Controversy: Con's

Some people think Wal-Mart is, well, evil. Wal-Mart only offers non-union jobs that depress job markets and belittle honest labor (I wonder what Marx would say about Wal-Mart). Calling their peons "associates" is a mockery— when associates at one store in Canada voted to organize into a Union, Wal-Mart fired everyone and then punished the community by closing the store. Walmart has also been accused of being sexist.

  • Wait, I'm confused here. In two paragraphs, it says that Wal-Mart runs into small towns and runs other businesses out, and yet it's a "punishment" when they close down? Now, I'm as much a Wal-Mart hater as the next person, but you can't have it both ways here. Big business either helps or it hurts. —SS
    • Well, if you run all the businesses out of town, you're the only one left, right? So if you pack up shop and there's no one else left, you're doubly screwed. Then count in all the employees a Walmart has or had, the monetary effects on the city, etc.

If you go into a typical Wal-Mart store, the marketers have the stores setup in such a way that your time will be wasted especially if you want to get a specific item, pay for it and get out. Typically, the wide aisles are narrowed with a lot of merchandise stacked in the middle to make it difficult to easily move around especially with customers looking at the items for sale. When you are ready to purchase your given items, even though there are 20+ cash registers, only 2 or 3 are open at a given time especially when busy such as Saturday with the checkout lines being 20 people long. Marketers are the ones behind this design with the idea of trying to keep you in the store as long as possible thinking you will buy more merchandise from them in the meantime. (Well no sh— Sherlock, that's what marketers are supposed to DO)

Some people think Wal-Mart is hard-nosed with suppliers, and that them moving into small towns and runs the other businesses out.

If anyone you care about is thinking about working at Walmart, have them read "Nickel and Dimed" By Barbara Ehernreich. Reading this book will also change your shopping habits, i.e. hanging the clothes back on the hangers properly after trying them on, refold items and straighten the stacks as you pull out items to look at, saying hello to and thanking employees on the floor when they help you, etc., anything to help ease the employee's suffering.

  • "hanging the clothes back on the hangers properly after trying them on, refold items and straighten the stacks as you pull out items to look at, saying hello to and thanking employees on the floor when they help you"? I didn't know you had to be moved by a book to do this, I thought this was just common courtesy and manners. Or am I old-fashioned?MichelleAccurso
    • I agree with Michelle. Plus, the book is not that incredible. It is a personal experience from someone who already had a strong dislike for Wal-Mart (who also, by the way, if you read the book, almost failed her drug test when applying) when applying and working for a job there. Again, I really don't like Wal-Mart, but there are probably better books to read that codemn it than that of Barbara Ehernreich's personal account of folding t-shirts and encouraging unions. —SS

An article in The Nation criticized Wal-Mart's philanthropic efforts, noting that their donations coincide with their negative image. Indeed, while the Walton's contributed over $1.1 billion between 2001 and 2005, they donated a total of $250 million between 1962 and 2000.

There is a film highly critical of Wal-mart called "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Price". It may be screened locally. PBS Frontline made an anti-Walmart documentary in 2004 titled Is Wal-Mart Good For America?. Those with shorter attention spans may enjoy this Jib Jab satire: "Big Box Mart" (Macromedia Flash required to play).

  • John Tierney from the New York Times has shown that "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Price" is grossly dishonest about Wal-Mart, so I wouldn't recommend seeing it if you value the truth. Unfortunately, the NYTimes article is subscription-only, but I can summarize a little. The "documentary" claims that a store called H&H Hardware was driven out of business by Wal-Mart's low prices. It fails to mention, however, that another hardware store is now operating successfully right where H&H used to be. H&H closed because of mismanagement. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "H&H's founder and patriarch said this week that the big-box competitor wasn't to blame for the demise of the business, which reopened last week under new ownership." Also, the film implies that the local Amish population is fearful of the new Wal-Mart. Tierney interviewed one of them, who said, "Wal-Mart isn't really a big issue with our people... At first some were upset because they were scared by something new. But now they like being able to get everything here."

My Opinion/observations about the "evil"s of Walmart are that the excess transportation (oil, fuel) to get cheap goods (plastic, made from oil) from the sweatshops of southeast asia to isles throughout the US is a societal cost we are not dealing with. —RocksandDirt

Controversy: Pro's

Lower-income people tend to have a different view of Wal-Mart, in that it raises their standard of living by offering competitive prices. I wasn't aware that the "minimum wage" had risen to $8 or $9 an hour. The idea that Wal-Mart wages "depress job markets" is not borne-out by economic theory or empirical data. If Wal-Mart's closing of a store "punished the community" in Canada, does this mean that Wal-Mart's presence was beneficial? As to complaints about Wal-Mart's quality, you are free to choose whether to shop there.

It is also worth noting that Wal-Mart's CEO recently publicly advocated raising the federal minimum wage. (The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. Some states have higher minimum wages, but most are either the same as as the federal wage or have no laws so the federal applies by default. Keep in mind when comparing money values across the country that rent, food and other basics of life are generally far more expensive in California. Rent and food in an college town similar to Davis but located in Pennsylvania is a third of the cost... even with a much larger house.)

Wal-Mart helps control inflation and was an essential catalyst for the retail boom of the 90s. Wal-Mart is also the nation's largest employer. Low inflation and job creation are positive side-effects of the Wal-Mart economy.