Social Question

whitetigress's avatar

What is wrong with shopping at Wal Mart?

Asked by whitetigress (3129 points ) November 5th, 2011

I shop at Wal-Mart due to proximity. In the past I’ve avoided it. Now that I’m buying my own home products, foods and everyday living materials I found myself going to Wal-Mart. It’s cheap. What is actually wrong with Wal-Mart? I mean, if a bunch of small specialty stores offers something at a more expensive price, isn’t it more reasonable to buy the cheaper product? Also, is there a difference in how business is done between Wal-Mart and Target? Thanks!

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

113 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well you can buy books that will explain to you the many reasons to hate Walmart but here is a small list, you can find many more reasons by googling about Walmart. As sociologists, we have studied them widely because they’re actually evil.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
nikipedia's avatar

How do you think they manage to sell products so cheaply? (Hint: predatory pricing, low wages, labor law violations, and sweatshops, among other things).

laureth's avatar

From what I understand, they encourage their low-paid workers to apply for welfare and food stamps. (Link.) Those low prices are subsidized by the taxpayer.

Also, you may wish to check out Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. She did a project where she worked several low-wage jobs (the sort that the poor are told to take) around the country, and told about what she had to do to get by (or not get by) on that wage. One of the parts that stuck out for me was how the Wal-Mart employee she worked with had to save up and wait for a t-shirt at Wal-Mart to go on sale before she could afford it on her Wal-Mart wage.

I can see the appeal of low-price items, but I think in Wal-Mart’s case, it’s a false economy.

woodcutter's avatar

There is nothing wrong with shopping there.

Pheasant's avatar

It’s a great place to shop and work. Starting off as a small time mom and pop shop and expanding into an international business. It’s great for the community, the local and national economy, and provides opportunity to the shopper and job seeker. NOTHING AT ALL WRONG with Wal-Mart!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pheasant Are you one of their managers? I mean I just can’t imagine anyone to be otherwise so misinformed. They ‘provide jobs’ because they’ve taken others off the table. There is a reason they go to small places first, where no other businesses (like in NY) will check them for their insanity. They’re a multinational corporation, not a mom-n-pop place and they care zilch for their employees like every other corporation. We have gone undercover and learned of their business policy and it reads like this:

Year 1: be VERY nice to everyone, make sure they think NOTHING is changing, that there are GREAT benefits, etc and that it’ll BE BETTER for them
Year 2: Change some of the structure and rules, be less available for criticism
Year 3: When we’re entrenched, put in our own people, slash all benefits, repeat.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Check ‘em out on the to 10 evil corporations ever – you can’t tell me you don’t understand what’s wrong with them. If, otoh, you think by shopping there, you’re not perpetuating any of this, that’s one way ‘out’, I guess but you’d have to convince yourself, a lot. Look, we’re all implicit in projecting harm on this world, I shop at Starbucks myself, but we can see the glaring culprits and avoid them.

woodcutter's avatar

Retail employees…nobody makes good money doing this unless they make it to management and then the stress of it all either shortens their job there or their life in the long run. The object is, to not make a carer out of any retail job and be on the lookout for something better down the road. The only people I see there for any length of time are older people who are content having a simple job, or, department managers. Everyone else moves on. Walmart is a fact of life. Is K-Mart that much better to work at?

whitetigress's avatar

Isn’t all this fair business? (I’m not defending Wal-Mart) But I’m trying to understand this from a business perspective. Business wise are they not genius for these tactics? @laureth A very appreciative comment, however my friends mother works there and I know for a fact their house hold doesn’t live off of food stamps or anything like that. Matter of fact, all three of her sons have graduated from CSU’s all within the last 5 years. So, the facade that everyone is poor who works at Wal-Mart might be a generalization of an illusion. I don’t have a job, I’d love to work the grocery section there, but if there’s dirty business I want no part of it. But from what I understand farmers have the right to trade with Wal-Mart and I’m sure Wal-Mart doesn’t squeeze these farmers and force them to have their products…

saint's avatar

Bad place to buy wine and clothes. Great place to buy deodorant, razor blades and shampoo.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@whitetigress Yea, they’re GREAT at business. Perhaps we have to see what’s wrong with doing the kind of business that we praise here in the U.S.

