"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Oct 11, 2019

Who Will Replace Walmart?

That's what I'd like to know.  Years, no, decades ago I wouldn't have been caught dead inside a Walmart, Dollar Store or Goodwill, but since I went broke they've been my go-to shopping destinations, as touted in previous posts.

But no longer.  Now, every time I reach for a sheet of Great Value's Ultra Strong paper towels I'm pissy, because I don't like being played for a fool.

For eons I've been picking up Walmart's private-label split-sheets* because I found them comparable in size and absorbency to my lifelong favorite, Bounty, but definitely cheaper.   The package, shown above, claims 2 double rolls are equal to 4 regular rolls.  Please take a leap of faith and trust me when I claim that I'd know what I'm grabbing even if blindfolded.  I had to invent my own holder (a mini-flag holder) because Great Value's Double Roll wouldn't fit into the paper towel space provided in my 21-foot, motor full-time home.

I stuck with Great Value even as their price rose over time to $3.67 per package (in Oregon) because it was still cheaper, but enough is enough.  A few weeks ago I went to grab my staple when, to my dismay, the shelving was entirely empty of Walmart's brand.
"What happened to your paper towels?!" I asked the fellow in alarm.
(sic) "We're changing some brands, but never fear...Great Value towels will be back on the shelves shortly."
So what happened?  When the shelves were re-stocked Great Value used similar packaging but the size of each paper towel roll was smaller.  I gave the package an embarrassing squeeze and looked at the end  to see if I was wrong, but no, the size was definitely smaller; however, the price remained the same.  I kept scanning the over-sized, industrial-steel shelving expecting to discover their mistake, but there wasn't any.  Two smaller rolls at the same price yet with the same claim.

Now unless someone backs me up I can't prove this, but I trust my own observations.  Unfortunately, or not as is the case, I'm currently house-sitting in Lake Tahoe so I can't put a new roll on my holder for a comparison shot, but imagine the black rod sticking out of this roll (right).  Even without a caliper you'd have to agree this DOES appear smaller. Look at the dimension of the center tube in relation to the thickness of the sheets.  Now that I'm looking at it, I suspect they may have simply increased the size of the cardboard tube so as not to change the packaging at all.  Anyone out there with an old package so we can compare the number of sheets?

Working for an advertising and display firm in Manhattan long ago taught me how much money manufacturers spend on bells and whistles in order to distract us from our purchasing savvy.  This sort of thing happens all the time: ice cream manufacturers 'lift' the bottom of a gallon container so the package looks like the same amount or more (turn them upside down next time you're shopping).  While visiting a metal fabricator in Brooklyn I asked about the hundreds of small metal disks carefully laid out on sheets.
"They're placed in the bottom of (an expensive) makeup brand's lipstick tubes to weigh down the container.  Women feel they're getting a better product for the additional cost because it feels heavier than cheaper brands."
I immediately switched to drug store shades.

I'd have had more respect for Walmart if they'd just gone ahead and raised their price; or if they lowered their price and admitted to smaller rolls for economy's sake.  But this?  Look again at the top photo and tell me whether their claim of 2 = 4 isn't misleading.  What if you're a new arrival lacking fluent English, or just not paying attention?  Looks like, "Equal to 4 Double Rolls" to me, how 'bout you?  And WHOSE regular rolls are they comparing?  Pretty sneaky.

This seemingly silly paper towel discourse is, to me, no different from any other form of corporate greed.  What's different is how this particular chain, traditionally known for low prices thus frequented by people of nominal means, is deliberately tricking those needing financial help the most out of (our) scarce resources.  And yes, I did attempt to contact the company; but when I followed the super-small print instructions on the package, all I did was enter an interminable online loop.  They don't really want to hear from us anyway.

So I'll be weaning myself off of my Walmart habit while searching for an alternate venue.  Goodwill's prices are spiking, too, but that's another post.

* Great Value Ultra Strong Paper Towels, 2 Double Rolls, UPC #0-7874221081-0.

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