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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4739/how-not-to-like-wal-mart/

How Not to Like Wal-Mart

February 27, 2006 by

In this piece, I suggest a way for those who loathe Wal-Mart to be activists who make a difference: don’t shop there. There are plenty of reasons not to shop there that have nothing to do with ideology. And if it makes them feel better, they don’t have to live in a town that has a Wal-Mart store. Just don’t expect everyone to do likewise. What they should not do is prevent others from making a different choice. Ultimately, in a market economy, it is the choices people make that determine what businesses succeed or fail. FULL ARTICLE

{ 137 comments }

Paul Edwards March 1, 2006 at 6:15 pm

Sione,

I agree; especially on the notion that it pays to study the works of the great Austrians before engaging in so much argumentation.

I find often that people think they disagree with an Austrian or libertarian position, when in fact they are simply ill-equipped to grasp it in the first place. And this is not necessarily due to an intellectual lacking, but due to an unwillingness to work to acquire basic tools: economic knowledge and a hang for applying logical thought.

The problem is they don’t appreciate the treasure of information that sites such as mises.org make available and so they don’t exploit it. That’s a pretty sad situation.

Dee March 1, 2006 at 11:29 pm

You’ve all convinced me.

Wal-Mart is the best thing since sliced bread.

And remember: “Support AmericaMade”. LOL

John Delano March 2, 2006 at 12:22 am

or support “Sold in America”

Rob March 2, 2006 at 5:45 am

Dee,

I knew we would ;)

Rob

Sione March 2, 2006 at 6:09 pm

Paul

Yes. It is impressive what’s available on the Mises site and disappointing that more people don’t bother exploiting it.

Sometimes people enjoy arguing so much they forget all about learning.

From reading this and other sites I’ve discovered I’m a bit light on Hoppe- so off to buy some books we do go. Still, I always enjoy Reisman and Mises. Too good to put down sometimes.

Talofa!

Sione

Paul Edwards March 2, 2006 at 6:21 pm

Hoppe is something else man! I didn’t think i’d run in to an author i’d enjoy as much as Rothbard, but there he is. I’ve almost finished reading “Democracy the God That Failed” to my kids and i have to say it is outrageous! Outrageously spot on.

On top of that, he’s so politically incorrect we always get a good several laughs during the reading. Can’t really say enough about it.

Dee March 2, 2006 at 6:49 pm

Southern Paul, is that you?? Rob, I think Wal-Mart’s phony ‘Support AmericaMade’ campaign while they were bustling around in Asia putting together a ‘Screw AmericaMade’ program indicates just how credible they are.

Still, they are just the best thing since sliced bread. No doubt about it. You misunderstood something I said earlier about Pakistani workers. Yes, they give them jobs. No, the jobs are not anything that gives them even close to a decent lifestyle. If you really care (which alot of people don’t seem to if it doesn’t hurt them personally…the ‘American Way’) there are lots of articles written about this and programs such as Frontline have shown it as well.

Still, Wal-Mart is just teeeeeee-riffic!!! I also especially like the fact that the leader items are cheaper there but other things aren’t.

And no one has commented on why their employee turnover is close to half their workforce? Could it be that these people who work for Wal-Mart are just spoil-sports? Has to be, because we all know that Wal-Mart corporate is teeeeeeriffic…don’t we??

And why all the crying because Wal-Mart gets opposition when coming into certain neighborhoods where alot of residents don’t want them? Don’t the residents have the right to make their views known; what about our dear First Amendment?

As a small retailer to be, there are plenty of places I haven’t been allowed to go into for one reason or another, whether zoning, or a competitor writing me out, or maybe the landlord just doesn’t like the way I comb my hair.

These arguments pro Wal-Mart bullying and buying and tax incentive-ing their way to the top are so lame. But I have to admit, you have certainly more than convinced me that Wal-Mart is, indeed, simply teeeeeeriffffffic!!!

And I won’t forget it, believe me! As for the Mars candy argument and all similar ones…if not for Wal-Mart our little plant, our big plant, our little factory, our little berg, would all close down and people would lose jobs: Honestly folks, they were here before Wal-Mart and they sell to someone if all the Wal-Mart executives suddenly went on a fateful hunting trip with Cheney never to return again.

