Wonderful Wal-Mart

     I was wandering around my local Wal-Mart today thinking about how wonderful it is to have a place where people of limited means can buy high quality products (food, clothing, medicine, and just about anyting else you can think of) at very low prices. 

      So, why do so many people oppose having Wal-Marts in their neighborhoods?  I can understand the opposition from all those who own the overpriced businesses the Wal-Mart will put out of business, but why would any consumer be opposed to having such a terrific place to shop? 

     People talk about how local shops that give individual service will be put out of business.  But if these shops are actually providing a service that Wal-Mart does not, and people value that service, people will continue to shop in these smaller places and the shops will continue to thrive.   If they are forced out of business, it will be because their service wasn’t that valuable after all.

     I love having Wal-Marts near to me and shop in them every week.  How do you folks feel about them, and what has been your actual experience with them?  Anyone actually work there and can shed any light on the gender discrimination charges?  As to that last point, I speak in total ignorance, but suspect the charges are more trumped up than real.  But, I’d love to hear from folks who actually know something about the facts behind the charges.

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  • http://thomaschronicles.com/ Thomas

    Hello Don Quixote,

    One of the reasons why I am not so hot on Wal-mart is because of the reason you cited. They presence in a community eliminates the small shops around. Wal-Mart buys everything in huge bulk which makes the unit cost for each item very low. These low prices are in turn passed on to the consumer. So far, that sounds great for a low income families and people who can’t afford the higher prices at mom&pop stores. Wal-Mart offers an abundance of choices in items and offers them at a price a single parent can afford.

    However, the problem is this. Shops around Wal-Marts do not thrive. They close down for an inability to compete. Many stanch lassiez-faire free market advocates say that if they can’t compete, they should be shut down.

    I’ve seen this dynamic happen to small towns where its economy slowly centered around Wal-Mart a few years after it opened. In Houston where I’m from, I’ve known entrepreneurs and small business owners who are just eking out a living not only because Wal-Mart offers lower prices, but also because when they buy in bulk, they also buy all there is to be had of a particular product straight from the manufacturer. Thus, the smaller stores can’t even obtain that item to place on sale.

    Houstonian store owners, my brother being one of them, have created an store owners association whereby they could pool their resources together and buy in bulk as well in an effort to compete with Wal-Mart. And even then, they are losing ground.

    Look, there is no service in the world that speaks louder or appeals more to the average consumer than those greenbacks. The less of them you have to give away for a product, the better. That’s the bottom line. Mom&pop stores unsupported by associations of the kind I pointed out above will fold. It’ll only be a matter of time.

    My other objection to Wal-Mart is that they don’t pay their workers a living wage. Employees for a mom&pop store ain’t exactly getting money hoisted on them either, but many Wal-Mart workers, for a long time, didn’t even have the option of having health benefits (I understand they offer some benefits now.) Look, you can barely live off the income if you worked at Wal-Mart if you are just supporting yourself. If you have a family, forget it; you’d just have to make yourself well with working at least 2 jobs, and you might not be able to support your family even then. The Wal-Mart image of being folksy has been carefully manufactured over the years with old-timers greeting you at the door. That was a very smart PR move, but it’s only PR.

    We’re hooked on Wal-Mart’s low prices and variety of products, but to have those low affordable prices everything has to be homogenized as well. You ever look down the aisle at Wal-Mart or Krogers or whatever and notice how all the coffee cans look the same, how all the car toys look the same, how all the packaging of all like products look the same. (Hell, while we’re at it, you ever notice how most clothing look the same with the exception of a little alligator on the top left corner rather than a polo player?)

    If efficiency is what we want, then Wal-Mart is the way to go. Mass centralization of products and services is much cheaper than hundreds of little stores offering to do the same thing. But if we want to look after the welfare of people, Wal-Mart might not be what we’re looking for.

    I’m not even saying we should change anything. Wal-Mart would be a blessing for a single mother and father would wants access to cheap products for their kid. But let’s not kid ourselves, there is a steep price to be paid for having a Wal-Mart. We just have to honest about whether it’s worth it or not.

  • http://wytammic.wordpress.com/ wytammic

    We shop at Wal-Mart to save money, though when a Wal-mart doesn’t have much competition, their prices are not that low. I like them not being unionized, but I hate the idea that much of the cheap goods they purchase come from China — a communist nation I would just rather not support.

