The Walmart Solution

It was obvious that we needed a new fish tank.  After five years, our happy little ten gallon tank had become caked with algae, and my attempts at cleaning it had failed.  The tank scraper was ineffective, and even when I emptied the tank and used an abrasive sponge, I was only able to minimally reduce the amount of algae on the glass.

Most pet stores carried new fish tanks, but they generally sold complete kits that included a hood, light, and filter.  Our filter is still in good condition, and we had just purchased a new hood last year when the old one broke.  It didn’t make sense to spend money on those components when all we needed was an empty tank.

We probably should have just splurged and bought an entire tank when the hood broke, but we were still anticipating our move at that point, and we were concerned with how well the tank would fare through the moving process.  We were very reluctant to start buying new fragile pieces of furniture.

The tank did indeed survive (While we would have been okay if it didn’t, I’m sure the fish themselves were quite happy about this) and continued to sit in its algae encrusted glory in our living room.  If we tried really hard, we were able to find some clear spots on the glass through which the fish could be observed.

Fortunately, we found a solution to our problem thanks to America’s favorite retail store: Walmart!

Walmart - The answer to all of life's problems.  (Image source: Wikipedia)

Walmart – The answer to all of life’s problems. (Image source: Wikipedia)

We recently discovered that we are in a 15 minute driving range of a Walmart.  Despite such convenient proximity, we had managed to avoided it until last weekend.  I was out running errands and had some time to kill so I decided to amuse myself by seeing if Walmart lived up to its reputation.

Everyone knows the stereotypes about Walmart: They’re dirty, and filled with fat, ugly, poor people.  An entire website has been dedicated to these people.

My only prior experience with Walmart is going to one in Long Island on Christmas Eve, and that was disappointing.  I always hope to find a bunch of  imbeciles scrambling to find last-minute gifts.  Instead, the store is usually mostly empty.

Did the local store prove to be any different?  While I didn’t see any real “People of Walmart”, I can say that the stereotype definitely exists for a reason.

The parking lot was a mess of people fighting for spots, and there was a long line of cars idling by the entrance.  Inside, the store was packed with people who weren’t exactly wearing their Sunday finest.  Based on what I saw, it seems as if the jean shorts industry isn’t in danger of going out of business any time soon.

I don’t understand why Walmart seems to exist on a different plane of reality from the Target that is just across the parking lot.  The average income of the customers seems to be about $10,000 higher in Target.  Is Walmart THAT much cheaper?  Or is the appeal of an in-store McDonalds just too much for lower-income families to pass up?

Am I one of them??? (Image source:

Am I one of them??? (Image source:

Walking through a store, some weird thoughts went through my mind: “Do they know that I’m not one of them?  Are they angry that an outsider is in their midst?”  And then, I looked down at my novelty T-shirt and camouflage shorts and had a scary thought: “Maybe I AM one of them!”

Those ponderings were interrupted when I happened to venture past the pet department (Side note #1: They sell fish at Walmart.  I didn’t expect to see that.) and noticed they had empty fish tanks for sale!  It was exactly what I needed and at $13 seemed to be reasonably priced.

So I did what anyone in my situation would do: I left the store to check if there was a better price online.  (Side note #2: I’m not sure why these stores are complaining about “showrooming.”)  (Side note #3: I could have just used the Amazon Price Checker app on my phone and saved myself a trip)

Amazingly, they didn’t seem to sell plain tanks on  All of the ten gallon tanks were the complete kits that run over $50.  It seemed like the only place on the web where plain tanks could easily be purchased was…

Realizing that I wasn’t going to find a plain tank at a better price, (or maybe at all) the family headed back to the big W on Saturday.  Once again, it was a crowded mess.  We headed over to the pet department and picked up the last tank remaining on the shelf. (Phew!)  The Cutlet got to pick out a new decoration for the tank, and to nobody’s surprise, she chose a pink castle.  (“It’s Princess Aurora’s castle!”)

I was slightly worried about the checkout process.  As I said, the store was crowded, and if my fellow shoppers were truly as unintelligent as their reputation, this could take a long time.  For whatever reason, in general, the dumber the person, the longer their average checkout time is.  I also had this horrible image of everyone in line paying by check.

Thankfully, the Express Lane actually lived up to its billing, and we were able to get through in just a couple of minutes.

The process of moving fish from one tank to another proved to be a bit complicated.  I tried to preserve as much of the old water as possible, and some of the fish were apparently really attached to the old tank and didn’t want to leave.