In other words: Life would go on.

If you don’t believe it, then stick an IV in your arm and run the tubing to Bentonville, AR, and suck up the corporate sewage to continue your life….if you just can’t live without Wal-Mart.

Dee March 2, 2006 at 7:02 pm

Here is a recent article on former and current Wal-Mart employees talking about how inadequate Wal-Mart benefits/pay are.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/business/3691900.html

For those who will say they should work somewhere else if they don’t like it, think back to the argument about the Mars factory and how it might well shut down without Wal-Mart. It’s either yes or no…either we are just so dependent on Wal-Mart we’ve got to have them and, in that case, finding other jobs must not be that easy, or they’re irrelevant, in which case the ‘we’d shut down except for Wal-Mart’ arguments go up in smoke. It also reminds me of those who tell wives they should leave a marriage where they are being beaten or prostitutes (yes I use that illustration talking about Wal-Mart often) should quit hooking if their pimps are cruel. Of course they should…but does that mean the brutal husbands and pimps should have the right to beat them?? It’s known as ‘blaming the victim’. And, if the employees do stay, can they be likened to the wife or prostitute who stays because they need the financial support/money?

Rob March 2, 2006 at 7:38 pm

Dee,

Wal Mart is terrific in as much as they sell lots of brand name stuff for less then their competition. I have no loyalty to them beyond this.

The idea that they force their way into communities that don’t want them is silly. They did not become the most successful retailer in history by putting stores where no one wanted to patronize them. And the first ammendment don’t enter into it. It is not about assembly or redress, it is about state control of private property. Seeking to have the state stop a Wal Mart from being built just that. Besides the simple fact that folks resort to this just means that there are more people who want the Wal Mart in the town than not (see my point above).

Mars is hurting. They have lost market share in candy every year since 1991. Personally I think loading the NJ plant for Wal Mart is foolish (Cleaveland Tenn is the other M&M plant) but I am not a Mars (it is still a family owned company). The potential of that plant closing has been in the air for 10 years, for a number of reasons not the least of which is the cost of doing business in NJ. Wal Mart is THE reason it stays open.

I have worked many countries in Asia and I am intimate with living standards over there. American plant operations are the highest paying semi-skilled and tech jobs available in most of these countries. It only makes sense because the firms want the best labor they can get so they outbid local firms by a wide margin. Every employee at the Golden gulf Hotel in Shantou dreamed of landing a job at the Kodak plant. Experiencing this first hand almost makes me want to give Asian companies my business just to spite whiny Americans (and I don’t mean you personally). We truly don’t know how good we have it here. The worst thing we can do to folks in poor countries is withold business from them.

Back to my original point; Wal Mart is just acting like most other companies, for better or worse. Most other firms will seek government privilage if they can (would you turn down a tax break or subsidy?) I would like to say I am perfectly principled but I work for a defense contractor because they pay me well and jobs in my former industry (fiber optics) are scarce. That’s right, my salary is entirely drawn from your taxes at this point. I routinely complain about this but my wife and six kids have much louder voices.

John Delano March 2, 2006 at 9:47 pm

Dee, Wal-Mart isn’t “teeeeeeriffffffic!!!”. That is the reason that article was written. But rather than compete with them, you want me to support using the state to protect you from Asian competitors. Yes, we know their lifestyles have much to be desired over there, but why should I care more about some guy I know only as ‘Dee’ than I do some Asian who is probably being paid above market wages and would sink into deep poverty if you had your way.

Who really wants to hurt the poor of Asia? People like me? or people like you who really don’t seem to give a damn what happens to them, as long as you have your business protected from their competition?

BTW, you keep throwing up this nationalist rhetoric, but that isn’t going to get much sympathy here.

Dee March 3, 2006 at 1:04 am

First of all, Rob, I happen to know a specific incidence about 40 miles from me where Wal-Mart did force its way into a community that not only didn’t want them but fought them for months. Hemet, California. Google it and see what you find. I also have a photo of the side of their huge supercenter built DIRECTLY across a narrow RESIDENTIAL street from homes with small children, where the neighbors say delivery trucks fly up and down now, endangering their families. That’s just one instance. The City Council was responsible for this..much as our Congress and President are responsible for things many of us disapprove of.