    The closest Wal-Mart to us is almost 30 miles away. With the price of gas, we sometimes find ourselves buying more local, but even then, where we live the choices are limited.

    Not to mention, our Wal-Mart is not very clean and appears to be poorly managed.

  • JJ

    Yeah, it isn’t a question of the little shops being “overpriced” – they are what they are. (How the hell can a store in Starkville, Mississippi be “overpriced?”)

    The guy with the drug store, the guy with the little gadget store, the guy with the little stationery store, etc., etc. – they all have to pay whatever the going rent is for their stores. They all have to pay their distributors whatever the going rate is for whatever they stock.

    I have heard it said in the course of this discussion that the towns should band together, form associations, and the guy who owns the building should take a little less rent for a while..

    He can’t, because the biggest thing he pays is the one thing that will NEVER flex for him, or be lower: taxes. Real estate and otherwise. His insurers are unlikely to slash prices for the duration of the emergency, either. So he can’t help. All he can do is be a broke landlord with empty shops.

    Wal-Mart comes into the area, and the gadgets, stationery, and drugs all go under one roof, and are all bought in bulk, as Thomas says, at some distribution point 500 miles away, and shipped in. Even after being shipped they cost less than what the little one-off stores can buy them for.

    So there’s Starkville, Mississippi, home of Mississippi State, which has the relatively thriving college – and the downtown’s been boarded up for twenty years. Tumbleweeds. AND – five other little towns around Starkville also have out-of-business downtown cores, because Wal-Mart strategically located at the center of the triangle, to draw from all the towns. And the rural south is packed solid with dead towns.

    Market forces being what they are, I think Thomas is absolutely right, and the analogy goes even farther than he says it does. For example (to expand on him) I can remember a time, not so long ago, when there were a whole lot more cars available to be bought than there are now. Amazing, isn’t it: we’re all (allegedly) wealthier than ever in this country – yet somehow we have about half the choices we used to have. (Please don’t explain the “somehow” to me, Y – I know. I’m making a point here.)
    With all this wonderful money – how come we can only buy half as many types of cars as we used to? Where are the lovely Alfa Romeos, the Studebakers, Ramblers, Triumphs, Delahayes, Fiats, Elvas and Abarths?

    The shirt has a little crocodile (Rene LaCoste was “le crocodile,” everybody thinks it’s an alligator but it’s not. See, you even get bar bet-winning trivia here on this blog), or a little polo player – or a bell, or a whistle, or a hula girl – and we don’t care what’s on them, it doesn’t matter: they are all made by the same six mills.

    I live in a house with 6,000 books. Most of my favorite bookstores over the last forty years are gone – wounded first by B. Dalton and Walden, then speared through the heart by Borders and Barnes & Noble – which have incidentally killed B. Dalton and Walden, too. Christopher Morley’s haunted bookshop is long gone. (There’s a reference for you…) And the internet; Abe, Biblio (forget Amazon) are going to kill Borders and B & N, too.

    More “discretionary income” (I love that phrase) available – less variety to buy.

    Because the other end of the supply chain has noticed the same thing the front end has: centralization and homogenation is cheaper not just for stores, but also for the people who make and supply what they put in the stores. (Making what they put in the stores yet another level cheaper.)

    So, mom-and-pop, and downtown – they have no chance. None. Their costs are fixed (taxes, insurance, etc.) and they have zip market levereage, so they’re going bye-bye: period.

    And I kind of like Wal-Mart too, and appreciate the lower prices (though am not real fond of you, Chicoms), and the convenience. But – I also liked downtown. Thankfully, my personal downtown is a tourist trap (at least our merchants have that available: we get tourists) – but everybody who lives here actually shops at Wal-Mart.

    I don’t think I’d change anything either, certainly not by government fiat. I don’t have a lifetime’s experience of lots of examples of government doing much of anything right, whereas they seem to (insert descriptive term of choice) -up plenty, so I’m a little leery of that.

    It’s a tough choice we make here. I don’t know that there is a “right” choice.

  • Oldflyer

    When Walmart wanted to come to our small town, my wife and I were opposed. They finangled their way through a zoning loophole and built straddling the town/county boundary.

