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November 23, 2003

WAL-MART....The LA Times is running Part 1 of a 3-part series on Wal-Mart today. Pretty interesting reading, even though the basic Wal-Mart story is familiar by now. Here's the nut:

The company has prospered by elevating one goal above all others: cutting prices relentlessly. U.S. economists say its tightfistedness has not only boosted its own bottom line, but also helped hold down the inflation rate for the entire country. Consumers reap the benefits every time they push a cart through Wal-Mart's checkout lines.

Yet Wal-Mart's astonishing success exacts a heavy price.

By squeezing suppliers to cut wholesale costs, the company has hastened the flight of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas. By scouring the globe for the cheapest goods, it has driven factory jobs from one poor nation to another.

Productivity gains have made goods increasingly affordable since the Industrial Revolution, but there have been other factors at work too. In the mid-20th century, thanks in part to vigorous unionization, American businesses steadily paid their workers more, thus creating a growing class of people who could afford the products they made. Wal-Mart, by contrast, pays their workers less, which allows them to cut prices and therefore makes their products affordable to more people.

So which is the better and more sustainable model? Increasing the overall affordability of goods by creating a larger class of people who can afford them? Or increasing the overall affordability of goods by squeezing the blue collar workers who make them and thus lowering prices?

Both models work, but one works by building up the working class and the other works by tearing it down. I'll take Door #1.

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 23, 2003 11:05 AM | TrackBack


Comments

Kevin's a commie! Kevin's a commie!

Seriously, though, maybe I don't have enough of the unionizing spirit, but it looks to me like the Wal-Martization of commerce is inevitable until we have something like a global middle class, and there are no more poor countries upon which to fob off labor, which, y'know... could take a while. Given how easy it is to organize, transport, and shuffle the means of production these days, I just don't see what force could persuade a large business to do the right thing by people of one particular country (namely ours). Unions are outgunned in a world where countries desperately fight for the favor of multinationals.

Hope, anyone? Any optimists out there?

Posted by: Realish at November 23, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Production is one thing, and it's a complex subject.

However, the actual workers at Wal-Mart, who obviously can't be outsourced to Bangladesh, are quite another. What's the excuse for paying them so badly? Unionization of Wal-Mart (and other retail outlets) would not send a single job overseas.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at November 23, 2003 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

The best way to evaluate WalMart would be to look at the costs and benefits, and see how they line up.

Benefits:
-Low prices, general deflationary impact on economy
-Efficiency

Costs:
-Destroyed local businesses
-Impurvious surfaces and reshaped drainage patterns
-Paying shit wages, and in some cases violating labor laws
-Cynically taking out life insurance policies on its own employees, with WalMart as the beneficiaries
-Censorship of music
-WalMartification of American tastes

---
Yeah, I'm with you, Kevin.

Posted by: praktike at November 23, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is like a lot of the bad corporate practices in our society: they only work with the complicity of the consumer. Vote with your dollars. Boycott Wal-Mart.

Posted by: josef at November 23, 2003 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

In a somewhat related matter..

A friend, who owns a fairly good-size plumbing shop, started buying his materials and tools from a large chain of building supply 'depots'. He said he had heard later that said store, thru the power of volume purchases, was able to demand that tool, and faucet supply manufacturers, replace some of the innards of the products with cheaper parts to bring the prices down even further. I've yet to read a verification of this and wonder if others have heard the same thing, and if Walmart, also, has ever been accused of similar practices...in addition to some of the other sleazy things they've done.

Posted by: jiggle at November 23, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

I hear a lot of criticism off wal-mart but i rarely hear of anyone who has sworn-off shopping there.

Back in 1991, I tried to return an item that I purchased - they treated me super shitty about the refund and I've haven't shopped there since.

Maybe if they'd treated me well I'd still be shopping there today. Who knows?

The point is, I stopped shopping there for reasons that have nothing to do with their business practices. Now that I know more about them I am even more dis-incented to shop there (their constant christian moralizing doesn't help, either). Are their ruthless business practices enough to turn other shoppers away, or is this an empty discussion?

Posted by: joey jojo at November 23, 2003 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

A stable middle class in an industrialized society has been key to most of what we are used to in this country, and is touted as the cornerstone of stable countries worldwide. When did that occur in U.S.? Many historians point to the reforms of progressive movement, and the 20s and 30s reforms in labor laws.

People moan about growing class stratification and wealth, but take a look at U.S. circa 1910 for a real eye-popping example.

Unions create their own problems over the long term, and no one has come up with a good solution when a union has proced its company out of the market. But paying people at a basic store like Wal-Mart at a level that leaves them nearly at poverty level has got to be a long term problem.

Other part of LA Times article not mentioned by Kevin is the aggressive and frequently illegal anti-union tactics by Wal-Mart. Welcome to the new millenium. I guess unions are the "old" econmic model and have to make way for the "new."

Anyone note that by fiat Bush administration also got their anti-employee overtime rules through Congress, despite prior majority votes against it?
And once again, these new rules were championed as "reform" for the "old" rules.

So much for if its not broke, dont fix it.

Posted by: DMBeaster at November 23, 2003 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Over the years, I have known several people who have worked at Walmart, including some close relatives. There are some valid criticisms of how Walmart treats its employees. At the same time, there are some good things to say about it. When compared to similar companies, my relatives, for example, believe it is one of the better companies to work for.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward at November 23, 2003 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Americans strike me as the most self-absorbed, vain, isolated people that one can come across.

A company ships work overseas where it raises the living standards by orders of magnitude, but causes a little pain at home - and you think that your God given right to prosperity at the cost of all others - is being challenged?

Stop and think about that. Do you now understand why the rest of the world has trouble believing that you are actually interested in doing any good in Iraq?

Either you are incredibly foolish or incredibly selfish as a people. Which is it?

Posted by: name at November 23, 2003 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Am I correct in understanding that certain corporations are not interested in retaining employees over time? That it is easier to hire new people every year than it is to deal with raises and benefits acruing from time served?

Posted by: David Glynn at November 23, 2003 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder why WalMart is the target of all these worker treatment attacks. It strikes me that working in fast food at McDonalds and elsewhere pays less and offers worse working conditions than WalMart. And I think are a number of other jobs that sound less appealing than working at WalMart. I guess it's the price of success. It's ironic that at the same time we are concerned about the jobless (or jobloss) recovery it is popular to bash the nation's largest employer.

