A Tale of Two Wal*Marts

Two Wal*Marts, both alike in dignity.  In the four state area where we lay our scene…

Okay, technically it’s more like four Super*Walmarts and one regular one with a refrigerator section and a SAM’s club but it sounds better when you’re paraphrasing great works of literature.

Seriously though, I live in an area dubbed ‘the four state area’ where a narrow stretch of Maryland meets the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, where you can go from Pennsylvania to Virginia by driving less than 40 miles on the interstate (and a little more if you’re taking the scenic / historical route)  and indeed drive in four states to do it.

In the four state area, there are five Wal*Mart ‘SuperCenters’, where you can do all your department store and grocery shopping in one place.  I believe two of the five were original Wal*Marts that were expanded to become ‘SuperCenters’ and the others were built as SuperCenters, not that it really matters.  What really matters, and is interesting to me is what’s inside.

To make this easier, I’m going to focus on the two Wal*Marts in West Virginia.  They are about five miles apart and worlds away from each other.  The northern store, Spring Mills WalMart has always been a SuperCenter, while the more centrally located WalMart was originally a regular WalMart attached to the Martinsburg Mall.

With that in mind, you’d think that the Martinsburg Wal*Mart would be perhaps less provisioned, and you’d be right… and you’d also be wrong.

The two stores are stocked differently and while their setups are similar, their main layouts are mirror images of the other.  In Martinsburg the right hand side is the grocery side, and the pharmacy/health and beauty/home and garden sections are on the left, while Spring Mills has the grocery side on the left and the Pharmacy is on the right although, the drive through for the pharmacy is on the left hand side of the building. (Martinsburg does not have a drive through pharmacy)

The prices in the two stores are, for the most part, the same.  Some of the fluctuation can be attributed to Wal*Mart’s price matching plan, but others… I’ll never know.  For a very long time a can of  Pedigree puppy food at Martinsburg was 8 cents less per can than  in Spring Mills, but the puppy imbalance goes much further than that.

Martinsburg keeps 4-5 times the amount of puppy food on their shelves than they do at Spring Mills.  Some of that is probably a case of space on the shelves, but I always feel guilty when I stop Spring Mills and get my puppy food, since I can’t help but think there’s only one puppy in the northern end of the county, and he’s going to go hungry because I bought the last 6 cans of puppy food from *his* store.

While there is more selection when it comes to cat and dog food and pet treats in Martinsburg, if you want fish you can only get them at Spring Mills.

The puppy imbalance that bothers me the most though is the treat selection.  Spring Mills boast 47 different varieties of Milk Bone biscuits.  (Alright, I admit, that one is a bit of an exaggeration but not much.)  They do however stock mostly Milk Bone, some Ol’ Roy and a smattering of other brands.

Martinsburg has an entire side of one aisle dedicated to dog biscuits (and of course other treats) and most importantly  Martinsburg carries Iams.  In Spring Mills you can find an occasional can of Iams, but never the puppy food, and I’ve never seen a box of Iam’s ‘cookies’ there, let alone the Iams Puppy biscuits.

I like Iams, especially their biscuits because they don’t add sugar.  You are actually giving your dog real food, in treat form.  MilkBone adds sugar and I was surprised to find that Pedigree does as well (except in their specially marked, gluten free/sugar free biscuits).

Trust me, my dog doesn’t need the sugar, no-one’s dog does.

The funny thing is, my dog, who I never thought of as a picky eater until a friend pointed it out, won’t eat milkbone.  He does however love his Iams “cookies”. And so, when I need pet supplies, I prefer to go to Martinsburg.

That should be the end right?  Wrong.  There are things that they do better in Spring Mills I’m guessing that because Martinsburg is closer to the hospital, is the reason why their pharmacy is always busier but Spring Mills is two miles up the interstate from the hospital.  

Martinsburg is older, and more established and is in the heart of ‘The City’* but it’s also harder to get in and out of.  (or is when they aren’t working on I-81, which is another story on its own)

There are other differences as well.  Spring Mills stocks the more ‘professional’ ladies wear, and has more variety when it comes to frozen dinners, and energy bars while the Martinsburg store has more choices in yogurt based drinks; as mentioned, a better pet section and better markdowns on clearance items.

In either case, when you go shopping after 21:00, you’re going to run into the restocking crew.  It’s not really a problem, but neither team leaves much in the line of cart sized breaks in the line of pallets to be emptied.

Now, I know that Wal*Mart tracks sales in different stores so they know the shopping trends of their customers, but let’s face it- I shop in the stores because of what they stock and we end up with a which came first scenario.

There you have it, Two Wal*marts, both alike in dignity… and there’s reason to shop both.

*Please note ‘The City’ is a local term for the City of Martinsburg, which by population, is indeed a city, but having grown up north of Baltimore, and gone to school in the ‘Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area’, I have a hard time calling it a city.

September 7, 2013


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