    Now, we use Walmart frequently for everyday “essentials”. Walmart is far from perfect, and not always the most pleasant shopping experience (usually because it is crowded), but they provide good merchandise at a good price. We have a Target within comparable driving distance, so if Walmart wanted to play monopolist they would have some problems.

    I do use local merchants when possible. For some services, such as optical, the local fellow provides the kind of year after year service and friendly atmosphere that justifies the higher prices. My locally owned garage has earned my trust, whereas some of the chain branches in the town have done the opposite. On the other hand we recently did some applicance upgrades. We went to the locally owned appliance store with whom we have dealt before. This store has had a virtual monopoly on appliances in this town for over a generation. With the help of a salesman we decided on an oven/cooktop; but before we bought I wandered through a chain home supply store and saw the same applicance for $400 less. How do you justify that paying that kind of premium? I later went back to the local store for some installation hardware for another applicane. I stood at the counter for over 20 minutes, ignored while the one salesperson on duty that Saturday sold a high-end appliance to another couple. Then he sold me the wrong size part–told me it was single size and I should bend it to fit. That didn’t work at all. (This was not a new hire at that store, but a long time tech/salesman; i.e. no excuse). While visiting another chain home supply store on a different errand, I saw the part in the correct size for 1/5 the price that I paid for the wrong size. The locally owned hardware/sporting goods store also enjoyed a near monopoly for 30 or so years. Many of his price mark-ups are almost obscene. Since he has a generally knowledgeable sales force it sometimes makes sense to stop in if advice is needed. (Sometimes it is worth something/sometimes not). Otherwise he is fine for small purchases, but very hard to justify for higher end merchandise.

    It is simply a myth that local merchants/tradesmen always give better service. Many in small towns stayed in business simply because there were few, if any, other options. I will go to local merchants/tradesmen when their prices are competitive, or when they give unique or exceptional service.

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com judyrose

    Talk of the evils of stores like Wal-Mart seem to focus on the smaller competitors and the employees. If those were the only people affected, there’d never be a Wal-Mart. It’s all about the customers. It seems that in any community, hundreds of people may suffer (if they lose business) while thousands or hundreds of thousands benefit from getting more merchandise for less money. Surely, in the over all, that’s a good thing. As for the employees, if they don’t want the jobs, why apply to work at Wal-Mart? Nobody forces a person to work at Wal-Mart.

    Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t lament the loss of charming downtown areas filled with bustling commerce, or the personal relationships we once built with merchants who knew us by our first names. That was also something good. But today’s world being what it is, many people really need, and really benefit from having a huge discount store in the area.

    In olden days, manufacturers of button hooks had a good thing going. Everybody needed button hooks to put on their shoes. Then laces became the norm, and the button hook makers and sellers were out of luck. That happens. Nobody is guaranteed that the job he holds will be his for life. (It’s not even true in Japan any more.) People have to adapt, learn new things, relocate, whatever it takes to find another way to make a living. I know it’s sad and scary. I’ve been through it myself. But what else can we do?

    Wal-Mart is here to stay and I, for one, welcome them. I’m waiting for them to open one of those super stores that includes a full-scale grogery, but so far, that hasn’t been permitted. We’ve only got the “regular” Wal-Marts (sans grocery) although they all carry some food items.

    It’s not a new concept. I recall back in the late 1960s, I lived in Michigan and we had a store called Meyer Thrifty Acres. It was a huge multi-concept store with a full grocery, pharmacy, household goods department, clothing store, etc. – very much like today’s Wal-Mart. They even had gas pumps outside. (Price: 30 cents a gallon – but let’s not get into THAT!)I don’t know if they’re still in the area or what happened to them because we left Michigan and moved to Florida. But I loved that store, and shopped there regularly.

    Perhaps towns that want to revitalize their downtown areas need to encourage businesses that aren’t competing with big discounters like Wal-Mart. Stores that offer hand-made, specialty, or one-of-a-kind items; restaurants, bakeries and other home-cooked take-out places; service businesses – those seem to be possibilities just off the top of my head.

    Progress usually hurts somebody, even when it benefits others. I remember that wonderful passage from “Inherit the Wind” when Spencer Tracy says to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, progress is like a storekeeper. You can have anything you want, but you have to pay the price. You can have the telephone, but you will loose some of your privacy, and the charm of distance. You can have the airplane, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.”

