RALEIGH, N.C. —Competition is tough in the mass-market world, especially between the two biggest retailers Wal-Mart and Target. But how do the world’s biggest company and its major competitor compare?

Located in a strip-mall, the Wal-Mart at Paddington Station (which wasn’t a station of any sort and clearly wasn’t in London) here dwarfs the other small, privately owned businesses that surround it — like a dry cleaner, Nail Palace and Paisano’s Pizza. Entering the store at 9:30 on a Monday morning, there were few shoppers milling about in its atmosphere of glaring fluorescent light, gray carpeting and linoleum walkways. At the entrance, however, there was a lovely greeter, Nila, who provided a shopping cart, which seemed incredibly civilized. With my mother in tow, I began with a quick foray into the women’s room, which was spotless, and then ambled quickly past the in-store McDonald’s, which perhaps is there just in case customers get so tired and hungry from circling the massive space that they need a Big Mac fix.

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