Another “Wal-Mart Sucks” Article

January 11, 2005 at 8:28pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The latest reason Wal-Mart sucks: they sell inexpensive goods and services to the people who most need inexpensive goods and services. Highlights:

The problem [of “disappointing” sales] was quickly revealed: Wal-Mart hadn’t been discounting aggressively enough. Without low prices, Wal-Mart just isn’t Wal-Mart.

That’s not a mistake the big-box behemoth is likely to make again. Wal-Mart knows its customers, and it knows how badly they need the discounts.

Sounds reasonable to me. If your schtick is low prices, you ought to offer low prices.

Only 6 percent of Wal-Mart shoppers have annual family incomes of more than $100,000. A 2003 study found that 23 percent of Wal-Mart Supercenter customers live on incomes of less than $25,000 a year.

Of course, without any context this is meaningless. What the author doesn’t tell you is that (as of 2001) 29.2% of American households lived on incomes of less than $25,000, meaning that poor people are actually underrepresented among Wal-Mart’s customers. So are those with incomes over $100,000.

The only problem with the business model is that it really needs to create more poverty to grow.

That’s just stupid. Wal-Mart would make a helluva lot more money if people had more disposable income, not less, because then Wal-Mart would be able to charge higher prices.

A custom

er saves 20-25 percent by buying groceries at Wal-Mart rather than from a competitor, according to retail analysts

And dammit, that’s terrible! Po’ folk should have to pay higher prices!

Carolyn Goree, a preschool teacher also hoping for a Winona Wal-Mart, wrote in a letter to the Post editor that when she shops at most stores, $200 fills only a bag or two, but at Wal-Mart, “I come out with a cart full top and bottom. How great that feels.” Lacking a local Wal-Mart, Goree drives over the Wisconsin border to get her fix. She was incensed by an earlier article’s lament that some workers make only $15,000 yearly. “Come on!” Goree objected. “Is $15,000 really that bad of a yearly income? I’m a single mom and when working out of my home, I made $12,000 tops and that was with child support. I too work, pay for a mortgage, lights, food, everything to live. Everything in life is a choice…. I am for the little man/woman—I’m one of them. So I say stand up and get a Wal-Mart.”

Sara Jennings, a disabled Winona reader living on a total of $8,000, heartily concurred. After paying her rent, phone, electric and cable bills, Jennings can barely afford to treat herself to McDonald’s. Of a recent trip to the LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Wal-Mart, she raved, “Oh boy, what a great treat. Lower prices and a good quality of clothes to choose from. It was like heaven for me.” She, too, strongly defended the workers’ $15,000 yearly income: “Boy, now that is a lot of money. I could live with that.” She closed with a plea to the readers: “I’m sure you all make a lot more than I. And I’m sure I speak for a lot of seniors and very-low-income people. We need this Wal-Mart. There’s nothing downtown.”

I am totally alien to the world in which somebody could actually ask “Is $15,000 really that bad of a yearly income.” It’s a bit shocking, really. Most of the people villifying Wal-Mart have no idea what that world is like.

Unlike so many horrible things, Wal-Mart cannot be blamed on George W. Bush.

Where the hell did that come from?

Most Wal-Mart workers I’ve interviewed had co-workers who worked full time for the company and received public assistance, and some had been in that situation themselves.

I know public school teachers in the same boat. Let’s not pretend this is just a Wal-Mart problem.

I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, and I get angry at the Missus when she does. I dislike some (but not all) of their business practices, and I despise Wal-Mart’s effect on sprawl and transportation. Wal-Mart’s are ugly, nasty scabs. But that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t have the ability to work and shop there. Wal-Mart haters like Liza Featherstone are so busy spewing lies, distortions, red herrings, non sequiturs, and straw men that they destroy their own cause. And further, it’s clear that they have no sense of what it’s like to be one of the people who have to shop at Wal-Mart because they have no other choice. They are arguing so vehemently for their own goals, they forget the very individuals they claim to be fighting for.

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The Comments

Christopher January 11, 2005 at 11:12pm

I’d shop at Wal-Mart more if A) there was one around AND more importantly B) if they didn’t have 30 checkout lanes and just 2 people working them on the weekends.

Mr. Wilson January 12, 2005 at 5:40pm

Where are the Wal-Marts in Omaha? I can’t say I ever remember seeing any.

As for the checkout lanes, that’s not one of the major complaints I typically hear about Wal-Mart. Doesn’t surprise me, though.

Mr. T January 12, 2005 at 10:07pm

The article is a clumsy and just sort of bizarre iteration of several legitimite criticisms of the WM chain. Or perhaps it is the way you are highlighting this particular angle. When it comes to its own employees, I think the most legitimate of the criticism is pointing out (correctly so) that it manages to sell at such low prices partially because of its overall employee compensation system which we all know about. When the author argues like “well they keep their employees poor so they can buy from the boss” it comes off as a ridiculous sounding generalization but there is a kernel of truth.

Why WM is singled out for this treatment is another issue. As far as aesthetics or service go, I have no more problems with WM then I do with an office depot or a super target or what have you. I have shopped there and likely will continue to do so. I have only known one person in my life who ever worked at a WM. She was a actually a client I worked with while doing legal aid, so because of those requirements, she must have been right on or very close to the poverty line.

Christopher January 13, 2005 at 6:27am

Both Wally WOrld and Target aren’t close to me. Luckily there’s a Target by school if I need anything.

As for stepping in wally world, I always feel like I"m entering into a third world country. That’s my C) that I forgot to add.

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