Tried to buy a vacuum cleaner at Walmart with a $1 million bill

He tried to buy a vacuum cleaner at Walmart with a $1 million bill.

Sounds like a punch line to a joke, but it really happened in Lexington, NC in November 2011.  (Thank you to BoingBoing for this and many other wonderfully amusing/amazing stories.  You should read it when you have a chance.)

But buried in here is part of what makes Walmart wonderful.  Inside every Walmart is a little bit of what’s outside — good, bad, and (mostly) neither.  While Walmart gets chastised for some of its well-publicized stumbles, the chain does quite a lot to help Americans, even those who don’t shop there.

Unexpected Savings

Walmart publicizes the statistic that they save the average American household $2500 per year (per a 2007 study they commissioned) and has led to a 3% reduction in prices across all retailers.  There are arguments on the other side, of course, that are well worth thinking about.  But buying power that led to a 3% reduction in prices for consumer goods for all Americans at all retailers, even people who feel harmed by Walmart?  This is no small feat.

Looking at Walmart’s founding, they served rural communities that Kmart and other competing discounters wouldn’t touch.  They found a market for its format that others felt was beneath them.  And that’s what attracts a broad cross-section of life, including the guy who wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner with a $1 million bill.