whitetigress's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That’s the thing though, in business we aren’t suppose to look at for other businesses. A business is to take control of itself and how it competes with the rest? That’s how its always been. There isn’t a table where they all come together and say, “What can we do for the greater good of the people?” Also those evil corporations listed actually do tons of sponsoring which get other small businesses to rise. No one is pulling a consumers leg to buy Coca-Cola, actually tons of small moms and pops businesses make good money by selling Coca-Cola. Advertising is the way of our world, if you’re not seen advertising you better hope to have a good amount of word of mouth type customers.

Also, I really appreciate your points I don’t disregard them.

laureth's avatar

@whitetigress – It’s awesome that your friends don’t need the food stamps, but I don’t see how that negates the experiences of those who do, or, more importantly, why Wal-Mart openly advocates for their employees to apply.

From the 2004 study I linked to:

• Reliance by Wal-Mart workers on public assistance programs in California comes at a cost to the taxpayers of an estimated $86 million annually; this is comprised of $32 million in health related expenses and $54 million in other assistance.

• The families of Wal-Mart employees in California utilize an estimated 40 percent more in taxpayer-funded health care than the average for families of all large retail employees.

• The families of Wal-Mart employees use an estimated 38 percent more in other (non-health care) public assistance programs (such as food stamps, Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized school lunches, and subsidized housing) than the average for families of all large retail employees.

• If other large California retailers adopted Wal-Mart’s wage and benefits standards, it would cost taxpayers an additional $410 million a year in public assistance to employees.

woodcutter's avatar

It’s a minimum wage job at best. Ever know anyone who is doing well on 7 bucks an hour? The upside is they aren’t paying income tax unless they are single. There have always been min wage jobs so they are the only choice for people who have no skills to offer. And in many cases they are the only choice for educated people. In this economy, if you work at Wally World , you ain’t doing bad. Lots of people with no work.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@whitetigress You didn’t ask ‘does Wal-Mart represent a business success?’ to which I’d say ‘yes’ – you asked a different question.

philosopher's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir
People here have blocked Walmart.
I do try to support Mom and Pop stores.
I do try to buy anything I can that is made in the US.
I have never been to a Walmart. Although I do shop in New Jersey and they are there. I go to NJ a few times a year because they have No Sales Tax on clothing. NY State and city are playing games with our Sales Tax. People in SI. by most expensive clothing in NJ. We also fill up are cars their because gas is cheaper too.
I remember when most of my clothes said, made in the USA. Clothes were made in the NYC Garment Center. They were sewn well and lasted.
I resent all stores that support China over working Americans. The Walmart family are part of the ten percent wealthiest American’s. They exploit their workers and they sell junk.
We have a Target and most items there are junk.
I also dislike Macy’s because they sell over priced junk with Designer labels.

SpatzieLover's avatar

This documentary does a great job explaining all of the multitudes of reasons why/how Wal-mart is systematically destructing our economy.
The sweatshops are also illustrated…sick.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love Walmart. Nothing wrong with shopping where you want to shop or working where you want to work.

TheIntern55's avatar

They’re corporation, yes, but who cares? If we got rid of all the corporations in America, we wouldn’t have much. Besides, they’re there and they’re cheap. In the end, the stuff you get from there isn’t made by Walmart, it’s made by the companies. Walmart just distributes it.

bkcunningham's avatar

The government is the reason we have minimum wage laws that are low enough for people making the wage to qualify for social service programs.

Blondesjon's avatar

If you’re shopping at any large chain store you’re exploiting somebody.

whether you like it or not.

Coloma's avatar

I go to Walmart maybe 3 times a year, mostly to stock up on paper products, canned pet food and cat litter and a handful of personal products. I’m not a big fan of the Mart of wall, but, I don’t consider myself some sort of traitor either.

I compensate for my modest Walmart consumerism in a thousand other personal ways.

Hey, pick your poison there’s plenty of it and short of total sustainable living it’s impossible to not participate at least on some level in the comnsumer war machine.

