My distaste for Wal-Mart began a long time ago, and not for any noble reason.
I can admit that when I first declared to my mother, “I hate Wal-Mart,” it was because we couldn’t afford to go back to school shopping anywhere else.
This meant that I would be showing up to school in the same shirts and pants and shoes that every other lower-middle class student would. The chances were approximately 1 in 4 that I would wear the exact same outfit as someone else in my classes.
Not only did I have a keen sense of the faux pas dressing identically to someone else constituted, I was also well aware that the kids that could afford to shop at ::gasp:: the MALL for clothing could tell the difference between their $25 Ocean Pacific shirt and my $5.49 Wal-Mart knockoff.
I’m not saying that I’m any sort of fashion snob… far from it. I mean, come on.. there are photos of me wearing LOUD magenta Hawaiian print shirts with red pants with white piping floating around.* Even today, I shop out of necessity, not desire. As in, I can’t wear these pants even one more time before the crotch completely falls out.
But I digress.**
So yes, my original distaste for Wal-Mart came from the social stigma I was sure to endure having been forced to shop there.
But then I grew up (ok, sort of) and discovered many, many valid reasons to hate them.
Scott has a post over on his site, “Wal-Mart caves in to the radical right in quest for the almighty holiday dollar,” detailing the latest reason. It seems Wal-Mart has caved in to the American Family Association’s threat to boycott the chain in protest over Wal-Mart’s contributions to gay-rights groups. Contributions, I might add, that were only offered as a token in hopes of glossing over past lawsuits alleging discriminatory practices against gay customers and employees.
Oh, you say, you don’t really care about how Wal-Mart treats gays? You’re not gay… it’s not an issue. Well, let’s look at a small sampling of the other egregious acts that this corporate giant regularly performs.
Citations and information on the following and more can be found at Wal-Mart Watch:
- Sexual Discrimination in pay and promotion opportunities for women.
- Racial Discrimination in the hiring and compensation for minorities.
- Violations of the American’s with Disabilities Act.
- Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act.
- Wages and Hour Violations, including requiring employees to work hours “off the clock.”
- Repeated violations of Environmental Protection Act.
- Use of “sweatshops” and substandard working conditions in foreign factories.
- Continued reliance on taxpayers to provide health care for their employees.
- Continued reliance on foreign suppliers, despite Sam Walton’s “Buy American” program.
There is a lot of information available on walmartwatch.com. But in my perusal of the site, I have yet to find information on my
two three biggest complaints.
1. The death of “small town America” and “Mom and Pop” stores. Visit any small or medium sized town, especially in the Midwest and South with a Wal-Mart and notice the downtown districts. Don’t they look sad and decrepit and well, abandoned? They are. Because Wal-Mart relies on cheap foreign labor and imports on a massive scale, and because they regularly take a loss on many ‘staple’ items to ensure that working class families will shop there, locally owned and operated establishments aren’t able to compete, and close. Economics 101 teaches us that without competition, prices can be set anywhere. When the last of the competition is gone, you’re going to find that $2.96 pack of socks made in India will now cost you eleventy-hundred dollars.
2. Political contributions and kickbacks. This article at blog.wakeupwalmart.com should make you sufficiently sick. I’ve read reports suggesting that over 85% of their contributions go to Republicans/The Republican Party. Wal-Mart has on many documented occasions threatened city and county governments wishing to keep Wal-Mart out of their communities with placing a store just outside of their jurisdiction, using the cities/counties resources such as roadways and public utilities, without the commiserate tax income to help pay for it.
and my MAJOR complaint:
3. Censorship and extortion of the music industry. Here’s a fact you probably don’t know: Wal-Mart takes a loss on every cd and cassette they sell. They offer a discounted price on music, in hopes that you will buy big ticket items such as cd players and stereos. Since Wal-Mart has infiltrated most communities, they have put most independent (and not a few corporate) record stores out of business. Record companies want their products distributed, and many/most have bowed to pressure from Wal-Mart to provide discs at discounted wholesale prices. The record companies don’t take that hit. They pass it on to the artists and songwriters. There are riders in record contracts specifying a different royalty rate for sales to “discount stores and clearinghouses.” In addition to cheating artists out of cash, they also impose their “
Family Christian Values” on artists, offering only edited versions of albums that may contain “objectional or suggestive language.” So now a question every artist has to ask themselves is “Will this go over at Wal-Mart?”
And any time a corporation starts influencing art, we are truly doomed.
So what can you do?
STOP FUCKING SHOPPING AT WAL-MART!
Ultimately WE as consumers have to take responsibility for the actions of the corporations that we do business with. WE are responsible for the sweatshops, and the discrimination, and the fact that most of their employees rely on Medicaid for health insurance. We are responsible for watching our downtowns crumble and family owned businesses going bankrupt. We are responsible for the censorship. We are responsible for every socially unconscionable act they perform.
Wal-Mart answers to us. Without us, they fail. We can stop them. They have taken advantage of us. Spend a few extra dollars to buy from their competition, mom and pops and more socially responsible companies like Costco and Target.
Yes, you will end up spending a little more, but I’m sure you can agree it will cost us less.