    Perhaps nothing that eloquent has been said about Wal-Mart, but it seems to fit this discussion.

  • JJ

    You know, as I think about this concept that Thomas brought in and I elaborated on a bit (centralization and homogeneity) it takes me off into all kinds of other directions, and to the conclusion that Wal-Mart is really only this week’s manifestation of an old issue.

    Wal-Mart is far from the first to “blame” – if blame is a concept you want to attach to it.

    This may wander a little, but bear with me, it’ll connect with Thomas, and with Judy’s quotes.

    I grew up on the east coast, and orbited pretty regularly between New York and Florida. The first time I ever did the drive it took three and half days: Rte 1 all the way. I got used to stopping in little towns, and I got used to the idea that there were indeed regional differences in this country. I also developed, weirdly enough, a taste for things like buttermilk, and fritters – which were widely available.

    As the years passed and I-95 finally neared completion, the trip got cut in half, and I began spending only one night on the road – unless I was in a hurry, in which case I’d leave NY at 5:00 AM before the rush hour, get through Baltimore, Washington and Richmond out-of-synch with their rush hours, and arrive in St. Augustine, Florida in time for a late-ish dinner. I was never a scrupulous observer of speed limits. (Still am not)

    But I noticed something about driving I-95: The south had disappeared. When you got off for gas and something to eat outside, let’s say, Lumberton, South Carolina; what did you have for food? You had 7-11, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Denny’s, Howard Johnson in the early days; etc. No buttermilk. No fritters. In fact nothing to indicate that you weren’t in New Jersey. In fact you might as well have been in New Jersey. The south was gone.

    It was there, of course, a few miles away from the highway, but nobody ever saw it anymore. It took a determined effort, which I often enough made, to get off the road and wander ten miles to find it. And when you got there, those little local motels where people used to stay, and the local restaurants where the people who stayed in the motels ate – all gone.

    Staying in a Holiday Inn next to the big road outside Beaufort is no different than staying in one outside Camden, New Jersey – or Sacramento; or Rock Spring, Wyoming; or Durango, Colorado; or Davenport, Iowa. Same room. Same restaurant. Same food. No buttermilk.

    I find that sad. I guess I appreciate – hell: being the road agent that I am I probably appreciate it more than most – the convenience of the big roads. Just as I do the convenience of the big stores. But there are, I notice, some things missing. There is, as Spencer Tracy and Judy said, a price for all that convenience. We have, it sometimes seems to me, given up one large hell of a lot for the sake of that convenience.

    I wonder if it was worth it. Nobody ever imposes anything on us – Sam Walton did not IMPOSE Wal-Mart on us, and Dwight Eisenhower didn’t IMPOSE the interstate highway system on us either – we were all for it.

    Just now and then, when I’m wandering around and it seems I’mn coming across more and more wreckage, either as a result of the roads, the chain eateries, Wal-Mart – whatever; I wonder a bit if it was worth it.

  • Trimegistus

    It has little to do with local business, or consumer choice, or even regional charm. People oppose Wal-Mart simply because it is a large, successful corporation. Just as they oppose McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, Disney, and Microsoft. Those corporations attract censure precisely because they are successful and because they are American. They are symbols of American daily life. People oppose them because they wish to seem different and better than ordinary Americans.

    Nobody complains that the food at Spago is too rich, but Lefties flock to watch _Supersize Me_ and tut-tut over how the hoi polloi are getting obese. Starbuck’s was hip and trendy until it got widespread, and then the hip crowd realized that people like Mom were buying there — suddenly it was a hated symbol of “globalization.”

    Hating Wal-Mart is a badge of loyalty. It means you’re not an ordinary American. It means you’re a liberal intellectual. It means you’re hip. It means you’re not like those other suburban kids you grew up with, even though you know in your heart that you are.

