I didn't see it as a vent at all, it was just a statement of fact.
Just because it's a fact (and it's not, really, it's your opinion) doesn't mean you have to say it.
I don't agree with your position, but then I can't abide the notion that everything must be positive and happy-clappy all the time and nobody's ever allowed to say anything even slightly negative, so perhaps it's me.
This is a false dichotomy. You are *not* actually presented with the choice of being "positive and happy-clappy" or saying negative things.
You have many, many more-polite options in between. Including silence.
And honestly, if you're going to drop gratuitous criticisms into casual conversations with people you aren't particularly close to, I bet you they would rather you stayed silent.
Is it necessary for you to volunteer that you dislike WalMart because of loud and unattended children? You said "if someone asks me why I don't shop there," but DOES anybody ask you?
AND...can't you find other less polarizing ways to explain a negative?
Negative comments can turn the whole conversation negative (as they definitely did in the OP's example). That is part of the reason they are not appropriate in most conversations--and definitely not in a casual one.