Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why I Try Not to Shop at Wal-Mart

The Spin Cycle this week from Sprite’s Keeper is “Turning Dollars into Sense.” Also known as Cost Cutting. Apropos with the economy floating around the top of the crapper, the hushed moment while everyone is watching the flusher. What’s going down the tubes at your house?

Not only is the cost of living in Hawaii exactly what you would expect (then double that) in a slice of paradise, but our number one industry is tourism. Which comes to a screeeeeching stall in economic downturns. My husband works at a high end resort. His hours have been cut in half since Christmas. Nuf’ said.

So, I’ve had this post floating around the perimeters of my addled, is thinking about taking a turn towards mid-life brain farts mind for awhile as well.

Ah, well. Here goes…

I highly recommend the documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Price of Low Cost. It is well made and has multiple sources for its information, including many high up managers. The documentary makes several cases against Wal-Mart business practices. Some of them are heartbreaking. The anecdotal stories. The bigger picture the film paints.

Highlights:

A systematic policy of not just paying low wages and offering little or no benefits, including health care; but of counseling their employees to go on public assistance. Wal-Mart employees cost tax payers over one billion dollars in 2004 (movie made in 2005). Managers interviewed tell how Wal-Mart, a multibillion dollar company trains their managers to tell the employees to use state assistance because that is what it is there for.

The sweat shops Wal-Mart is running in its factories overseas.

A systematic policy of discrimination against women and people of color when it comes to upper level management.

Crime in the parking lots and Wal-Mart’s lack of reaction or caring to this.

Changed landscape of small businesses and their ability to survive.

Yes, the prices are low. But at what cost?

This clip shows the unscrupulousness of their business practices and their greed. The Walton family is worth over 102 billion dollars, yet gives less than 1% to charity. The clip compares this to Bill Gates who gave 58% to charity the same year.


I’m not sure if I am more upset with Wal-Mart or Queen for this commercial.


Does anyone besides me remember the days where only the cheesiest and greediest of artists sold out their music for advertising?? Queen for Wal-Mart. Excuse me while I slip into depression over here.

42 comments:

McEwens said...

I just keep wondering how much worse can this get? Sorry about your husbands cut in hours. I think everyone is just so scared to spend ANYTHING!

Casey said...

I haven't seen the Walmart documentary but I've heard of some of their practices. I shopped there throughout my college days since I was poor and it was cheap. These days, I find myself gravitating toward Target. It's more expensive, yes, but they give a lot of money back to the community and their stuff is cooler too. Hey, it can't all be about doing good, I hafta like it too!

Joanie said...

I hear you on the economic downturn. I work as a waitress at FGI Fridays. Last monday (a week ago) I went home with $8 in tips. Last week I made $194. I used to make between $350 and $500 a week. I sure hope this turns around soon!
I'll watch the videos tonight. I have to leave for work now.

Marinka said...

Fortunately they don't have a Walmart in NYC, so I haven't been tempted. This is interesting. and very sad.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

I hate WalMart. I always have. They are corporate bullies and I avoid their stores at all costs.

Just B said...

The Boss recently apologized for making a deal with WalMart, too. Everyone is selling out these days--greed before honor, get-yours-anyway-you-can.

I have to admit I shopped at Wal-Mart yesterday (because I was given a gift card for watching a neighbors dog). It was a yucky experience in many ways, largely because I was dragging my three girls through the humongous unfamiliar store. But sadly I was relieved when I got the gift card because without it I was wondering how I was going to provide valentines, cookies and tablecloths for three kids' school parties. So really I guess I'm doing my own version of get-yours-anyway-you-can.

Cristin said...

I hate WalMart, I know it's Evil... but still find myself shopping there.... maybe less now that you've opened my eyes...thanks.. I think...

Jan said...