What about all the import stores like Cost Plus and Pier One…talk about slave labor and sweat items being resold at a 5,000 % markup.

Ya just do your best and forget the rest.

jonsblond's avatar

@laureth A person can make quite a bit more than minimum wage and still qualify for medical and foodstamps. The gross monthly income limit for a family of 4 in the state of IL is $2389. That’s just under $15 an hour. I know many factory workers in the area who work in much worse conditions than Walmart employees, for less than $15 an hour. These people qualify for some type of assistance. I guess I just don’t understand why some people make a big deal out of how terrible Walmart is, when I see many more people working in worse conditions and no one is out there fighting for them.

Who hasn’t worked at a shitty job at least once in their life? for real

I have no problem saving money by shopping at Walmart. There would be many college students, women supporting the family with a second income, and elderly who would be out of work if Walmart left our area. No one is forcing these people to work there. They asked to work at Walmart because they need a job. No one else is hiring them. :/

YARNLADY's avatar

Most of the complaints stem from the competition spreading rumors against them. Many of the rumors are based on facts that are misrepresented.

There is also the perception that the corporation reversed it’s original goal of customer/people oriented in favor of a get rich at any cost orientation.

john65pennington's avatar

If you do not mind 85% of the products you purchase at WalMart comes from China, then there is nothing wrong with shopping there.

Sure, they have super deals and probably the lowest prices, but is it fair to buy products made in China, when American factories are being closed each day because of this?

I have mixed feelings.

Yes, I shop at WalMart, simply because just about I need is under one roof.

tom_g's avatar

There are really good reasons not to shop at Walmart. Most of those have been covered above. But let me just add one more: It’s scary. The few times I have been to Walmart, it feels like I have entered some other part of the country or something. Everyone looks extremely unhealthy, they’re screaming at their kids “youzes aahh goin’ to get a fucking beatin’ if you don’t shut the hell up!!”, and beating their kids. They are coughing and it feels like I’m going to catch some kind of disease. Then there is the audio overload. Music and tvs and strange toy sounds all at an aburdly-loud and same volume. It’s disorienting. I swear I saw I saw a 6-inch puddle of blood on the floor at the Chelmsford, MA store a few years ago.
By the way, since when is “cheap” considered a good thing? The quality is cheap. The labor they use to manufacture the products is cheap. Most of the products are just shit that is supposed to last a short time and then end up in a landfill. The food littering the centers of aisles is junk food that I didn’t know people still eat.
Other than the fact that Walmart concentrates all that is wrong with the US, I’m sure it’s an ok place.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blondesjon That is correct but it doesn’t get us anywhere. That is to say it can both be true that all corporations are problematic and that we should try to avoid them all.
@TheIntern55 This.

martianspringtime's avatar

I understand that Wal-Mart isn’t a good place (for the reasons linked to and explained by the jellies above), but what I want to know is, is it really very different from any other chain store? Target, for example? I know this is something I can google, but it seems that a lot of you are well-informed on the matter, so why not add it as a sub-question here.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@martianspringtime It has been argued that it is and it isn’t worse than Wal-Mart. Read here.

fizzbanger's avatar

I live near the one where two women pulled each others’ weaves out and threw bleach at each other. They’re generally too ghetto to shop at comfortably around here (MD).

YARNLADY's avatar

Wow, reading some of these makes me glad ours are exactly the opposite of these. It is a real pleasure to shop in our WalMarts (three equal distance from us). The checkers and people are friendly, they are well maintained, clean, and neat, and have a very pleasant eating/rest area near the door.

dannyc's avatar

Unfortunately many families are forced to get the best deal they can in times as they are. I do not think it makes them wrong to shop there. Almost every corporation has tied itself to globalization so it is pointless to single out any store worse than others. The tide has shifted so much that it may never be reversed. Our every day behaviour of consumption is the root of the problem, the stores are just the opiate and outlet for societal excesses.

