January 24, 2005

Wal*Mart Fact-Checking

In the first decade after Wal-Mart arrived in Iowa, the state lost 555 grocery stores, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women’s apparel stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drugstores, and 111 men’s and boys’ apparel stores.

For more details, check out PurpleOcean’s Wal-Mart Fact Checker. You can print out your own fact sheet there.

Bottom line is, people can’t make informed decisions if they’re not informed. Wal*Mart throws its immense weight around in television advertising, yet even if folks had the money to get the facts out, the networks have shown a fear of doing anything to upset anyone with money when it comes to running ads.

PurpleOcean is tracking how the word is spreading about WalMart. As the word spreads through signups, they’ll be donating money for health care to uncovered Wal-Mart workers. Thanks, Dave, for the link.

Posted by James at January 24, 2005 2:00 PM
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Of course the argument of economic survival of the fittest does have validity here. It's a matter of debate as to wether the competitors were less fit, but Walmart is doing something 'right' to be able to put that much of its competition out of business. The central fallacy of capatalistic competition is that the market favors competition. A sucessful company is one that can corner a market. Period. If you still have competition, you aren't a good capitalist.

What to do about it? Not sure. This sort of thing has impacted my own family business as well. Big-Box companies are able to sucessfully muscle out the competition for many reasons. I don't blame only them. I think consumers are the ones to blame here. Consumers will sell themselves out for a savings of $1.00. And it is exactly what we do. As an example; we buy sweat shop clothing and complain that we are losing our textiles industries to overseas companies.

We can't have it both ways. Learn to live with less crap that you don't need, buy the good stuff when you do need, and this is less of a problem. But that isn't what the consumer wants. We are spending ourselves out of a good economy, reasonable wages, and health care.

For myself, it's convenience that is the issue. I go the the "big" grocery store more frequently than I'd like, not because it's my only option, but because it's the only one that has hours that fit my schedule. When I can, I go to the small shops in my neighborhood. But, Lord, one-stop shopping has its conveniences. Big-Box stores can, and do, address the way that the modern consumer functions. The older style of stores don't.

Posted by: Rui at January 24, 2005 5:15 PM

The way I look at it: one doesn't necessarily need to find one party to blame. But we can try to make purchasing decisions that slow the juggernaut. And we can respond to what we see as inequities or unfair business practices.

Again, the bottom line is, get the information out there and see what people decide. Will people start to think, or will that $1.00 always make them turn to Wal-Mart?

Posted by: James at January 24, 2005 9:18 PM

The waste and wealth of our society frustrate me extremely. I have just sold a truckload of toys and baby items in a yard sale. Is that because I didn't know anybody having a baby? Of course not -- it's because it's not socially acceptable to give used stuff as gifts, and these women all had huge baby showers where they got the new versions of the stuff I (and half the other women there) could have just given them. I think you see it the most when you have children, because they outgrow their clothes and toys so quickly.

And I had exactly the thought the other day that Rui expressed -- why can't we figure out what we really need, buy only that, and buy it from someone in our community. I think I had the thought because I had been talking to my mother about "simpler times," and she said you simply didn't think about what was going on in the world as much, because you didn't have all of the information that we have now. I think people focused on their communities more. If only we took care of each other!

Posted by: Maggie at January 25, 2005 12:06 AM

Through online social networks, some people are trying to work on this. There is the "freecycle" network, which I recently signed up for, but then bailed on. Freecycle is a network of Yahoo clubs which announce available stuff, or wanted stuff and then stuff gets distributed. It's like an online want ads mailing list, except everything is absolutely free.

In other words "I ahve an exercise machince. Who watns it?" Then you give it to one of the people who responds. Or "I would like an exercise machine." and someone gives you one they're not using.

It turns out, I don't want to sort through the messages, and you have to read them every day because offers go stale almost immediately. Who has time for it?

Posted by: James at January 25, 2005 12:23 AM

I refuse to shop WallMart and try to stay away from large retailers whenever possible. I felt extremely guilty when on the way to work last year I was beginning to feelk lousy and we were going on vacation in a day or two. The only place open on the way to work was WalMart so I went in and bought some zinc lozenges to try and ward off the cold. It worked, I caught it early enough and I felt fine on vacation but I still feel guilty about having gone to WalMart.

There are options out there for food we get what we can at a local farm stand type place that stays open all winter with high quality stuff, or we do Whole Foods. Basic stuff we still get at Shaw's but it's less and less.

For hardware we go to the local Ace franchise and stay away from Home Despot.

For books and music we are fortunate enough in this area to have numerous indepedent options so I can stay off Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Basically if something is available locally and from a small store I try t ogive them my money. My feeling is that the buck or two extra it costs me is well worth the convenience and quality I get in return.

Posted by: B.O.B.(bob) at January 25, 2005 9:24 AM

My level of loathing for Wal-Mart will come as no surprise to any of you, I'm sure.

I yell at the TV when the early-morning Wal-Mart commercials come on announcing "good jobs," and now I have proof that I am right to scream. Thanks for posting this link, James.

I am not a fan of chain stores of anything, and the poster child for all that is wrong with big box stores is Wal-Mart. This is the company that decided not to carry the morning after pill because "it won't sell." Right.

Don't you believe it for a minute. This corporation is guided by a conservative agenda and _that_ is why they're not selling emergency contraception. Due to extreme market saturation and penetration, Wal-Mart is often the only pharmacy _for miles around_, making it the only choice for women. They don't have the option of being choosy with thier money when Wal-Mart is the only game in town.

Wal-Mart's refusal to stock the "morning-after" Pill
http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_walm.htm

Maybe you just want some regular plain old birth control and you work for Wal-Mart. Well, maybe you can't get that either.

Wal-Mart Health Plan Penalizes Women, Suit Charges
http://consumeraffairs.com/news02/walmart_preg.html

Then there's the sqeeze this monster puts on companies. They're so big, they can demand goods for low prices that companies can't afford to produce BUT they also can't afford to pass up being allowed to stock their wares at Wal-Marts. Talk about an offer you can't refuse. Follow this link to find out how Vlasic, for example, is stuck in the Wal-Mart whirlpool (a report I heard earlier last year on NPR):

The Wal-Mart You Don't Know
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html

Let's not forget their unfair labor practices, including discriminating against women. Just in case you missed _that_ story last year, here's a link:

Sex discrimination cited at Wal-Mart
Women accuse Wal-Mart Lawyers seek OK for class-action suit
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/04/29/BU303648.DTL&type=business

Like Rui said, we needn't be so greedy. Learn to do with less. As for the reuse/recycle points made in other posts, we just sent off 8 or 9 bags of clothing and bedding to Big Brothers & Big Sisters. We're losing closet space in our renovation and were motivated to clean out.

Shopping at Wal-Mart to save a piddly amount of money is akin to selling your soul to the devil. I wouldn't be caught DEAD in Wal-Mart. Why would I give my hard-earned money to a corporation that has contempt for my values?

Posted by: Patti M. at January 25, 2005 10:22 AM

Unfortunately, most people don't see it that way Patti. They feel it's within Walmart's rights to do what they please. It's a sort of modern feudalism. The Lord is always doing the right thing, peasants don't have any say. Plus, the heartland really agrees with Walmart that bullets are ok, and condoms aren't.

As for saving $1? Well, it's been my experience that, yeah, the average person will always do that. I know of so many instances where people will get in the car and drive to another town to save that much, never thinking that they just spent the savings on gas. I think the big box stores have us. They figured out our shopping behaviours, and they capitalized on that. Case closed.

Yeah, I'm cynical.

Posted by: Rui at January 26, 2005 3:19 PM

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