And yes I think higher wages at WalMart would result in fewer jobs. Now you can argue that it is better to have fewer jobs with better wages and working conditions like is basically the policy in many European countries, but I don't think everyone can just get paid more money without any negative consequences at all. If that were so we could just set the minimum wage at $25/$30 per hour and make a lot of people's lives a lot easier.

Posted by: GaryL at November 23, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I saw in the past couple days (through a link from some blog, which one I forget) a business article about Costco and how they've been stomping Walmart's warehouse division Sam's Club despite being smaller, paying more, and giving better health benefits. The president there feels that cutting employees' wages and benefits is a shortterm idea that cripples the company in the long run, and his track record suggests he's right. I mean, he's going toe to toe with Walmart's clout, and winning.

Posted by: QrazyQat at November 23, 2003 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

You might read the Forbes article on Costco-- a company that lowers prices and pays decent wages.
Fortune.com - Investing - The Only Company Wal-Mart Fears http://www.fortune.com/fortune/investing/articles/0,15114,538834,00.html

Posted by: Deborah Peifer at November 23, 2003 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

WalMart is doing more to prove Ricardo's "Iron Law of Wages" than any economist ever could.

Posted by: praktike at November 23, 2003 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The nation's largest employer is not Walmart. It is ManPower, the temporary employment agency.

And as a non-selfish American, I am interested in this new globalization of the middle class concept being sold. Will the new middle class in the US be expected to be comparable with world wages? I understand $8,000/year is a good living in India for a programmer. Is that what we should be looking forward too?

Posted by: David Glynn at November 23, 2003 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The best solution for most problems like this is to figure out which percent of "free market" and "market regulation" works for the best amount of people.

The real curiosity here is that, because Walmart's purchasing power is so huge, it can effectively regulate the market itself, as a single entity.

No, it's not a monopoly in the classical sense, as there is a lot of competition on the retail side.

But it is single-handedly exercising other types of market controls, apparently outside of the normal "handle" that government has on things.

I'm not at all sure what can be done about this.

Posted by: Aaron Gillies at November 23, 2003 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

"However, the actual workers at Wal-Mart, who obviously can't be outsourced to Bangladesh"

Are you sure about that? I just had an interesting idea. Sure, it's a bit like the 50s vision of the Supermarket of the Future, but it might work, and it would result in jobs being outsourced.

As for the Wal*Mart in the Los Angeles Fishwrap-Enquirer:

"By squeezing suppliers to cut wholesale costs, the company has hastened the flight of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas. By scouring the globe for the cheapest goods, it has driven factory jobs from one poor nation to another." [emphasis added]

This type of "reasoning" shows why the LAFE is a third-rate rag. The company has little to do with it. The company wouldn't exist if people didn't shop there. The company is just enabling market forces to work. If it weren't Wal*Mart, it would be Tarzhet or KMart or LWMart. Anything else would require a "liberal" statist approach.

Posted by: Lonewacko: I'm Still Blogging Across America at November 23, 2003 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

WalMart certainly doesn't need me to defend them, but I do feel compelled to say one or two things here.

Saying that WalMart destroys local businesses is saying that they're extremely competitive. Customers often prefer lower prices and wider selection. If one-off or regional competitors can't compete with WalMart on this score, that's not WalMart's problem.

WalMart is not under any obligation to sell music (or magazines or books) that they find morally offensive. WalMart has rights too.

I don't know what one might mean by the WalMartification of American tastes, though I suspect it has something to do with a classist elitism. (It's like supposedly fighting for the poor and working class and at the same time insulting them.)

I think you all are underestimating the impact of low prices. It's not just a matter of money. It's a matter of people, working class people, being able to afford a lifestyle that they couldn't otherwise afford. When a WalMart opens in a town that didn't have one before, there's excitement about the possibilities that will open up (I've experienced this first-hand). High-falutin' economic theories don't take that human feeling into account. (End populist rant.)

Having said all that, I do realize that WalMart is building up a sorry record of labor abuse and should be prosecuted to whatever extent the law demands.

Also I prefer Target. It's slightly more expensive, but I've found that whatever it is that Target offers above WalMart is worth the increased price and I can easily afford it. But it's the right of the consumer to make any choice he wants about where he shops, and to use any criteria to make that choice.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at November 23, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Also, next time (first time?) you go to a Wal*Mart, look at the people's badges. See how many of them have worked there for at least a few years.

Posted by: Lonewacko: I'm Still Blogging Across America and I need you to donate to my PayPal account so I can at November 23, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Brian:

What is it that working class people are buying at Wallmart that they cannot afford elsewhere? Oddly, I have never been to one. (I've never lived anywhere where there was one nearby.)

Posted by: Aaron Gillies at November 23, 2003 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

This theory about two models is simply untrue.
It was said by the 19th century economist Say that production creates its own demand.
Although this "Law of Say" is not strictly correct because it does not take into account the monetary system the underlying logic is valid.
Economists (and your beloved Paul Krugman particularly) have long been exasperated by the ignorant public and journalists making amateurish statements about the economy and economic policy.
Its high time for all of you to realise that so-called "underconsumption theories" (e.g. that because of lower wages of workers there will be insufficient demand for the products and services produced by these same workers) are illogical and simply wrong, wrong, wrong

BTW even Karl Marx derided this kind of "theories". And this tale about Henry Ford is just that - a tale. I dont know maybe he was stupid enough to think that its a good way to create demand for his cars by paying higher wages to his workers, but one thing is clear and undisputable the demand for his cars did not derive from his own expenditures on workers' wages. its simply impossible because wages are only a part of the cost of products.

Posted by: Freedomlover at November 23, 2003 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Aaron: I couldn't name a single product that WalMart sells that, if WalMart didn't exist, working class poor couldn't afford. It's more that the total impact the chain has allows people to have more stuff that they want. Add up $29 VCRs, $12 shirts, $79 TVs, $15 dinnerware, etc, and over a year, say, you've got a better standard of living than if you had to pay double for those items and had to pick and choose among which was more important.

If you're a college graduate and/or professional earning better then the national average, these may seem like the lamest of goods, and for you, that may be so. But for people earning less than $20k, the reasonable availability of these items from a chain like WalMart (and they're not the only such provider) is a great boon.