John, I’m a woman, not a ‘guy’ and I’m not in the wholesaling business anymore. I couldn’t stomach what Wal-Mart was doing and I couldn’t stomach anymore sitting in an glass cubicle in Bentonville being told by a buyer how much I should be paying and how much I should be charging for my products. I chose to get out.

I’m not throwing up ‘nationalist rhetoric’. I’m throwing up Wal-Mart’s former nationalist rhetoric from their Support AmericaMade days.
As to which of us cares more about workers in Bengladesh, I’d say me. You have talked yourself into thinking Wal-Mart helps them have a better life and I know better. That’s the difference. Yours is no better an argument than the one that the Mars factory might close if Wal-Mart quit buying M&M’s. If you really want Bengladesh workers to have a good life, you’d support import programs that would help them make a decent wage.

You on the pro Wal-Mart side of this argument seem to feel that Wal-Mart=any business (any business would take tax cuts, any business would…). Wal-Mart is not ANY business anymore than the United States is ANY country. With size and power come more responsibility but, instead, just as with the U.S. government, we see in Wal-Mart less responsibility toward its workers, again with no one responding to the almost half the workforce turnover issue.

But, go ahead, keep trying. I’ve lived the Wal-Mart saga…I started way back in the days when they had their program for small entrepreneurs with the universities where they evaluated your items. I spent years going from that, to local distribution, to regional, to national. I flew the little commuters planes from Dallas to Bentonville…I sat in the glass cubicles and worked my butt off, to be insulted, derided and told how to conduct my business. That’s why now I’m doing something that is controlled by Wal-Mart. I could tell you examples of horror stories from big companies like Rubbermaid and Vlasic Pickles…but you wouldn’t want to hear them.

You are ‘libertarians’…freedom for all, freedom for all, freedom for all. Well, Wal-Mart’s freedom ends where my nose begins and no one can cry FIRE! in a crowded theater. And no man or company, not even you Libertarians (those who are) are islands. :)

Dee March 3, 2006 at 1:07 am

“now I’m doing something that is controlled by Wal-Mart”

NOT. ;)

xteve March 3, 2006 at 4:01 am

I’ve heard the Vlasic Pickle story. No one forced them to agree to Walmart’s terms. They took a gamble & lost.

Dee March 3, 2006 at 8:45 am

xteve, you’re all heart. And at the same time, I’ll bet you’d back up that Mars would likely have to close a factory if they didn’t play Wal-Mart’s game. Wal-Mart holds its’ vendors hostage. You either have to believe they have the power to close down a MARS factory and strongarm a Vlasic Pickles because the other option is going out of business or getting hit hard or you don’t. Which is it?

It’s people like you who enable the Wal-Mart’s and the George Bush’s of this world. Congrats!

Dee March 3, 2006 at 8:46 am

xteve, you’re all heart. And at the same time, I’ll bet you’d back up that Mars would likely have to close a factory if they didn’t play Wal-Mart’s game. Wal-Mart holds its’ vendors hostage. You either have to believe they have the power to close down a MARS factory and strongarm a Vlasic Pickles because the other option is going out of business or getting hit hard or you don’t. Which is it?

It’s people like you who enable the Wal-Mart’s and the George Bush’s of this world. Congrats!

xteve March 3, 2006 at 9:12 am

“Strongarm” & “holds hostage” is being melodramatic.

Despite Walmarts faults (yes, I’ll concede it has faults) it’s under no obligation to buy anything from anyone at anytime. Any company that blames its customers for its failure will get little sympathy from me, even if that customer is Walmart. There could be scores of reasons why that company fails.

“It’s people like you who enable the Wal-Mart’s and the George Bush’s of this world.”

What does Bush have to do with it? You don’t know me. Seriously. How dare you.

