Walmart, Grand Junction, CO (West), 12/22/10This end cap (retail parlance for the shelves at the end of an aisle) display is a recent addition to one of Grand Junction's two Walmart stores. It has two items on it; 18-ounce plastic "party cups" and table tennis balls.
I thought it was curious, maybe a little funny, and maybe a little sad that a company that exercises its considerable market leverage to influence, censor, and refuse to sell products from the entertainment, media, and even health care sectors would choose to openly market two products together that really only serve one purpose when combined; a drinking game popular with many not yet of legal drinking age.
The timing of this display, to coincide with Christmas break for schools and colleges, is interesting as well.
I spoke with an Assistant Manager of the store, who said that she had also "noticed" the display, but offered no other insight or corrective action. I stated to her that I thought it interesting that a company that requires adults of just about any age to show ID when purchasing an R-rated DVD would be tacitly endorsing, if not encouraging, potentially illegal and damaging behavior.
Evan and Leslie both thought I was barking up the wrong tree with this. Leslie thought I should be focusing on my own hypocrisies before I worry about Walmart's. Evan adopted an almost libertarian viewpoint about what people can and cannot buy, the right of a private business to sell or not sell what it wants to, the identification of markets, and catering to the needs of those markets being just good business sense. They both make valid points.
Still, it just seems kind of contradictory to me. It reminds me of when Walmart and other local stores start stocking up on Mardi Gras-style bead necklaces as Country Jam approaches every year. These beads and other decorations are popular among attendees.
I can remember marketing displays with these beads that included such items as sunscreen, styrofoam coolers, and handheld misting fans. I wonder what the community reaction might be if they added hangover remedies, 5-gallon buckets, and condoms to these displays. They also might not be a bad addition to our beer pong end cap above. Hey, it's a free country...
On a more serious note, I found out while doing some research that the Mesa County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force is no longer in existence. Their grant funding ran out this past June. However, there is still a dedicated liquor enforcement person at the GJPD who might find the above information interesting, if not humorous in a sad kind of way. At least the lady at the Mesa County Health Department that answered the former task force "hotline" did. Luckily, the task force website still works, and is just as informative and accessible as always.
If beer pong is to become another festive holiday tradition, like wassail and egg nog, maybe Walmart should do it better next year. Let's try green ping-pong balls with the red cups. What's Christmas all about, after all?
Yeah. That's right. You know what's coming.
Have a blessed and safe holiday.