Box Stores: To Buy Or Not To Buy

I’m sure many of you have been anxiously waiting to hear news of how my family (this is Kerry) has done returning to the ranks of the consumer masses after our Simple Year.

Or you are wondering who I am and what I have done with Kandice, She’s on vacation, so she has kindly asked me, to guest blog. Our family didn’t buy anything new during the first Simple Year.  We have now technically been allowed to buy things since the end of April.

During our Simple Year, for the most part, I stayed out of all stores, except the grocery kind.  It is a surprisingly good strategy for not buying impulse items such as corn on the cob holders shaped like farm animals and one that I am employing even now—most of the time.

However, when I REALLY determine I need something, I can just dash off to the nearest big box store. For the record, I would describe a big box store as one that covers at least three square blocks of real estate and has only two or three employees working there during any given shift, like Walmart.

On my first trip back to Walmart, I followed a woman into the store that was wearing jet black 8-inch high heeled pumps complete with zippers.  As she shuffled toward the greeter, I couldn’t help noticing that with each step her very short-shorts looked as though they were in danger of being swallowed by her dimpled cheeks only to pop back out again at the end of the stride.

It was eerily mesmerizing for a Wednesday afternoon.

Anyway, I was looking for a vacuum cleaner belt which is not the most exciting purchase, I freely admit. This was after trips to both Lowes and Home Depot (also giant stores that purport to SPECIALIZE in that kind of merchandise) to no avail.  A worker at one of the stores explained to me that they didn’t really carry a large selection of belts for the lower end models, because the vacuums themselves were so inexpensive to replace.


Aren’t there some things you shouldn’t say out loud when working at a hardware store?

So in a last ditch effort, I tried Walmart.

Not to state the obvious, but Walmart is large and confusing.  Just when you think you might be closing in on the hardware section, you are suddenly dumped out into a twenty foot display of snow cone makers and snow cone maker accessories.

Rarer than a Yeti sighting, in search of the illusive Walmart employee

Less common than a Yeti sighting, in search of the elusive Walmart employee


Finally, I caught a glimpse of the rare blue shirt scurrying across the opposite aisles.  Seeking directions, I began sprinting toward him shouting repeatedly, “Excuse me sir, I’m looking for vacuum cleaner belts.”

When I  caught up to him, I realized he wasn’t actually a Walmart employee, just a man who had the lack of foresight to be wearing an Indianapolis Colts shirt (same color).  Surprisingly, he did point me in the right direction, so the end result was the same I suppose.

Alas, no luck on the belt.

I did NOT buy a new hand held Dirt Devil even though I was sorely tempted and I am technically allowed, which is maybe what they are counting on by not stocking replacement parts ($22.99 on sale for a brand new one).  We ended up borrowing one for our final clean out of the rental property and soon, I’ll order the part from the manufacturer.

One thing I can say about the return to buying is that, while we have do have more options, they aren’t always better ones.

Author’s note: Spell check refuses to recognize the word Walmart and keeps giving it an angry red underline, a fact I find strangely gratifying. You go, spell check.

33 Responses to Box Stores: To Buy Or Not To Buy

  1. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face! I love your writing style and sense of humour! Hope you find a vaccuum belt ( what on earth is that, by the way?) haha…

  2. We are tossing around the idea of a simple year as well. My husband is the biggest opponent believe it or not. I’d love it. I don’t usually buy a whole lot anyway. We’ve been told with some things too that the parts aren’t readily available because they’re meant to be thrown away not fixed. Um, yeah. Not this family. Our 7 year old mower had an issue to where the deck cracked all the way around the engine housing. They don’t just sell decks to replace it. So, my hubby welded it. I refuse to throw away a perfectly usable mower 🙂

  3. I have felt the frustration of replacement parts too – I’m currently looking for a new pan for my breadmaker, a steamer basket and pan for my rice cooker and a replacement lid for my crockpot! They all need to be replaced because I’ve used them too much. I love these kitchen appliances – why would I want to try a new model?!

    • The lid to my two-year-old Crockpot broke, but my mom still had the lid and crock from her 1980s model (the heating part on hers broke a few years ago). Her old lid fits my pot perfectly, and I still have the backup crock (which also fits in my heating element) in case mine breaks one day! Perhaps you’ll find one at Goodwill!

