The Lure and Guilt of Wal-Mart: 100 Toys for $10

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I don’t live near a Target. Or a Kmart. Or Sears. Nope, the closest retailer of that magnitude is, of course, the oft-ridiculed Wal-Mart. And while, for the last few years I’ve lived in this town I’ve done all I can to resist the lure of the place, it’s getting harder and harder to do.

I realize it’s the nature of the beast. They want me to come to them. They want to break me. And I really want to dislike the place. But at some point, I have given in to convenience. I know there are a myriad reasons to detest going there, not the least of which is the typically abysmal service. (Although I recently watched an episode of Penn & Teller: Bulls***! has definitely made me think a bit about my resentment of the place.)

But you know what? Times have been tough. The nearest Target is 20 minutes away, and honestly, our re-branded Wal-Mart looks more and more like Target every day, not to mention it only takes about five minutes to get to. It makes me wonder how different they really are. And Costco, my favorite place to shop, is also 20 minutes away and just isn’t convenient for last-minute purchases or anything small. I mean, sometimes I don’t need 15 tubes of lip gloss, I just need one.

And thanks to my parents (who have no qualms about going there), my kid loves Wal-Mart with gusto. He will jump at any chance to go (and look at the Hot Wheels, of course). Most days I want to make any trip out in public with him as short and sweet as possible considering his ability to go Mr. Hyde in .03 seconds flat.

So it was with particular interest that I noticed a recent headline on CNN Money this morning, mentioning that Wal-Mart is now offering 100 toys for $10 this holiday season. Clearly, I am their new marketing demographic, as if their re-branding didn’t make that clear already (as if faux wood flooring and a streamlined new logo would get me to forget I’m in a Wal-Mart). They’re getting a head-start by beginning the sale now, and you’ve got to admit that’s some clever marketing. Last year their program only had 10 toys for $10. Clearly something worked, and by expanding it, they’ll lure many of us away from toy stores and kids boutiques when it comes time to buy toys.

I’ve heard similar stories from a lot of other parents, too. The recession isn’t over yet, and many of us are not in the clear yet. Saving money is important, especially when you need products that can be purchased anywhere. But we feel guilty going to Wal-Mart. We’re socially conscious. We’re up with the news, with labor laws. We know better. Or we think we should.

No, I won’t do all my shopping at Wal-Mart; their produce is usually sub-par and their clothing is even worse. But if I can pick up a Hot Wheels Garage for my kid for Christmas for $10 rather than $18, you bet I’m going to go there.

So, parents out there: do you have any Wal-Mart confessions? Reasons to love? Reasons to hate?

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