Lisa Casanova March 3, 2006 at 10:34 am

Dee,
Part of what you said doesn’t seem to make sense. You spoke of Wal-Mart forcing their way into a community. Presumably, if no one in the community wanted Wal-Mart there, no one would shop there. Why would Wal-Mart locate in a town where no one would patronize their store? The fact that they located there suggests that enough people in the community were willing to shop there, even if others objected to the presence of a Wal-Mart in their town becuase of traffic, aesthetic reasons, etc. Whatever else you think of Wal-Mart, they make a lot of money selling a lot of stuff, and it doesn’t seem like they would do that by locating in a community where everyone truly hates Wal-Mart so much that they would never shop there. And if that’s true, Wal-Mart can’t put any other store out of business so there’s no place else to shop (as I have heard claimed), since no one would go to Wal-Mart in the first place. It would sit there empty, go bankrupt, and shut down. So how exactly does Wal-Mart force its way in? Or does it just locate in a town where lots of people want to shop there and others want to stop them from doing so?

Yancey Ward March 3, 2006 at 11:00 am

Dee,

You keep bringing up the turnover in WalMart’s employees. So what? People are free to come and go as they please. If the turnover is really, really bad for WalMart, then they are just being shortsighted, but, again, so what? It is not my problem, it is not your problem, and even if it bothered me in the least, what right do I have to force WalMart to adopt policies that would reduce turnover?

Dee March 3, 2006 at 3:13 pm

First of all, on Wal-Mart’s right to be anywhere if some people want to shop there. Would you give the same right to a strip joint..to be in any community as long as someone wanted to come and watch women or men undress? Then why are there restrictions? We know there are always people who would go in any community. The reason is that they are looked upon as a negative by people in the community, as is Wal-Mart, for a number of reasons including lowering wages in competing industries, traffic problems, and their lack of support for American manufacturers (if there are any left).

And, again the attitude that the employees don’t matter, only what’s good with Wal-Mart.

It’s amazing what people in this country think is valuable these days. It truly has become a corpocracy. We’ve seen that in the Iraq ‘war’ where the only ones who have benefitted are large corporations such as defense contractors and Halliburton and those who own their stock or get paid residuals from past employment, such as our Vice President.

xteve March 3, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Halliburton forces its way into communities against people’s will. I doubt you’ll get any argument there. But to imply that’s similar to Walmart, that’s where you’ve lost me.

& I don’t think anyone here has said that employees don’t matter, or that only what’s good for Walmart matters.

Rob March 3, 2006 at 3:55 pm

Dee,

Wal Mart does not hold Mars hostage. Mars and Wal Mart have a voluntary agreement. The Mars family keeps the NJ plant open for mainly brand image and sentimental reasons (it’s the flagship original M&M plant located next to the HQ)…it has been the least profitable candy plant in their stable for better than 2 decades. Wal Mart basically allows them to indulge their romance and save face by not closing the plant across the lawn from the family offices. This is the majority employee view BTW, not my lay Austrian analysis or libertarian cheerleading.
But of course no one actually fears that Wal Mart will stop selling M&Ms.

Employee turnover is high in the retail industry in general. I don’t know if Wal Mart is better or worse than average in this regard, but it is very easy to see why retail employee retention is poor …the pay is low and the work is arduous. Who wouldn’t jump at a better opportunity?

drs March 3, 2006 at 3:58 pm

If a property owner wants to start a strip club on his property that is his affair, unless he is bound by a preexisting agreement that says that he won’t. When one starts dictating what, outside of initiation of violence, can and can’t be done with private property, she opens the door for the most horrible atrocities.

As to this notion of “corpocracy”, if you are implying that a cabal of big businesses is running the show, I think you are off the mark. Big corporations have indeed become part of the power structure in the modern state, and deserve a great deal of blame for allowing themselves to be corrupted by the state, but they are not the ones pulling the strings. They get special priveleges in exchange for providing the state with revenue or aiding it in its regimentation of society, but when push comes to shove the men in jackboots still answer to the political class. I think that the idea of a group of evil businesses runnin the show is popular with those on the Left because it allows them to think, “well if we just removed the economic royalists from the government it could effectively solve all of our problems. It’s greedy businessmen who cause the world’s problems, not the good people at (name your government department)” Sorry, but aside from receiving stolen goods (eminent domain, subsidies), and advocating an increase in the minimum wage, Wal-Mart has done nothing to deserve the rancor thrown at it. While these abuses are bad in and of themselves, anti-market socialistic criticisms of the company are exponentially worse.