It's the middle and upper classes who can afford to incorporate political matters into purchasing decisions. Is this company green enough, or labor-friendly enough? When money's tight, that question usually isn't worth 2 bucks.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at November 23, 2003 01:03 PM | PERMALINK

i rarely hear of anyone who has sworn-off shopping there.

i don't shop there. Raleigh's a big enough town that i can get everything WM sells someplace else, without having to further fatten the pockets of 5 of the 15 richest people in America.

in my hometown, however, thanks to the new Super WalMart, smaller stores are drying up, along with the manufacturing jobs Kevin mentioned.

fuck WalMart.

Posted by: ChrisL at November 23, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

Anyplace there is a Wal-mart and there is some traffic problem, it is not my #1 favorite store, it is too crowded, too much noise, and the lights iritate my eyes: I don't go in there anymore.
Such stores killed the little stores and the little business in the USA.

Most of the manufactured products come from the third-world anyway so it does not do anything really good to the american economy itself and if you look at the manufacturing production in the US, it has been going down the hill: if you want to relaunch the job at the manufacturing level, Walmart won't do it.
Of course it is easier to employ a 10 years old indonesian child working for peanuts to produce the good and importing the goods than employing an american worker, this is how most of the stores do it: they finance a loan to a third-world country to raise the productivity and make them dependant from the loan so they can negotiate lower prices, the counterpart is of course an erosion of the middle-class in the US.

Posted by: Frenchy at November 23, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Ford's innovation not to pay his workers enough to afford his cars, but rather to reduce his cars' prices so that his workers could afford them?

name: A very good point. Much of the anti-globalizaton movement is convinced that factory jobs moving to developing countries is bad for the workers in developing countries. But with the exception of a few anamolous forced labor incidents, for most of developing country workers, these factories offer an opportunity above and beyond what was available to them before.

And isn't it strange that American workers and unions are fighting to keep jobs in the US which the anti-globo crowd say are bad for these countries that want them? Yes, I know there are labor and environemntal concerns. Is there a way to transit from a 19th Cent agrarian economy to a 21st Cent information economy without the messy 20th Cent industrial economy? I'd like to hear about it.

There's an unholy alliance between the anti-globos and American protectionists. Neither is much concerned with the advancement of the world's poor.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at November 23, 2003 01:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ford raised his wages to $5/day because his turnover was too high. Factory work is hot, and miserable. They would have buckets next to work stations for urination. Ford had his own secret police to maintain order.

So, it's not surprising that he had to raise wages above what people made in other blue collar occupations.

Auto unions got rid of some of these abuses, but it's tougher to get rid of bad workers.

Posted by: snore at November 23, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think we need to differentiate between two of Wal-Mart's techniques. Breaking the law by hiring illegals and paying them sub-minimum wages cannot be an acceptable alternative for competing according to the rules other stores adhere to. As such, Walmart should be prosecuted and boycotted (I don't shop there anymore).

Using cutthroat pricing and size to dominate and drive out rivals is a more ambiguous situation. On the one hand they are just winning at the capitalist game (assuming they don't break laws) and should be commended for it. On the other, monopoly power has clear costs to society and so there is an argument for limiting their ability to do so. I don't think Walmart has crossed the line that argues for prosecuting them on these grounds although that is an admittedly subjective opinion.

Posted by: Stuart at November 23, 2003 01:44 PM | PERMALINK

about "social justice" :

"..if we look beyond the limits of our national states, and certainly if we go beyond the limits of what we regard as our civilization, we no longer even deceive ourselves that we know what would be "socially just", and that those very groups within the existing states which are loudest in their demands for "social justice", such as trade unions , are regularly the first to reject such claims raised on behalf of foreigners."

Shame on you socialist preachers of morality.

Posted by: freedomlover at November 23, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

VERY well said, Kevin. Nice post.

joey jolo sez: I hear a lot of criticism off wal-mart but i rarely hear of anyone who has sworn-off shopping there.

Well, I'm one; haven't shopped at a Walmart in four years since I learned about the issues.

The difficulty is not everyone has that option. Walmart often places their stores in locations where people don't have much choice. Either on their own or with local government's help, they force out other department stores/grocery stores/small businesses in low-income areas where the density of storefronts is low. Generally they end up with a captive consumer base because many of the people near their locations cannot afford either the time or gas to drive long distances to cherry-pick their shopping choices. Folks living well below the poverty line are disinclined to go out of their way to pay higher prices for political reasons, and can you blame them?

Sometimes the local governments help Walmart get into such places in the belief that they will increase employment. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the Walmart inevitably employs fewer people than the businesses it displaced, and pays them significantly lower wages with fewer benefits. The overall impact on that local communicy is quite negative.

Walmart's workers need to unionize. So far, Walmart has used very heavy-handed and potentially illegal tactics to prevent unionization, but court challenges are ongoing and we may see a union within three or four years.

Posted by: IdahoEv at November 23, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

I love comments like "Wal-mart comes in and destroys local businesses." It's not Wal-mart that does that, it's the locals that stop shopping at the local businesses and go to Wal-mart. I don't see wal-mart employees marching around, rousting people from their homes and forcing them to buy at Wal-mart, they choose to do that on their own.

So, if you're upset that they're no local businesses around after Wal-mart came in, don't complain to Wal-mart, complain to your neighbors.

Posted by: Ugh at November 23, 2003 02:04 PM | PERMALINK

The WalMartification of America is the replacment of reasonable income jobs with minimum wage jobs. About small business going out of business when WalMart comes to town. About the death of Main Street in the smaller towns because everyone drives out to the nearby WalMart (when nearby means 25-75 miles away). WalMart claims that they would never move into a neighborhood that does not want them present. The reality is that they spend $10,000s to $100,000s sueing to stop folks who don't want them in their hometown.

Personally I am not sure which is the driving force behind WalMartification: prices driven so low that companies can only afford to pay minimum (or lower) wages (allegedly caused by the WalMart style of bidding practices); or the economy of the USA is so screwed that WalMart is about the only place that folks can afford to shop. Is one the symptom or the cause? Or are they linked in a way that one cannot slay one without killing the other?