  • rockdalian

    Wow, opinions all over. How can anyone say we have fewer choices in autos now? We have choices from all over the world, with China poised to enter the market very soon. Had it not been for foreign choices we would still be driving Detroit crap. Anyone for returning to those days?
    The idea that Wal-Mart only recently began offering insurance is also bogus. I for one,in 1990, worked a Wal_Mart at night while attending a school during the day. Not only did I work part time, I had insurance. The supervisors couldn’t have been nicer to work for.
    The idea that Wal-Mart doesn’t pay a living wage is also nonsense. Just who exactly gets to decide what a living wage is? I want that job! My opinion is worth the same as anybody elses. The fact of the matter, Wal Mart hires many people and then teaches them some work ethics. Just what are under developed workers worth anyway. Companies all over this country have come to the realization that inexperienced people should not be hired in at the same wage as experienced workers.And, Wal-Mart indeed promotes from within.
    Living in the Chicago area, I have seen what happens when a Wal-Mart wants to build within the city. Chicago will not allow them to build within the city so they build on the fringes. The city loses all taxes associated with these stores. If Wal-Mart were such a terrible place to work, then why did thousands of people apply for the few hundred available jobs, like what happened in Evergreen Park, a suburb.
    The unions here fight against Wal-Mart. I also think that there is an element of snobbery associated with this issue. It seems that the tonier the town,the more resistance to the big box stores. They just don’t like us poor schlubs coming into their towns.
    All in all,because of high tax rates, Wal-Mart has been a boon for the poor and the working class people.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    But if these shops are actually providing a service that Wal-Mart does not, and people value that service, people will continue to shop in these smaller places and the shops will continue to thrive.

    Walmart doesn’t provide anything near that of what a specialty gun shop does or the wide range of selections that a collector would wish.

    If as a merchant, you have special connections or a niche market, no chain can actually push you out unless your product just isn’t specialized. Niche merchants can afford to get special high quality goods. Wal Mart has to get it from China, because they don’t fill a niche. So they can’t dump a huge amount of money in things that are rare or highly valuable to a select group of clientele.

    In case people are wondering, I’m sourcing from John Ross here. Link

    I remember going to an old styled cobbled streets tourist village-zone, and there were several specialty shops that sold things that WalMart would never touch. And it wasn’t cheap either.

    WalMart offers what China manufactures, but China doesn’t manufacture everything, even though it looks like they do.

  • DebbieSimano

    Walmart has been the target of powerful unions. This is the reason it is unpopular. Walmart workers have never unionized, and Walmart does its best to keep the unions out. That’s why they’re under attack.

    I read the unions also wanted to go after Target, but discovered that many of their biggest supporters are urban liberals who like shopping at Target. The unions feared alienting them.

    Reportedly Target pays LESS than Walmart, but none of my liberal friends refuse to shop there. In fact, they love it. They’re not aware of the double standard.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Some folks DO compete successfully with WalMart – we have a small local market whose produce is both better AND cheaper. For instance, they have local suppliers of apples and sell them for $.89/pound, while at our local WalMart the cheapest apples (I won’t buy them) are Red Delicious at $1.14.

    But, WalMart makes it harder for the local guys to stay in business – they have to really compete, and that means they have to do something that WalMart can’t, because the 900-pound gorilla is going to get you if you go head to head. The name of the game is service and specialties.

  • Mike Devx

    When producing mass consumer goods, bigger is always more economical. That’s why Wal-Mart thrives. We’ve seen this happen in cycles before. The first example I can think of are the large department stores – Wards, Sears, etc.

    The new problem about Wal-Mart (and others) is that its employees have become VERY low-wage, VERY low-benefit workers. Just as most waitress and bar jobs are now held by the young at entry-level wages, the same is becoming true for the general floor sales force. Tricks such as the permanent 35- to 39.9 hour work week, which allows Wal-Mart to avoid having to give its employees health care benefits, keep employee costs low. You used to have adults manning cash registers and walking the sales floors at Sears, J.C. Penneys, etc.

    I do not think that that is enough to explain the rolling crusade against Wal-Mart. The rolling crusade is aboout leftism and anti-corporation bias. The Wal-Mart model has its problems, but not enough to explain the near-hysterical reactions against the company.

  • http://www.eternityroad.info Francis W. Porretto

    A lot of half-observed things have been written about how small businesses can stay viable in a big-box-dominated marketplace. Most of them are about personal service and niche markets. Well, your Curmudgeon is here to tell you: that’s at most half of the solution.

    A personal disclosure: I’m well to do. There’s a Wal-Mart within five miles of me, but I don’t go there. When I shop — doesn’t happen often; I possess a functioning Y chromosome — I go forty miles away to do it, to Nordstrom’s, another large department store.