    • I agree with Amanda about thrift stores. I see all kinds of appliance parts and pieces. Especially bread machines. They were a fad for some. (Not for me, I use mine three times a week!) You might also try posting on Craigslist for some of the parts you need. 🙂

    • I once lost that paddle thingy in a breadmaker during a move and thought I was going to lose my mind finding a new one. Mainly because, I already new how to work the other breadmaker and didn’t want to have to read another manual.

  4. I think they figure people will buy new instead of going to the trouble of hunting up a replacement part. But once you find something you love it is hard to give it up or like me just don’t want to spend the money on something like that when what you have works you just need a part to it. I love my Kenmore sweeper I had a dyson and hated that thing didn’t sweep very well at all and with 3 dogs and 2 cats you need a good sweeper and this Kenmore is it.

    Glad you are still doing great with your spending!! I told my hubby next year I want to try something like this he isn’t all that happy about it but he’ll get with it.

    • Yeah, I have heard time and time again that the male in the partnership is the hesitant one….
      given that women are typically typecast as “spenders” it is surprising to me

  5. I’ve had good luck with Amazon for weird replacement parts and things that should be in stores but are not for the very reason the hardware store told you. good luck

  6. We went as far as putting a new engine in a Caravan. We knew all the other parts were good. $1500 vs $28,000 at least for a new car…It was a no-brainer and I was proud of it. We cheered that car on for just over 200,000 miles before it finally bit the dust for good.
    Looking forward to more of your posts, Kerry. And why is it the husbands don’t want to get on board?

    • My dad has over 300,000 miles on a car right now and he wears it like a badge of honor. Although, he can fix things when they break so that is helpful 🙂

  7. My husband found a new belt for my 50-year-old Hoover at a local Ace Hardware store. That’s also where I find the right vacuum bag for this model (can’t find the right one at Target or Walmart).

  8. Welcome back for the week! I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing. 🙂

    I broke up with Walmart this year. It’s been awesome. My husband has not broken up with Walmart. I have a twenty riding that he won’t last much longer because being the sole Walmart shopper in a family has got to be exhausting.

    And your snow cone and snow cone accessories comment made me laugh. Word up! Walmart is the weirdest store ever. It’s like walking into a fairy tale, but not the Disney version, the actual real Grimm version where happy endings don’t exist and it’s perfectly acceptable for your mermaid to become sea scum.

    • We are moving back to the town we lived in before our last move, a small Texas border town where Walmart is sort of the “town center”. It stresses me out. Good to hear from you, hope all is well.

      • Our town is kind of like that, too. We’re tiny–except we’re also a tourist trap–so locals go to Walmart mostly because there’s no where else to go. It helps to live simply; a lot of what Walmart sells we don’t need anyway.

        And things are okay at work and lovely at home. I’m kind of surprised how okay things actually are, really, but apparently smiling and nodding goes a long way.

  9. I will be sending Joel to Walmart from now on, he would enjoy ms. Short shorts!
    Go to a real vacuum store, the have all sorts of stuff & rebuilds .

  10. This trend of “it’s cheap enough to just buy new” is a major problem. It depletes resources, fills up the landfills and taxes the budgets of families. I have a friend who repairs vacuum cleaners for a hobby, being retired, if I can’t find a part I see him. 🙂

    • Yes, there is a “tinkerer movement” I’ve been reading about (mainly Northern European and Coastal US). I think that is a great idea

    • Here, here! Every time I go in there, the employees know what they have and where it is located in the store. If the employee I ask doesn’t know the answer to either question, they find someone who does have the answer. They are also independently owned. 🙂

  11. Those are the sort of things I buy on Amazon, as the most obscure bits and pieces seem to be available through their sellers.

  12. some towns have vacuum/sewing machine/vcr/tv (all together, right?!) repair places that may actually have that kind of belt. I know this because my parents still have a vcr (and use it) that occasionally needs repair.

    I used to work at a competitor of Walmart which begins with a T, and I had the pleasure of watching all sorts of interestingly dressed people walk through. My most memorable experience was of a woman wearing all white spandex, that I imagine she thought would be supporting her assets. It wasn’t.

  13. I can imagine your frustration. I gave up on big-box stores a few years ago and do all my shopping through local mom and pop style businesses. I enjoy giving my money to the local community rather than a mega-conglomerate. There may be a small shop in your area who has what you need? I recently wrote a post on that subject as well if interested:

    Also, you may want to check out some of the shops on Etsy for what you’re looking for. There may be a shop that has what you need.

    Thanks for your post and I look forward to more 🙂


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