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The Ultimate CAG Spring Break: Now THIS Is a Cheap Ass


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#1 PittsburghAfterDark

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:39 PM

Don't say I never give you ideas for fun things to do.

Spring break at Wal-Mart
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MARC HANSEN
REGISTER COLUMNIST

March 27, 2006

Skyler Bartels kept looking over his shoulder. It's a habit he picked up living at the Windsor Heights Wal-Mart for three days.

Really living there. Eating, sleeping, checking out the DVDs, never leaving. The plan was to spend his entire spring break there. Under the radar.

Some kids go to Cancun. Skyler Bartels, a Drake University sophomore from Harvard, Neb., went to the garden and patio department.

The great experiment had been over for a few days, but Bartels was still in great-experiment mode. As we sat at a booth in the Subway sandwich shop toward the front of the store, he glanced at the friendly white-haired Wal-Mart greeters.

Were they onto him? Why were they staring? Bartels was still suffering from greeter phobia.

He was never out to get Wal-Mart, he explained. This wasn't supposed to be an expose.

Bartels didn't burst through the door stewing about low wages, poor working conditions or the way the big chain chews up Mom and Pop.

This was part sociology experiment, part school project. Bartels is a writing major. Maybe he'd put it all down on paper and pick up an independent study credit, or even sell it to somebody someday.

Maybe he'd move on to another Wal-Mart and produce a documentary, like the guy who ate nothing but McDonald's for a month.

Bartels got the idea from a commercial. Was it true what those happy, shiny people were telling him: "Always low prices. Always"?

Could the biggest, most successful discount store in the world really meet his every need? Twenty-four hours a day? That's what the TV spots were telling him.

"That was the goal," he said. "To buy everything I needed at Wal-Mart."

His father told him to go for it and offered to bankroll the project.

On Sunday, his girlfriend dropped him off at the front door and drove away. The game was on.

He didn't tell Wal-Mart what he was doing, and it's probably a good thing.

"We weren't aware of this," said corporate spokeswoman Sharon Weber, "but it's not something we condone. We're a retailer, not a hotel."

A Drake law professor gave Bartels some advice: The store is private property. If they ask you to leave, go quickly and quietly.

Bartels walked into the big box wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. He had his cell phone in case of emergency, his heart medicine, his bank card, two forms of identification, and nothing else.

He spent the first afternoon watching "Chicken Little," the animated Disney film. He watched it all. Deleted scenes, interviews, outtakes. Everything.

"They had it on a continuous loop the whole time I was there," he said. "I'd pass through the department and say, 'Oh, it's about halfway through' or, 'I like this part. I think I'll watch it again.' "

Bartels decided not to buy anything he couldn't carry around the store. He ended up with a jacket (for storage space), a note pad, some pencils, an electronic voice recorder, a three-pack of underwear, a comb, a toothbrush and some toothpaste.

He lived off energy drinks, doughnuts, yogurt and Subway sandwiches.

He figures he slept four hours out of the 41 in captivity. He'd catch a few minutes whenever he could - in a Subway booth or a restroom stall, which isn't recommended, especially with the night stockers bursting in every five minutes.

"I got to the point," he said, "where I was adept at falling asleep on the toilet seat, which sounds kind of weird."

The best place for dozing was lawn and garden, where the lights weren't so bright. Nobody worked there between 2 and 4 a.m. Bartels found a lawn chair, kicked back and wondered how life could be better.

Life would be perfect, he discovered, without the worker who showed up before dawn to stock plants. Bartels hopped up and pretended to be looking for home patio furniture.

That 1 to 4 a.m. shift was the daily low point. Subway was closed. Bartels was often the only Wal-Mart shopper, which made it harder to blend into the cosmetics and sporting goods.

"It's just me and the stockers then," he said, "and every once in a while somebody who needs a Swiffer at 2 in the morning."

He was sitting on the floor reading a magazine at 3 a.m. when a man, shivering from the cold, walked in, bought an atlas and left. "You'd see a lot of people reading," Bartels said. "Cosmopolitan was a huge favorite. But nobody ever checked the magazine section. I never saw anybody stocking books or magazines."

He found it strange the way the same two guys kept showing up in the middle of the night to buy movies.

"They looked like ' Devil's Rejects ' kind of guys. But they ended up buying stuff like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' "

Bartels was playing a boxing video game at 1 a.m. when a man appeared out of nowhere, giving him pointers, teaching him how to throw a left jab and a right "steamliner."

Steamliner?

"Yeah, I still don't know what that is."

He met some interesting people during normal hours, too. There was the military recruiter who told him he had what it takes.

I looked at Bartels. Long hair, scruffy college-kid beard, slender build. Pleasant, laid-back demeanor. I had to know. What does it take?

"He said I had good posture and didn't look sad."

Bartels ran into a nun, Sister Mary Sue, who was fun and energetic and looked the opposite of sad.

