No trip to the Kansas City area is complete for me without a visit to the local Costco. For those unfamiliar with Costco, it is a large warehouse "club" store much like the Sam's Club stores - except Costco pays its employees a living wage and provides more in the way of benefits that the Walton-owned Sam's Club.
Tim and Olive and I spent a couple of hours in one of the local Costco stores this morning where we filled a cart-and-a-half with merchandise and had a nice lunch. (Wednesday morning, it turns out, is a great time to shop at Costco!) I now have enough paper goods, bottled water, soap, and breakfast cereal to last at least until my next trip to Kansas City. If I lived closer, I would also cart home refrigerated items.
I was a member of Costco in Phoenix, and assumed that there would be at least one within a hundred miles of so of West Plains. Wrong, Kimosabe! Their stores are noticeably absent from Springfield, Missouri, and from all of northwest Arkansas. My sister believes that it is because Walmart and the Walton family have a stranglehold on the area. And my sister, as always, is right. Not only do they have a Walmart store in every community of any size and Sam's Clubs in Springfield and Fayetteville, but most of the small towns also have an Arvest Bank (the old Bank of Bentonville) which is wholly owned by Sam Walton's son, Jim.
The area is saturated by Walton family concerns. They suck much of the wealth out of the communities they serve, and return very little through their low-paying jobs - and almost nothing through charity. The people of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas deserve better. They should have a real choice - and Costco would be a significant step in providing alternatives to Walmart and Sam's Club.
Come on, Costco, grow a set! My friends and neighbors deserve a chance to be something more in life than just Walmart shoppers!