With a 2016 operating revenue figure of $485.9b, few companies on planet Earth can compete with the giant that is Walmart. The multinational retailing corporation began as a humble operation back in 1962 by Sam Walton and following a listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972, the venture has spread its wings into the United Kingdom, Germany, South America and Asia.
To be a success in the East though, Walmart had to cater to the global powerhouse market of China. Rather than continue with business as usual in this part of the world, the super-chain decided to embrace Chinese culture to gain a domestic footing. The result – everything from the bizarre to the crazy, unusual and simply dumbfounding.
The People’s Republic of China lives by their own code as the Communist Party dictates the ruling order. This filters down to their day-to-day products, seeing the second largest economy rank number one in the world for exports and second for imports. But it is clear that there are objects that are lost in translation, with Chinese Walmart’s putting their unique spin on products of comfort and necessity to make for some very interesting photo opportunities from visiting foreigners.
Every nation in the world lives in their own little bubble, believing they are the kings of the castle. But in the case of Chinese Walmart stores, they are symbols of a great contradiction. A crossroad where communist rule meets a booming free market.
These are 15 WTF photos of things that you can only find in China’s Walmart.
15. Sausage Bins
Posted by Instagram user @timmybake888, this odd July 4th celebration offering is up there with the strangest items you will ever come across at a supermarket chain. Always reserved for the deli refrigerated section for occupational health and safety regulations, as well as maintaining the general quality of the meat, this open sausage bin puts the stuff right there to take at your leisure. Not only do you not have to take a ticket and wait for a deli operator to slice and dice the juicy goods, but they are right there to grab next to some packets of salty snacks for good measure.
Going for ¥9.9 (US$1.43) for a healthy portion of 500g, the price could easily sucker you in. But anyone who knows about cooking a dead animal understands that the condition is paramount. Is it any wonder travellers fall victim to food poisoning when sausage bins are put in front of hungry foreigners?
14. Diet Water
They say the great art of the salesman is to convince an individual that they need the item in question, turning them from an unknown quantity into a paid customer. In the case of diet water, Chinese Walmart’s are marketing towards those in society who are perhaps the vainest. It does not take a degree in science to understand that water is a commodity that comes with zero fat, zero sugars, and zero preservatives. How anyone even thought about pitching this concept in a marketing meeting is beyond comprehension, let alone creating a logo, smacking the labels on the sides of the bottles and putting them out there to entice incredibly stupid shoppers.
The Japanese company in question selling their unique world first line of diet water is Sapporo, an entity that is accustomed to producing beer. It is obvious that the executives in that firm have had one too many of their own product. Stick to the alcohol guys.
13. Pig Hooves
Although there are even more unusual items in this category like fox meat, the very presentation of the pig’s hooves makes for disturbing viewing. China is the world’s largest pork producer as they churn out the animals with a huge amount of relish and gratification. Some from the West will view their treatment of the creatures as inhumane, cruel and barbaric. Others will point to countries like the United States and identify similar practices to argue that the pot is calling the kettle black.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on, the ¥18.80 pigs hooves for 500g leaves the customer in no uncertain terms what part of the animal you are buying. Kept on fresh ice that contrasts to the treatment of the binned sausage, China’s love affair with pork and the pig is only designed to feed the appetites of the 1.3lb masses. That is a lot of mouths to feed.
12. Fat Guy Underwear
Would Seth McFarlane and the good people at Fox Television be aware that their Family Guy character Peter Griffin is being knocked off to sell fat guy underwear in China? If not, then we may be presenting them with a fresh lawsuit to pursue because a strikingly similar design that bares a close resemblance to the animated dad has been used by a company called Delang that is marketing “a comfortable fat guy underwear.” Great job of being subtle there.
With stores including Walmart infiltrating the Chinese marketplace, along with fast food chains such as McDonalds and KFC, it is any wonder obesity levels will naturally increase as a result. That knock-on effect will have heavier-set gentlemen roaming the streets of Shanghai and Beijing on the lookout for underwear that suits their specific needs. Almost none of them will have any idea who or what a Family Guy or Peter Griffin is, so the promotion might be working a treat.
11. Whole Turtles
Sold for ¥21.50 (US$3.12), Instagram user @cathamaria is right that the frozen turtle is the bargain of the century. Pet turtles can go for 50-100 times the price in the West, but it usually comes with the added advantage and caveat that they are actually alive when you make the purchase. Right now Malaysia is a hotbed of activity where the graceful creatures are under threat of extinction and seeing these images are reasonably distressing if caring about animals is your type of thing.
The frozen goods section is where most people would go for chips, vegetables, drinks or garlic bread. Selling whole turtles packaged for a couple of dollars is only something that Chinese Walmart’s have managed to accomplish. The little beauties can live for over a hundred years, yet here they are next to the bananas and stored meats. Depressing.
10. Double Packs Of Batteries With Snickers
Thanks to Instagram user @mikitjang, we know that chocolate bars are not enough in one package to satisfy the needs of the Chinese. What could possibly be included for a potential customer? Wipes to cleanse the mouth and face after engulfing the messy treat? Other types of bars? A nutty supplement perhaps? No. In the great Walmart of the East, they have combined Snickers bars with Energizer batteries no less.
The tagline from the company goes as follows: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” But how far are they pushing that campaign really? Are customers so dazed and confused that they are willing to overlook the ridiculous attachment of batteries to buy a trio of their product wrapped in tight plastic? It is a bizarre state of affairs and is up there with many of the WTF items on this list.
9. Powdered Horse Milk
Not only can you pick up your regular serving of powdered horse milk in China, but you can get it with the 100% guarantee that it will have “No Ponies” contained in the canned goods whatsoever. That is the type of pitch that sells itself really. This is a very niche product in many corners of the world for good reason. Cows have offered the human race a superior product for thousands of years and when you are on a good thing, why switch?