He saw some strange sights. He followed two birds who swooped into the produce section and swiped some grapes. He named them Laurel and Hardy.

"One sat on the grapes, and the other pulled them off," Bartels said, insisting he wasn't hallucinating.

By Tuesday morning, not even halfway through the great experiment, the store was on to him.

"I noticed the greeters pointing at me," he said. "Somebody got on the intercom and announced a meeting of the department managers. One of the shift managers came up to me and asked, very politely, if I needed anything. I could have told him where everything was."

His debit account was frozen. He was exhausted and paranoid. Game over. His med-student brother picked him up and took him away.

Bartels now regrets the early exit.

"I should have stuck it out, at least to see what the meeting was about. It never got tedious at all, which was surprising. But isn't that how it works in real life? Don't we do pretty much the same thing every day?"

Like real life, you can't get everything at Wal-Mart (new slogan: Not a Hotel). Bartels couldn't get a shower or a bed. He couldn't find one of those miniature bottles of shampoo.

Most of the creature comforts were covered, though. When he wanted to get his hair washed, he made an appointment at the Wal-Mart hair salon.

Real life or not, for a few days this was home. And Bartels figured he might as well treat it like home. When he had nothing better to do, he roamed the aisles, putting away items that were out of place.

"It was a good way to keep busy," he said. "It took a whole lot of time, and if somebody came up and yelled at me, at least I was being productive and beneficial to the store."

Bartels got to feeling so productive and beneficial, he even filled out a job application.

"I wasn't sure how to answer some of the questions," he said. " 'Where can we reach you?' That was a tough one. The electronics department?"

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#2 neocisco

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:58 PM

That's pretty funny.:lol: Next year, Target.

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#3 twanky

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:00 PM

Nice way to spend spring break. Interesting read.
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#4 Guest_Apossum_*

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:07 PM

Too bad he didn't meet Jennifer Connely.

#5 SteveMcQ

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:10 PM

Haha...good read.

#6 thebob101

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:27 PM

Definitely an interesting read. I can't believe no one noticed him sooner.

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#7 ananag112

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:34 PM

Maybe Walmart will open up a hotel chain now?
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#8 Maklershed

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:36 PM

That was a bizarrely captivating story. What will these crazy kids think of next?

#9 sblymnlcrymnl

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:40 PM

I don't think I could stick around walmart for more than a few hours. :lol:

#10 munch

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 05:40 PM

It's extremely weak sauce that he left without some sort of confrontation. He should have stuck it out.

#11 Rags

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:13 PM

I remember some movie a couple years ago that some girl lived in a Walmart for a while, but that was when it closed at night. It would be harder now that they are open all night. It had Natalie Portman in it. The movie was a chick flick, but I don't remember the name.

By the way, how could they kick him out of the store if he bought something every few hours. Technically, he is a paying customer so he could be there. Only time I could see him getting hit would be when he was sleeping. Other than that, they got nothing on him. If they never actually caught him sleeping I can't see how they could actually kick him out. He never did anything wrong except sleep there.
So, why the heck did they freeze his account? I'm guessing they could have gotten him on loitering, but that's a blanket charge that can be applied anywhere to anyone when there is nothing else to put on someone.

#12 shieryda

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:20 PM

I don't think I could stick around walmart for more than a few hours. :lol:


Certainly not in my hometown! There are some real winners that shop there.

He could have saved even more money by buying a bottle of shampoo and washing his hair in the men's room sink. Hair salons are expensive!

#13 Rags

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:30 PM

At a Walmart not far from where I live there is a Mcdonalds in there. That would work good on the food source.

#14 Mookyjooky

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:31 PM

I remember some movie a couple years ago that some girl lived in a Walmart for a while, but that was when it closed at night. It would be harder now that they are open all night. It had Natalie Portman in it. The movie was a chick flick, but I don't remember the name.

By the way, how could they kick him out of the store if he bought something every few hours. Technically, he is a paying customer so he could be there. Only time I could see him getting hit would be when he was sleeping. Other than that, they got nothing on him. If they never actually caught him sleeping I can't see how they could actually kick him out. He never did anything wrong except sleep there.
So, why the heck did they freeze his account? I'm guessing they could have gotten him on loitering, but that's a blanket charge that can be applied anywhere to anyone when there is nothing else to put on someone.


I also remember natilie portman saying something like, I've never been to a Wal-mart before... after the movie... lol, must be nice.

#15 Rags

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 06:41 PM

Last night on 60 minutes Tiger Woods was on there. In one segment Tiger said he was cheap and still did not buy "big" things since his money came a rolling in and days of success. In the next segment he was talking about his BIG ASS boat that he had and his huge mansion of a house.

#16 DT778

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 07:02 PM

I remember some movie a couple years ago that some girl lived in a Walmart for a while, but that was when it closed at night. It would be harder now that they are open all night. It had Natalie Portman in it. The movie was a chick flick, but I don't remember the name.

