I recently heard a radio personality use the term "Wal-Mart shopper" as a catch-all phrase to describe the typical American.
In the context of the radio show, the term was none too flattering.
The suggestion was that Wal-Mart shoppers are unimaginative, unattractive, cheap, lazy and undiscerning.
Excuse me, but I thought I shopped there because I am busy, frugal and unpretentious.
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Was there something wrong with shopping at Wal-Mart?
It's not as if I needed something else to be neurotic about.
Why, just days before that radio show I had posted to my Facebook page: "Erica Batten lives at Wal-Mart."
This status update, which I meant as the 21st-century version of Thoreau's observation that all men lead lives of quiet desperation, received both sympathetic and unsympathetic remarks, including a simple "dislike."
And now, according to morning radio, the frequency of my Wal-Mart shopping trips suggests a defect in the very fabric of my character?
It's not that I have any new complaints about Wal-Mart. Somehow my belief that milk should cost less than $3 a gallon trumps all my concerns.
My advocacy is limited, apparently, by my cheapness - er, frugality.
But even if I can get milk for $2.18 at Wal-Mart, it doesn't mean I enjoy going there.
Usually I have my two kids in tow, and they're in and out of the cart a dozen times, darting into other people's paths and grabbing random items off the shelves.
I have to get on hands and knees to reach the last container of creamer at the back of the cooler, while the shopper behind me gets a good look at my derriere and decides that I really should be choosing the fat-free variety.
My purchases add to the incessant, patternless beep-be-beep-beep of bar codes being scanned along 27 check-out aisles. My 2 percent leaves a sad little milk trail on the conveyer belt into which the next person can lay their new bathrobe.
My kids pick their noses and finger every toy in the lane.
And the mere fact that I can place a six-pack of crew socks right behind the link sausage is not so much a triumph in retail efficiency as a sad commentary on middle America.
Shopping at Wal-Mart is quiet desperation writ large: coast to coast, 24 hours a day.
The ubiquitous nature of Wal-Mart is perhaps best illustrated by their online survey. At the bottom of your grocery receipt is a link and a passcode inviting recent shoppers to rate various aspects of the Wal-Mart shopping experience.
The enticement is the chance to win a $1,000 store gift card. Like I said, I'm cheap, so I recently took a few minutes to complete the survey.
Most of the questions had to do with the appearance of the store, customer service, product selection - all standard stuff.
But one question really gave me pause: "What is your primary reason for shopping at Wal-Mart?"
One of the suggestions was that I might go to Wal-Mart for entertainment or just to hang out. Talk about desperation.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, there is actually a website devoted to showcasing those of us who have all but given up - or perhaps should.
At www.peopleofwalmart.com, you can view photos of Elvis look-alikes, adults in footie pajamas and scantily-clad women who, also, should be buying fat-free dairy.
The photos of these shoppers are uploaded to the site along with commentary that is sometimes clever and, more often, just plain mean.
It's like Wal-Mart has replaced the state fair as the optimal spot to spot freaks.
Actually, it's ironic that there is a website dedicated to images of Wal-Mart shoppers when, unlike other major retailers, Wal-Mart does not have mirrors on the walls in its stores.
You can't catch a glimpse of your own reflection while selecting brake fluid.
Maybe we want to go online and take a good, long look at the anonymous mulleted guy sporting the "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt.
But if Wal-Mart has developed an accurate picture of its average shopper, then maybe they've discovered the same thing I already know: Yes, I shop at Wal-Mart.
But that doesn't mean I want to see myself there.