I despise the practice of having someone at the door checking your bags and receipts. It feels like the folks at Sams and WalMart (and other places like CompUSA) are accusing me of shoplifting every time I shop there. I hate it so much I will not shop at those places unless it is impossible to buy the items anywhere else. It turns out that the threat they are trying to mitigate with this practice are rogue checkout clerks (not charging for items for friends). But it still makes me feel like I have been personally insulted every time I shop there.

The article was interesting, it showed that managers at WalMart are making 5 or more times as much money as the rest of the workers. That explains a lot of the questions on the "personality profile" everyone has to fill out as part of the application process. The questions are scaled from 1 to 10 (very strongly disagree to very strongly agree). Things like Managers should be able to take 2 hour breaks even if its against the rules, or managers should be allowed to take things home without paying for them. It is one of those alleged honesty tests that are permeating the employment landscape these days, where pop psychology tests are more important than who you are, what you can do, what you know and what you can do for the company. The profile had a number of questions having to do with how sticky fingered you are, but it had more questions that had to do with your expectation of managers obeying the rules of the company.

Posted by: Peter at November 23, 2003 02:10 PM | PERMALINK

I have stopped going to Walmart since I started reading about the grocery store strike. I was very glad to learn from Atrios that Costco is OK, though. I like it much better.

Posted by: EmmaAnne at November 23, 2003 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I've never shopped at a Wal-Mart, and I never will. Ok, I live in Orange County, and I think there's only one around here, in Laguna Niguel. I went there with my ex-boyfriend a long time ago to buy snow chains for our tires, in preparation for a road trip up to Oregon.

The employees were nice, but we had to ask a question and were directed to management. The guy was the biggest a** I'd ever had the unfortunate opportunity to run into. It completely soured my image of the place, and I felt sorry for the workers there.

Yes, there are many other places that pay their workers crap wages, but Wal-Mart seems especially insidious. I will never shop there.

Posted by: dawn at November 23, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK
Americans strike me as the most self-absorbed, vain, isolated people that one can come across.

A company ships work overseas where it raises the living standards by orders of magnitude, but causes a little pain at home - and you think that your God given right to prosperity at the cost of all others - is being challenged?

What does this have to do with WalMart.

Also, as a pro-free trade lefty, it always brings a smile to my face to see rightists extoling the cause of benighted third-world peoples. I'll expect to see y'all at the next human rights watch rally, decrying the evils of child labor and the child sex trade. Remember to bring your Che Guevara t-shirts.

Posted by: WillieStyle at November 23, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

Peter: The WalMartification of America is the replacment of reasonable income jobs with minimum wage jobs.

You don't say if this was in response to my questioning of praktike's use of the word WalMartification. But if it is, then it's inadequate because praktike referred to the WalMartification of American tastes, which is different. You are of course entitled to your own definition of this made-up word. Praktike was talking about something else, which remains a deplorable sentiment, IMO, regardless of your point.

And people wouldn't drive out to a WalMart if there were no advantage in it. There's nothing holy about Main Street- if a company can compete with what Main Street offers, what's in it for you to lament its passing? Same thing happened to the major urban centers 50 years ago.

IdahoEv: Walmart often places their stores in locations where people don't have much choice.

Or you could say that WalMart places their stores in places where no other company is willing to provide service. If WalMart uses local govt and/or zoning laws to prevent competition, I'm against it. But it's hardly an argument against WalMart to say that they have an unfair advantage because they cater to a customer base that no other company is willing or able to serve. If I'm reading you right.

WalMart offers the economy of scale to rural America that was previously only available to dazzling urbanites. Why deny the red states this advantage? Shopping there is still wholly voluntary.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at November 23, 2003 02:53 PM | PERMALINK

In a moment of weakness I bought a quart of paint at Walmart recently, and discovered that the company has an automated self-checkout system where you just pass the goods over a scanner and then put either your credit card or cash into a machine. It worked OK, but it felt lousy- no interaction with the humanoid that one usually encounters while checking out- no sense of community, no anything- just an empty, sterile experience that was really disappointing.

I'm lucky enough to live in a town that has wonderful historic architecture on the main street, and we are pretty successfully remaking the business district into something unique, thus Walmart hasn't managed to suck the life out of our downtown the way it has in some places. Enclosed is the URL for Al Norman's Sprawlbuster site- he's the guy in Massachusetts who is a fierce Walmart watchdog.

http://www.sprawl-busters.com/

Posted by: peter jung at November 23, 2003 02:55 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't K-mart go out of business because of wal-mart? A part of local stores went out of business because they could not afford to offer a wide-range of products: if the little stores cannot compete with big corporations then they will lose customers, I don't think we can blame only the customers, since they count with their wallets after all, but corporations that always want higher profit-margins. I stand corrected: i do blame walmart and other corporations.



Posted by: Frenchy at November 23, 2003 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

The WalMart issue is interesting because it seems like the preservation of Main Streets would be an inherently conservative issue, whereas it's usually liberals who decry their loss. There's a collective action problem in that nobody actual *wants* Main Street to disappear, but they don't realize that each dollar they spend on the access road hastens Main Street's demise. This problem is enabled by federal housing and highway subsidies that have encouraged people to live in the suburbs, at a high cost to our cities and our society in general.

The WalMartification of American tastes, to me, is our need for more and more and more consumption. I could also have said "Ikeafication." There are several components:

1. Rather than buying well-made goods to last years, we throw the old thing away and buy a cheapo new one. This, in my view, is wasteful, and comes at an environmental cost that is not internalized in the price of the goods in question.

2. There's a vulgar materialism to our society in that we define our well-being by how many things we can consume.

In my view, WalMart epitomizes these traits in American society.

Posted by: praktike at November 23, 2003 04:11 PM | PERMALINK

I also no longer shop at Wal-Mart. And if Home Depot and Lowe's keep dropping the quality of their merchandise, making me have to return almost monthly to replace worn out parts that I had just bought the month before, I'll find another company to fulfill my needs - just like I did with Wal-Mart.

What's going to happen when enough people lose good paying jobs to foreign lands and have to live on Wal-Mart wages?

Nevermind! It won't really matter - those people will be in Iraq making the place safe for Halliburton to "earn a little profit".

Posted by: pessimist at November 23, 2003 04:47 PM | PERMALINK

To the few Ayn Rand refugees on this comment thread:

Take a closer look at the Third World nations that receive the jobs from First World nations due to Wal-Mart and similar companies' strategies (and government strategies): Most of those people are doing worse than when they were subsistance farmers.