By the way, how could they kick him out of the store if he bought something every few hours. Technically, he is a paying customer so he could be there. Only time I could see him getting hit would be when he was sleeping. Other than that, they got nothing on him. If they never actually caught him sleeping I can't see how they could actually kick him out. He never did anything wrong except sleep there.
So, why the heck did they freeze his account? I'm guessing they could have gotten him on loitering, but that's a blanket charge that can be applied anywhere to anyone when there is nothing else to put on someone.

private property.

#17 shieryda

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 07:11 PM

private property.


Loitering?

#18 WinnieThePujols

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 07:15 PM

What's the movie called where that Target janitor meets up with that chick that stays overnight at the store, or whatever? And remember, the place ends up getting robbed?

Seeing that movie is always really nostalgic, because it's got the Target design from the early 90's (naturally). I remember really enjoying the movie itself, though.
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#19 neocisco

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 07:58 PM

What's the movie called where that Target janitor meets up with that chick that stays overnight at the store, or whatever? And remember, the place ends up getting robbed?

Seeing that movie is always really nostalgic, because it's got the Target design from the early 90's (naturally). I remember really enjoying the movie itself, though.


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#20 sblymnlcrymnl

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 08:30 PM

Career Opportunities w/Jennifer Connelly.

I need to pick that one up.

#21 kaw

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 08:38 PM

What a wasted spring break.

#22 Graystone

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 10:01 PM

Too bad he didn't meet Jennifer Connely.


:lol:

Yes he did, you missed in in the article look "I saw her on day two. We had a cop of java together" :D

Very interesting project, I worked at a walmart and couldn't stand it for 9 hours a day. My hats off to this man.

#23 doraemonkerpal

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 10:07 PM

Too bad he didn't meet Jennifer Connely.


HAHAHA, nice!

thanks for the interesting read op.

Well, to be honest, it's hard for people to be outraged about something once they know the facts. And it takes more effort to dig up facts than be outraged. ;)

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#24 AlbinoNinja

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 10:20 PM

lol, i might actually try doing something similar to that experiment, except instead stay in Target for as long as possible living off one Icee...

my previous record was 4 refills, then i spilled the cup, which attracted way too much attention

#25 ph33r m3

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 11:10 PM

And this guy isn't a loser how?
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#26 defender

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 11:45 PM

Well he was buying stuff. :-)

#27 AlbinoNinja

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 12:01 AM

And this guy isn't a loser how?

based on a few of the people he mentioned, he seemed to have gotten some good information. Also, the whole "possibly hallucinating" about the birds thing was interesting. Did he really see animals behaving in a complex method, or was he experiencing one of the most mysterious signs of exhaustion?

sure, he may have wasted some time, but if he brought any entertainment with him, it would have interfered with his findings. The best thing I can think of is to compare this to camping, where one sheds their possessions at home and discovers something about themselves and a new environment by readapting to a new locations. In this case it wasn't the wilderness, however, but rather somewhere no one has thought of living before, a wal-mart.

also, he took an interest in his future career, and got his name known.
and if you're just talking about how he "could have been drinking/partying," there's always next year

#28 ph33r m3

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 12:06 AM

based on a few of the people he mentioned, he seemed to have gotten some good information. Also, the whole "possibly hallucinating" about the birds thing was interesting. Did he really see animals behaving in a complex method, or was he experiencing one of the most mysterious signs of exhaustion?

sure, he may have wasted some time, but if he brought any entertainment with him, it would have interfered with his findings. The best thing I can think of is to compare this to camping, where one sheds their possessions at home and discovers something about themselves and a new environment by readapting to a new locations. In this case it wasn't the wilderness, however, but rather somewhere no one has thought of living before, a wal-mart.

also, he took an interest in his future career, and got his name known.
and if you're just talking about how he "could have been drinking/partying," there's always next year


Well seeing as how the fact that this guy who's in College spent his Spring Break which is basically a huge booty call, he decides to stay in a Wal-Mart. If I knew anybody that did that at my school, they be called a loser.
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#29 dude2003

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 12:13 AM

Well seeing as how the fact that this guy who's in College spent his Spring Break which is basically a huge booty call, he decides to stay in a Wal-Mart. If I knew anybody that did that at my school, they be called a loser.


so this is what today's kids come to....instead of looking into their future, they'd rather party have booties. and you are a loser if you use your time wisely instead of wasting it.

#30 botticus

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 12:29 AM

so this is what today's kids come to....instead of looking into their future, they'd rather party have booties. and you are a loser if you use your time wisely instead of wasting it.

Eh, I think that's how it's always been... up until the time you mature and enter the work force, your coolness is based on how many women you've slept with or how much you can drink or other such highly accurate things. After that it's based on how much money you make. And that's where roles usually switch ;)