Shopping at a Chinese Walmart in Beijing

Beijing Travel Report Walmart Sign Closeup

Walmart entrance sign in Beijing - Yes, selling to the Chinese public

Many will be surprised to hear that Walmarts exist in China.  They are there and adding stores like crazy.  So if you have a Walmart “habit”, you can get your fix while in Beijing, China.

I ran out of room on my sdhc cards, and I had nothing to transfer the large number of pictures and videos to.  Guess I was a little shutter happy during my time in Beijing.

I needed fresh memory cards, and fast!

Take Me to Land of Low Prices, Chinese Style

So, I sez to my taxi that I had hired for that day, “Take me to Walmart”.  He did not understand, so I wrote Walmart on a piece of page.  He did recognize the English letters.
Off we went to the Beijing Zhichun Road branch.

Upon arriving, I noticed I was not in Kansas anymore.  Let me explain what I saw and what I mean.

Hmmmm, That’s Different than at Home

Walmart has made some changes in an attempt to acclimate to the Chinese market.  I cannot say that they are the correct changes, but I note them here as they are obvious differences from your local US Walmart.

Beijing Travel Report Walmart Buses

Walmart buses at the Beijing Zhichun Road branch

Difference #1 – Customer Transportation Provided

There are buses to pickup you to bring you to the store.  This was the most surprising difference that I saw.

China has a good public transport system with buses, subway, and the motorcycle taxis.  I guess to encourage people to come and buy, the free transportation option for the local neighborhoods is a real incentive.  Plus, they can buy more as they have assurance that they have transportation room to get the purchases home.  I am assuming the service is free; I did  not ask.

Beijing Travel Report Walmart with Multiple Stories

Multiple stories on this Walmart

Difference #2 – Build Up, Giant Supercenter

This Walmart, at least, is a multiple story Walmart.  With land being so precious in the big city, it makes perfect sense to have more than one floor instead of the one floor sprawl we have in most places here.

Now, to make shopping sense, they had to find a way to accommodate those extra large shopping carts in a multi-floor environment.  the planners seemed to have done a good job with this.

Beijing Travel Report Walmart Cart Escalator

Riding the cart escalator between floors - Weeeee!

Difference #3 – Taking Shopping Carts for a Ride

How did Walmart handle that problem?  They have a shopping cart escalator in the store, very similar to the people movers that you see in some airports, except it was set with a small incline.  Yes, you heard me.  A low angle no steps flat belt escalator that you can take your shopping cart on.  If you need to go from grocery (in the basement) to electronics (on the first floor), you can take your shopping cart with you.

I do have to admit, I had fun riding that escalator.  Simple pleasures…

Fulfilling my Shopping Needs

My driver and I entered the Walmart together.  We proceeded to the basement to have a look around.  After all, I was on reconnaissance for you, my readers. :)

This basement floor was the grocery area.  It had your typical groceries.  It also had some “not so typical” groceries.  There is much more emphasis on live food here, than back in the US.  I looked for something tasty that I could take as a treat.

Beijing Travel Report Walmart Kenny Outside

Me at the Walmart Entrance - Hmmm, I look tired.

My, they had candied crabapples on a stick.  I had seen those on the street vendors’ bikes, but was not adventuresome enough to buy from them.   Now seeing this Chinese treat sold by Walmart, I feel safe to indulge.  I got a stick to take with me.

Knowing that my sweet ant sour tooth was going to be satisfied, I was ready to get what I actually came for.  Off to the electronics area.  “Weeeee”.  That escalator was so much fun.

I located the memory cards in the electronics department on the first floor.  Selection was either limited, or they had some more in a different location.  No one seemed to speak English, so I poked around until I found what I wanted.

There it was, the sdhc memory card that I needed.  A highly priced Kingston 4 Gig sdhc card, that is.  It was marked as 108RMB.  That came out to about $17.00 USD.  The price was much more than I expected, as I had bought a very similar card for $8.00 at Best Buy just before my trip.  I had to chalk the higher price up to the fact that it was from outside China, and had a heavy import duty slapped on it by the government.

Client Souvenir Time

On the way to the checkout, I grabbed a good luck bank that had been brought in for sale during the Spring Festival, the Asian New Year in January.  Most of Asia celebrates a lunar New Year that is later than ours.  It signifies the time when the dragons return to the sky from their winter slumber.

Beijing Travel Report Client Souvenir Spring Festival

My client's Spring Festival souvenir setting on their desk

These gifts are given to businesses and families to place at the front of their stores or homes, in the hopes that it will bring prosperity in the new year.  I had a client that I had promised that I would buy them something from a Chinese Walmart.  This was the perfect item as it convey my wishes for them to have a fruitful year in business.

As I am a Christian, I do not believe in good luck symbols.  However, the Chinese really do.   I do believe in setting aside money for the future.

Being done with my shopping, I approached the checkout.  I was checked out quickly.  Much more quickly than if I had been in the United States.  Hmmm.  I wonder if that should be considered a difference.

I liked that Walmart.  A bit far to that Walmart from my house to shop there often.  Maybe the bus will pick me up in Arizona.  Haha.

With my purchases in hand and my driver at my side, I bid farewell to this American business in the land of the Chinese.  It was actually a pleasant experience.

Using Walmart as a Travelers’ Supply Base

Finding a Walmart in Beijing will give you a place to buy those necessities that you may have forgotten at home.  If you don’t like to look at “live” food though, you should limit your time on the grocery floor.

Here is my suggestion to make this easier.  If you need something specific, have your hotel write the list out in Chinese.  Most taxis will know where the closest Walmart is located, but you can have the staff write out a note for the taxi as well.

With the list in hand.  you can have a clerk at Walmart take you to the appropriate product sections. A little pre-thinking on your part will make shopping at the Beijing Chinese Walmart easy.

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