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The Agitator on Wal-Mart

I think he has a point.

It sure is thoughtful of lefty activists to work so hard to keep Wal-Mart out of urban areas. We can't have this corporate behemoth exploiting low-income folks with jobs that wouldn't otherwise exist, and by selling them good stuff at low prices.

The horror.

Better people who are well-employed decide for the urban poor that they don't need those jobs. And that they should be shopping at more tasteful stores, anyway.

I think that maybe -- just maybe -- anti-Wal Mart sentiment has more to do with an aversion to the white, rural ethnology the store sometimes represents than its labor practices. We can't have our Ethiopian restuarants and esoteric bookstores blighted by NASCAR culture.


The Agitator stinks.

He starts with a story about how he saw so many cheap items for sale. What he doesn't say is that these low prices are the result of draconian purchasing and employment policies. This is the problem most people have with Wal-Mart, and they're documented quite thoroughly on the web and in print. I wonder if he bothered to find that out.

He says that "lefty activists" are the ones trying to keep Wal-Mart out of urban areas, when most of the people leading the charge are actually small business owners. I saw it first-hand when I lived in Reading ten years ago. There are now 2 Wal-Marts there, plus a Target and a K-Mart. The town center is a dried-out husk, and one of the two major outlet store areas is now empty.

Then he insinuates that the problem with Wal-Mart has to do with some anti-white sentiment, and says nothing to back either end of this argument up (that anti-Wal-Mart activists are anti-white, or that Wal-Mart somehow representes "white rural ethnology").

Realistically, though, I don't think there's anything to that can done about it. Most of these retail juggernauts eventually burn out and collapse under their own weight. I give it twenty years. The unfortunate part is that the people who have those jobs at Wal-Mart will then be unemployed, and the repercussions for their suppliers will be near-catastrophic.

(And I won't post this to Agitator's blog to give him the satisfaction that he agitated me. ;p)

So what's the point you see, Bazz?

Roger, I've long noticed myself that the people I hear complain most about Wal-Mart tend to be well-heeled, highly-educated, overbred white people who have the luxury to choose to shop at higher-priced retail outlets and organic produce co-ops.

And while they might mention unfair labor practices or predatory management in passing, they inevitably seem unable to resist a snide comment or two about Wal-Mart's customers: rednecks with beer guts and BDU's, rusty pickup trucks with gun racks, women with teased, bleached hair, etc. What do these people really find most objectionable about the store, if they're being honest?

Now I'll add this: I hate going into the damn places. Moreover, I also mourn the devastation of downtowns. But if Wal-Mart is violating labor laws, then by all means, hold them to account for that. In the meantime, if they hire people who willingly seek jobs there, to sell low-priced goods to people who are eager to buy them, I have no legitimate quarrel with them, even if I hate going into their store (although I'll sometimes make an exception simply because it's one of the few places you can still get an Icee these days.)

Anyway, I've found much of what fuels the anti-Wal-Mart sentiment to be (dare I say it?) thinly veiled elitism. And sometimes not so thinly.

BTW, I don't know how familiar you are with Balko's politics, but he's a small-l libertarian who leans left, and voted for Kerry in 2004. In short, this issue isn't simply a red-state/blue-state cultural divide stance for him... in case it matters.

As I said earlier, my experience is the opposite. Most of the people I've heard complaining about Wal-Mart have been working-class people who probably couldn't afford to shop at those types of places places (and probably have never seen anything like an organic produce market).

If "Balko" is The Agitator, then I suggest you read his post again and you will see there is some sort of culture bias. He apparently has a problem with Ethiopian restaurants and esoteric book stores.

I hate going to them, too (Wal-Marts, not Ethiopian restaurants, I love that food), but the one near my house has this HOT girl at the watch counter with her name tattooed on her neck.

Anti-Wal-Marters take note, this idea is yours if you want it: you can have your cake and eat it too. There is a way to destroy Wal-Mart by shopping there.

Wal-Mart sells many products at a loss to get you in the store. Usually it's the items at the black of the store, like toys. That Star Wars figure priced at $5 actually costs them $7.50 or so to buy. What they're hoping is that on the way to the toy section, you realize you need toilet paper, and socks, and Pop-Tarts, etc., and those are the items they make a big profit on.

Imagine a concerted effort for people to go out and buy those negative-profit items. Yes, you'd be inflating their raw sales numbers, but it wouldn't be in the inventory areas where they need it.

