Wal-Mart

I’ve never been a bumper sticker person maybe because I believe the world is too complex for five or six word assertions like “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart.” 

Do those with bumper stickers on their cars really think their five or six words are going to change other driver’s minds about who to vote for or where to shop? If not, what’s the point of advertising your politics?

To the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart” drivers I say so what.  Wal-Mart revenues are approximately $100B a year. Do you really think your $50-$100 a week is creating change? A few years before Wal-Mart began employing millions of Chinese, Confucius said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But your individual impact on Wal-Mart is probably far less than a single step.

Forgive me for not applauding you.  

I don’t support Wal-Mart, but I know my decision not to shop there is inconsequential if I don’t convince others who feel as if they have to shop there to make ends meet to find smaller, more labor and environmental friendly alternatives.  

Most of the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart” cars I see suggest the drivers are middle or upper-middle class or wealthy. Easy for the economically secure to pass on Wal-Mart because, like me, they can afford to pay more at other retailers some of whom get a pass on questionable business practices of their own because progressives are busy directing their ire at the biggest kid on the playground.

A few years ago when I was teaching summer school in central Washington my hotel was across the street from a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. I had never been in one so I ventured in under the guise of “academic research.” I was utterly blown away by the prices which were considerably less than Costco’s where I shop regularly.

Most of the families appeared poor, probably first generation Mexicans working on farms in the area. As an English speaker, I was in the minority. I thought if I were in their shoes, politics be damned, I’d be shopping there too.

They’re not doing anything illegal. 

Of course the low prices are the result of low wages in China and in U.S. stores, nearly non-existent health coverage, and other reprehensible business practices that the left has detailed in documentary’s like “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.” 

Not illegal, but unethical. But can we realistically expect law-abiding working class citizens who feel they have to shop at Wal-Mart to connect the economic, environmental, social, and geopolitical dots? What if they lean in to your Volvo with the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart bumper sticker and say, “I’m busting my hump earning minimum wage. My only goal is for my children to have more opportunities. Someday I hope they can afford to shop at smaller, independent retailers that pay their employees livable wages.”

So I’m waiting to see a variation of the Wal-Mart bumper sticker, one that reads, “I convinced ten working class families not to shop at Wal-Mart.”

Then, I’ll be really impressed.

2 thoughts on “Wal-Mart

  1. I can try to convince ten other families and have that as my goal, but in the end, I’m only responsible for my own actions. As the saying goes, “God didn’t call me to be successful, just faithful”. Or more simply, “better to try than not”.

  2. What’s worse, it looks like Walmart is now negatively affecting people in other countries — not just the states. An article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that appeared today reported that the monolithic company is sparring with a small labor rights group that says it has documented worker abuse at a garment factory in Bangladesh that helps supply Walmart’s stores.

    Here’s a quote from the article:

    “SweatFree Communities says its report “Sweatshop Solutions: Economic Ground Zero in Bangladesh and Wal-Mart’s Responsibility” is based on interviews with more than 90 workers. Those workers, the report states, cite instances of co-workers being kicked or slapped for minor infractions, including one claim that a pregnant woman miscarried after being kicked by a line supervisor.”

    I think it’s really time that Walmart starts taking responsibility for its suppliers, especially since it has played a key role in forcing these companies to move their factories oversees into third world countries, thereby increasing that amount of worker abuse in countries that don’t outright ban it.

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