Thursday, June 03, 2004

The WalMart Dilemma

WalMart exploits its labor force, circumvents pesky local laws and city councils whenever possible, low-balls grocery prices to drive competitors out of the neighborhood, and creates perpetual traffic snarls. Parking spots are close to impossible to find. WalMart pays poverty level wages to many store employees and has repeatedly been cited for violating federal and state overtime regulations. Thousands of illegal aliens recently found working at WalMart stores across the country, were often paid below minimum wage levels and required to work all-night back-to-back shifts in locked stores. The Wall Street Journal hails WalMart as the retailer that singelhandedly caused millions of middle class American jobs to morph into lower class and poverty-level wages.

But have you seen their prices?

Ron and I went to a WalMart last night. I'd gone there alone twice before, and found it bewildering....crowded, noisy and confusing, with a healthy dose of claustrophobic. It's like wandering around with a crowd in a giant, messy closet. Both times, I left within 15 minutes and never got past the front of the store. (Still have no idea what they sell in the back.) We bought a few household essentials...shampoo, dog food, laundry detergent... and saved about 40% from Albertson's and SavOn prices.

For any family on a budget, 40% is a meaningful savings. What's a family to do? No one likes WalMart's business practices. They do like feeding and clothing their families, putting ever-more-expensive gas in the car tank, and paying their rising utility bills during these times of high unemployment and job market restructuring. It's a luxury to live by one's unaffordable luxury for most families.

I have no suggestions to cure this classic capitalistic dilemma of profits over basic respect and compassion. I just know that like citizens in towns across the country, I would vote against letting a WalMart move into my town. But once it inevitably opened, I would shop there.

WalMart banks on that.

Send emails to

No comments: