Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Disrespect Wal-Mart

As I tried to explain here, some people get in over their heads disrespecting Wal-Mart and should really not bother.

There is no need for these mistakes to be made! Disrespecting Wal-Mart is in fact almost too easy. Steve Gilliard gets it perfectly in his response to (behind the Times Select wall) columnist John Tierney:

Wal-Mart doesn't alliviate poverty, it spreads it like a virus.

How? In China and the developing world, it demands greater and greater price savings on factory owners, who have to use repressive methods to keep their employees. It's so bad, the Chinese government has allowed Wal Mart workers to unionize.

In the US, Wal Mart' s predatory pricing forced Rubbermaid to close, and forces other suppliers to ship work overseas to meet Wal Mart's pricing demands.

Every contract, Wal Mart demands greater savings from producers, demanding cost cutting. Most of the brand names sold in Wal Mart are substandard products with the same brand name. Snapper refused to sell to Wal Mart because of that practice.

Wal Mart's low wage policy is the worst in the retail industy, they spend more on commercials than actual health care for their workers. Certainly people in Chicago and Maryland didn't feel that Wal Mart was lifting people out of poverty, having passed bills concerning health care and wages.

See also Echidne of the Snakes, from which blog I got the Gilliard link. Rebutting Tierney's asinine, purely rhetorical question about whether Sam Walton has done more for poor people than recent Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Echidne says:

Wal-Mart makes its owners very rich, true. But it doesn't encourage the type of moral and spiritual growth in them as the microlending schemes do to their participants. Think about the way the poor have no collateral to offer for these loans, so the need for it is replaced by personal reputation and honor. And almost all loans are paid back! This is because the loans are evaluated in a group of locals who already have had microloans themselves, and the social knowledge, support and perhaps pressure, too, are used in place of money as a collateral. I can see problems in this system but compared to the traditional banking system those problems are nothing. It's important to remember that microlending schemes have largely helped women who have no access to traditional credit in most developing countries.

You can refer, over and over if need be, to the above two examples of how to criticize Wal-Mart without sounding like an elitist asshole. But what if life's got you down, things are crazy at work, the family's all up in your business, and you need just a quick, simple reference? Where's Bashing Wal-Mart for Dummies?

Well, one brain-dead person to another, and at the risk of sounding pompous, here's at least a chapter of Bashing Wal-Mart for Dummies. It's free and worth about as much. And you're welcome!

Chapter 5: Summing up What We've Learned as "Dos" and "Don'ts"

DO criticize Wal-Mart's morally repugnant labor practices.

Example: "I cannot believe Wal-Mart prevents its employees from working full-time just to save on benefits costs. That is despicable."
Example: "Did you see that on the news about Wal-Mart encouraging its employees to 'explore' public assistance? Welfare: It's not just for people without jobs anymore."

DON'T criticize Wal-Mart's employees.

Example: "Gag me; if I had to wear such a sad-ass uniform I would DIE."
Example: "WHY are these checkout people so SLOW? They get PAID, don't they?"

DO criticize Wal-Mart's soul-crushing ambience.

Example: "Why is every Wal-Mart even uglier than the last Wal-Mart I was in?"
Example: "Tell me why I shop here again. Is it the ugliness? Is there something mesmerizing to a very dark part of my soul about the ugliness?"

DON'T tell your fellow Wal-Mart shoppers how much better Target is (this goes double if you are James Lileks).

Example: "I mean, here they just throw everything everywhere, but at Target it's like organized."
Example: "Here it's all so grim and sterile, with blue accents. But in Target it's all grim and sterile with RED accents. And red is kind of a peppier color, don't you think?"
Example: "At least at Target they speak-a da English, you know? This is America."

DO mourn the deaths of "Mom-n-Pop" stores.

Example: "Right across from here, catty-corner like, used to be the best lil' camera shop."

DON'T blame the deaths of "Mom-n-Pop" stores on Wal-Mart shoppers.

Example: "I guess these yokels just don't care that my partner and I have nowhere to go antiquing anymore." (P.S.: No, they totally don't.)


Chris Clarke said...

Can I still say "quirky Kuraltian"?

Rob said...

