This ought to sound familiar. "Wal-Mart Stores did miss their plan as our customer continues to be impacted by higher gas prices...."

If you tuned into this same Bat channel at the same Bat time last year, you'll remember a similar excuse, although that one was made by way of an advanced apology and, in fact, wasn't really indicative of future performance.

All in all, the firm's Q2 results weren't that bad. Revenues were up 10% to $77.5 billion, but EPS increased only 8.1%. Wal-Mart watchers are used to seeing the opposite phenomenon. Instead, the trickle at the top line didn't enable the company to leverage its costs and reward shareholders at the bottom. Operating margins were off by 0.21% from last year, and net margins were 0.14% worse. That may not seem like much, but when you're multiplying by billions, it can make a major difference.

If you're looking at the faster 12.3% revenue growth in international as a bright spot, keep on reading down the release, because operating income for that segment was up only 0.3%. Even backing out a restructuring charge, it comes to just a 5% increase over the prior-year quarter.

Some industry watchers and analysts may blame competition such as Target (NYSE:TGT), Stock Advisor pick Costco (NASDAQ:COST), or BJ'sWholesale Club (NYSE:BJ) for the easing growth. My personal opinion is that the Spartan operations may have achieved a critical point. Because of the lack of help and ensuing long waits, shopping at my local Wal-Mart is a nightmare, and one I don't relive very often.

In the recent past, I've hypothesized that the slowdown at Wal-Mart may be just one of its usual growing pains, but today's results make me less sure. If the company can't deliver stronger sales from existing infrastructure, it ought to consider scaling back on the growth. It could be a cash cow, but not as long as it continues to spend so much on expansion. This situation is something shareholders need to monitor, even if there's no reason to jump ship now.

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson hopes that the PR hacks at Wal-Mart will stop misusing the word "impacted" -- which is not a verb -- when they mean "affected." He is pleased to note that his dictionary's third definition for "impacted" is "compressed in the intestine too tightly." Thanks for making the gas-pain headline so easy, guys. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.