The Good of Walmart and the Bad of Great Value Natural Peanut Butter

walmart storefront

Ah, Walmart, how we sort of love thee! Photo by Jared C. Benedict; CC 3.0 license.

Every year I do three stupid things to pay off my karmic debts accumulated from the previous year.This year, the first stupid thing I’ve done involved a purchase at Walmart, and many years the season does begin that way. In June of 2012, I bought a jar of Great Value Natural Peanut Butter and over the course of three days ate three peanut butter sandwiches. I’ve been sick for a week, and yesterday was so sick that I regretted taking the jar back and exchanging it for a jar of Jiffy. I thought I might have to go to the hospital and I no longer have the jar of evidence. Luckily, I seem to be on the mend. Maybe that’s the “natural” part of the peanut butter, a natural recovery.

Peanut butter ought to taste like peanut butter, and I suppose that since this peanut butter did not, that ought to have been sufficient reason for me not to eat any more of it. Since I’m poor and of partially Scottish ancestry, and it was a dollar cheaper than the edible brands, I thought I would go ahead and eat it anyway. After all, peanut butter is just protein and fat and sugar no matter what brand it is. I was very surprised at how wrong I was. With every sandwich I got sicker, and on the aftermath of the third sandwich I made the connection between the illness I acquired and the food I was eating. People should learn this lesson sooner.

Before I go any farther with my Walmart commentary, let me explain that I actually like Walmart. I grew up in northern Arkansas, where Walmart began, and Walmart Store Number Two was the biggest thing ever to happen in my home town of Harrison, just about forty miles from Store Number One in Berryville. Well, it was the biggest thing to happen until the Super Walmart opened some years later. Suddenly, we all had access to things that otherwise we’d have had to drive all the way to Springfield, Missouri, 75 miles north, to buy. In those early days, the drive to Springfield was not an easy nor short one, and was a trek our family would plan for weeks in advance and just hope to get through without anyone vomiting in the car from travel sickness due to the winding roller-coaster two-lane highway that went there. Walmart was amazingly good to us, in all sorts of ways, and put nearly every other store in town out of business for good reasons. Walmart sold us better stuff, more of it, and cheaper. Plus, they had more comic books than any other store in town and I was a fast reader. I shopped through a lot of Marvel Comics without paying for any of them.

sleeping piggie

Such a delicious animal deserves more marketing respect. Photo by wattpublishing at; CC 2.0 license.

I still like Walmart, even though Walmart today is much different than the old country super-store chain designed by a fellow who insisted on driving an old pickup truck until he died. I even applied for work at Walmart early this year, and was surprised at how quickly their system sorted me out. I have a long history of standing up for my rights and the rights of others in the workplace, and as soon as I said something about how I learn company policy and hold people to it, I saw notes being taken. I’m still allowed to shop at Walmart, but I’m not welcome as an employee. I’m not sure that Sam Walton might feel any differently about me, but at least he wouldn’t have told me the computer made the decision.

Walmart does a lot of things, though, that help me get my three stupid actions out of the way quickly every year. For instance, about this time every year in the Lawn & Garden section you can get a great half-price deal on dead plants. Why anyone would think dead plants are worth half as much as live ones, I can’t say, but Walmart sells them at that steep discount. They come in little plastic perforated envelopes with stone-dry potting soil and expired vegetation inside. You can get strawberries and raspberries and even asparagus as dead plants this time of year and save a lot of money. After the first week of watering and fertilizing, you’ll give up, and just think of all the money you will save by not watering and fertilizing for the rest of the year! A friend argued with me about this just last year. said she bought a dead plant at Walmart for next to nothing and brought it back to life. Well, I bought some that were actually dead, and even though I watered them faithfully and thought all sorts of happy thoughts in their direction, they remained dead. Dead is dead. If you bring a dead plant back to life, it wasn’t dead, it just needed water. Walmart doesn’t have different signage for those.

On the other hand, Walmart has the greatest return and exchange policy ever, such a great one that gangs of thieves make a living stealing from one Walmart store and returning the stolen merchandise to different Walmart stores. My ex-wife, an Asian lady from a culture where if you buy something it’s yours forever, was absolutely amazed and thrilled to find a store where you could buy something, try it out, and then get your money back without an argument. She’d buy stuff at Walmart just to test the theory, and it worked every time. Last time I visited her house she had a front room full of Walmart furniture with the plastic covers and tags still on it, ready to return. I think she wound up keeping it — eventually Walmart wins even with Asian women. Walmart wears you down, and eventually you keep something.

Currently I have two complaints about Walmart. One is their peanut butter, which might have killed me if I’d eaten four sandwiches. I do have sensitivities to some chemicals that other people find tolerable, but those chemicals are not supposed to be in peanut butter. So I’m against that, and henceforth will boycott Great Value products.

My second complaint is only aesthetic. I bought a package of pork neckbones today, great for soup or flavorful casseroles, every bit as good (in my opinion) as pork ribs. On the package, the label read “Pork Neckbones.” When the item popped up on the checkout screen and the receipt, it read “Pork Offal.”

Good God. If I’d known it was offal, I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. Walmart, stop calling my food offal. Reserve that term for your Great Value Natural Peanut Butter.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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