How? First the bankers and financial folks come in and buy up or let the military dictators steal land, mostly from the wealthy landowners where these small farmers have tilled the soil as feudalistic peasants. These small farmers, to survive, flood into larger towns and cities. There, they end up living in shacks, with unclean water, and get paid a pittance but can no longer make their own clothes or grow their own food.

If we pursued a foreign trade policy that pushed for people to be able to buy what they produce, and this can be done if one starts with the books and articles of either with Lori Wallach or IPS articles (Cavanagh is the big name there).

What is lacking is the political will here. People need to connect the dots but haven't. We're too busy arguing about whether largely urban, economically well off homosexuals can get married. As pathetic a discourse as one can ever imagine.


Posted by: mitchell freedman at November 23, 2003 04:56 PM | PERMALINK

You can argue about unions, ideologies and all that until kingdom come. But the fact still stands that the Waltons who own Walmart have become the world's richest family by far, on the backs of people paid less than a reasonable living. Forbes put their collective fortune at $102.5 billion, that's BBillion. They sit at positions 4-8 on the top ten richest people in the US. They could give up 1% of their assets to raise the annual pay of each Wal-Mart worker $1,000, and the Waltons wouldn't even notice.

It's pure robber-baronism, what the Waltons do. They claim a Christian ethic in their worldview, but it's like the Holy See: everyone else works hard by the ethic and they rake in the money like the Popes of old.

Posted by: paulo at November 23, 2003 05:10 PM | PERMALINK

There are a couple of ugly games Walmart plays to destroy local shopping options that go beyond simple fair competition. One is to figure out what the selling points of the local competition, and then lower prices in that particular area, even to the point of losing money -- and then raising them once the competing business closes. I recall one friend talking about how there was a news/bookshop in her town with an excellent selection, and then the local Walmart first opened a similiar section with a nearly identical range, but cheaper. When the other company went out of business, both the variety and cheaper prices disappeared at Walmart.

The second is probably less deliberate, but still also devastating. They'll open a local Walmart, the business district will wither and die, and then they'll close it and several others in local towns and replace them with a regional supercenter. So people end up having to drive 50-100 miles to get basic necessities.

Posted by: tavella at November 23, 2003 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is not Wal*Mart, it's unregulated capitalism.

Posted by: Maccabee at November 23, 2003 06:17 PM | PERMALINK

Fact is, WalMart makes us all richer.

By allowing us to buy more with our money they increase the value of a dollar.

The people that benefits the most are the poor, not the rich.

As far as all the complaints about poverty goes, frankly they are ridiculous.

WalMart clerks aren't poor - they're just less rich. They have food, shelter, clothes, etc. Heck, they even have luxuries like televisions and brand name clothes. By any reasonable standard (or by world standards at any time up to maybe the seventies) they are rich as hell.

The real issue is that they aren't as rich as the rest of us.

The poor will always be with us because we keep upwards defining poverty based on relative wealth. If we define poverty on that basis I have no problem with grocery clerks being poor. I think a guy bagging groceries should be on the bottom of the scale in income. I have a hard time thinking of a job that is easier, requires less skills, and is safer.

What this fight is really about is not whether grocery clerks will be richer. It's about who should be on the bottom. If grocery clerks move up due to this strike it will be at the expense of a bunch of other low income people who will move down a bit because their groceries will be a little more expensive. And I have yet to see a reason why grocery clerks are more deserving.

Posted by: Mike at November 23, 2003 06:30 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, it's a lockout, not a strike. (Do you know the difference?) The dispute centers on the worker's unwillingness to be pushed down, not their attempt to pull themselves above other people.

Learn a few facts before spouting ignorant opinions.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at November 23, 2003 07:13 PM | PERMALINK

What needs to be done about Walmart is not to prevent them from getting goods to the consumer as cheaply as possible. Except for those who openly and fundamentally reject our economic system, that is a good thing. What we need is such things as: 1. Mandate good health insurance or move it out of the employment system, so they can't profit by chincing on that. 2. Protect union organizing rights like we meant. 3. Ditto for wage and hour laws. Then let people vote with their feet and wallets for Walmart, Target, main street or whoever wants to open a store and give it a try.

Posted by: Ken D at November 23, 2003 07:31 PM | PERMALINK

Wow.
Actually the poverty is on the rise in the US: 3.4 millions of people lived under the poverty line in 2001 (incomes And even working at Walmart at 5.75 or 8 dollars an hour will take you under the poverty line.
Nowadays people have to settle for less because the upper-left class is getting wealthier.

Posted by: Frenchy at November 23, 2003 07:35 PM | PERMALINK

Poverty line is less than 18K for a family with 2 chidren.

Posted by: Frenchy at November 23, 2003 07:38 PM | PERMALINK

Worker's unwilling be "pushed down", "relentless" cutting of prices, making money "on the backs of other people" ...interesting how language can be used to invoke emotional reactions that aim to transcend reason. Just an observation in this thread.

Mike has made some good points (I happen to admire Walmart's success and productivity myself). If some of his points may not be completely applicable to this particular grocery store situation, it's still a good response to other comments on this thread.

Ayn Rand refugees on this site!...No, it can't be!...well, their loss :)

Posted by: PCM at November 23, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

For some workers this is a strike. For others it is a lock out.

What's your point?

And who, exactly, is trying to push down the workers?

And Frenchy, the poverty line is based, in part, on relative wealth - that's why it keeps going up. People below the poverty line still can afford food, clothes, and shelter.

Posted by: Mike at November 23, 2003 08:20 PM | PERMALINK

"I despise the practice of having someone at the door checking your bags and receipts"

I spent $28 at the Fort Stockton, TX Wal*Mart last week. I was wearing my backpack, as I've done many times in many Wal*Marts and other stores throughout this great land. Only a few stores have complained: one in Maine, a couple in TN, a couple elsewhere. I didn't shop there.

The second time I went to the FS,TX WM, they complained about the pack. I promptly went out to the car and returned as much of the stuff I had earlier bought as I could.

Those items I returned included:
a warm fleece jacket for $9.44
several Clif Bars for $0.96
two Sam's Club 2L sodas for - wait for it - $0.50 each

I could afford to pay a bit more, but why should I? Plus, I'm real cheap. If I go to Big Bend as planned, I will have to pay more, because I'm boycotting that WM, and I'll have to stock up in Alpine. The fleece jacket will be hard to replace at the same price here, and I could use an extra layer when it's below freezing.

