I’d always thought Walmart was a pretty neat place. I mean, it is the one-stop shop right? Better prices, everything you could ever dream of, all available for 24 hours a day? Barring some debates about its negative impact on the world, something about globalization being totally evil, I always really liked Walmart.
Until I found E-Mart.
Turns out E-Mart trumps Walmart in so many ways, I decided it was high time to make a list about it. So here you have it, my fourth official Korea list: Reasons why E-Mart Kicks Walmart’s Ass, hereafter REKWA.
REKWA #1. Location Location Location.
If I walk out the door of my ninth floor apartment right now, I will be standing in E-mart within 3 minutes flat. I have yet to find a Walmart that convenient, anywhere.
REKWA #2. Dry Cleaner.
In any given Walmart, you can generally expect to find a pharmacy, a photo development center, and an optometrist (bare minimum) in addition to the shopping center itself and the mandatory Subway in the entryway.
Have you ever seen a dry cleaner in a Walmart? No, how about a nail salon? Veterinary clinic? My dear E-mart has all of these things and more. Try this on for size. On the first floor, we have a food court, portrait studio, pet store, veterinarian, optometrist, dog groomer, pharmacy, photo development center, and dry cleaner. On the next floor we have a nail salon, a spa, and a hair salon, as well as a sitting area for the resulting bored children. On the bottom floor, we add in a vitamin/supplement shop and a pretty extensive wine collection. Oh yeah, and there’s the store itself too. Pretty magical, really.
REKWA #3 . Footprint.
If you look at an aerial view of Walmart, you’ll see an expansive building surrounded on all sides by acres and acres of parking lot. Not only did some developer have to cut down forests and kill wildlife in the immediate footprint of Walmart’s unreasonably wide-set main building, but also in the obnoxiously large parking lot surrounding it. And that’s not to mention the impact of increased traffic on the environment surrounding the entire complex. And no, Walmart, those scrawny little trees planted at the ends of the rows don’t make it any better.
Commence angry fist shaking… (and queue this song)
Korea, on the other hand, has become an expert at condensing buildings to fit into the increasingly dense space it has to work with. Instead of building outwards and taking up more land space it doesn’t have, E-mart decided to build up and down, condensing its store into a much more efficient three-floor design. The groceries are located on the bottom floor (two floors below ground, which keeps the foods cooler while exerting less energy), the sports supplies and clothing are located on the middle floor, and the basic home supplies are located on top. Furthermore, the expansive parking lot has been condensed into a multi-floor parking garage located on the four floors above the store, completely eliminating the need for such an absurdly wasteful sprawling lot. Oh yeah, and they threw a park on the roof, making the whole structure just a slightly elevated version of nature.
REKWA #4. Hot Babes.
In Walmart, you have friendly little yellow smiley faces plastered onto prices tags pointing you to where the sales are. In E-mart, you have smiling Korean chicks dressed in ridiculous miniskirts standing at the end of every aisle. If you’re into that kind of thing.
REKWA #5. Boxes and Bags.
I remember one particular trip to Walmart back in my college days in which the woman bagging my recently purchased items placed exactly one item into each bag. I wish I was kidding. Prior to this incident, I had been naïve to the dangers of placing shampoo and ranch dressing in the same plastic bag, lest the outside of their bottles (gasp!) touch each other, but thank goodness she was there to help me…
Commence second angry fist shaking...
In Korea, the bag situation is much less stupid. For one, you have to pay for every bag you need, about 10 cents for paper, and about 70 cents for plastic. It’s not very much money at all, but it makes you stop and question if you really need that extra bag or not. The default bag they give you is paper, and you need to gesture vigorously if you really want a plastic bag. And even then, they won’t call it a plastic bag. It’s a recycling bag.
Even better, you know the thousands and thousands of cardboard boxes they use to ship products to the big name distributors? Instead of smashing them in some back room and leaving them outside in the elements to eventually be taken to a landfill somewhere, they cart them downstairs for customers to take instead of paper or plastic bags. Lots of really, really good ideas Walmart should take note of.
REKWA #6. Samples.
When is the last time you got a free sample at Walmart? I'm talking a real sample, not a knife demonstration, or whatever else they're waving around shouting about.
It's hard not to end up with a stomach full of samples at E-mart. Oh, is this mandu? Sure I'll try it? And bulgogi? Why not? Maeil milk? I don't even know what you are, of course I'll try you!
So there you have it. E-mart rules, and Walmart drools. And by "drools," I mean is a horrendously wasteful company that needs to seriously reconsider some of its environmental policies before it can expect to see me as a customer again. And maybe stick with the smiley faces for a while, I don't know if the States are ready for hot greeter babes just yet... sorry!
- Christine -