We went to Wal-Mart today, and got some pretty terrible news. Earl (maybe I changed the name to protect the innocent) told us he won't be passing out anymore Happy Face stickers to the little ones who comes through the store. "News from the top is, they can't be buying anymore sticker rolls," he said. "I mean really, how much can they be? Pretty cheap, if you ask me."
I think they should ask you, Earl. Earl is at the front of the store, and I'll bet he sees thousands and thousands of customers walk by, and most of them are probably not the most pleasant, because, well, they've sunk low enough to put low prices ahead of their values, and I bet every so often a little kid comes by and says, "Mom, I was good! Can I have a sticker??" and mom is thinking about how she's going to turn 2 pounds of ground beef into two weeks of dinner, and how she hopes it's okay they didn't buy junior those shoes, because it's not like his toe is sticking all the way out of the sneaker yet, and does she have enough gas to get home, and YES, THANK YOU for not pitching a fit when we walked by the Pixar Cars display, you can absolutely have a sticker, and I'm just guessing that the highlight of Earl's day is giving those shoppers just a little bit of peace when they walk out of the store. Just a little smiley face sticker, to say, "Thanks for shopping here, instead of Target, or Fry's, or anywhere else much less depressing. I hope your day starts looking up, and I hope your kids keep finding joy in simpler things."
Those stickers are a gift to both the recipient and the giver. Earl gets to make kids smile. The kids are excited to see him. They wave good-bye and say thank you. They give mom a chance to see her kids through Earl's eyes, and appreciate their cuteness and how well-behaved they've been. Kids get to stick them on the car window and get everything all sticky. Those smiley face stickers keep the lines of communication open between the faceless store that takes the money and the consumer who had to make the choice to go there. Earl and his stickers ease the blow. It doesn't make it "okay" but it makes my kid smile, and sometimes, on a day that requires a trip to Wal-Mart, that's better than nothing.
Wal-Mart, i know you paid someone to crunch the numbers and find out that the stickers are costing your billion dollar company hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know that the sticker cut means your suits get an extra grand per year. I know those stickers aren't making dollars, so they don't make sense.
But you really pissed me off today, Wal-Mart. My kid got her last smiley face sticker. Earl is pretty sure he got his last smile from my kid (which isn't true, Earl. I'll make sure we smile at you, no matter what). You're making everyone think harder about what you're really offering, and what you're not offering, and I'll tell you what Wally. No one is smiling.