BTW, for the limo libs who have their maids do their shopping (just kidding): 2L Coke/Pepsi is around $1, but some places - like gas stations - have them for $2. IIRC, the only place I've seen Clif Bars cheaper were when they were 2 for a buck at the 99 Cents Only store. Trader Joe's, Savon, and other places are at least the same but probably more than a buck. Some things can be had cheaper at Dollar Generals or the like, but mostly WM has pretty good prices and a wide selection of items.

Posted by: Lonewacko: I'm Still Blogging Across America at November 23, 2003 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, I suggest you read Kevin's other posts about the supermarket lockout/strike.

Posted by: praktike at November 23, 2003 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the desire of people to be in favor of a lower standard of living in this country.

Don't forget, there's more to living than consumption. As the price of labor relative to capital goes down, the cost of saving money goes up. Real estate prices compared to salary gets worse, and personal bankruptcy rates increase.

Additionally, with capital flight to other countries, the reinvestment rate in the US goes down. By no stretch is this "making us all richer."

WALMART is not an invulnerable beast however. If the workers and managers in SoCal got out of their stupid, fratricidal war, they could start focusing on the root cause of their problems, which they claim is Walmart.

Walmart has the property of very large, isolated stores, and a highly centralized distribution network (all those SAM's WAL*MART 18-wheelers.) Such a network should prove vulnerable to "extra-market forces", a term which includes war, but is not limitted to war, or to violent action.

Picket stores. Drive tractors and trucks to distribution centers, and park in the driveways. The French know how to do this. Perhaps it's time that the Americans learn.

Posted by: p mac at November 23, 2003 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

I read Calpundit for the sheer entertainment value. I find it amusing that "educated people" (I use that term loosely) feel threatened by a company that has made improving productivity one of it's chief goals. You should be applauding Wal-Mart and its competitors should learn from it.

Business is competitive. And now increasingly global. Would you rather have Wal-Mart to complain about or would you rather be shopping at your local Carrefour?

Posted by: out4blood at November 23, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have avoided WalMart for years because the products they sell in most categories are cheap not inexpensive. The difference being they are not selling quality for less, they are selling garbage for more.

They started out inexpensive in a smaller store, but when they shifted to their 'superstore' the name brands were replaced with shlock. My mother stops there occasionally because it is convenient for her and I have yet to see a can of anything that wasn't dented.

When they shifted to their 'supercenter', the small town that had built roads and installed traffic lights for them had to almost eliminate their police department. Much of local funding is based on the sales tax and the loss of a large store is devastating for a small town.

The county built roads and installed traffic lights at the new location, despite the fact that the lights destroy traffic flow on a major artery.

When they were building the new WalMart I had flashbacks to heading down I-5 to Tijuana. The illegals used to run across I-5 in a characteristic 'hunched-over' fashion. That's how the workers at the WalMart site were crossing the street to get to the fast food places on the other side, and, yes, they spoke Spanish. None of that 'high-priced' Northwest Florida anti-union labor for WalMart.

WalMart hires the disabled, which I thought was a good thing until I found out their salaries were subsidized through a number of programs.

I work on old houses in my spare time and there is nothing worse than encountering WalMart products. You know that you get fix them, they have to be replaced and you have to pay 'tipping/garbage' fees to get rid of them.

As Home Depot/Lowe's have wiped out all of the old lumber yards and hardware stores, I spend a lot of time driving to Alabama to find part and supplies for these old places.

Call it what you like, these 'Superstores' are not good for the country. If you look at the stock you will see your choices shrinking. Soon we will be just like the old Soviet Union, you will have to buy whatever a store decides to carry in any particular category of product.

Posted by: Bryan at November 23, 2003 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see it that way.
Back in the 90s, 25% of Americans possessed 75% of the wealth in the world. Nowadays, it represents only 44.4% of the Americans in the top 500 worldwide companies: the monetary mass in the USA altered by the flow of imported goods is going to other countries: this year I think it was 67 of the most wealthiest american fortune disappeared from the classification (despite the emission of the green monetary mass).
Also if you take a look at the salary disparities, the margin difference in the 90s between rich and poor was least in China than in the USA; it is not the case anymore: it only means the USA is losing some markets, either to be more productive by delocalizing or importing workers (H1B visas) or either they cannot compete anymore and they go bankrupt. At the same time, in the last 2 decades in the USA the salary differences grow from 1 to 1,000: with these 2 examples there is a retribution of wealth repartition in the US by eroding the low/middle-class, walmart is one of the examples of this year, there are other examples like Microsoft and IBM, it is a big megatrend this year to pay programmers at 3,000 dollars a year in Russia or India, and it will keep up this way, at least the US is headed this way: higher profits inside or outside the US, it is a phenomenon that cannot really be changed in a capitalistic lobbyist system.

This is why by changing the exchange rate of the dollar to a lower level, it will relaunch the production of manufactured goods in the USA (made in the USA) and may create more jobs.
Walmart may suffer from it, at least for the imported goods, they are going to take a 20% inflation increase really really soon, if it has not been done, unless other countries like China for example devaluate their currency to counterweigh the exchange parity policy of your gov.


The subjects needs to be examined closer though.

I don't think the US is on an economic recovery yet if they keep delocalizing and don't get some financial laws tougher.

Posted by: Frenchy at November 23, 2003 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

While I may not be able to name any product that I can afford because WalMart sells them, I can name literally dozens and dozens of products that couldn't be bought because WalMart doesn't shelve them.

One superstore doesn't have better selection than an entire town. That's the first level of reality.

While I was at University, the town I lived in had a WalMart outside - actually, it rented space from the local indian reservation because they needed the money more than the other towns. Sure, they had some things I couldn't get elsewhere at that price... But you know what? They have nothing I couldn't get at home in a town without a WalMart.

And now that I've spent ten years in retail, I know all the more not to shop at them.

Buying a few, 'name' products from a store willing to take losses because they know that 'name' product is the only product their competitor sells is not competition.

It's entrapment.

Posted by: Crissa at November 23, 2003 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Coupla things...

