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A Walmart tale: Botticelli bomb in Dubois, PA

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By Andrew Harris

Walmart and I have a fairly well documented past. I really try not to support Walmart stores and largely succeed on my home turf. Take me out of my bubble and suddenly here I am, wandering into a Walmart Supercenter on a Sunday morning in central Pennsylvania.

Being a little sheepish about the whole thing I walked into the store and was immediately in awe. The place was enormous, it was big enough to house multiple 747 jumbo jets. Twenty-five foot ceilings and twenty five cash registers. The produce section was larger than an average full size Tops Market store.

I finally got myself oriented and started on a journey through this jungle of imported goods. The produce section was surprisingly nice, because it was fashioned after a Wegman’s display on steroids. A dozen of blue vested workers manned the fruits, vegetables, and pre-cut section. I turned left out of the produce department and unknowingly, into a brutal fate.

Tacos, check. Pasta check. I was really thrilled to find my personal favorite, Botticelli Marinara, so I bought two. My cart was about half full at the end of that isle, and I made turn into the next isle: frozen foods. A chill hit me and I looked down the row of two dozen freezers, unaware that within seconds Walmart karma was about to change everything.

I pivoted my cart slightly, and heard a noise like a muffled gun shot. My memory is somewhat spotty from then until checkout. After the noise, I felt a cool and wet feeling on my feet. I looked down and I saw red, lots of red. Just as the smell of garlic and tomato hit me, I realized that my Botticelli had rolled out of the child seat, dropped 3 feet, and exploded between my feet.

There I was, standing in the middle of a ten foot wide pile of pasta sauce, wearing crocs. My first instinct was to run. That option was very limited unless I wanted to track marinara all over the store. As I considered it, their was Evelyn, about fifty feet away in the adjacent paper products isle. Our eyes met, she flashed a glance of disappointment but kindly smiled when she realized how bad my disaster was.

Evelyn grabbed her walkie-talkie and called in “the cart.” I stood motionless in my marinara lake and Evelyn, about seventy, agreed that I should not make matters worse and track the sauce throughout the store.

“We will have to get you cleaned up in the maintenance room, but first lets wait for ‘the cart’ to get here.”

Brandon arrived in moments with the mobile unit that is specially designed to handle these major spills.

“Well you are the first of the day,” he informed me as he cracked his knuckles and got ready to do his job. Brandon had a wry smile, telling me that he enjoyed this work, saving shoppers from themselves.

Evelyn, Brandon, and myself stragetized on the next step, literally. My crocs were full of marinara and some glass chards so we decided the best thing was to use a squeegee to remove as much sauce from the floor as possible. Brandon used a deft touch and Evelyn looked on like a doting mother. Walmart associates stopped by the scene and muttered things like “oh that is a bad one” and “jeez the glass is all the way over into isle 4!”

Time passed slowly. Once the sauce was clear I began the painstaking process of cleaning my feet and footwear. One roll of paper towels and a half hour later, Eveyln escorted me to the other side of the store. In the maintenance closet I was able to use a hose to rinse the remaining marinara off. Eveyln never left my side.

All clean, I returned to my cart to find Brandon just finishing up the job. No marinara to be seen, he even cleaned my cart wheels off. I thanked him profusely and he wryly smiled back a non-verbal, “What would idiots like you do without me?”

Suddenly Eveyln, Brandon, and I were standing around my half full shopping cart as if nothing ever happened. I wondered how many times per day these little nightmares unfold and Brandon quickly said, “We had 13 yesterday and one day last week it was over 20.”

The rest of the shopping experience was humble. I treaded lightly with my head down, not making eye contact with any Walmart associates, until I made it to the cashier.

My guilt compelled me to admit to the cashier what had happened and how great Evelyn and Brandon had been in helping resolve the disaster. As I told the story she cackled with an odd glee, I demanded the manager.

“Which one?” she asked because they have ten managers on duty at any given time.

“The top manager!” I replied

She called Manager Jim over who looked ready to take my complaint.

“I just created a massive mess in isle 3 due to negligence and plain bad shopping habits. Eveyln and Brandon took great care of me and got the mess cleaned up as quickly as possible. Just wanted to let you know they are all-star associates.”

He was shocked, apparently compliments are not as common as epic disasters like I had caused. He promised to give them a pat on the back and thanked me for shopping at the Dubois, PA Walmart.

The lessons learned from this are still coming into focus, two weeks after that fateful day. Was this incident part of a larger conflict between myself and Walmart? Will a blooper video emerge on the famous “People of Walmart” Facebook page?

One thing I can tell you is putting marinara jars into the child seat of a grocery cart is a no-no.

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