Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Walmart Issue.

Last summer, when we were at L'Abri for a few weeks, a discussion of capitalism came up, and inevitably, so did WalMart. I am no fan of the big blue box myself--I'm certainly no expert in economics, but I've read enough and heard enough from even conservative business people like my dad, to know that WalMart bullies its suppliers and underpays its employees. Some Walmarts have welfare reps onsite, ready to assist its full-time employees in applying for government assistance. Yuck.

As we talked, someone rightly brought up the reality that, despite these problems, actually probably because of them!, WM does offer low prices, which for many is a blessing, an opportunity to stretch their dollars as far as they can go. (Am I really going to tell some old lady in the projects that she should be buying organic at Whole Foods?) During our talk, one of the L'abri workers, Dick Keyes, made the great point that, in complex cases like these, one must look at the aggregate good a company is, yes, WM offers low-prices for people without money, and this is obviously good, but when weighed against the other issues, does WM have a positive or negative aggregate impact on society? Um, I know what I think.

But it's hard, you know? When it gets down to it, we shop at Whole Foods as much as we can, but my little family of M. and me live on 1.5 of a teacher's salary, and admittedly, we end up at WM occasionally, where we laugh at the impressive amount of groceries we can buy for 50 bucks.

What do you think? Any websites you would recommend addressing the issue in a balanced way? My question is, at what point do successful capitalists need to draw a line for themselves?---okay, maybe we won't make as many billions if we pay our employees a living wage, but maybe that's not the most important thing here.

For your viewing pleasure:

That video is awesome.

I agree with what you're's tough because I hate that businesses gain from oppressing others, but they make it so darn easy to want to buy and "save."

I've heard awful things about Wal-Mart and Disney, but there are others, too and it's hard to keep track. Even though I've really tried to educate myself on this issue, I get overwhelmed sometimes and just give in to convenience...
We have a really tight grocery budget and so Wal-Mart makes me angry because I could feed my family "better" food for less if I shopped there, but I would rather eat more frugally and shop elsewhere.

The Whole Foods is opening up here on the 14th -- Happy Valentine's Day to me! I am an obsessive sale shopper at WF. I should probably never go in there because $9.00/day for a family of 4 gets you no where fast at Whole Paycheck, but it's so NICE.

We need a Trader Joes.
the main issue with wal-mart is the fact that they are non-union...hence the elite media attacks (funded by the union). in the past, local retail monopolies could charge everybody in town high prices and split the profits with union employees.
competition from wal-mart has put an end to that.

i have lived an a rural area where wal-mart reinvigorated a failing economy. it did not drive out the little guy...he was already gone.

not surprisingly, the press downplays wal-wart's virtues: that it has never been accused of funny accounting; that it doesn't reward its executives with exorbitant salaries or perks; that not only do other executives call it the most admired company in America, but shopping surveys show it is the consumer's favorite store. they also have a low employee turnover rate.

i think it is irresponsible for politicians too vilify the largest private employer, while lining their pockets with union cash.

just another thought...
btw, yes, we do need trader joe's!!
Susanne--Thanks for your comments! I think this is the first time you've commented here. :) I'm glad Walmart brought you out of lurkdom. :) Are there any books on the issue you would recommend?

I am definitely NOT an expert on these issues--and perhaps I should have made clear that I'm aware that when it comes to these justice issues Walmart isn't the only bad guy. When it comes to overseas suppliers, I think fair trade issues are a systemic problem across the board.

We have friends from small towns who personally experienced Walmart driving out small local businesses, and where WM did indeed have welfare reps onsite for full-time employees....I realize that a cashier with few marketable skills is not going to make much, but shouldn't it be a living wage? I know WM is not the only example of this--just an obvious example because of the way it dominates...

I brought up Whole Foods because 1. It puts me in my happy place and 2. because although not perfect, it does seem to have a business model that while extremely successful, pays its lowest ranked employees well above minimum wage, etc.

Let me also say that I'm all for captitalism! Yay, capitalism!!! Just concerned about a business model that seems to find part of its success by not paying fairly.

Thanks for your comments everybody! I would love to hear more from you. Trader Joe's rocks. We Texas people should start a petition.
i just think that the wal-mart issue specifically is politically motivated and those who are leading the charge really do not have the best interest of the people in mind.

i am not sure i am buying 100% the "not paying fairly". for one, employees are not paying out to the unions. also, if it were that bad, than why do they have so many applicants? that just doesn't make sense to me. a store in arizona received 8,000 applications for 525 jobs. i would have a better chance of getting into harvard, than getting a job at that store.

that's the great thing about our country. you can shop where you want and if you don't like it, don't give them your business. i personally would love to do all my shopping at central market and whole foods, but with a large family (& school tuition ;) ...), we just can't.

i sound like a capatalist lunatic, which i am really not. i never shop at barnes & noble, borders, or any of the other big book stores that have driven away the little home town bookstores. now THAT could really get me going, then bumper starts calling me a socialist and it all gets ugly. ;)

i totally agree with the fair trade problem we have.

i also have a perspective of what life is like under a dictator; to have your home taken from you, to have your 13 yr. old child subjected to watching live executions while at school; standing in a food line with your coupon to hopefully get your portion. when bumper's dad talks about his life in cuba, it is often difficult to comprehend. it makes issues here seem much more insignificant.

i am certainly no expert on any of this. i'll be is difficult for me to listen to elites spout off about the evils of wal-mart, when it makes no difference to them how much they pay for something. i find it ironic that someone like john kerry with smear wal-mart, but own stock in it. hmmm...

if memory serves, the lack of trader joe'e here had to do with the dominance of central market. maybe we can start a war against them and their delicious food, but wickedly high prices.
This comment has been removed by the author.
i cannot refute their facts, because i don't have the resources. however, "wake up walmart" is funded by the union which makes them suspect to me. wake up walmart is also the orginization with the "would Jesus shop at wal-mart" campaign...which is just sad, really. not to mention sacriligous. besides, Jesus being a carpenter and all; wouldn't he shop at home depot?
i am such a pain. sorry.
my post removed to add--that i found the research at helpful, but not so much the anti-republican rants. not so helpful.

definitly understand the concern with unions....still think that the number one retailer in america can do better by its employees.

not familiar with the jesus deal. yeah, i think he would definitly be at home depot.....which by the way, is a great place to work, from what i understand. :)

seriously, i've got lots to learn about these issues, so please let me know where you're getting your info as i would love to read it!

thanks for your comment! :)

didn't read the next post till i was writing this edited one...
i mean the LAST post.
Today when I go to Trader Joes I will have a moment of silence for all those who can't experience the joy of shopping there.
yes. i am blessed with my trader joe's, whole foods and local farmers!!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?