Joey jolo:

they treated me super shitty ... Maybe if they'd treated me well I'd still be shopping there today ... The point is, I stopped shopping there for reasons that have nothing to do with their business practices.

Joey, how you treat your customer is the first business principle. Even parity product companies can grow phenomenally if they treat their customers well, i.e.: thoughtfully and creatively. Without that, your balance sheet is doomed no matter what operational or financial whizzbang you can concoct. Dude, it's retail. You stopped shopping precisely BECAUSE of their business practice.

Now, wanna see what similar bad manners can do for US / foreign ally relations? Go here. (Shameless blog pimp alert)

Lastly, for any interested, there was a hearty thread going on the macroeconomic impact and business practices of Walmart over at Brad Delong's crib a few weeks back....and who should wander in but Surowiecki of Slate's money box. Things got interesting there, worth checking out.

Posted by: fouro at November 23, 2003 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

'He said he had heard later that said store, thru the power of volume purchases, was able to demand that tool, and faucet supply manufacturers, replace some of the innards of the products with cheaper parts to bring the prices down even further.'.....Could Walmart be doing this with brand name manufacturers of food?

Posted by: keely at November 23, 2003 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ooops, above should have said "doomed eventually". The finance and ops stuff does work, but it becomes a ponzi scheme where your repeat business drops to those who must patronize you because of your cost advantage, but they hate doing so and will bolt at the first chance. That isn't the profile of "higher value/deeper pocketed" return customers who expect more. Therefore, you have to keep gobbling up new markets and share to sustain the locomotive, because loyalty is paper thin.

Ever wonder why Walmart uses a smiley? How about why they run all those hallmark style ads about how they're second only to mother teresa in good works, compassion to employees etc. PR, advance damage control. Same thing Phillip Morris did and trumpeted for years in the arts area and in inner city education grants, etc. They knew they were flawed, so they tried to buff a shitty business model fraught with downstream danger. Ditto Walmart. The backlash has begun because they're getting so dominant in the fabric of everyday community life as well as the structure of local/regional/national econiomies. See fastcompany.com this month as well as the LA times.

Posted by: fouro at November 23, 2003 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Every car that sits in a WalMart parking lot argues in favor of the company. They're voting with their dollars...you can call these people irrational, but to force them to shop at a retailer of your personal choosing is out-and-out evil.

Posted by: me oh my at November 23, 2003 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

LOL!!!
Picketing walmart is an evil? Now that is hilarious. Nobody is forced to change their shopping habits by a picket line. They may voluntarily choose to go shop somewhere else out of solidarity, or annoyance. But that's just a cost of doing business in this fallen world.


Posted by: p mac at November 23, 2003 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Picketing walmart is an evil?"

No, p mac, put on your bifocals and read what I said: "to force them to shop at a retailer of your personal choosing is out-and-out evil."

"To force"...not the same as picketing, is it?

I have twenty dollars in my pocket...if you tell me where to spend it, or how to spend it, you are STEALING it. You can laugh out loud all you want, but if you tell me such a thing to my face, you won't laugh long.

Posted by: me oh my at November 23, 2003 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, me-o-my, who was suggesting that anybody be forced to shop at any particular retailer?

It seems more like Walmart itself forces people to shop at Walmart, once all the other businesses in town have been driven out of business by Walmart.

Posted by: p mac at November 24, 2003 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

"once all the other businesses in town have been driven out of business by Walmart."

Please. If other businesses are driven out of business, it is because customers went to WalMart.

If you try to shift government policy against WalMart, then you're attempting to force other people's money in the direction you please.

(However, if your intentions are good, I absolve you.)

Good night.

Posted by: me oh my at November 24, 2003 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

Is asking that the laws about employing illegal aliens and allowing unions to organize legally "shifting goverment policy against Wal-Mart"?

Just asking.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger at November 24, 2003 01:49 AM | PERMALINK

WalMart, like capitalism itself, is a mix of good and bad. Good for consumers, lower prices = higher consumption, greater wealth. Good for the poorest producers in the world, more jobs. Good for its local workers, local jobs.

Bad for competing local workers, fewer local jobs; and/or lower paid jobs. Bad for competing local business owners, lower return on investment. Bad for long term flexibility & choice by consumers, since efficiency tends to standardization (see MS Word vs other word processors).

By all means attack WalMart for it's lousy local labor practices, and it's terrible owner/manager - worker salary issues; and fight hard to stop any local gov't giving it any expansion breaks or building roads. Get workers to unionize at WalMart -- an organized strike strikes fear into the Waltons, I'm sure.

Where are the Leftists willing to join WalMart, work excellently for a year or so (MUST have written, excellent evaluations), and then try to unionize? Yes, join specifically to use legal means to help with a future suit against them, showing their anti-unionization intimidation (eg wear wire-taps, take pictures, etc.).

But in terms of reducing world poverty, the world is better off if those foreign child workers work for WalMart than not. The rural poor have always been better off as urban poor, horrible as urban poverty is.

Gov'ts need to protect property rights for the poor, and enforce the duties of the rich in rich-poor contracts (rather than just enforce duties on the poor), and punish the frauds. And gov't needs to let folk decide to buy at WalMart, or not.

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 24, 2003 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Grey:

Interesting thoughts, but:

1. The poor usually have little property and therefore little nagging worry specific to "property rights." They are poor and "indentured" to say, check-cashing services instead of banks, or to landlords rather than mortgage companies, or to necessity jobs that they have little interest in endagering in the interest of "worker enfranchisement."

2. Enforce the duties of the rich in rich-poor contracts"? Sound like Marx, not Adam Smith to me. Just kidding. The rich-poor contract thing is exactly what's being strangled py today's political debate. Noblesse oblige is a sneering, dirty phrase now. The Walton family in aggregate is worth something like $100 billion, while associates in their blue vests are pulling down say 20,000 if that. Sounds like a rich-poor contract breakdown to me.

Walmart's becoming very akin to the "Company store" of old: can't afford to complain, can't afford to go anywhere else, can't do much of anything to change the situation if you don't want your lower-end of the scale family to survive.