    Why? Because I’m crowd-averse. I greatly dislike to be crowded, jostled, or herded. Discount stores typically impose that on those who patronize them. Even relatively up-market stores such as Macy’s are more crowded than I like to endure. So I go where the herds of shoppers have been thinned by high prices. I know I could get the material goods I’m buying for less if I were to go to Macy’s…or, sometimes, to Wal-Mart. That’s simply less important to me than not suffering the elbows of others.

    Nordstrom’s, however, might soon become more crowded than I can bear; in recent visits I’ve noticed a substantial increase in traffic there, and I find it less comfortable than it was. Well, there’s always Bergdorf & Goodman’s, or mail order.

    The point here is that a retailer must not only decide on his “value proposition” — low prices; unique merchandise; personal service; low crowding; whatever — he must also contrive to find the customers for that value proposition and make them aware of it. Then he must maintain the characteristics he pitched to those customers, or risk losing them and having to find new ones.

    Schematically, when a merchant suffers loss of trade, whether to big-box competitors or for any other reason, it’s because he hasn’t attended to the relationship between his value proposition and his clientele. Perhaps he hasn’t kept his name adequately before the public. Perhaps he’s allowed the specific characteristic he was selling to deteriorate. But one way or another, he has to find his customer, sell him, and keep him sold. To fail to do so is commercial suicide.

  • Michael C. Dean

    Walmart has a lot of stuff, but mostly stuff I don’t really want. I go there for tires, mostly. I can find better deals for the stuff I actually want elsewhere. My wife actually has shopped at their grocery store, but finds the produce sucks, so she shops elsewhere.

    Walmart forced Zebco (fishing tackle) to move their manufacutring to China from Oklahoma. They did that by threatning to remove the Zebco products from their stores. I think this is happening a lot, and Walmart has some understanding with China. Not good for American jobs and American people.

    I actually spent some time at the Walmart headquarters in Bentonville when I worked for IBM.

  • http://Bookwormroom.wordpress.com Bookworm

    I don’t have a Wal-Mart near me (I’ve never been in one), but I do have a Target, which is comparable. What I like about it is that it gives me the opportunity to buy things I wouldn’t ordinarily buy at all. That is, I wouldn’t ever have given my custom to a local merchant, because the latter’s price was always higher than I was willing to pay for any given product. So my Target purchases are a gray area, since I’m buying things available from local merchants but that I never would have bought from those same stores.

    Speaking of local merchants, though, we have a boutique grocery store that opened near our house. It is a very good thing for the neighborhood, since its presence increases our property value. Homeowners make a point of shopping there once a week, rather than the local Safeway or Albertson’s, to support the store. In other words, if local stores can make the community realize that there are benefits other than low prices attendant upon shopping at that store, the community might just shop there.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    It is a very good thing for the neighborhood, since its presence increases our property value.

    Book,

    People talk about how local shops that give individual service will be put out of business. But if these shops are actually providing a service that Wal-Mart does not, and people value that service, people will continue to shop in these smaller places and the shops will continue to thrive. If they are forced out of business, it will be because their service wasn’t that valuable after all.

    You and Don are hopeless, absolutely Hopeless candidates for anti-capitalism, did you two know that?

  • Doug F

    There are multiple WalMart locations from which I can choose where we live. The selection is generally good, both in the food and non-food sides with the exception of the meat department. Very little meat is purchased by our family at WalMart.

    While WalMart provides goods and services to many people, and my family shops there regularly, I personally do not like WalMart for two primary reasons.

    1) Any time that we are ready to pay, the cashier lines are frequently long, no matter which line is chosen. This occurs at prime time (to be expected) and non-prime time like midnight. I know what I want, I want to get it, and I want to get out, not stand in some line.

    2) A new store starts out with reasonable aisles (there are 2 new WalMart stores within 7 miles of me) but over a short period of time, more and more clutter clogs the aisles, resulting in nearly one-way traffic on each side of the cluttered displays.

    Because of this, I shop elsewhere frequently.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Ymarsakar — I plead guilty as charged.

    Doug F — I shop at Wal-Mart between 7 & 8 a.m. & never have a problem with lines.