Finally, I completed the transfer and the fish were happily (At least I assume they were happy) swimming in their new home.  It felt kind of strange to actually be able to watch the fish this morning, instead of trying to get a glimpse through a thick layer of algae.

And to think, we owe it all to Walmart!



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40 Responses to The Walmart Solution

  1. Whatever you do, don’t buy your fish there! For a lot of reasons. You might hunt around and see if you can find an aquarium shop within driving distance. Bring a cooler to pack your new friends home in.

  2. We bought our fish tank, accessories and, yes, even the fish, from Walmart. I do most of my Walmart shopping online. Yay for free shipping! When we do venture to the actual store, I like to go early on Sunday mornings when it isn’t crowded.
    Enjoy watching your fish again. By the way, that pink castle doesn’t look too bad!

    • The Cutter says:

      Did you have the fish shipped to you?

    • No. We did have the tank shipped, but it arrived cracked. We ending up exchanging it in the store and then picking up all of our accessories at the same time. We did not, however, get the fish at that Walmart because the clerk told us they had ick. We drove to a different Walmart to get them.
      Even though we haven’t had troubles, I’d still listen to becomingcliche: Don’t buy your fish at Walmart.

  3. The people making up the stereotypes and bashing Walmart the most are getting all of their ammo by shopping at Walmart themselves. While most of the stereotypes are true, you can’t beat the place for convenience. I avoided Walmart until I was in my mid 20’s but finally had to break down when having to buy stuff for a house became a necessity.

  4. As a ex Walmart employee/manager in Canada,,,we no longer sell fish (in Ontario at least) because they always got sick and were costly!

  5. Princess Aurora’s castle looks great in the super clean and easy to see into tank!

  6. Kevin says:

    Walmart is great if you can find something you need without asking for help. And it is hugely entertaining. I do enjoy how you went in “undercover” with your first outing there. Did you wear a trucker’s hat too?

  7. It amazes me that there are adults in the US who haven’t visited a Walmart! They’re ridiculously abundant here in the south; Just in my immediate driving distance I have 3. Honestly though, they’re the only big retailer that can keep up with the Amazon’s of the internet when it comes to pricing. Glad you had a good experience!

    • The Cutter says:

      Well, I had visited the one in Long Island. But I really never lived close enough to one to go. It certainly wasn’t a place I would take a long trip to visit.

    • They’re just so prominent down here that it’s hard to believe. I wouldn’t make a long haul trip to one either, unless you were really into people watching. I bought a beta fish at our Walmart once to appease my girlfriend at the time, thinking it would surely die quickly due to where he was from… I’ll be damned if that little guy didn’t live almost 2 years!

  8. Anka says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m a “Target snob.” Is that wrong? I mean really, Target’s lighting is sooooo much better. Still, I’m happy to hear that you had success at the Mighty ‘W!’

  9. List of X says:

    Are the Walmart fish also obese and colored in weird colors?

  10. The Mecca (Sorry, I always use that codeword for my employer) I work at no longer sells fish… and sadly, the first commenter is pretty much on target with why. We sell a lot of those empty 10 gallon tanks, but always check for cracks… about 10% of the ones that come in are damaged.

    A lot of the People of Mecca pictures are intentionally set up for comedic purposes…. I see it a lot at my store. Yes, we have plenty of trailer park and ghetto dwellers among our customers, but it’s nowhere near as bad as sites like that would have you think… as long as you don’t shop too late at night….

  11. The Hook says:

    Walmart is located in a pocket reality and travelers should be careful not to linger too long, lest they be trapped forever and forced into a life of servitude as a greeter.

  12. stephrogers says:

    Can I just say…the tank was $13 and you thought you would look around for a better price? Bahahahaha. That made me snort laugh!
    We don’t have Walmart in Australia but we do have Big W and Target. I have looked at ‘people of walmart’ and laughed a lot. I wish I could see one. Just to say I’ve been. If I ever go to the USA it will be on my itinerary.

  13. C.K. Hope says:

    And then, I looked down at my novelty T-shirt and camouflage shorts and had a scary thought: “Maybe I AM one of them!” — That right there made me thankful I wasn’t sipping my coffee.

  14. Margie says:

    Glad to hear your fish made the transition so well!
    We have a Walmart in our community here in Canada. A lot of their employees are ones who would have trouble getting employment elsewhere, I think. So when an extremely slow and inefficient clerk rings up my bill, I just smile. At least this clerk is working, not sitting in front of the TV at home, collecting unemployment – and dust!

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