To be honest, this column started as an angry rant against Walmart, railing against the mega-retailer for its regrettable decision to open a store at the Downey Promenade, the new shining jewel of the Downey community.
It was an easy story to write, and a completed version sat on my computer desktop for several weeks.
But for some reason, I couldn't hit "publish." Something nagged at my conscience. Something about the article felt wrong – hypocritical even – but I couldn't put my finger on it.
And then it hit me: I am a Walmart shopper.
Last weekend, I made two separate visits to Walmart stores, including their new supercenter location on South Street in north Long Beach. The experience was pleasant ("pleasant" being a relative term).
American flags hung from the rafters and the aisles were brightly lit. Don't get me wrong, this Walmart store would never be mistaken for a Target, but things were orderly and clean. The workers were actually working.
Maybe it was a fluke experience, or maybe I wandered in before the shine wore off the new store, but this particular Walmart gave me hope for the Downey location.
It's easy to dislike Walmart. First and foremost, it undervalues the worth of its employees and retaliates against workers who exercise their rights to protest for higher wages.
And then there are the tangible reasons to dislike Walmart, such as their fondness of installing 30 checkout counters but with only two lanes open at any given time. Their aisles generally are a mess. Their carts are wobbly. Those smiling, cheerful associates in Walmart TV commercials don't exist in real life.
But despite all those faults, I still shop at Walmart, out of necessity more than choice. If I can't find it on Amazon, or I absolutely need something right away and want to stretch my dollar, Walmart is the place to go.
I have a feeling Walmart's arrival in Downey would have been more welcoming had the store been located in another part of town, perhaps on the former All-American Home Center site. When Downey Studios closed several years ago, the Downey community was promised an upscale shopping and entertainment village, with high-end retailers. Those plans changed, obviously, and that was never communicated to residents.
Quite literally we were promised a Nordstrom's and got handed a Walmart. So in that sense, Walmart is the victim of circumstance.
The best we can do now is urge Walmart to be a good community partner. They're off to a promising start, sponsoring last week's State of the City address and donating thousands of dollars to Downey charities. I would like to see these gestures continue far into the future; there are many service clubs and non-profits in Downey that could greatly benefit from Walmart's generosity.
Let's give Walmart a chance.