Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wal-Mart and the poor

Since a new Wal-Mart is soon to open near my house, this seems like an appropriate time to ask: Do we dislike Wal-Mart because it caters to the lower class?

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I'm completely offended that you would ask such a question. What do you consider a "lower class"?

I don't think a lot of people dislike walmart...and the ones that say they do, shop there piss off!
You betcha "we" dislike Walmart because its lower class. If "we" means the folks who strut around the Neighborhood COOP paying more for their arugula than the average redneck pays for his pick up truck's gas. Yes "we" have a very high opinion of ourselves as smart and green and progressive as opposed to those overweight louts who vote for Bush, beat their wives and shop at Walmart. Of course, "we" argue that Walmart has bad labor practices as opposed to what? Murdale True Value? Well, "we" actually haven't actually met a union member in the past few years since they all shop at WalMart. Thats where all the "lower class" goes, don't you know?
Sweet! I post an incendiary entry and people actually agree with me! Although maybe they didn't think they were; I think that "we" was confusing. Who cares! I'm just excited that some people see this the way I do.
I'd be interested in your comments as to how you see it Calion since it appears that Walmart is some sort of Rochard Ink Blot test for "progressives".

My suspicion is that class and class anxiety has really driven a lot of folks around here off the rails. They seem to think that politically correct attitudes can insure them a place in the upper middle class, as if there is a sort of ACT of the petite bourgeois. Those that score high eat their arugula from the COOP and those who score low eat their Spam from Walmart.

I think this also extends into the general disdain for Carbondale, often called "Carbonhole" by those who have found themselves marooned at a "lower class" university instead of at, say, Princeton. This especially applies to the tender academics who always placed high on their ACTs. "How could this happen to me? I mean I live in a town with TWO Walmarts and not a Starbucks in sight!"

Don't get on the highway 13 at the beginning of holiday breaks or you'll be run over by these desperate folks racing to the St. Louis airport in their Priuses.
There's lots of reasons that Wal-Mart is demonized. I think that the reasoning in the article I linked to has some validity, but I think the main thing people hate Wal-Mart for is simply its success. Wal-Mart does what it does better than anybody else; it provides products lower-income people can afford and jobs for those who would be otherwise jobless. In doing so they have risen to the top of the heap, and are making money hand over fist. They have made household products cheaper for everyone, not just Wal-Mart shoppers, because other stores must lower their prices in order to compete. I find it extremely amusing that the same people who complain about Wal-Mart importing cheap goods from other countries will, in the next breath, bewail the fact that people are so poor in those selfsame poor countries. Which is it? America above all, and screw everybody else (by the way, David Ricardo proved a looong time ago that international trade axiomatically benefits both countries)? Or we must be our brothers' keepers? Why is sending handouts more politically correct than buying goods? Why is providing high wages to a few people more important than providing low prices to many? (Hint: if prices are lower, I can buy more stuff with the same income. It's an effective pay raise.)

Now, to be fair, the recent hoorah about the Murphysboro Wal-Mart was more about Wal-Mart's political entrepeneurship in trying to manipulate the City of Murphysboro to hand out concessions, and I agree that this sort of behavior should be both condemned and disallowed. But I also detected a strong element of general anti-Wal-Mart-ness in some of the rhetoric.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Those that hate Wal-Mart also generally hate the free-market system that has made us all so wealthy, and despise Wal-Mart for demonstrating how well that system can work.
Nah, I don't shop at Wal-mart because I worked for the company for 10 years and don't like how its practices have changed since Mr. Sam died.
Care to elaborate? I shop there because I'm too poor to pass up the prices, and I don't have a problem with them anyway.
Used to be, if you worked for the company, you'd get profit sharing and a good insurance plan, if you were full time. None of this giving employees pamphlets and telling them how to file for Medicaid.

Even seasonal help was treated decently and usually kept on staff until after the first of the year. Towards then end of my time there, to minimize holiday payroll, we were firing all the seasonal staff on Dec 24. Great Christmas present.

While the company always sought to keep prices low, it also sought to purchase American made products whenever possible and worked with American companies to stock their products by guaranteeing to buy a certain quantity in order to help keep the company productive and keep jobs in the US. Not anymore.
The "we" who dislike Wal-Mart don't all dislike it for the same reasons. Some of the environmentalist Wal-Mart haters also are "lower class" enough to shop at thrift stores and get around on the bus or on foot.
Sad comment on the way that Walmart has run its business in the last few years.

Of course, if you had worked at Montgomery Wards at the Mall you wouldn't have been fired as a seasonal worker. You would be kaput as a senior manager or seasonal worker. Ditto Kays, KMart, Famous Barr...should I go on? The reality is that Walmart is still standing and is the largest retailer in the world. Of course, you can get your Chinese goods at a higher price at Macy's, if you insist. Or you can buy your Earthbound Farms guaranteed organic vegetables at Schnucks. Or best of all you can get Organic Valley milk at the Coop for a 100% premium, in spite of the fact that ALL of the "organic" foods are part of industrial farming operations. But, I degress. Wholesome food, in one form or the other, is available at Walmart at a cheaper price, as are thousands of other items. Unfortunately, you have to mix with the hoi polloi: the "masses" as our Marxist friends used to say when they favored the working classes as the end of history.
I have lots to say about homie's bizzare rants about Marxists and ACT scores, but I'll just stick with this -- we have a Starbucks in town.

I hate Wal-Mart because they are so cheap, I shop there despite the way the treat people. They bring out the worst in me, so-to-speak.

I will give them this, however -- if a product of theirs breaks, they usually replace it no questions asked. Its a tacit admission that in exchange for cheap iteams, you get items that aren't as well produced. Yet I don't see that as bad; I see it as, in some bizzare way, honest. Better than other chains in that regard, which sell you crap and then pretend like it was decent to start with.
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