Since I can offer no profound truth, I thought I'd just pile on a bit. Mom & Pop have been under pressure from the malls and the internet for some time now. Walmart certainly added to the pressure but they didn't create it. With some exceptions, Mom & Pop treat their employees roughly the same as Walmart does. They don't offer health care in a lot of cases because they can't afford it or claim they can't afford it and they hire part time help for the exact same reasons Walmart does. We live in competitive business world. To survive, you have to offer something people want (Product, price, quality, convenience, etc) that they can't get easily elsewhere.

Malibu Stacy said...

Well, I have nothing pithy to add, but after reading this and your previous post which serendipitously combine to evoke last night's unfortunate venture into Sam Walton's Cletusville with my pink-coiffed daughter, I feel a need to mention that pink hair and Wal-Mart do NOT mix.

The hue is apparently a magnet for creepy, old, intermittently-toothed males of dubious continence who feel compelled and entitled to know all that can be discovered about my pinky-haireded little girl, and for whom Wal-Mart is a natural habitat. It required several dozen full-body shivers to relieve ourselves of The Skeeves.

Anonymous said...

The biggest conflict I have is my loathing of Walmart coupled with my weekly venture to the very jaws of hell to stock the pantry. I feed the evil machine simply because I cannot pay 30% more for groceries. We lost our mid-priced supermarket here some years ago, so now it's El Cheapo or Gimme Your Wallet. It's like some sort of Catch-22; if wages here were higher, I could afford to shop elsewhere, and I would. But my patronage of the beast encourages the reduction of wages even further.

To make myself feel better (in a very juvenile sort of way), I insist on using coupons and forcing the claimed "price matching" to happen. Because I am immoral, I have found that I can pretty much tell them anything, such as, "{the big chain here} has Cascade Economy Size on sale for 30 for $5," and they'll accept my word for it....I try not to abuse this power.Much. gennimcmahon

Sage said...

Whenever I see a Wal-Mart discussion, I just have to add that the book No-one Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart is the best bit of analysis I've read in a while. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Marry me, Ilyka.

Anonymous said...

Sage, wow, I haven't read the book but just the title is forcing me to do some heavy thinking...I generally delude myself that I have no choice, but likely it's more that it would be a lot of trouble to choose another option; like shopping at more than one store, an even more rigorous exploration of weekly sales and's true. No one is making me do it. We give up a lot of discretion for convenience, it seems. Thanks for the smack to the back of the head.Even if I keep shopping at Walmart, I'll have to accept that I am then supporting them; grumbling and complaining doesn't change the bottom line, which is that my money goes to line their pockets. gennimcmahon

kate said...

I'd imagine we all can patronize other stores for goods and services, if we take the time to find them. My beef with such stores like Wal-mart is that they prey on small muncipalities that allow them to build their conglomerations on the hope of bringing in more revenue.

Thus, the stores are often out of public transit routes, which cost for consumers as well as their employees who can ill afford the drive. Don't forget the toll on the environment as well.

The 'explore welfare as an option' ploy does not surprise me either. It is common in our culture that the very same people who will bemoan about the cost of 'entitlements' will have no problem referring people to them if it translates into wiping their hands of their own complicity in continuing poverty. Fact is, they just don't want to pay at all, whether in taxes to support entitlements or higher payrolls.

Studies have shown as well that a single payer public health program would save businesses millions of dollars in co-payments they now make, even wal-mart for their management employees.

I also make it a personal policy of mine to not be rude to any service workers anywhere as I know all too well how they are worked beyond their earnings everyday and often have few options to move up.

Anyway, on a feminist note, I think most mass marketing and consumption hype is focused on women. Women are constantly sold on the idea that their womenhood depends on spending hundreds of dollars every year on frivolous fashions and 'beauty' goods, much less the myth that qualified womanhood also comes with a natural proclivity to shop for entertainment.

I buy less overall (because i can't afford to be the ideal consumer), look to buy used first, repair rather than throw away and try to buy local (within city limits) as much as possible.

If we all did that and eschewed the level of consumerism pushed, would the economy collaspe as the pundits warn? I doubt it as no mass exodus would ever occur, change would come in small steps. It would be interesting to see more people take those steps though.