Wal*Mart revisited (the topic that is)
11/15/2005 10:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Well I've had a little time for the outrage and bile to subside after seeing the WalMart Movie. I have been thinking how I would approach the subject on my blog today, because I didn't want to turn it into a review of the movie, nor a bullet-point review of what I saw. I still encourage everyone that has shopped at or will consider shopping at WalMart to see a screening of it, or to get their hands on the DVD. I guess I will just give my $0.02, and if you would like to discuss more or disagree with me, leave me a comment, and we'll keep the conversation going.

A couple of interesting facts from the movie (paraphrased):
  • The Walton family has only given 1% of their wealth to charity, while Bill Gates has given something like 57%.
  • The Walton family had a WWIII style bunker constructed after 9-11, and plans to meet there if there is a breakdown in society.
  • There is enough empty walmart buildings (that the company relocated out of) to provide classroom space for over 500,000 students.
  • Walmart considers full time employment at 28 hours a week, which leaves the associate with a yearly salary of under 13,000 dollars.
  • Walmart (at one time, and possibly to this day) encourages it's poorer workers to apply for goverment assistance with medical and food stamps.
  • The cost of the corporate jet fleet (each year) is over 125 million dollars.
While searching for the facts for my list I found this page on the WalMart Movie's website that gives all of the (disgusting) facts.

My $0.02:

Walmart is a company that goes against everything that I have come to believe over the past year. It destroys local businesses and main street economies. It is a "serviceless" retailer, in a "service" economy. Very few employees if any, can impart knowledge or wisdom to customers regarding the products that they sell.

The store and shopping experience provides a buffer or shield from the tremendous labor and enviromental cost of the goods that they provide. There is no focus on quality, durability, or necessity of the products sold - only cost. We have not shaken our dependence on slave labor that fueled the early American economy. Yes, the slaves have been freed within our borders, they now just take the form of cheap oil and Asian and Central American "workers" who toil for 12-16 hours daily and live in pitiful conditions.

On the US side, workers are kept below the poverty level, and forced in many cases to return much of their paycheck to the very store that they work at to provide food and goods for their family. Haven't I heard that business model before?
When an operator was unable to expand his mining capacity or the volume of his sales, he would increase the number of his miners. This would so cut each man's working time and earnings that it left no surplus to spend outside the camp.

"I loaded sixteen tons and what do I get
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't call me cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store."
(Merle Travis)
What was that saying about history repeating itself? It disgusts me that the companies biggest customer base are those that can afford no more than Walmart provides. It is a self fullfilling prophecy.

The part that gets me the most, is the loss of the soul of towns and cities as Main St dissolves, and local businesses shutter their windows and doors. No one thinks to go to the local hardware store to get a box of screws, then to the bakery to get a loaf of bread, and then to the toy store to pick up a toy for Johnny's birthday party. We want it all, and we want it all at once. Downtown used to provide all of these things in one place, now the remaining mom and pop stores lie scattered throughout the area. The mall and WalMart Superstore provide a canned replacement for the downtown of old.

What can you do? Oppose the building of new WalMart stores in your area, and push local representatives to help provide a living wage for workers, through organizations such as Walmart Watch.

If you are lower-middle to upper-middle class, you have a choice and you can "vote with your dollar." Frequent local businesses and search out products that are made in the USA. Avoid WalMart and other big box retailers, and opt for independent grocers, hardware stores, local appliance retailers, and community supported agriculture. Yes you may get less "phalanges per dollar", but you will get improved service, quality, and a good feeling knowing that you are supporting local businesses in your community and the families that own them.

Take a walk or short drive and list the businesses in your immediate area on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Keep this list or refer to your phonebook for local retailers when you have to make your next purchase, or need a particular service performed. And if you can, by all means, stay out of WalMart.
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On 11:51 AM , Ianqui said...

No one thinks to go to the local hardware store to get a box of screws, then to the bakery to get a loaf of bread, and then to the toy store to pick up a toy for Johnny's birthday party. We want it all, and we want it all at once.

I love New York City because it makes it SO EASY for me to do exactly what you describe. It may be a little more expensive, but I'll deal. I suspect people are more bothered by convenience than they are by price. If all of those shops were next to each other on Main Street, we'd probably be back in business again.

On 10:58 PM , peakguy said...

I think one important point is the ability of specialty shops to impart knowledge with the sale of the object/good itself. My parents had to replace their washer and the local place gave them invaluable advice in terms of which was best for their situation - a much smaller one than they were thinking of. You don't get that at Walmart

On 7:01 PM , Sue Richards said...

I saw the movie in Guelph, Ontario, Canada on Friday night. We are in a 10 year battle with the big W. WalMart wants to build between our two city cemetaries and beside a 100 year old retreat centre. Silent retreat centre. Twelve thousand citizens have said "Not There." But after watching the movie, I don't bloody want them anywhere.