I am opening up this question for discussion in the spirit of “what have you got against Wal-Mart?” - along the lines of similar (but unrelated) questions in the past: what have you got against personal finance bloggers? and what have you got against credit cards? However, I have some musings to share before you proceed to make your case.
First, let me tell you why we shop at Wal-Mart.
- Some things are just outright affordable at Wal-Mart and if we buy them from other retail stores, it’s going cost us a significant amount of extra money.
- The Wal-Mart store we general use is really clean - most people find it hard to believe, but that is true - so we don’t have any *cleanliness* barriers that stop us from going there. I think the cleanliness of a store (any store, not just Wal-Mart) depends on it’s manager and it’s staff and probably the guys in our Wal-Mart are good.
- There is an awesome variety of available choices, so we don’t feel restricted when we shop.
- It’s easily accessible (not too far from where we live), and it’s open 24 hours.
- For fresh fruits and vegetables, we shop elsewhere (a local farm market), but for most packaged items (perishable and non-perishable), we drive down to Wal-Mart (except when thrift store is an option).
However, every time I mention our Wal-Mart purchases on this blog, I get emails and/or comments about how Wal-Mart is evil and why I should stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Those comments momentarily make me wonder if I am hurting the economy in the long run by shopping at Wal-Mart; however, in spite of such thoughts, I have been unable to come up with any substantial reason that I would use to convince myself to stop shopping at Wal-Mart.
It’s probably because I don’t really understand how not using Wal-Mart is going to benefit us (or other people) in any way - right now, or in the foreseeable future. If I stop using Wal-Mart and instead start using JC Penny for my clothes, and Kroger for my groceries, how are things going to change? As far as I know, JC Penny (and other similar stores) imports their merchandise from the same countries as does Wal-Mart, and most brands of food items in Kroger (and other similar stores) are the same as available in Wal-Mart. So, except for wearing an “anti-Wal-Mart mask“, I would be probably buying my supplies from the same original sources … and just paying higher prices for them.
Along these lines, I have a few more unanswered questions which I will throw open to my readers here.
- At the present time, how would not shopping at Wal-Mart improve the US economy?
- If the masses stop shopping at Wal-Mart, wouldn’t it encourage Wal-Mart to start indulging in even drastic cost cutting measures - which has the potential to put the entire country into a recession? In fact it’s quite possible that we might have a recession and high inflation at the same time (no more “always low prices”) - an undesirable condition which economists refer to as “staflagation“.
- Wouldn’t thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of people at Wal-Mart loose their jobs in this case?
- Wouldn’t the stock market fortunes of millions of people dwindle in such a case and cause more misery than good?
- If you are thinking beyond the US, from a global point of view, and are worried about the long hours, poor working conditions, and low wages of people in poorer countries who manufacture goods for Wal-Mart - how is not shopping at Wal-Mart going to improve their condition from this point on?
I am seeking some earnest answers here - so if you have the time and the patience, please feel free to drop a line. I am sure people who go at lengths to explain how Wal-Mart hurts the local and global economy have some smart answers for these questions.
While we are at it, what are your reasons to shop (or not shop) at Wal-Mart? What reasons do you cite when you encourage or discourage your friends/family to use Wal-Mart?
Some interesting reading material: