The Great Wal of Honolulu

I planned to avoid Ke`eaumoku Street entirely Wednesday, the day of Wal-Mart’s grand opening. However, Bible study was at my friend Ross’s condo, which is on Young Street near Kalakaua, and I was on a bus that went down Kapiolani. So I figured what the heck, I’ll take a stroll down the Ewa side of Ke`eaumoku and scope things out.

At 6:00 in the evening, traffic down Ke`eaumoku in both directions seemed pretty close to normal. If there was any difference at all, it looked a little thinner Wednesday, with fewer left-turning cars backing things up. Two Honolulu Police directed traffic at the main entrance on that street, mostly getting involved only to tell pedestrians not to cross against the light, so that cars could enter the parking garage. I stood on the corner there for a few cycles to see if there was anything particularly thoughtful about the way it was rigged.

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Mostly, it looks pretty good. Left-turning lanes from the mauka-bound direction obviously make things smoother. However, there’s one very huge potential problem, and it has little to do with cars.

The crosswalk that used to cross Ke`eaumoku from the Ross store has been rubbed out, meaning that pedestrians wishing to cross from there need first to cross the side-street (I can’t remember its name) to the corner where Likelike Drive-In is, then cross Ke`eaumoku from there. It’s really not a big deal, but I watched at least five pedestrians cross Ke`eaumoku where the old crosswalk used to be. They were going with the light, so to speak, but caused left-turning cars trying to move toward Ala Moana to wait, and cars behind them, trying to get into the parking structure, had to wait, too. If there had been enough of these jay-walkers, the cars trying to get into the structure wouldn’t have been able to do so until the light had already switched to favor the makai-mauka traffic. Huge, huge, huge potential problem, especially if the light’s not long enough to allow all the cars from the cross-street to get through the intersection.

no crosswalk!

I normally side with pedestrians, being a non-driver myself nowadays, but this thoughtlessness on the part of the cross-walkers is going to cause problems, because too many pedestrians are not going to want to make that extra street-crossing. It’ll be just like that area in front of the Ward Theaters, where there were so many close calls that the mall’s management was FORCED to put a light there, which really, really, really messed up traffic there.

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My friends and I came back later, at around nine in the evening, and traffic was noticably heavier, but still not very bad. The store itself was packed, about like what the other island Wal-Marts are like on a Friday night. The entry looked a lot like the entry at Costco on a Saturday morning, which of course looks like the line cows wait in before, well, you know.

Most of the customer-service people had no idea where anything was or how to find out. The Vietnamese man ahead of me in line at the self-check-out register didn’t know what he was doing, and didn’t seem to understand the instructions (which, by the way, were offered in English and SPANISH!). A customer-service employee was standing right behind him, looking over his shoulder, not offering a word of assistance. I had to actually move up and help the guy out.

Other than that, I’d say that this is a pretty cool store, all controversy aside. It’s huge, for one thing, and the prices were excellent, as always. Give everyone a few weeks to get their grooves on, and the whole operation should be humming.

Side note: Mayoral candidate Mufi Hanneman was there–all six-feet-seven-inches of him–wearing an aloha shirt and kukui-nut lei. He didn’t seem to be shopping. He seemed to be shaking a lot of hands.

1 Comment so far

  1. Ryan (unregistered) on October 16th, 2004 @ 7:40 pm

    I went today, Saturday. I think the weekend turned out to be a bigger test of their preparedness than the mid-week opening. My grainy cameraphone photos are here.

    Best part? The escalator designed just for shopping carts. Worst part? Although they had enough parking, enough room throughout the store, and generally seemed ready for the crowds, the cashiers were a huge bottleneck. It got so bad, the top manager came out and gave away free sodas to people standing in line. Half a dozen people bent his ear about how it was impossible to keep order, and how everyone was cutting in front of everyone else, often accidentally.



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