Afraid of Large Department Stores

by ALEXI VENICE

I have an admission, and I’m embarrassed to say it, but, “I’ve never been in Costco or Trader Joe’s!” I was in Sam’s Club once, even became a member and took a photo with my then-two-year-old daughter on my lap. She’s 21 years old now, and I haven’t been in Sam’s Club since. Why?

I find large stores intimidating. They’re too big with too many things on too many shelves in too many aisles. I’ve tried shopping at Sam’s Club and Target. I’ve grabbed a cart and pushed through the endless aisles, ticking off items on my list—walking a mile to this department, then a half mile back to that department to find the next thing on my list. I’ve stood paralyzed, looking at a super huge package of several rolls or boxes of a product, wondering if we’ll use all of it. And when. Wondering where I’ll store it in my house. The living room? Because this oversized package won’t fit in the cupboard, pantry or cubby in the breezeway.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate what they do for families with many needs to fill. For instance, I recently entered a Target for the first time in a decade and found it to be sparkly, clean, and well-lighted with friendly staff. It was just too big with too many items and too many choices. I was overwhelmed.

I don’t lay any blame on the mega stores. It’s all on me. So, where do I go when I need stuff? The smallest stores that are nearby. I try to keep my circle of errands as tight to my house and place of work as possible, thus reducing my anxiety level and time spent in the car.

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One of my favorite places to go is the corner True Value Hardware and Variety store. Two brothers, who are in their late 60s, have owned and run it for well over 20 years. In the spring, it smells like bags of lawn fertilizer. In the fall, it still smells like lawn fertilizer, but there are shovels and bags of salt on display instead of garden rakes. They know me—not on a first-name basis, but accurately. They greet me as, “Hello Young Lady!” Now, that’s personal service!

I wouldn’t describe the store as sparkly, clean or well-lighted. For example, they moved some stands of merchandise last year, revealing old, mismatched carpet that had holes in it from the bolts used to stabilize the stands. Did they replace the carpet? Of course not. Did I care? Of course not. Inexplicably, the patchwork just added to the eccentricity and charm of the store.

What have I bought at True Value over the years? Anniversary and graduation cards. At least two propane grills. A fish tank. Hummingbird feeders. A casserole dish. Mops. Sponges. Paint. Screen doors. Screws. Garden tools. Splitting mauls. Wheelbarrows. You get the idea—everything!

But, my personal favorite in the store is the special soda pop they keep in a mini fridge at the checkout stand. In it is the glass-bottled Coke from Mexico with real sugar. When I check out, I grab one and crack open the lid on the wall-mounted opener next to the fridge. Sometimes, I indulge myself and buy a mini Snickers bar to go with my Coke. Bliss!

When I leave, it’s only a twenty-foot walk to my car, and if I have more than one bag of stuff, the kid at the checkout offers to help carry a bag. I’m usually in and out in less than ten minutes. For my introverted self, why would I go anywhere else?

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