YARNLADY's avatar

@dannyc Good point. There is hope, people all over the world desire better living/working conditions and they will begin to demand it.

woodcutter's avatar

I second what has been shared above with the nicer Walmarts. We have two and they are pretty clean and the people there are alright. We have a big army base close by, so maybe that helps to keep the ghetto factor at bay. Not saying it’s not there sometimes but one thing they did I thought was thoughtful is the sporting goods section refused to sell ammo to a group of gangsta looking people late at night. They can tell the difference between sportsman and people prone to trouble. Is it profiling?..you bet, but there are times when it becomes a great tool. I have never been in a dumpy WM. What I don’t care for is the stores are so large It is a workout just to get to everything you want to see,there are often too few people working at the registers especially on the end of the month it can be frustrating. I think our town, (really the next town to ours) could do with a 3rd WM to cut down on the ridiculous crowds. Sometimes I run out of patience before I have everything I went there for and just bag it and come back another time to finish shopping. I can only put up with so much BS like that. Are you listening, Walmart?

laureth's avatar

I’m sure all the chain stores do it, but Wal*Mart has, in particular, perfected the low pay, outsourced cheap goods, and vicious predatory practices to a finely honed, ruthless point. They’re the “best” at it, but to me, that means they’re the worst in these categories, the most infamous. I try to buy locally as much as I can, but if I absolutely must go to a big chain store, I’ll go to one that hasn’t been as sociopathic as Wal*Mart. It’s possible, folks. I haven’t set foot in a Wal*Mart for around a decade.

philosopher's avatar

@laureth
I try to do the same but it is not easy.

laureth's avatar

@philosopher – Why is it not easy? Could it be because Wal*Mart has chased all the other businesses out of town through predatory practices?

philosopher's avatar

@laureth
Actually our community has blocked Walmart but mom and pop stores are closing.
I hunt for American made things that I can afford but it is not easy. Macy’s is a joke. Designer everything but it is all made out of the US.
I like Penny’s but they have few things made here.
Sometimes I find things made here but price matters too.
I saw one display of American made furniture recently at the mall, The man made it himself but his prices were high and the quality was not there.
China is a bully and few people are willing to tell her No. Middle class America is being victimized.

laureth's avatar

@philosopher – Victimized yes, but we also bring it on ourselves when we shop for price only. It’s like people can only see one step ahead (“This is cheap, yay!”) but not two steps ahead (“If I don’t buy local, local stores go out of business”) let alone three steps ahead (“If local businesses close, more people around here will be unemployed, and then who will buy my products?”). All they see is that “good” deal, which really isn’t so good a little down the road.

bkcunningham's avatar

@laureth, of course the notion of buying local is commendable. Just suppose everyone buys locally. Words gets out about one of the local businesses for whatever reason. Their products are better, last longer, the owner is a better steward of the earth…whatever. How far away would it still be considered “local” to purchase from this business without going against your rules?

laureth's avatar

@bkcunningham – I see your slippery slope and raise you a straw man. ;)

It’s not an either/or. And local isn’t necessarily the best option (especially if you’re from Bentonville). I look at it more like tossing a dart at a target – there are concentric rings of “better” around the middle “best.” For example, groceries. I have certain needs that I must fill. The best place (imho) is my garden. What I can’t get there, I get at the local farmer’s market. What I can’t get at those places, I buy at the local food co-op. And if I still need something, I’ll shop at the big grocery chain whose headquarters is on the other side of my state, or at the fancy natural food store that sells stuff that might be local, or organic from far away, or something “fair trade” or better that does business in a respectable way in another country, making life better for someone really poor. Last of all, I’ll shop at the big chain grocery store that doesn’t have as much going for it as any of the previous options, but they at least employ people here by virtue of there being a store nearby. And the further down the list of options I go, I ask myself if I really need the thing, or if I can make do with some other option.

There’s a lot of grey area in life. Very little is black and white. And we make the best out of what we have, at this time, and in this place. Very often, though, the “best” is something better than the very worst option.

bkcunningham's avatar

I wasn’t going for a slippery slope or a strawman. I was just asking a question.

laureth's avatar

It’s okay. I am probably used to people who ask questions like that, and expect an answer like “100 miles,” and then say “So 101 miles is too far, eh Laureth? What is it about that extra 1 mile that’s so evil?”