Shopping is shopping; shop where you want or must. Walmart's problem comes from it's focus on price and reach. It's downfall, like A&P's, Sears' or any other burgeoning American monopolist of the past will be when it gets too-too big for it's price britches, and when it starts making political and business leaders nervous about it's impact on whole economies and industies. Too much power in too few hands and all that..... Tick tock

Posted by: fouro at November 24, 2003 06:31 AM | PERMALINK

Part Two of the article is up now focusing on how "Made in the U.S.A." was a failure and how Wal-Mart was forced to get 50-60% of its manufacturing from overseas, much from Southern China.

Posted by: Edge at November 24, 2003 06:33 AM | PERMALINK

"I'll take door #1."

No you won't, because you're sitting on your sofa at home writing a blog.

Taking door #1 would mean rolling up your sleeves and opening a grocery store and getting creamed by Wal-Mart, which knows how to meet its customers' needs better than you have any hope of doing.

Wal-Mart versus the established supermarket chains in California means the Wal-Mart team versus the chains' teams, and if you looked at them closely as you should you would find that the Wal Mart team consists of a lot of young and old Americans, many of them recent immigrants, who are glad to have the jobs they have and feel that they personally are well treated by the company.

What Wal Mart has figured out how to do is make people with fewer formal and informal job skills more productive than their entrenched, sometimes unionized, competitors.

Just exactly what is so wrong about that?

Posted by: JK at November 24, 2003 07:55 AM | PERMALINK

It wasn't that long ago there were Sunday paper articles about life in
Russia that could almost be written as a parody today using the
Wal-mart scenario as the base. Families encouraged by the state to
have too many babushkas, living on meager salaries with fears for
their future, shopping at the only business in Moscow/Las Vegas,
buying corn dogs and gallon jars of pickles manufactured by struggling
business that have little choice but to sell to the biggest
retailer. Even though the manufacturer knows that the huge pickle jars
usually end up rotting before a family can eat it all, the monolithic
retailer demands that huge container as a symbol of socialist, I mean
capitalist, success.

I didn't shop at the Russia state store and I don't shop at Wal-mart.

Posted by: J Edgar at November 24, 2003 09:18 AM | PERMALINK

My question is, where is that Wal-Mart store where they film all the commercials? I've looked all over for it but in every store I visit the employees are not smiling and joking and falling all over themselves to make my shopping experience the best ever - in fact, some of them look downright pissed off, and grumpy, not to mention overworked and underpaid and shat on by supervisors and concerned about how they're going to pay all their bills and clothe their kids. So if anyone knows where that really *happy* Wal-Mart is where the staff all dress up in clown costumes and wouldn't leave even if you offered them a living wage because they love the place so, then do please let me know.

Posted by: moominpapa at November 24, 2003 09:19 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Jk, I beg to differ.

Walmart associates skills have nothing to do with their operational success. And beyond simple price, they--associates and Walmart--have no clue often how to

meet [their] customers' needs better than you have any hope of doing.

Two examples:

Broke down and went to look at their bikes because my son wants the one his friend's family got for him at Walmart. A customer service nightmare. Store in disarray first. Bikes area a mess second. Third, was passed through 3 associates to a get a simple answer about a simple thing like color choice between the same model bike. (Answer: any color you want as long as it's silver, even tough I'm looking at indentical silver and blue dinged up floor models.) Next, I ask about layaway as Christmas is a ways off and my kid can find anything in the garage. Answer: "I don't know about that, I think we only take cash, credit card or check. Can you find someone else to ask?"

2. Sitting in my home office with a partner. It's 10:30 at night. His wife calls to say "I'm at Walmart, you need anything?" He says there a new game out, Medal of Honor I think it was. Wife calls back 30 minutes later with a long story about how noone could help her, they "hadn't heard of it, could she look for herself maybe?"
Partner asks to speak to an asscociate to explain better. Associate looks, still no dice. Partner knows they have it because he'd been in during the day for ink jet cartridges, saw stacks of the game, but didn't buy. Asks wife to look again. She calls back 10 minutes later: there were 10 games on the shelf and 96 units in their clearly SKU'd shipping boxes at the base of the video game dispay wall.

These two are fresh this past few weeks. Before I got completely turned off by WMT's business practices a few years ago, I had a list as long as my arm of ways they'd underserved, pissed off or generally screwed my customer experience.


American business it a crossroads: The suits have ruled the roost into disrepute for many companies.
And Walmart is not alone, they have company like McDonalds, which operates on the unspoken premise that they can screw up 4 out of 10 drive thru orders--piss people off in the result--and still operate profitably with the kind of people and wages and culture they're willing to promote. Of course, that was until they recently started posting their first losing quarters in their history recently. Tick tock.

As for your "recent immigrant" jobs program contention, I'd like to see you defend that one to the newly defunct hardware store owner or bankrupt grocer without keeping your dukes up.

Posted by: fouro at November 24, 2003 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

If Wal-Mart is so bad, don't shop there. That way I'll be able to get a better parking space.

Posted by: Out4Blood at November 24, 2003 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Two comments:

First, those who believe that market forces determine all wages/prices underestimate the power of economic coersion in negotiating. WalMart clearly does not satisfy A. Smith's assumption about economic players being too small to manipulate the market. I for one am not afraid to say it: regulation is in order to check their power.

Second, having said that, I think the biggest problem is not the market per se, but the values that consumers are bringing to it. I'd wager (not that much, say $10) that a good fraction of the stuff bought at WalMart winds up collecting dust in the attic/garage/storage-locker after one month. My hypothesis is that the obsession with lowest price correlates quite well with an unhealthy level of consumerism.

Posted by: Jeffrey Gordon at November 25, 2003 06:08 PM | PERMALINK

This comment is for "outforblood" You shoud not say anything negative about the educated guys who do not approve of that nasty Walmart sprawl. Most bloodsucking parasites are "outforblood" If you do not know what you are talking about you should shut your round pie hole. Shithead. I was an employee at Sam's Club just long enough to learn that Walmart has a vendetta for many workers and a punishment regimen for women- so the execs can collect on the corporate owned life insurance. It is a hostile environment for women (and I am sure some guys too but since I am not a guy I cant speak for them). When Sam's tried to give me a lateral move in the company, instead of a move up-when I did a spectacular job in my department, I did what all people who work there should do. I did not accept it. I can get stuck in a rut anywhere- but I am far too fine for that shit. You, "out for blood sound like a punk who thinks he's educated; but in reality you are just another stale number-in a staggering sea of creeps and you
dont know what you are blowing about. And by the way, you sound like a Walmart shopper.

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