Hand to Mouth

Gives new meaning to the term “living paycheck to paycheck,” doesn’t it?

Now that the “recovery” is well underway, a post at the Wall Street Journal‘s Real-Time Economics blog, “Watching Wal-Mart at Midnight,” suggests that a growing number of Americans are having to cope with an even more depressing reality:

Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, at a Goldman Sachs conference last week, on behavior at a Walmart store around midnight at the end of a month:

“The paycheck cycle we’ve talked about before remains extreme. It is our responsibility to figure out how to sell in that environment, adjusting pack sizes, large pack at sizes the beginning of the month, small pack sizes at the end of the month. And to figure out how to deal with what is an ever-increasing amount of transactions being paid for with government assistance.

“And you need not go further than one of our stores on midnight at the end of the month. And it’s real interesting to watch, about 11 p.m., customers start to come in and shop, fill their grocery basket with basic items, baby formula, milk, bread, eggs,and continue to shop and mill about the store until midnight, when electronic — government electronic benefits cards get activated and then the checkout starts and occurs. And our sales for those first few hours on the first of the month are substantially and significantly higher.

“And if you really think about it, the only reason somebody gets out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it, and they’ve been waiting for it. Otherwise, we are open 24 hours — come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you are there at midnight, you are there for a reason.”

5 thoughts on “Hand to Mouth

  1. I have known people who did this. The problem is that sometimes when they hit the checkout line, the computers have not proceed it yet, or for some reason the state has not deposited the money on the day it is supposed to. Social Security normally goes in on the 3rd of the month, but sometimes when it falls on a weekend or holiday they do it early. But sometimes not; and that kills you.

    How many of us have not written a check before payday, hoping (I used to pray) that it will not clear the bank before the money goes in? My Mom and Dad used to do it 40 years ago. They called it “cold check day”.

    BTW, have you realized that when you buy a “gift card” or pre-paid shopping card, you are giving the store a short term loan? Likewise, unlike a check that you can cash, the state can earn interest off the money on these Electronic Benefit cards while there is an unspent balance; not to mention the fees to the company that runs the card system.

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