I could shorten up that answer, though, by saying that it’s all about thinking about the effect of what you’re doing, rather than trying to memorize a rote set of rules that you obey like gospel. Of course, we’re a society that often prides itself on not thinking, and is fond of rules.

whitetigress's avatar

I think Wal-Mart and these “evil” corporations play a huge role in globalization. Without these huge successful companies there wouldn’t be much opportunity for the rest of the world. After all, they do provide for opportunities in third world countries in the first place. It’s all part of creating a harmonious, capitalist world. There is a reason American companies outsource to China and other third world companies. It’s good for business. And that’s part of what you are allowed to do in America. Grow your dream however long, negative, positive it might seem to others.

nikipedia's avatar

@whitetigress, no one is disputing that Walmart is good at making money. But a corporation that posts 15 billion dollars in profit is, in my opinion, morally obligated to provide their workers with a living wage instead of paying them peanuts to keep their money machine running and letting the government pick up the slack.

whitetigress's avatar

@nikipedia What do you mean morally though? Is it not enough that Wal-Mart has provided an opportunity for its employees to have a job? Not everyone in America goes to college. I would take a wild guess at the fact that most Wal-Mart employees are not college grads. As a matter of fact, I heard this quote from a friend who knows people who lived in poverty stricken countries. I asked him, why do Mexican’s settle for Wal-Mart? (In the San Diego area a majority of employees are of Mexican decent) He said to me, “When you come from a country where there is zero opportunity and become a citizen of a country which its people loves to work, you don’t complain. A job that puts money on the table for food, family, and a house is good enough.” I had to sit on that for a while. Not everyone dreams of having 2 houses, BMW’s and etc. Obviously if there was something wrong, I think Wal-Mart workers would come together and form a union. Then Wal-Mart would choke and be forced to do something about these “illegitimate advices when they advise their employees to file for food stamps.”

bkcunningham's avatar

I never did see where Walmart advises their employees to file for food stamps. Where did I miss that one?

nikipedia's avatar

@whitetigress, no, that is not enough to me. Like I said, I think it is morally inappropriate to refuse to pay a living wage when doing so is easily within the company’s means.

Walmart also has a long history of anti-unionization.

TheIntern55's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That article sorta is against your point. Walmart is the place where many ordinary Americans do their shopping. All the stuff made in China is just sold by Walmart. They have nothing to do with the products’ manufacturing.
@whitetigress I love your story. It’s really great. Thank you for sharing.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@TheIntern55 Oh, so they’re just helping China? How nice of them. They’ve got more problems than manufacturing.

laureth's avatar

Actually, Wal*Mart has quite a lot to do with how the products they sell there are manufactured. Learn more.

laureth's avatar

@whitetigress – re “Obviously if there was something wrong, I think Wal*Mart workers would come together and form a union.”

They tried. And rather than negotiate with the butchers who wanted to unionize, Wal*Mart went to pre-packaged meat.

They tried somewhere else. And Wal*Mart closed the store that wanted to unionize.

In fact, Wal*Mart spies on its workers to quickly deal with any who want to unionize.

From here: Between 1998 and 2003, 288 unfair labor practice charges
were lodged against Wal-Mart, accusing the company of interfering with its employees’
freedom of association. Of these charges, at least 94 resulted in formal complaints
brought against Walmart by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Among the
NLRB complaints were 41 charges of terminating employees for union activity, 59
charges of surveillance of union activity, 59 charges of interrogation, and 47 charges of
unlawful promises or benefits to dissuade workers against organizing. The agency’s
prosecution of unfair labor practices resulted in at least 11 rulings against the company
and 12 settlements.

Perhaps that’s why Wal*Mart has been known to hire illegals and work them overtime without pay while keeping them locked in the store. They’re probably too scared to unionize.

And we all subsidize this crap.

