Kmart is Australia's favourite place to buy necessities that aren't necessary. We all go there for one specific thing and come out with a pile of other shit just because it's all so stupidly cheap. And Kmart knows this, which is why we all seem to now have a 24/7 Kmart within walking distance. So we can buy cheap crap at any time.
But honestly, who needs anything at 3 AM? Who the hell is shopping at Kmart 24/7? To find out I stayed up super late and drove sober to my nearest Kmart at 3 AM. The results were somewhere between shocking and utterly predictable.
This particular shopping complex is in a suburb of Melbourne and it's had its fair share of rough times, with a recent stabbing and a bomb scare. You wouldn't know that inside though. Inside the bright lights reminded me of a casino, while the all-time classic track by Train, "Drops of Jupiter" played faintly over the speakers.
I observed a few stragglers wandering about the store and approached.
Marty was trying on a pair of Star Wars themed slippers and I asked him why he was doing this at 3 AM. "I skated down the road here because I just picked up skateboarding—I can't do any tricks or anything, but I thought skate shoes would help. That's why I'm here," he explained.
Marty lives around the corner and had been coming to Kmart 24/7 at this hour since the beginning of his adolescence. As a young teen, Marty and his friends tried to convince the bottle shop clerk to sell them beers or, if that didn't work, Red Bull.
"Back in the day, we'd come here without a purpose. Now whenever I come here I'll have a true mission. Kmart 24/7 will always take me back and give me a strong sense of nostalgia. These days, I'm either on my way to a festival picking up camping shit or buying stuff for my share-house. The $20 toasted sandwich makers are an absolute steal."
After meeting Marty, I turned to see that a couple of blokes were cackling away to themselves and so I confronted them and asked them what was funny.
"This is like that episode on Workaholics. Season 6, Episode 2, where the guy from VICE tries to do an article with someone on meth," one of them said, laughing.
I was impressed he remembered the exact episode. Then I asked them if they were on meth, and they confirmed to me that they in fact, were not.
Their names were Fred and Borak and they were at Kmart because they were doing laundry around the corner. Frequenting Kmart 24/7 at this hour was very common.
"We bought some ladies here for a double date last week," said Fred. "Fucking true story! But it was a pretty shit date, not gonna lie. We were playing with the Nerf guns and they were just being real boring so we managed to distance ourselves until they just disappeared.
"There's definitely something therapeutic about coming at this time," Borak told me. "There's nothing else really open at this hour but we always manage to find a way to enjoy ourselves. But we bloody got kicked out the other day when we bought the Nerf guns though because we were shooting them at each other in the aisles."
I wandered to the household section and I found a guy named Jack who was super blazed. He was busy moving some gold sequined pillows around to write obscenities. "Look!" he said pointing.
Turns out Jack used to work at a Kmart 24/7 in another suburb. We wandered around for a bit as he told me a tale of the guy who once shat on the floor. Apparently one night a man came in to request the bathroom. According to Jack, one of the night staff told him it wasn't for customers and in retaliation, the man took a shit in the middle of an aisle.
After that Jack insisted on showing me some tricks on a $25 skateboard.
Behind Jack I could see an older worker looking alarmed that Jack was on a skateboard. I watched as he got on the radio and started walking over. He was a tough looking bloke with tattoos but with a grin from ear to ear.
"Don't mind me, I just work here," he said. "I'm Trevor. I could hear you interviewing people before about why they're here this time of night! I've got some stories for you, let me tell you that much." He rubbed his hands together and got started.
"So the other week, a naked guy came in. Then this week, we had a girl overdose on heroin. There's heaps of them that come here on drugs! They go and get their gear or whatever and they shoot up in the car park. Then they come in here and they're fine, until half an hour later they're on the floor.
"You also get your ice addicts here trying to knock shit off to support their habit, and then you get some ice users who are happy as Larry and will just come to spend $300 on stuff! I've also been flashed…by a girl," he added. "She wasn't even stealing anything, she just decided for some reason to flash me! I got a real eyeful. I had to go home and tell my wife that I'd been flashed!"
I went home after that, having answered my own question. See Kmart is a shop, whereas Kmart 24/7 is more of a hangout spot for oddballs and stoned kids. It's where you go when you're high and need a bright, warm place with pretty things to look at. Beyond that, I'm not sure if they actually sell anything after midnight.
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