But funnily enough, horse milk is high in Vitamin C and rich in protein. Going by mare milk in the West, it is taboo to see a horse as a source for anything other than glorified pets, racing machines or loyal farming companions. But if Australia can give us Kangaroo meat and the French serve frogs, is this so unusual?
8. Dead Ducks
The duck community in China has a mixed history. There have been videos emerging in the past few years that warm the heart, seeing herds of thousands cross the road as the little joys follow their parents across the treacherous path while others catch their cute moment on camera. Then, on the other hand, you will come across just as many ducks that are skinned, boiled and hung on the shelves for people to take home for dinner. It is a complex situation, to say the least.
Duck is a delicacy enjoyed around the world, so China is not out on the limb with their own treatment of the species. But in the context of supermarket shopping, it is strange to come across the deceased animals in the same manner folks in the West would walk past aisles of shoes. The pricing is good and sold in bulk, there is always plenty left in stock. How they get to that competitive market position is quite another conversation altogether.
Unbeknown to many of us who are educating ourselves for the first time on Chinese delicacies, there is a specific type of frog that is classed as edible. Going by the names East Asian bullfrog or Taiwanese frog, these hopping pieces of meat are located all around the region from China to Hong Kong, Macau, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. So common are they to eat, many in the East like to think of them as “field chicken.” So no need to ask what they taste like then.
But like purchasing a juicy lobster at the local restaurant, these Chinese Walmart products are living and breathing in a watered tank when you hand over your cash. Going for approximately US$2 a pop, you might need to watch the shopping bags for spillage on the way to the car.
Sharks have endured a bad wrap down the years, but in terms of humans killed, they don’t rate as highly as many would have you believe. These magnificent creatures are being illegally culled all around Asia and while the customers are out grabbing some chicken or beef mince to throw in with the midweek stir fry, Chinese Walmart shoppers can walk away with their own Great White Shark head.
There are many different types of the species that are specific to China. From the Blacktip family to Blue, Bull, Hammerhead, Porbeagle, Mako, Sandbar and the wonderful Thresher from the Alopiidae clan. Yet the decapitation and exploitation of the Shark in this part of the world is in its own category altogether. To say there is no empathy shown with their global plight is quite the understatement.
5. Male Bikinis
How does the saying go? “If you can’t beat them, join them!” OK – technically speaking, Chinese Walmart’s are not exactly selling bikinis for men. They are, however, putting out there a line of non-gender specific bikinis that are sold on the premise of being anti-bacterial – a wonderful idea and concept that they should actually be applying to their frozen meats section of the superstore.
The model in question appears comfortable enough, if not a little sheepish as he glances over at the photographer to ensure that yes, his agent did indeed advise him that this was a good idea. The West does view parts of Eastern culture as somewhat effeminate and while that can be a lazy stereotype, this type of stuff does not help fight that notion one little bit.
The whole crocodiles in the frozen food section has to eclipse all of these. Naturally, reptile parts can be broken down and sold off around the corner, but why not grab the whole thing while you have the shopping trolly in hand? Wedged in between their gaping jaws of death are full oranges if only to complete the truly remarkable picture.
The world’s most powerful, cunning and masterful creatures are reduced to this and once it has become the norm in one store, that transitions across to the rest of them. Rarely does the fish isles need to come with a PG-13 warning for children, but in China, you just never know what is going to be put out to pasture.
3. “Classy” Lady Tights
If you are to learn anything from these 15 images on the shopping culture of the Chinese, learn this: anti-bacterial goods sell like hotcakes. With pollution levels high, population density rich and quality control leaning on a knife’s edge, you can get almost any item running off the shelves if you market that idea strongly enough.
In the case of women’s tights/stockings, they are showcased in all the glory of a day out at the races, but with the urgency of an emergency stopover shop on the go. For the woman who wants a classy pair of tights, but not the time to consider thoughtfully their purchase. With the aptly named “Asshion” ecology anti-bacterial knitwear sported with bright yellow packaging and a suggestive photo to boot, this is a top contender for a WTF item in the hall of Chinese Walmart fame.
2. Boxes Of Liquor
They don’t quite make alcohol like they used to. These days, the top 1% can collect them like a luxury item, ranging from Winston cocktails to Diamond Jubilees, Bombay Sapphires, Dalmore 62s, Diva Vodka and Pasión Azteca that can go for as much as $3m a bottle. That is million with a capital “M” by the way. But Walmart stores are not known to be a place for the classy and exotic, often cutting prices down to save on costs and drive up profits. In Chinese Walmart’s, they make an exception.
Snaps have been taken to showcase colorful bottles in all types of shapes and sizes sported in old school wooden cases, open for the public to examine. They would best be bought and kept for a special occasion if you had the money to acquire the goods in the first place. Normally these types of gifts could only be purchased in special clubs or bottle shops that specialize in this department. In Asia’s central hub, they can pop up next to the fruit and vegetables.
1. Rice In Bulk
If this picture does not convince you that China is the world’s largest producer of rice, then nothing will. Walmart stores in this part of the world plant crates of the stuff around the aisles as customers pick up large scoops of the food where they can weigh it and bag it in quick time. This can be the case in some selective stores in the West, but the general idea in countries like the United States is to package the goods so you can list the exact amount and market it next to competing retailers.
The reality for China though under the Communist Party is that much of the world’s rice trade flows back into their domestic coffers anyway, accounting for 30% of the global market. So while it might come across as over-the-top, they can churn out tons of rice from all corners of the country on a daily basis and never run out.