    Great comments, all, by the way.

  • Oldflyer

    This thread is interesting on several levels. I have just read comments about Walmart that have been disproven over and over as pure propaganda. Are they still believed? Or do people echo them in hopes that other readers are ignorant?

    Walmart is neither good nor bad. It is not part of a morality play.

    Well maybe it is part of a larger world-wide morality play. I worked off and on in England in the period just before super-markets came into vogue. After a hiatus I returned to England and Supermarkets were very popular. Many people profess to hate them; but people crowd into them for their own particular reasons. Just like Walmart, English supermarkets serve a purpose for many people. Just as in the U.S. many people regret the passing of the familiar; but, they adapt to change.

    I really love the one about Walmart forcing manufacturer’s to leave the states and go to China. I did not buy my Buick in Walmart; but it was not manufactured in the U.S either. My previous car was built in Mexico. But, my Pick-em-up truck with the Japanese name was built in the U.S. I suggest anyone who believes that it is Walmart forcing manufacturering overseas might take a closer look at the merchandise they are buying in other outlets.

    It is ridiculous to say that Walmart does not offer good merchandise. No they do not offer designer clothes, nor do they offer decent fly-fishing equipment. But, for the most part they offer the same popular brands as any other outlet. They have the same brands of tooth paste; the same brands of small appliances. I can pick up distilled water for about half the price I can at a chain or specialty supermarket–and I use quite a bit of distilled water.

    If price were no consideration, I might never enter a Walmart, because I also really hate to be to be crowded or jostled. I love to feel that I am the focus of attention of a knowledgeable sales person. I do enjoy when the cashier at the local hardware tells me “Thanks for stopping in, Hon”. (But, that may only resonate after your 70th birthday). If special merchandise or specialty service is the goal I don’t head for WM now. On the other hand, price considerations aside, I know that I can buy a wide range of ordinary necessities with one stop.

    I do not consider WM evil; I consider them useful.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    I just think in general Americans don’t like being somewhere, where people are in their private space. It’s different from Europeans, because Europeans and Japanese live in high density regions. Not exactly urban regions, but just high density, really compact demographics and areas.

    It’s sort of similar to how someone who has always lived underground or indoors, can have agoraphobia. But it is reversed, because space was plentiful in America, people and families have grown up throughout the generations expecting space. And if you don’t get your space, you have this tingling mental discontent going on.

    This also has big problems when Americans interact with different cultures, such as the Arabs, who will get into your personal space and start yelling in your face, for almost no reason at all. As a negotiations ploy even. It is also the cause of the friction between white cultures and the black culture here in the US. There is a strain amongst blacks to be confrontational, to get in someone’s face, and have it out via an argument. Whereas Anglo-Saxon culture tends to be more reserved, if only because of the duello code back some centuries ago. America still had the Code Duello even after Europe banned it, just so ya know. In fact, one of the Founding Fathers got killed in a duel. A big reason to be polite and reserved when facing someone you dislike or find disagreeable. Not present in certain segments of black families, because… of some unknown variables.

    I shop at Wal-Mart between 7 & 8 a.m.

    That’s one way to avoid the crowds.

  • Marguerite

    I haven’t read all the posts on this topic – so this may have already been covered. My thought is that a business exists to provide a good or service to be sold at a profit to the owner. It does not exist to provide a ‘living wage’ or to provide health insurance or day-care. In a similar vein, there are people who want to guilt me to buy super-expensive shade grown coffee beans to subsidize a life-style when all I want is coffee that tastes good. All I expect a business to do is provide the goods or service I need. Walmart does this and millions upon millions of feet beat a path to their door – for goods, services, and employment.

  • Marguerite

    Forgot to say that I don’t have a Walmart anywhere near me because the neighbors in the area decided to fight it and won. Privately, they didn’t want ‘those kind’ of people coming into the neighborhood in droves, but it was convenient to say publicly that traffic would depress property values.

  • Michael C. Dean

    Target has better stuff. Go there more than Walmart. I do use the photo department, as they use Fuji materials. But other places do now, such as Wallgreens.

