket chains, etc.) – – it’s every single Big Box store I’ve been to anywhere in Maine or New Hampshire.  If the item is not on the shelf, they will voluntarily go to the back of the store and try to locate it for you, and if they can’t find it, they will check their stock list for current inventory and find out when a new delivery is expected.

While at Wal-Mart I loaded up on cereal.  One type had a peel-off coupon on the box cover saying that the manufacturer was giving a free pound of bananas for every box of cereal bought that had the coupon sticker.  Unfortunately, however, I was unable to make use of this coupon since this particular Wal-Mart was not a “super” Wal-Mart and they did not carry any fresh produce.

Once my purchases were made, I headed to Hannafords, a pleasant supermarket chain that is found throughout Maine and New Hampshire.  I put some bananas into my cart, and went in search of goat’s milk, which I digest more easily than cow’s milk.  Unfortunately, they were out.

When I got to the checkout line, the cashier asked the question that every Hannafords employee is trained to ask:  “Did you find everything you needed today?”

I joked in a light tone of voice, “I guess this is just not my day.  You seem to be out of goat’s milk.  And I just came from Wal-Mart, where I got a coupon for free bananas with my cereal, but because it’s not a “super” Wal-Mart, I was unable to use the coupon since they don’t carry fresh produce.”

The cashier stopped and placed a call to the dairy department.  “I’ve got a customer here who says we’re out of goat’s milk.  Can you please check and see if you can find some?”

Alas, they really were out of goat’s milk.  But the cashier felt so bad, that he said, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I’m not going to charge you for those bananas in your cart.  I feel bad that we didn’t have what you wanted, and I hope that next time you will shop at Hannafords as your first choice, before you go to the ‘other’ store!”

Okay, the bananas were not worth more than $.57.  But that’s hardly the point.  It’s clear all of these stores value their customers, and wish to have an ongoing and loyal symbiotic relationship.

I told my “free bananas” story to many of my friends from my hometown and they were shocked.  “That would never happen here,” they unanimously agreed.

The thing is, once you’re away from an environment where bad behavior, cynicism and apathy are the norm in consumer relations, you begin to realize something:  you really don’t have to put up with it.  You do have a choice.  And if you can’t find a place where basic decency and respect reign, then it’s time to go elsewhere where people do act like mentschen.

Those places and the good people in them do exist everywhere, of course.   And yeah, I know what I’m about to say sounds harsh and snobby.  But it’s just so refreshing to not have to look very hard, and to live in a place where mentschlichkeit is the paradigm, and not the exception to the rule.

Outrage @ Walmart

On Friday I returned a purchase to my local Wal-Mart, in my home town.  In line in front of me was a lady in her 80s, shriveled from osteoporosis and who knows what else, slumped in a motorized wheelchair and unaccompanied.  She had taken great care to look sharp:  a bright red hat, red lipstick, a dash of rouge and a touch of eye shadow, but not enough to hide her frailty.  She was waiting for the Store Manager, who finally came to the counter with a look of impatience and a scowl.

“Like the clerk told you, ma’am, you need to first call the police and  file a police report, and then we’ll take your information,” the Store Manager said.

“How am I supposed to do that?   Do you have the police’s number?”  she asked.

The manager did not let the lady use Wal Mart’s company phone.  “Call 9-1-1.” she said brusquely.

“Can you please call them for me?” the old lady asked.

“No ma’am, I cannot.  You have to be the one to talk to them,  I cannot make a report for you.”

“Here is my cell phone. I’ll talk to them. Can you at least dial for me?” the lady asked.

“Fine!” the Store Manager said with a big harumph, as if she was doing the old lady the biggest favor in the world.

Here is what happened:  as the lady was shopping in WalMart, someone stole the lady’s purse which contained her wallet with all her money, ID, credit cards, and keys.

Here is what should have happened:  the store should have gone on immediate lock-down, with each person leaving the store subject to inspection for the stolen purse and its contents.  Police should have been called immediately by the employees.  But not only did the store not care a whit about this poor lady’s situation, they treated her as if the whole episode was a huge inconvenience to them and not their problem, which considering her purse had been stolen inside their store, was nothing short of chutzpah.  A clerk or store manager should have been pulled from the sidelines (there were plenty of them standing around doing absolutely nothing) to devote all their attention to helping her, calling a family member or a cab.  The lady asked if they would help her call her bank and let them know about her missing credit cards, and they refused.  She had no way of getting home (the robber had her house keys, and she had no money for a cab); she had nothing except her cellphone, which she was too shaky to use.

And while this drama was being played out before my eyes, I thought,

This would never happen in Maine.

Yes, there is crime in Maine.  There are drunk drivers and tool thefts and in the city there is shoplifting and drug deals gone bad.  But no one in Maine – and I do mean no one – –  would steal a purse from a disabled little old lady who is all by herself in a wheelchair.  And I also guarantee you that in the unlikely event that her purse would have been stolen, the little old lady would have been surrounded by both customers, clerks and the store manager who would have ensured that she was taken care of, both emotionally, physically, and practically, and they would have made however many calls needed to be made along with an offer to drive her home.

“Where is the common decency?”  I thought out loud.  “What kind of animals prey upon utterly helpless people like this?”

But the clerk only shrugged her shoulders, her eyes and heart apathetic.

And I thought:  when people get used to things, they become complacent.  They convince themselves that it’s just how things are, that there is nothing you can do about it.

Maybe things really are like this in my hometown, but there is something we can do about it.  We can choose to not put up with it, and if we cannot change things as they are, then we can only make a change for ourselves.

I am very glad to be returning to Maine.  Because I don’t want to live in a society like my hometown’s,  where apathy and lack of decency and fear is is the new normal.    There are plenty of good people in my hometown, but oh, how the rotten eggs permeate and bring ruin upon all of us.

Quite simply, I’ve had enough.