Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The evil empire of WalMart

Well!.. I!.. Never!..

Charles Platt decided to go undercover and investigate the inner cobweb of the evil empire that WalMart is. Here’s the report.

As TRS says, if you want to make a liberal mad, work hard and smile.

You have to wonder, then, why the store has such a terrible reputation, and I have to tell you that so far as I can determine, trade unions have done most of the mudslinging. Web sites that serve as a source for negative stories are often affiliated with unions. Walmartwatch.com, for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; Wakeupwalmart.com is entirely owned by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. For years, now, they’ve campaigned against Wal-Mart, for reasons that may have more to do with money than compassion for the working poor. If more than one million Wal-Mart employees in the United States could be induced to join a union, by my calculation they’d be compelled to pay more than half-billion dollars each year in dues.

Anti-growth activists are the other primary source of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. In the town where I worked, I was told that activists even opposed a new Barnes & Noble because it was "too big". If they're offended by a large bookstore, you can imagine how they feel about a discount retailer.

The argument, of course, is that smaller enterprises cannot compete. My outlook on this is hardcore: I think that many of the "mom-and-pop" stores so beloved by activists don't deserve to remain in business.

When I first ventured from New York City to the American heartland, I did my best to patronize quaint little places on Main Street and quickly discovered the penalties for doing so. At a small appliance store, I wasn't allowed to buy a microwave oven on display. I had to place an order and wait a couple of weeks for delivery. At a stationery store where I tried to buy a file cabinet, I found the same problem. Think back, if you are old enough to do so, and you may recall that this is how small-town retailing used to function in the 1960s.

As a customer, I don't see why I should protect a business from the harsh realities of commerce if it can't maintain a good inventory at a competitive price. And as an employee, I see no advantage in working at a small place where I am subject to the quixotic moods of a sole proprietor, and can never appeal to his superior, because there isn't one.

By the same logic, I see no reason for legislators to protect Safeway supermarkets with ploys such as zoning restrictions, which just happen to allow a supermarket-sized building while outlawing a Wal-Mart SuperCenter that's a few thousand square feet bigger.

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

1 comment:

LE7 said...

In 11th grade we had to write an essay about whether "Wal-Mart was good or bad for small towns."

Talk about biased. Anyways I wrote from a Pro-Wal-Mart stance. Woohoo.