I only shop at Wal-Mart as a last resort, and Beloved won't shop there at all. He spent six months in Bentonville, employed by Informix, working on a Wal-Mart deal. He said the Wal-Mart culture is just amazing, and not in a good way - the Wal-Mart executives and management were forbidden to socialize with anyone outside of the company, and were all required to go through some sort of indoctrination when hired. He later worked for a company run by Scientologists that didn't have the "Big Brother" mentality Wal-Mart does.

I don't think we'll be signing up to be greeters in our old age.

Mama Dawg said...

I know that Wal-Mart is evil. I truly know that.

But, in order to keep myself OFF of gov't assistance, I HAVE to shop there just to afford groceries. There's no way for me to get around it. I've price compared Wal-Mart to the two grocery stores I have in town and Wal-Mart is consistently cheaper than either store. I hate not giving them my regular business, but until their prices go down, my hands are tied.

Until I can get a better job or local business come down on prices, I will remain a Wal-Mart shopper. As much as I hate it.

Sarah's Blogtastic Adventures said...

I agree with Mama Dawg, there are people who see that there is no other option than to shop there, and the sad fact is that the other smaller chains have had to raise thier prices or go out of buisness all together because of walmart, its an evil cycle!

Michele said...

I can understand why some people have to shop at Wal-Mart but our family has chosen to not shop there. Can't say I never have but only when it is the only store we can find in a strange town.

Hotch Potchery said...

This is an interesting post, and I just had two quick comments...one about crime at Walmart. About 4 years ago a friend of ours went to Walmart to buy a midsize flatscreen, and was approached with a guy in a vest with a dolly asking him if he needed help. Dan said yes, and showed him the model that he wanted and said employee said he would go get it, and asked for the money for the tv. Now, WHY Dan gave it to him, I don't know. Needless to say, NOT an employee, no $, no TV and Walmart had nothing to say about it..."not their fault".

The other is that I just started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the director is a former Walmart district manager, and I am getting no funky vibes from him at all.

Debbie said...

I don't shop at WalMart. Ever. It just is something I personally don't care to do. But people are astounded that I don't. That's the best part:)

only a movie said...

Walmart gives me hives.
No, that's not true. Sometimes I do go there, but I really try not to.
My ex did some work with a hospice once and he was super impressed because the local Walmart donated $1000 to the hospice house. Then we found out that the money came from the employees' donations, not corporate Walmart.
Ick.

Snow White said...

UGH!! I cannot STAND wal-mart. These reasons that you list are evident in the news weekly and I try my hardest not to shop there. I really don't see the savings as 'worth it' when you look at the big picture! And I can't believe 1% to charity?!? Who are these people??? Unbelievable!

Jack said...

I've heard that the cost of living in Hawaii is a lot higher then most states and sorry to hear about your hubbies hours being cut. Here in Canada, we are starting to feel the economic downward spiral too.

So if most of you avoid Wal-Mart, then were do you shop? I don't know about where your from but here in Halifax, we have little choice... Wal-mart and Zellers are the only two department stores in this city.

I'm sure if we analyzed most of the chain outlets out there, we would find one thing or another distasteful about their practices... Wal-Mart is just one among many evil corporations out there.

I haven't seen the documentary about Wal-Mart but promise I will watch it. This post has really given me some food for thought, thanks Phhhst :)

Idiot Boy said...

I'm with you; Wal-mart SUCKS!

And don't get me started on the song. It's a Brian May song (not Freddie Mercury) so we might as well get to hating him (as if the stage play "We Will Rock You" wasn't reason enough).

LiLu said...

Definitely more upset with Queen. We already knew WalMart was evil... Queen should know better.

sherri said...