Blondesjon's avatar

<—will post the photos of all this thread’s naysayers shopping at wal-mart . . . you know, one of these days when that kind of shit actually means something to me besides being a fine example of pseudo-intellectual filler.

mattbrowne's avatar

Chinese workers treated like work slaves.

jca's avatar

I shop at Walmart for several reasons: prices are about the lowest I can find, unless I get an incredible sale somewhere else (for example, shampoo is cheapest at Walmart unless it’s featured in the supermarket on sale). I am a single mother with a 100 mile round trip commute daily. I have a decent job but I don’t have tons of money to spare. Like @john65pennington said, everything is under one roof. I often don’t get home until around 7 pm, so I need a store that is going to be open until at least 9. I will go there for cat litter, clothes for my pre-schooler, craft stuff, toys, health and beauty aids, Poland Spring for the aquarium. Sure, I can get the stuff in other places, but I would be shopping in about 5 different stores weekly. Local stores would need to be open till around 9 to accomodate me.

Things are cheaper in Walmart, and I cannot afford to pay higher prices by purchasing the items in other stores. In CVS, for example, mascara is about $8 or $9, in Walmart it’s about $6.

In addition to Walmart, I buy at Costco and Sam’s Club, in order to save money.

I will travel an extra ten minutes to go to a rural Walmart that is spacious, uncrowded, extra clean, extra quiet. I have been to Walmarts that were crowded and messier, but I avoid those for the one I like.

I am well aware of the union busting and other labor issues Walmart has. Once about a year ago, I went to the jewelry counter and two employees were chatting. One told the other she was going to leave the conversation now, because she would get accused of “stealing time.” I asked the other one what she was talking about, and she told me the latest thing the management was doing was accusing people of “stealing time” if they were caught chatting, or were just a few minutes late, and they were getting fired on the spot, no matter how many years of experience they had. The woman told me she could be a target because she was only months from retirement, but she told me “God would take care of her.”

laureth's avatar

So, would we agree that the consensus opinion here amongst Wal*Mart shoppers is that getting something at a very low price (like bottled water for your aquarium, when you don’t have much money) is more important than the long-term effects of a race to the bottom (in terms of wages and how people are treated)?

I guess we deserve everything we get, as a country, as far as economic squeezes go.

tom_g's avatar

But isn’t Target now less-expensive than Walmart?

woodcutter's avatar

Well can anyone here tell us about a place where minimum wage workers are treated well? All corporations are beholding to their shareholders. When you go public you live or die by the sword.If the shareholders don’t feel they are getting enough returns they will pull their money and invest it elsewhere? W.M. is a mixed blessing. You won’t find essentials any less expensive, such as groceries. Everything is made in China so Mom & Pops are selling the same crap, only they don’t have the purchasing power or space to buy bulk.

As for vendors who are chiseled down on their prices…It’s a commercial wet dream to be on a shelf at WM even with taking a smidge of a loss on each piece. They more than make up for it with the volume.
People are shopping smart when they can go to ONE place and get what they need. Think of all the Fluorocarbons that are not going into the atmosphere because they are not driving all over hell and gone searching for low prices and smaller retailers. No one’s ever found the holy grail. People who shop at WM don’t have hybrid cars or electrics, they cost too much.

whitetigress's avatar

@tom_g Well if Target is less expensive I would ask, what is wrong with shopping at Target? I gather that shopping anywhere cheap always has a negative effect on those who produce the product. Since the beginning of modern industrialization… (Examples, Chinese working the railroads in the west, and Irish working in the east both for dirt cheap low wages, Japanese/Filipino working dirt low wages in california in the late 1800’s early 1900s. and etc)

laureth's avatar

@woodcutter – If you take a smidge of a loss on each sale, how does loss get better in volume? You just lose more. This is why a vendor making a deal with Wal*Mart is making a deal with the devil, and many go out of business doing this. They start out with a sweet deal, and then the next year Wal*Mart offers less and less money. I posted this link up there already, but I’ll post it again because it’s worth reading.

If there aren’t places where minimum wage workers are treated well, I suggest that there might be a worthwhile difference between “horrible” and “less horrible.” Or, instead of paying them minimum wage with no health insurance and making them rely on the taxpayers to make up the difference (directly or indirectly), they could pay a living wage (Wal*Mart makes amazing amount of profit through their chiseling) or raise prices to what those items are actually worth. There’s nothing wrong with paying what something is actually worth, it just means you might not buy as much of it. (The well-made pair of shoes I wear costs $100, but they’ve lasted far longer than five pairs of the kind of $20 shoes I used to buy at a mass-market discount store. And no, I am not rich, but buying better shoes enables me to save money like that.)

tom_g's avatar

@whitetigress: “Well if Target is less expensive I would ask, what is wrong with shopping at Target?”