Manuel Lora March 3, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Another reason to not like wal-mart is its photo service. I just got some film developed and scanned (yes, I have several cameras, including an archaic film camera) there and the results are awful. It varies, however, from place to place. But this time it was just terrible. Scratches, blurred scans, low contrast prints. We’ll see if I can get a refund and pay only for the negs.

Digital prints from there are just ok.

Dee March 4, 2006 at 1:04 am

I wish you would reread your comments. The employees are given little value and Wal-Mart is being defend vociferously. This incredible awe and protection of the largest company in the world, one who has turned the retail marketplace into a flea market, who is rife with lawsuits, who definitely pushes its way into hostile communities, including residential areas (as in Hemet), who bullies vendors, who is charged with working employees off the clock, sexual discrimination, using illegal alien workers via a subcontractor (don’t say they had no clue..please)…it is quite amazing. Of course, alot of what people in this country defend these days is a complete puzzle to me.

I am thinking that the ‘then they came for me’ scenario will be the final nail in the coffin for Wal-Mart cheerleaders. No one is secure, either from this government nor from the ripple effect of corporations like Wal-Mart.

The ones who see it are the ones who are trying to prepare. We will all be selling eachother lattes, insurance and financial services, or taking eachother’s temps and administering meds.
An economy without manufacturing is a sick economy.

Roy W. Wright March 4, 2006 at 1:59 am

Can we please stop feeding the troll now? I should think her posts’ lack of maturity and substance speaks for itself at this point.

J March 4, 2006 at 2:17 am

I don’t get it. Even an article on reasons not to shop at Walmart garners over 125 responses?

What do you people want? I am beginning to suspect it is to only have your own voice heard.

Walmart people leave the anti-Walmart people alone and anti-Walmart people leave the Walmart people to their own devices.

We can all get alone all you have to do is just realize what it is you want out of a super market and go get it and the two paths shall never meet.

J March 4, 2006 at 2:19 am

That is…we can all get along…

drs March 4, 2006 at 2:23 am

Who cares if someone hires illegal workers? As long as immigrants don’t seek to line up at the trough, I welcome them with open arms. If a company engages in sexual discrimination don’t shop there, but a firm has the right to discriminate against anyone for any reason, if it’s a stupid reason it will come back and bite them in the end. You really make too much of Wal-Mart, remember A&P grocery? They were the Wal-Mart of their day. Wal-Mart will likely not stay on top forever, in fact allying themselves with the state might well prove their undoing as it could make them fat and lazy.

I think the majority of criticism toward Wal-Mart is silly and far worse in the long run than anything Wal-Mart has done. Wal-Mart has gamed the system, well so have most other companies. This does not excuse it, but it prompts one to wonder why there aren’t frontline specials about rent-seeking in general. The reason is simple, the overwhelming majority of those who criticize Wal-Mart can’t do so for good reason without being hypocrites. Wal-Mart’s actual misdeeds are the instances where they team up with a government to get what they want without respecting the laws of voluntary exchange. Since every non-libertarian by definition upholds the right of the jackboot class to ignore voluntary exchange and property, their complaints about Wal-Mart doing so would ring quite hollow. They target Wal-Mart because they feel they can portray it as an example of the market run amock. It is freedom and capitalism that they hate.

I also must take umbrage with the idea that “this government” is somehow unique in its iniquity. If Gore or Kerry had been elected things would not be much different, they are every bit as power-hungry as the current bandit leader. Sure they might heap largesse on different groups but these are only differences of nuance. The government is like a play with a really bad script, it doesn’t matter who directs or performs, it still sucks.

When Wal-Mart accepts government favors, I will criticize them, and they will deserve it. But in a contest between this company and the ideals of the majority of its critics, Wal-Mart is deserving of vociferous support. Whatever their sins they don’t pose one one-thousandth of the threat to the public that rabid anti-market ideology does.