  • Harold Kildow

    Most liberals hate Walmart out of snobbery, as several of these posts have pointed out. Most conservatives are ambivalent about Walmart for the same reason we are uneasy about the bequest of modernity in general. Traditions, habits, customs, and folkways were all swept away in the French Revolution. Our own revolution was more modest and measured, being Anglo-Saxon and all, but the “acids of modernity”, having been baked into the cake as it were, have inexorably continued undercutting our tradtiions as well. “Progressive” and “old-fashioned” are antonyms, and in the modern world, it is embarrassing to be a traditional Christian, to be patriotic, to try to hold onto traditional morality, even to be Southern. Walmart is associated with all these middle American values that are hopelessly out of step with modern, and now postmodern cynicism and irony, while at the same time leading the revolution in retailing which has undercut traditonal mom and pop stores. (The former is why French-owned Target is favored by liberals–Target supports the “arts” and “education” while driving away the Salvation Army and the Marines Toys for Tots tables from their stores; the latter is why they loathe it).

    What logically follows from the imperative of the modern scientific view of the world, ie, conquering nature for the relief of man’s estate–that if a thing can be done, it will be done–applies largely to economics as well. The inexorable march toward ever more sophistication in business and finance will continue apace, almost as if beyond our control, very much the way cutting edge biology threatens the very definition of the human. All of these are part of what make living in the modern world a blessing; but our knowledge gives blessings with one hand, and harms us with what it takes away with the other. The shift in the retail business model led by Walmart is just one aspect of the continuous evolution of the economic part of modernity.

    BTW, I go to Walmart for things that are likely to be a lot lower in price, or that are out of stock elsewhere. I am an infrequent shopper.

  • Jose

    Walmart has (I think) put a lot of the small stores of out business in my small town. But I never shopped at the small stores anyway; they were closed when I left work.

    I do hate the crowds at Walmart, but I also hate looking for downtown parking. Like DQ, I try to shop at 8 a.m. and patronize the very few stores open at that time.

  • SGT Dave

    Just my two cents;
    Being a military type, I have a PX and Commissary available to me. My family uses Wal-Mart for mid-level goods, the PX/commissary for high end items (no sales tax and good prices on “brand” names) and when I just need a couple things I walk three blocks to the Mom & Pop grocer. The only people that went out of business when Wal-Mart came to town where I live were not making it anyway (one grocer with awful conditions and very bad help and an overpriced pharmacy). Notably, there were other businesses that survived in the same niche as those that failed. And as to the “living wage” argument; a friend of mine worked for Wal-Mart for several years. She earned a very nice wage, could afford health insurance, and was doing good. After her divorce she moved; her next jobs in manufacturing, for an “enlightened” corporation, and in government all netted her less disposable income and considerably worse health care. At the “enlightened” job she was earning 30% more pre-tax than as an assistant manager at Wal-mart. After health care, the union dues, and several other deductions, her monthly take home pay was almost 15% lower. Oh, and when they let her go, the cost for COBRA coverage was nearly $1200 a month – for $50 copays and $25 prescriptions. She’s working for Medicare, of all places, now. She wishes she’d stayed with Wal-mart; the pay was similar and the customers less confrontational.

    SGT Dave

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    My other objection to Wal-Mart is that they don’t pay their workers a living wage. Employees for a mom&pop store ain’t exactly getting money hoisted on them either, but many Wal-Mart workers, for a long time, didn’t even have the option of having health benefits (I understand they offer some benefits now.) Look, you can barely live off the income if you worked at Wal-Mart if you are just supporting yourself.

    I had this thought before, so I might as well say it now, Thomas. That this is a weird position for a conservative to hold. About a living wage. Independent of whether anything above a minimum wage should even be a living wage, why focus on raising the wage, a union cause, instead of having more jobs, not a union cause?

  • http://thomaschronicles.com/ Thomas

    Ymarsakar,

    The thing is Ymarsakar, I quite agree with you that this really is a weird position for a conservative to take. Most conservatives would agree that market forces should be the sole determining factor in how a business should operate, i.e. whether or not the market can support certain business enterprises.

    However, this is one of the areas where I am on the liberal end of the spectrum. My political philosophy is more akin to the Harry Truman and Scoop Jackson variety, which is very strong on defense but fairly liberal on the domestics. I just can’t in good conscience advocate a business practice that would force a man to work 60 to 70 hour weeks just to keep his head afloat at minimum wage. There’s just got to be a better way of doing it.