(To see a less-small version of this cartoon, click on the spiral!)

Bizarro is brought to you today by Bark Vadar.

This cartoon combines one of my most  hated activities with one of my most cherished ones; I hate franchise shopping––which in most parts of the corporate utopia that is 21st-century America is all that is left––and I love hallucinogenic journeys of self discovery.

It is true that gigantic, franchise stores are very convenient. They have everything you want and need under one roof and the prices are lower. But they steal your soul and enslave your community. Once you’ve got a Walmart in your town, you are doomed to a bleak future of mind control and blind obedience. It is the proverbial “Deal with the Devil.” Here’s how it works:

Because they are huge, buy in bulk, pay their employees very little, and know god personally, they easily run all the small family-owned stores out of business. They simply can’t compete. These recently unemployed shopkeepers and their employees are then forced to find new jobs. But with their resume, the only place hiring within a fifty-mile radius is Walmart. Congratulations. And because they now make precious little money and have no benefits, they can only afford to shop at Walmart, which only makes the leviathan stronger and better able to conquer the next town down the highway. It’s like having your village burned down by Vikings and being taken back to Norway to serve as their slave, contributing to their economy and helping them prepare for their next barbarous assault.

One of the things I love about NYC is that they have not allowed Walmart to roost here. You have to cross the river to New Jersey or travel out to Long Island to find one of these eyesores. New York is a city where small, family-owned shops outnumber franchise stores by a thousand to one (probably). Still, it pains me every time I see a Target or Old Navy open up somewhere here. Eventually, this place will look like the rest of America, too. It’s inevitable.

But this is the homogenization that comes from a free economy. If I could magically drop you into a shopping area in any city in the U.S., you would have no way of telling what city or state you are in. Gap, Appleby’s, Lowes, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Sears, over and over and over again as far as the eye can see in every direction. Are you in Minneapolis or Baton Rouge? Seattle or Tallahassee? No way to tell.

Hallucinogenic journeys of self discovery, on the other hand, are always unique. For now, at least. If Walmart can find a way to take control of that market, you can bet they will.










All kinds of Bizarro cartoons on products not carried by any chain store can be found here.


27 thoughts on “Beyond

  1. I’ll admit to shopping at WM, but I have to say that they’re driving me back to the local & specialty stores with their lack of selection. Pet supplies, hardware…

  2. Aside from the snow (and the Walmart), that mall looks a lot like one I was at a few months ago in Geelong, Australia – so it’s not just the States *sigh*

  3. I live in a small town, of about 6000 people, the biggest town for an hour’s drive in any direction. Before WalMart came to our town, you couldn’t buy a, oh, a lampshade, say, or a blank CD (not many filled CDs either, to tell the truth – just the C&W titles the drugstore stocked). If you didn’t like the one make of coffeepot, or blender, or toaster the hardware store stocked, you were out of luck. Needed a strip of carpet to put in the entrance to your house? If you didn’t like the one they had at the furniture store for 80 bucks, then you could put down a potato sack, because nobody else sold them. And so on. People in cities where there are lots of choices can afford to turn up their noses at an affordable general merchandise store, but those of us in the real boonies were kinda glad to see the WM.

    Oddly enough, it’s been three years and a bit now, and none of the local businesses have gone out of business. They’ve reorganized a bit, specialized some, and held onto enough market share to do OK. Since we’re not driving 100 kms to shop like we used to, other incidental shopping doesn’t get taken out of town. The cashiers and floor staff at WalMart are still local people, it’s still in many ways the same sort of experience – I still know at least half the staff in any store in town.

  4. I like your version of Bed, Bath & Beyond! I have a bad habit of referring to it as “Bed, Bath and Bee-otch!”

    Corporations are a continuation of feudalism, with the improvement being that the poor can buy polo shirts for $7.99. And (vis a vis Josh’s comment) this give Penn Jillette a boner!

    • Sadly, America has a way of polluting the entire planet. We’re selling the technology for factory farming (severely damaging to the environment and ruthlessly cruel to animals) to other countries, and as a result of our fast “food” franchises’ invasion of Europe, it is not uncommon to see fat children and teens there, while the parents are still thin.

  5. Translation – “Those damn consumers, they will insist on shopping where there is a bigger choice at lower prices instead of supporting the shops that I like!”

    Personally I love varied, local , interesting shops. But most people prefer convenience and lower prices. Don’t blame the companies that provide what customers demand, blame the shoppers.

    And don’t forget that, unlike any other period in history, we have ways of finding virtually any kind of product ever made, and having it delivered to our door.

    • Yes, I know, everyone keeps telling me that. It was just a name that sounded good so I used it. I didn’t think Barkman had the same ring to it.

          • Please don’t be silly (or sarcastic :) ), you’re the funny guy! On the way to work I was thinking Bark Vader really was better. Surprisingly, you can find a respectable image of a dog in Darth Vader drag pretty easy, but it’s not nearly as rib tickling as the image you posted.

  6. I live in southern Michigan. I’m guessing that Box Stores are partially responsible for the decay of Detroit. Suburb after suburb of these stores! Dan, your explanation of this dilemma makes it much more clear to me. Although I have very little money to spend on extra’s I’m going to try to boycott.

  7. You forgot to add restaurants to that list — every major city (except maybe NYC) has mostly chains– even high end. There isn’t even any creativity left for the dining experience.

  8. Grammatical pet peeve:

    If a journey through the tunnel is merely “like” an hallucination, it would be “hallucinatory”.

    If it actually CAUSES an hallucination, THEN it would be “hallucinogenic”.

  9. Hmmmmm…. if just about every trade is now taken over by big corporations and their franchises, I wonder how that would look if beggars organised themselves that way. After all, there is at least one in every town already, and they probably all look the same to most members of the public. Would they have a standard hat for collection? A standard phrase to beg and say thank you? A standard placard? A logo? A slogan? (“Spare change? See your friendly local BeggarCorp representative!”) A standard smell?? I could picture someone selling old hats at a street corner with a sign “Franchises for sale”….

    • Interesting idea, Tanja. Eventually everything may become so homogenized that all cities will be identical and the only reason to choose one over another will be weather.

      • Ooooh, so jaded! I live in Christchurch; the city centre is smashed up, and pretty much all that is left for shopping for a long time to come is suburban malls (although I am happy to have discovered some random little suburban coffee shops).

        I still love it here, and I’m staying – not because of the weather, but because all my friends are here :) And we have a surprisingly strong vegan and vegetarian community.

        Also, there has to be a backlash against the corporate homogenisation of towns and cities at some point, hopefully even in the US. Local markets have been picking up some momentum here, and the earthquake has actually facilitated that. Even one shopping mall that is badly damaged is now putting on a weekly local market at a nearby school, until they are back up and running. I haven’t been there, but I understand that other small business, which are not normally part of the mall, are also participating. All good! I am actually excited to see what the outcome of the rebuilding of the city will be. (Fewer McDonalds, Subways, Starbucks and KFCs, hopefully…) Come visit when we’re done! (In 10 years time or so…. pencil it into your 2021 calendar…)

        On a similar note, you have to hand it to the Grand Rapids community!

        I wish we down here had thought of that! :)

  10. Seattle is fortunate to not have a Walmart, but there’s one in a nearby suburb. Our local businesses are dwindling away by the day, though. I shop local as often as possible within in the confines of my budget.

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