AUUUUGH! Thank you SO much! I have been meaning to blog about that gd Walmart (or as I like to call them, wall to wall fart) ad. The nerve of them using Queen in their commercial. Whoever owns their rights (Brian May, I hope you weren't responsible for this) should be repeatedly bludgeoned.
Freddie Mercury is rolling over to vomit in his grave.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Thanks, Pseudo, for this eye-opening post. I really had no idea. As long as we as a country continue to give our business to the lowest bidder, we can expect more of this. I've made a concentrated effort in the past few years of giving my business to the mom and pop stores whenever possible. You pay a little more but the quality and service more than make up for it. You can even find people there with product knowledge. Can you imagine that!

creative kerfuffle said...

first, i'm sorry to hear about your husband. a month ago i could say i didn't know anyone personally who'd lost a job or had hours cut, sadly, i can't say that now. i've had friends and family laid off or hours cut.
second--i call wm the evil empire. even my kids know it. once we got a target in our town and i could afford not to have to go to the evil empire we didn't. only very, very rarely do we shop there and it makes me sick when we do. the corporate culture is insane. i've known of small vendors who were so very excited to be able to sell their products in wm, and initially they made money. but each year wm requires vendors to cut costs (which means skimping on quality, lowering margins, and eventually going out of business) at which time wm swoops in and has the product made in china and slaps a wm brand on it. i hate that company.
and now i'm pissed at queen.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Wow. This is an amazing thread of comments and I am thrilled at the variety of responses and personal stories. Wish I had been able to stay on top of it.

I agree with so much of what you all have to say. SMB made a good point, one I try to teach my students, that one of our biggest responsibilities is how we spend our money. It creates power as well as community.

So many times I hear people complaining about lack of service. But we need to give our business to those who give service and expertise even if it means paying a little more.

We get what we pay for....

Mary said...

I read a magazine article a long time ago (perhaps in the New Yorker?) about a particular practice that Wal-Mart has.

So they go into small towns that otherwise have only Mom & Pop type stores. Because Wal-Mart is such a huge corporation, they can get their goods for less initially, and can operate at a loss for awhile if necessary. So they undersell the Mom & Pops just long enough to drive them out of business.

Once the Mom & Pops are all out of business...Wal-Mart jacks their prices up even higher than even the former small businesses, because they have unfairly created a monopoly.

Add that to things like giving employees the run-around to avoid paying them benefits, and all the other stuff that's been uncovered about them, and I refuse to shop there.

I'd really rather do without than shop at Wal-Mart.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Yes, that business practice comes up in the documentary. Sad too, because they follow two families before and after WalMart comes and the effects on the families are devastating.

smiles4u said...

What an interesting post. I must watch these and read up on this more. I can see where you(and other commentors) are coming from and really it does make sense, when I think about it.
The thing is, we live in a small rural town...we have a small grocery store(locally owned) that survives because of the meat department. Their prices tend to be outrageous but they do have some things that aren't and they will load your groceries into your car.

We have another grocery story(locally owned) with a pharmacy and they can be high priced too but do run specials. I love their customer service and they are pretty friendly and they will load your groceries for you. We shop there as much as possible.

Now Walmart has come to town and I will not lie, I do shop there out of necessity. We try to buy as much as we can from the local grocery stores but there are things like diapers, kid items...ect. that we don't, because these are so expensive. We live on a small budget and already stretch things to make ends meet. If there was a Target or Kmart, we would go there but there isn't. The nearest one is 35 minutes away. With gas prices, and it being so cold, driving out of town is not always an option. Because we have a lot of migrant workers, and people that live in poverty in our area, Walmart appeals to what they can afford.

We already live pretty simple and so there aren't a lot more things to cut. We make do and we are happy. Right now, my one extravagance is having internet...lol!
Sorry to hear about your husbands job!

Captain Dumbass said...

I started the last video then quickly shut it off. I can't. I saw a video last year that documented the spread of Walmart across the US. It shows a map of America and the date and then stores start popping up. It's like watching the spread of a disease.

Captain Dumbass said...

I found it:

http://projects.flowingdata.com/walmart/

Sunny said...

I'm more upset with the Queen's music here

only a movie said...

Goodness gracious, Pseudo, I was all twisted up about Wallyworld that I forgot to mention that I'm sorry about your husband's cut in hours. I think this is really hitting everyone so hard. I feel pretty secure in my job, but Other half just started a new job last week after being laid off since Oct...