Dee March 4, 2006 at 12:58 pm

Interesting Roy, a troll? Someone let me know this was the topic here and it’s a topic I’m passionate about. Your post is inane and useless. I’m gone.

I love it. A blog is here to discuss an article. We discuss an article, and the elite begin critiquing why we do it.

Do they want comment or not? If so, I’m not interested anymore. It turns out this is just another group of pack animals who follow a line the world must tow or they are trolls.

As Paul Harvey says: “Good day.”

Paul Edwards March 4, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I tend to agree with drs.

Good day. :)

drs March 4, 2006 at 7:40 pm

Dee
One guy says something about trolls and you pack it up? As for this group of pack animals thing, that is nonsense. The majority of the people who are here hold a principle that it is wrong to initiate the use of violence to get one’s way, if the application of this principle leads them to disagree with you that hardly makes them pack animals, it means that they’re consistent. Godspeed.

Adem Kupi March 24, 2006 at 1:25 am

hmm…

There’s a lot of signal, and a lot of noise here.

At this stage of the game it is difficult to separate the “good” businesses who only accept government favors because they have to stay competitive, and the “bad” ones who actively seek more favors in order to improve their competitive position.

The road socialism thing is a good point here. But one is still left asking, if road socialism helps, why don’t all the businesses do it? (It’s not that I don’t have some idea, I’m just saying this is the relevant question to go further in this line of questioning.)

At some point, the corruption of aggression infects all areas of society. There are no clean hands at the top. This is precisely what makes libertarianism supposedly unique is that we can say “a pox on all your houses”.
Ceteris is no longer paribus. There really isn’t much of a market left here or anywhere else. Perhaps between states.

So it’s hard to say that Wal-mart is good, or heroic or even a nice peaceful organization. Yet, we’re all buying goods made in sweatshops. And those factories are only sweatshops because of intervention.

The root. The root is what must be assaulted. To do otherwise is to miss the point, and we could argue forever about the rest.
These things exist because of the need for Government to expand their power and influence, and the desire of Fractional Reserve Bankers to do the same.

Why is Wal-mart price competitive?
Because it is too expensive to make things in America, and other businesses can’t get funding to start a Wal-mart, version 2.0.
Why does Wal-mart squeeze the hell out of their workers?
Because those workers don’t have other businesses to work for, because regulations have killed them off.
Because the marginal productivity of those workers, once you take out the theft by Taxation and Fed and workplace regulations, is not very high. Without this theft, they wouldn’t be getting squeezed at the same rate of pay and benefits.

Does Wal-mart lobby for favorable treatment by the State (in all its forms)?
To the extent that they do, they are villains.
To the extent that they don’t, they’re just a business, like any other.

Now the fact that Wal-mart is doing so well is IMO, given the society we live in, prima facie evidence that they are using the state to prosper.

Not that it is wrong to do well. But it is wrong to actively use the state to get there.
Or to make a more blunt analogy – I would suspect that any prosperous man in the USSR in the 70s or prior was a Leninist bastard.

Accidental Tourist November 16, 2006 at 8:39 am

for a commentator at what appears to be an intellectual think tank, Mr. Vance certainly has chosen the low-brow argument for why one should not shop at walmart. His child-like dismissal of the most cogent and relevant charges against walmart betray his extremely limited world view. To him there are only two kinds of people: capitalists and socialists. There is no room for improvement upon capitalism. If you criticize any aspect of it you must be a socialist.

Well, I’m sorry to have to be the parent who tells his 15 year-old son there is no easter bunny, but the fact is the world is not so simple. Free-market capitalism may sound great in theory, but so did Communism. Both systems have resulted in extreme abuse of power and exploitation of the masses. You can stick your fingers in your ears and scream that it isn’t true, but that won’t make it so.

I can only pray that my future google searches will never bring me back to this place of close-mindedness. good day to you all.

Brianna January 2, 2007 at 5:22 pm

I do not shop at Wal Mart, primarily because it feels cheap and crass. Leaving Wal Mart makes me want to shower.

Brianna January 2, 2007 at 5:22 pm

I do not shop at Wal Mart, primarily because it feels cheap and crass. Leaving Wal Mart makes me want to shower.

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Jonathon Tickle April 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm

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