Buried in the online court reports we learned that there was a shooting in the parking lot of Lake Delton’s Walmart last week. Apparently a dispute over “binoculars” lead one man to shoot another in the chest. “Binoculars” was just a convenient lie when the real dispute was over drugs and nobody involved wants to admit that to the cops. The perps must be new at this because most experienced drug dealers who shoot at each other usually say it was a dispute over TV’s, or girlfriends. I like the binocular angle though, adds a sense of nature to it all.
I’ve been to Walmart once in the past year. I try to avoid the place because the employees are not nice, they refuse to open more lines no matter how busy they are, the place is filthier than a crack house, and I would rather spend my money at local stores and small businesses who appreciate their customers. I can now add another reason to avoid it, I don’t want to get shot.
About three years ago I went into the Delton Walmart because I needed something for my car that the local auto parts stores were out of. I watched a kid of about 14 flying around on a motorized scooter for the disabled, knocking things off the shelf. When confronted by an employee in the aisle I was in, the kid implied he was armed and would shoot the employee.
Two weeks ago, I ran to Home Depot for lumber. I made the mistake of driving through the neighboring Walmart lot to get home. I stopped at the parking lot crosswalk to allow a group of shoppers to walk to their cars. One creeper, a young man in his twenties, apparently didn’t like the way I stopped my truck as a courtesy to let him and others walk to his car. I got the death stare as we started to walk from the exit to the lot.
Perhaps he doesn’t like trucks, or maybe he recognized me from this column and didn’t like my tax advice last year (he didn’t look like the rodeo clown-type). Either way, his menacing stare was exaggerated as he slowed to a stop in front of my truck for what I think was intended to be an act of intimidation or to fight. I had to shake my head at him. This only caused him to start to mouth something at me as he puffed out his chest. I am no lip reader but I don’t think he was asking me to be his Valentine.
Walmart has lost a lot of respect in this community. Some people avoid it because they feel Walmart has driven small business under. Others avoid it as a matter of their own vanity or status symbol. Yet I think many simply avoid it because it just isn’t a nice place to be, period. Whatever the reason, our local Walmart certainly doesn’t have a reputation for cleanliness, service, or even safety these days.
Yet Walmart seems to get a pass. It is not an uncommon sight to see a squad car there. From shoplifting to now shootings, Walmart is a nuisance to this community. A nuisance that any other business would probably lose their license for if they managed their business that way. Imagine if a local bar had the thefts, disturbances, and calls for police service that Walmart did. Imagine the fines a restaurant would get if they let their patrons constantly park in crosswalks, fire lanes, and disabled stalls. Imagine another store whose grounds are constantly filled with trash, drug paraphernalia, and vagrants. Ever see the tons of trash blown into the fields and ditches adjacent to their lot? Better yet, ever see a Walmart employee out there picking it up?
Walmart should be held accountable for the mess they created, inside and out. If any business could afford extra security, groundskeepers, and general employees to make it a cleaner and more friendly environment, it is Walmart. Their neighboring businesses deserve better, their shoppers deserve better, and our community deserves better. It’s not fair to hold certain businesses’ feet to the fire and ignore the biggest violator because they generate the biggest tax revenue.
As a business, the local Walmart should be embarrassed too. They created a place in which complacency towards the customer is second to none. They created an environment of questionable dealings and customers through their ignorance and lack of enforcement and security. They will keep doing this until the powers that control their licensing tells them to clean up their act. Until then, if you need to run to Walmart for anything watch out for the hooligans in the crosswalk and consider wearing some body armor.
Brian Landers, a former Wisconsin Dells mayor, writes a weekly column for Capital Newspapers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.