Good luck w/ economizing w/out Walmart. That's the trick isn't it? At least we get to be creative!

Beth said...

The economy has been sucking the life out of many, many people. My husband's catering business is all but stalled right now. People don't have the money to pay someone else to fix the food.

And I'm with you on Wal-Mart. I don't shop there or at Target. At this point, I just buy at smaller local stores or at the grocery store. They seem to care about my business.

I hope things start turning around soon. And my family is lucky compared to some others.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I'm going to look at the map Captian sent the link to.

Notice the post says "try." Because if we run out of dog food, toilet paper, or laundry soap and a pay check is still days off, we succumb. But I make my husband go. He hasn't watched the movie so only knows how horrible they are from me. Secondhand is not as real.

Heather said...

Ahhh...so now I know why EVERY checker at Wally World is "strange","idiots", and this is sorta mean..."trailer trashy"???
hmmmm...

Sprite's Keeper said...

I HAVE seen the documentary about halfway through. I want to see the entire thing however. I've always preferred Target to Wal-Mart mostly due to cleanliness. Wal-Mart always looked dirty and dark and crowded and the associates look like they just don't care. I DID have one good experience there when I was searching for a play kitchen for Sprite for the holidays and Wal-Mart was the only place who had it. A very nice front desk clerk had another store hold it for me at a different store nearer to my home so I could pick it up without dealing with the crowds and fighting. So, that's one good thing. Target is still my favorite though. Great Spin and I'm sorry about your husband's hours. I've been to Hawaii twice in my life and I know how much that beautiful place relies on tourism. You're linked!

Bella@That damn expat said...

I hate Walmart from the bottom of my soul. Hate their stores, their employees, their customers.

Queen Bee said...

I know I'm a little behind but I'm going to share my share anyway...

I worked at Walmart last year and I lasted a month and a half before leaving for my break and not coming back.

I know what you mean about your husband. My mom works for a liquor distributor one thing she told me was that she'll always have a job because people drink when times are good and they drink when times are bad. Keeping that in mind, all of her overtime hours got cut right before Christmas.

Hopefully things get better.

shaunna said...

i am so proud. your blog is your bully pulpit.

well, you know i won't shop there. never have, never will. and i'm pretty poor these days, but i've been poor in the past and i'm reverting to old habits. that i should have kept during affluence.

D'Arcy said...

I show this to my 11th graders when we read The Great Gatsby...somehow it all relates. As well as Maxxed Out (another GREAT documentary!)

Thanks for blogging about this. I haven't stepped into a Wal-Mart in over a year.

The Rambler said...

Hiya...havent' stopped by in a while my fellow localista...

I'm sorry to hear about your hubby's cut of hours. I work in Waikiki and I feel the effects. Looking out at Kalakaua Avenue and not seeing the streets as crowded is disheartening. Hopefully things will change.

And I'm so glad you posted that little snippet of the Walmart documentary. Target is coming soon....any bad things with them?

Camille said...

I hated shopping at Walmart for YEARS, until one day in October last year they pulled the last straw. I had THE worst experience there, and I vowed I would NEVER shop there again. It's only been four months, but I seriously feel my quality of life has improved. I cut coupons, search for deals, and do EVERYTHING I can to keep my grocery bill as small as possible, and I don't even look at WM's adds anymore. I LOATHE that corporation.

Shangrila said...

I saw the documentary when it aired and it has stuck in my mind ever since. After watching it, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I decided NOT to shop there anymore. Since then, we've been loyal customers to our local Target stores, shop at retailers online, and seek out small-businesses (even knowing that we may pay more, it is so worth it to support/strengthen our community!) Thanks for such a great spin!

alntv said...

Ugh...I hate Wal-mart. But I don't hate Queen. Several bands are selling out these days. Apparently its the only way to survive anymore! Crazy...

Vodka Mom said...

I find myself going to Wal Mart less and less. It's so convenient, however, and I have to FORCE myself not to go! yikes.