Someone tell me. I was reading an article in the LA Times yesterday about Wal-Mart, and how they’re one of the causes of the grocery strike. I don’t get why they’re evil. I mean, they open these big stores that sell stuff people want for cheaper than the local stores (the paper quoted a study that showed Wal-Mart carts of groceries were something like 20-40% cheaper than the same cart at a supermarket). To grossly simplify things, they do this partly by being more efficient (economies of scale and a super-efficient supply chain that they’ve developed), and partly by paying their workers less (average of $8 an hour, vs. $15 at supermarkets). When they move into an area, they drive mom-and-pop stores out of business, and they at least gravely threaten folks like grocery chains (which is why Kroger and Ralphs were trying to cut worker benefits). If you try to keep them out (such as by zoning in a way that they can’t open), they just open a store in the next town and it still damages the businesses in your town. Is that all correct? Is there anything I’ve missed?
Because if not, and I’m not trying to be an asshole here, I don’t really get it. Wal-Mart sells well and their competitors sell worse because Wal-Mart is what people want. Right? I mean, as Brad said in another thread, if you don’t like Wal-Mart, you want that personal touch, whatever, you don’t shop there and Wal-Mart will go out of business. It’s not like Wal-Mart forces anyone to buy their merchandise. They open their store and say “Here’s what we’ve got, if you want it,” and people come flocking. Right?
I guess the evil is supposed to be that they pay their workers $8 an hour instead of $15 an hour. But again, nobody is forced to work at Wal-Mart. If you think $8 an hour is too little for running the checkout or greeting folks as they come in, you can take your checkout skills somewhere else, can’t you? Again, it seems like Wal-Mart just comes into town and says “I’ve got a bunch of jobs that pay $8 an hour, if anyone wants them,” and people come. I’m sure they bitch and grouse about how they’re undervalued and Wal-Mart is The Man with his foot on their neck and whatever, but if they really thought they were getting fucked, they wouldn’t take the job to begin with, or they’d get another one, wouldn’t they? It’s not like unemployment (particularly in the service sector) is running rampant, although it’s not as good as it once was. But there are lots of no-skill or low-skill service positions available at least where I am. I see the “Help Wanted” signs all over. I’m sure most of those jobs don’t pay any better, of course–it’s not like you’re going to go flip burgers and get a big raise–but I assume that’s just because that’s what that kind of job is worth (not to totally rehash the grocery strike thread).
Maybe they’re evil because they’re so big? Like the way it’s fashionable to hate any big company, because big companies must be bad. But I just don’t see it. Being big, by itself, hardly seems evil. I agree that some big industries do evil things. Microsoft, for example, is very aggressive about fucking over competitors to maintain their marketshare (changing their programs so third-party stuff won’t work, etc.). Airlines are another good example (running at a loss to drive start-ups into the ground). But Wal-Mart isn’t doing that stuff, at least not that I’ve heard. They just have a very successful business model.
Maybe they’re evil because their stuff is so generic, processed, vanilla, etc. I’ll grant you that I think you could do way better, in general, buying stuff from other stores–probably better quality, and certainly more character. Although there aren’t any Wal-Marts near me, there are Targets and K-Marts and so on, and I almost never go to them, because I don’t like the stuff there, by and large. But again, that’s a choice that anyone can make. Apparently–and this is no big surprise to me–many, many average Americans like something that is cheap and white-bread. If Wal-Mart makes a lot of money filling that niche, more power to them. I’m glad those millions of Americans can get what they want (even if it’s not what I want) at a good price. And you might be thinking, “Well, see how you feel when Wal-Mart moves into your area and all those smaller stores that you like shopping at go out of business, and your only choice is Wal-Mart, so you end up getting that white-bread stuff you hate.” Yeah, that will suck. But it won’t be Wal-Mart’s fault; that’s the fault of the dumbass average Americans. It’s like having to suffer through the Bush presidency or hearing Brittney Spears when I go play racquetball at the gym. I don’t like Bush or Brittney, but I don’t blame them for making the best of everyone else’s stupidity.
This is way longer than I initially planned. But the basic question is this: everyone loves to dog-pile on Wal-Mart. You can’t mention them in a thread here without a couple of people dropping by to say “Man, Wal-Mart is so evil.” How come? What bad things do they do?