Happy ending: How I learned to love Walmart

Commentary by Don Kirkland

I think it’s fair to say that most of the people I know don’t regularly shop at Walmart. I go there occasionally for brands I can’t find elsewhere locally—a type of hydrating eyedrop, a sugar-free variety of Cool Whip, a brand of instant pudding we like, a pancake mix that seems to be available nowhere but Walmart.

Of course I get ribbed for my intermittent forays into the world of Walmartians, but I don’t care: The store has stuff I want, and I’m not interested in letting anyone’s perceived political incorrectness of my shopping habits get in the way.

This is not to say, of course, that I’m blind to what people are talking about when they dis Walmart.

Nor am I going to abandon the friendly folk who inhabit my neighborhood Safeway, neither my friends who shop there nor the employees who work there.

But an experience I had at the Elliot Road Walmart a few days ago not only resulted in a pleasant surprise but gave me an eye-opening glimpse into the reality that, no matter where people work or how much money they make (or don’t make) per hour, the phenomenon of human integrity still seems to be as close as, well, my neighborhood Walmart.

I had finished paying for three glacier-solid containers of frozen Cool Whip, exchanged a few pleasantries with the checkout clerk, and headed out to my car for the drive home. No time to waste with a bagful of frozen Cool Whip, no matter how rock-hard.

I arrived home with minimal delay, loaded the icy cartons into our freezer and got ready to head out for my next mission of the afternoon.

But, hey, wait a minute. Had I left my wallet in the front room? In the kitchen? Where was the darn thing?

I checked the car, the laundry room, every step tracing the exact route I’d followed coming into the house.

It didn’t take long to realize that I must have left my wallet on the little shelf next to Walmart’s credit card reader, and even though it had been only 20 minutes earlier, a sinking feeling settled in. After all, what would be the chances of someone having found the wallet and turned it in? This wasn’t Nordstrom, remember—it was Walmart.

So I hurried back down Elliot Road, whipped into a parking space and hustled my way inside to see if I could find the checkout clerk who had rung up my purchase.

No luck: lane closed.

Not far away, inside the store’s roped-off Customer Service area, I spotted a young woman who had the appearance and bearing of what I thought a Walmart manager should look like.

“Did one of your checkout people happen to find a wallet? I was just here a few minutes ago and I think I may have left it when I used my credit card.”

Without saying a word, she made a beeline for what looked like an office, turning on the way to ask, “What’s your name?” She was already at the office door when I thought, “Hmm, maybe this is a good omen.”

Indeed it was.

She emerged from the office, my wallet—with all its contents, including credit cards and cash—in hand.

And thus came and went my encounter with Megan Chee, who, somewhat to my surprise, seemed to consider no big deal what I considered a borderline miraculous recovery.

“It happens all the time,” she said. “This is just what we do.”

Once again, I won’t say that I’ve always turned a deaf ear when my friends dis Walmart.

But I have to tell you I’m impressed by what I considered a real display of honesty and the image it leaves of the store, its management and its employees.

After all, came Megan Chee’s message loud and clear, this is just what they do.

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