Not to be outdone by Costco's announcement that it is selling coffins in two Chicago area stores, mass merchandise behemoth Wal-mart will be test marketing cremation chambers and sealable containers in three Wichita, Kansas area stores later this month. Chambers and containers can be purchased separately or as a set. Television commercials have already been popping up on Wichita stations KWCH and KCTU with sales associate Patty McKinley waxing rhapsodic about Wal-mart's concern for preserving open space in the heartland. "Some people think we're called the heartland because we have no brain," says McKinley in a voice-over as she is shown stocking containers on a shelf, "but at Wal-mart, we know that keeping loved ones at home where they belong, rather than in the ground, is what's really important." One nice touch: In the commercial, Wal-mart's smiley face logo, usually bright yellow, is depicted as medium gray and the smile is less pronounced. He uses a small blowtorch to burn off the old price of the products, revealing a lower one.
Wal-mart Vice-President of Human Immolation Products Marcy Bicknell commented that management is "all fired up about this, no pun intended, down here in Bentonville." She said that the company sees it as a logical extension of Wal-mart's philosophy of one-stop shopping convenience. "When the time comes," she commented, "people don't want to have to go to a funeral home and hear a doom and gloom sales pitch from some guy in a suit they've never met while he shows them old black-and-white photographs of people standing under umbrellas in the rain at a funeral."
"What we have here," she went on, "hell, it's slicker'n snot on a doorknob and a whole lot more fun. They come in to Wal-mart, maybe do some back to school shopping for the little ones, get the car inspected, teeth cleaned, sit down and have a corn dog and a soda pop and then, when they're all relaxed, step back there right by the barbecue grills and take care of the cremation stuff."
Bicknell also disclosed that the company is talking informally with comedian and former 1-800-ATT spokesperson Carrot Top about appearing in a national roll-out of television commercials if the test marketing is successful. "That boy has a shock of red hair that looks like he just stuck his head in one of those suckers," laughed Bicknell.