In reviewing a store, especially a multi-purpose store like Wal*Mart, the first thing I look at is the perimeter.
Store perimeters have to be strong. The shopping experience goes from the perimeter to the center of the store. Does the perimenter have a bank? Lottery tickets available? Easy access to tobacco? Is there a McDonald's? Better yet, is there a hot dog stand? Are there small tables to sit at with friends or children to have a hot dog and a 40 oz. pop? How about broasted chicken and JoJos? A deli?
You get the picture. Any store can and usually does have produce, dairy products, meat, bread, and other standard shopping fare on the perimeter of the store as you walk farther around the perimeter.
But I want to know what makes the perimeter unique.
By this standard, the Smelterville Wal*Mart needs some work.
First of all, every Wal*Mart I've ever visited, from Hayes, Kansas to Springfield, Oregon, from Bozeman, Montana to Hendersonville, North Carolina has had the service that makes Wal*Mart famous: the greeter.
The Smelterville Wal*Mart has no greeters. Maybe it's because I am nearing my mid-fifties and am already thinking about post-retirement employment opportunities, but I wanted to have a cheerful greeter help me secure my cart and ask me if I needed any help.
Moving to my left, the customer service counter looked efficient: returns, money orders, rain checks. But, I wanted real customer service available: Powerball tickets, scratch-it tickets; this is the Silver Valley. Aren't there some left over confiscated video poker machines? How about a few pull tabs? You know, a couple of Texas Hold 'Em or Blackjack tables could be opened with the help of the Historical Preservation people, as a way to celebrate the days that have died in the Silver Valley.
No hot dog stand. Very disappointing. A self-serve fountain bar with a tower of newspaper machines selling the Shoshone New Press, yes. Hot chicken, yes. JoJos, yes. I looked closely to make sure that Wal*Mart hadn't gone Huckleberries or Lindaman's on its faithful customers.
Nowhere near the chicken did I see the words "rosemary", "orange glazed", "free range", "almond butter" or "Greek, Lemon, Oregano": for this the Smelterville Wal*Mart is to be commended.
Why ruin a good take out chicken? Just broast the damn thing. That's what Wal*Mart does, and I trust that the chicken is well-preserved with sufficient amounts of salt.
As I moved in from the perimeter, the Smelterville Wal*Mart was impressive in its quantities of goods and its everyday low prices.
Just a couple of disappointments. A family member wanted to try Paul Newman's Limeade. None to be found. That made me wonder: had Wal*Mart let some kind of political statement interfere with good business? Come on. Get on the Paul Newman bandwagon!
Second: no sparkling water. No Calestoga, no Talking Rain. Are these considered hippie drinks? What's the deal? I'm trying to cut down on sodas. I need your help, Smelterville Wal*Mart!
Lastly, I loved the Wal-Mart associate who wanted me to sample some new Lipton White Raspberry Tea bags, and when I declined, she won me over by offering me a NASCAR race schedule and some products produced by NASCAR sponsorers.
She was surprised when I lit up at her offer of the schedule and we had a good talk about how it's hard to appreciate NASCAR in Smelterville with the races being so far away and I said I'd drop everything to go to one if they were closer and she said she probably couldn't afford to go even if they were near by and I decided not to ask her about the pay and benefits she earned at Wal*Mart because I was reviewing the perimeter, not looking to go all Michale Moore on her, and any way, I needed to find my sister who was getting my mom some lipstick, but we'd lost my sister and I didn't want to get separated even more in this big old Wal-Mart Superstore.
It's a new day in Smelterville. No more rodeos, demolition derbys, logging contests, mining competions, carnival rides, swindling carnie games, or drunken free for alls in the streets at Frontier Days.
No, now there's a new Forest Service office and a new Wal*Mart.
No greeters, no slot machines, no hot dogs, no Newman's Limeade: all disappointing.
But one thing for sure: Wal*Mart gives Smelterville some cred it's lacked for a long time.
I liked seeing shoppers looking happy that they could buy a iced tea making set or a tub of sweet inexpensive vanilla ice cream or, if they wanted, a Canon Power Shot digital camera.
They don't have to go to Coeur d'Alene.