Monday, July 4, 2011

A Very Wo Er Ma Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  In honor of independence day, I have decided to dedicate this post to one of the most successful American exports to China, Walmart! Chinese Walmart, or Wo Er Ma as it is known colloquially, has reached just about every corner of the country (excluding Tibet) with 35 super-centers in Guangdong province alone.  The other day I went on a Shenzhen bus adventure to my local Wo Er Ma for some toothpaste, a cereal bowl, badminton rackets, and other necessities and I was blown away by how similar, and at the same time how different, it was from the American version we all know and love (to hate).

At first glance, everything appears familiar; the oversized price tags, blaring high-def TVs, American brands and everyday low prices had me expecting to be greeted by an underpaid senior citizen.  Upon closer inspection, however,Wo Er Ma looks less like an American store in China, and more like a Chinese take on an American idea - the all-in-one big box store.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to wax poetic about Chinese Walmart; it is what it is.  Still, I guess I was expecting to see a bit more of America in this very American brand.  I think that's why they've succeeded where so many other foreign retailers have failed.  Walmart was willing to break down its business model to the basic components and let the tastes of Chinese consumers do the rest.  Either way it was pretty weird and cool.

On a related note, Caroline and I made another quick trip to Wo Er Ma today to buy popsicles for our office in honor of the 4th.  I think we both underestimated our co-workers' love of popsicles as they were almost all gone within five minutes.  In addition to thanking us for the frosty treats we provided, some of the CAUPDers congratulated us on an extraterrestrial-free independence day.  Turns our co-workers have pretty good taste in movies.  

Jerry, not being one to pass up an opportunity to celebrate, is taking us to Barack Obama's half brother's barbecue restaurant tonight in honor of the holiday.  I have a feeling we're in for another Wo Er Ma-esque experience...American, only not.  Sometimes China really makes me laugh.


Unknown said...

I suspect that the reasons why I do not like Walmart are non-issues in China. I.e. quality in wages, benefits, job security etc. By the way, do all Chinese have health insurance? Likely a very naive question.

Boudartj said...

Wow Wo Er Ma bringing America's finest beer to China: PBR.
Does China even use blue ribbons for first place?

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