Of course, this would require inside information, and a lot of organization, and I could be completely full of shit, but it's worth looking into.

You're definitely right about that. I worked for a company once that sold stuff to Wal-Mart, and they turned around and sold it to consumers for less than they'd paid for it. See, we'd enter into a contract with a local merchant to help them move product via a "buy-down." Basically, we'd give them money to discount our product. It was profitable for them, but not for the Wal-Mart down the street that had pledged to have "the lowest prices in town."

Why is it elitist to want to make enough money to pay the rent, feed my kids, and be able to bring them to the doctor when they get sick? Walmart promises to bring jobs, and it sure does, but who the hell can live on what they pay? I'm not talking about being able to by 'esoteric books' or eat at 'Ethiopian restaruants' I'm talking about paying the electric bill so they don't turn off my power.

You say people go there looking for work so Walmart must not be doing anything wrong, but don't you think if Walmart hadn't already put everyone else in town out of business maybe people would work some place else?

It's pretty clear to me you've never worked a regular crap job - otherwise you wouldn't be defending places like walmart that treat you like dirt and pay you nothing in return. Why don't you go work there for a while, and see how great it is?

"The unfortunate part is that the people who have those jobs at Wal-Mart will then be unemployed, and the repercussions for their suppliers will be near-catastrophic."

They likely won't be unemployed for long; people need the things that Wal-Mart type stores sell. So the level of supply and demand will be similar but catered for by other outlets.

Suppliers already suffer catastrophe by being in business with these ruthless sharks. Or rather the less savvy suppliers do; sensible suppliers will not put all their eggs in one basket and let the big boys call all the shots.

For my rash generalisation about 'people' I wish to mention that it's my observation that the people who complain about the death of old town centres are often the same ones who applaud leftoid anti-car policies that help chase buyers out of towns.

The city nearest me is dying in large part because drivers are increasingly penalised every year. Leftoid/greenoids hate cars and the selfish people who drive into town to spend (and earn) their money. So the money spenders go elsewhere; they seem reluctant to carry their shopping home on the bus, next to the damp chav-scum-of-the-Earth that also stood waiting in the rain. My guess is they go to out of town superstores for the mundane, and the internet for the specialist.

So the old town dies. BFD, in my opinion. Market forces created the old town centre, and market forces (with an inadvertent helping hand by leftoids) are destroying it. Some new arrangement will take over, to be regarded soon enough with anxious nostalgia when its time comes.

"...if Walmart hadn't already put everyone else in town out of business..."

Speaking as someone who has worked through several crap jobs, I'd like to point out that it's the town residents who put the established places out of business by choosing to shop at Wal-Mart. I believe it's called "competition".

BTW, on the crap job front - if the US is anything like the UK, then it's students, wives, mothers and other part-time workers who make up the bulk of supermarket workforces. These generally aren't people who expect their Asda paypacket to fund their household in its entirety.

Hey pal, please stop spamming my site. Posting once was sufficient, you didn't have to post 10 times.

And stop putting words in my mouth. I never said Wal-Mart "must not be doing anything wrong." There's much about the chain I dislike, and while I'm sure there are valid reasons to criticize the corporation, I do often find a tone of elitism in some of its critics.

And another thing: don't even talk to me about crap jobs. I worked my way through college working as a janitor for $3.35 an hour. Not that it matters, except to point out that you shouldn't make assumptions about people you don't know.

Sorry about spamming your site - that was an accident.

to PJF: maybe in the UK wives and mothers have dads around to help pay the bills, but in the US, there's a whole lot of single moms who work at walmart - stop in and have a look some time. And they DO have to run a household on whatever work they can get. Most of them work part time because that's all they can get because they don't have to give you benefits if your only part time. So a lot of people working part time work a few jobs part time to get by.

and to Mr. Johnson - it does matter wether you've worked a crap job - people who have everything handed to them like to think they earned it, and like to tell people who work for a living that they just aren't working hard enough.

Think about how much you liked working as a janitor while you were in school, and think about how it would be to do that for the rest of your life.

But I guess PJF is right - we're just getting what we deserve. Our neighbors - who are also trying to make ends meet - go there because it's cheap and put everyone out of business. So I guess we all deserve what we get. BFD - right?

You call people elitist because they like different things than you - but your all the same you know. I understand "competition" - I think you don't understand "unfair playing field"

"...there's a whole lot of single moms who work at walmart - stop in and have a look some time."

Do they wear badges; t-shirts? I'd hate to go all that way and miss them.

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