Probably much of what has been described as being wrong with Walmart. For me, however, I can walk into a Target and not experience the pure horror of the Walmart shopping experience.

woodcutter's avatar

@laureth You get $100.00 shoes? That explains a few things.

laureth's avatar

@woodcutter – yes. Once, more than a year ago. Only pair of $100 shoes I ever bought in my life. I don’t see how that’s too different from buying five pairs of $20 shoes, or 10 pairs of $10 shoes, that would have worn out, while these are still going strong.

tom_g's avatar

Purchasing quality items that last makes a great deal of sense to me. $100 seems very reasonable for something as important as shoes.

laureth's avatar

Anyway, for the folks who do continue to shop at Wal*Mart and other similar places, I wanted to close with a paragraph from Nickel and Dimed, where author Barbara Ehrenreich speaks about her erstwhile co-workers there:

“Guilt, you may be thinking warily. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to feel? But guilt doesn’t go anywhere near far enough; the appropriate emotion is shame – shame at our own dependency, in this case, on the underpaid labor of others. When someone works for less pay than she can live on – when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently – then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”

Hopefully it is possible, even if you still shop there, to appreciate the sacrifice those employees are making for you.

woodcutter's avatar

Somehow I think this thread has drifted out of WM and into the Communist Manifesto. While all that looks great on paper it can’t work. If one doesn’t like their job they are not trapped in that station. They can improve themselves. Improving one’s self is something only the person can do to get better. No one can do that for them. You can’t be content with sweeping a floor or stocking shelves for a living and bitch about how you don’t make as much money as others. It doesn’t work that way…never has. Make yourself.

laureth's avatar

Last I checked, 14 million people in the United States were chasing 3.228 million job openings. That makes “improving yourself” or “not being trapped” a little harder than it looks on paper. Simply because I think those lowest on the totem pole ought to be treated a little better, or at least appreciated for taking the copious crap that they have to deal with just to live from day to day, doesn’t mean that I think all the means of production ought to be nationalized.

woodcutter's avatar

What is copious crap? It’s a job. People hire other people to do what they want done. It’s a tough life and if someone is going to have their feelings ruffled because they are late or make mistakes they may be too sensitive. I’ve seen it so many times , the lowest paid seem to have these feelings of entitlement. Should someone who picks up debris on a construction site make about the same money as a carpenter? No. But they can learn how to be a carpenter’s helper and then maybe a carpenter eventually. People can’t cut in line because they feel entitled to do so. There are dues to be paid and patience is the key. If someone is personable and “plays the game” and does their job they will advance. It’s the impatient ones who want it all, right now, they don’t know how to use tact and probably have terrible communication skills and they rub people the wrong way and they wonder why they are being kept down. This is a down economy, hopefully an anomaly so there are tons of moving parts in play. You want a job?- be prepared to tow the line be prepared to tow two lines because if you don’t there are 500 others who will. This is a bad economy to be a cry baby in, thats for sure.

laureth's avatar

I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to equate “choosing which meal to skip” or “which do I need more this month, the gas heat, or the electricity?” to “having your feelings ruffled.”

Furthermore, when organizations are shaped like pyramids, most people will be on the bottom. Not everyone can advance, and it’s not like all you have to do to be the Chief is be personable and hardworking. We’d have millions of CEOs and no floor sweepers.

It’s true that if you don’t accept less and less pay, less and less vacation, less and less insurance, less and less dignity, you will be passed over for someone who will. I’m not questioning that at all. What I’m questioning is the wisdom of this situation, in building an economic system that does the best for the most, rather than doing brilliantly for the very few and like crap for the most.

