March 03, 2009

Where's Walmart?

I had noticed a building in Beijing with the words "Walmart Supercenter" reasuringly emblazoned near the top of it. The first day that I meandered around the complex I discovered a department store taking up seven floors of the building, a food court, a five star hotel, a movie theatre, and a video game arcade. A Walmart was not to be seen anywhere, so I went home.

I returned soon thereafter to the site, this time approaching the building from the rear. I spotted the entrance to the Walmart at once, and saw that the escalators led downstairs. It was a hidden underground facility teeming with consumers. As I entered it, founder Sam Walton's shining visage welcomed me. His name tag had been digitally altered, so both the English and Chinese versions of his name were clearly visible (unlike the entrance to the store).

The Walmart offered everything from live turtles in the seafood section to liquor to clothing. I had come searching for a box of Dove chocolate bars, which hold the highest market share in China's intensely competitive chocolate industry. I found small portions of dove, in chocolate and meat form, but not in bulk so I went home empty handed.