I don’t know if you caught what I said up there about the numbers. Imagine a big game of musical chairs, where 14 million people are vying for 3 million chairs. Roughly 11 million people are going to have no chair, no matter how personable or hardworking they are. They’ll take that for a while, but after you can’t feed your family and the unemployment benefits end, people don’t just voluntarily lay down and die.

It’s not good business to pay people so little, they can’t be your customers, too. And it’s bad for a country to have millions of desperate people with nothing to do.

jca's avatar

I could not respond sooner because I am having problems with my home computer and so had to wait until I got to work to write this.

(Walmart shopper here): I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book a few years ago. Also, there are many articles and documentaries about Walmart and its anti-union practices, and that it pressures suppliers to provide the lowest prices, and most things sold are not from the US, Walmart goes into towns and ruins the Main Streets.

However, if anybody has looked around lately, if you go into any big box store, most items on the shelves are not from the US. In the business I work in (government Social Services) I have spoken to people who worked for Dunkin Donuts, Kohl’s Department store, etc., and I have news for you. Nobody is considered a full time worker. Anything less than 40 hours per week is considered “part time.” Part time does not get benefits. Sad but true they can make you work 38 hours per week at Kohls, not pay you benefits, and guess where those people are getting their medical coverage? Medicaid. In Kohl’s even the store managers are part time. I have had people say they were leaving the A&P for Dunkin Donuts because DD paid $7.50 and A&P paid $7 per hour. Everywhere you go, these places are competitive, paying the lowest wage possible. Those employers employ what we consider the “welfare-to-work” crowd – people trying to get off welfare, getting some experience, and they then move on to better jobs, hopefully.

Go to any big box retailer (Bed Bath and Beyond, Michaels Crafts, Kohls, Target, Kmart, Walmart, Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Sears, JC Penney, Christmas Tree Shops, name it) they all have competitive prices, low wage workers, crap that is not from the US. They all pressure their suppliers to have the lowest prices.

I don’t buy shoes from Walmart (@Laureth’s example), so I understand wanting a quality shoe and paying more for it. I will buy shoes from Macy’s, Nordstrom, or sneakers from Kohl’s, but I am not paying full price and I know that I can shop around and get a steep discount. That’s retailing in this country, and that’s why stores go out of business (Borders, Linens and Things) that are not competitive. It’s not just a Walmart thing. Please don’t demonize people for shopping at Walmart. Demonize the whole country for shopping at all of the stores named above.

Main Street USA is for the most part, gone. That did not begin with Walmart, which did not come to NY until the past 20 years. Main Street USA’s destruction began with the rise of large shopping plazas like Cross County Shopping Center in Westchester County, NY. The shopping plazas grew in popularity because of more Americans having cars and becoming more affluent. That started in the 1950’s, and cannot be blamed on Walmart (read Kenneth Jackson’s “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States.”)

SpatzieLover's avatar

Main Street USA is for the most part, gone Not where I live @jca…maybe that’s because our Wal-mart’s are Far, Far Away.

laureth's avatar

For the most part, I try not to shop at any of those stores, @jca. I am doing what I can to walk my talk. I haven’t set foot in a Wal*Mart in approximately a decade. We can whine all we want about how Wal*Mart is leading the race to the bottom, so that nobody has enough money anymore to shop anyplace except Wal*Mart, but – and this is important – if we still shop there while we’re regretting their effect on our own jobs, we might as well not whine at all. The important part is to stop giving them money – it only encourages them.

That is why I shop where I do, and why I buy one pair of shoes that will last, rather than 5 that don’t. It’s why I buy from my community’s farmers first. It’s why I buy from the locally-run grocery store before the others, and why I buy products from firms that treat their employees and growers more fairly, even if the products come from far away. Because if I didn’t do this, I would be a hypocrite. And if I didn’t match my actions to my words and to my philosophy, I’d be unable to live with myself. And because if I don’t support the people who support my community, my community will be that much closer to falling apart. And because if I give money and business and encouragement to companies whose goals are contrary to what I see as best, I will be helping the worst to happen. And I will have no one to blame but myself, if the ripple effect costs me my job because my customers don’t have any money to spend anymore.

woodcutter's avatar

But you still are buying Chinese made products, no?

laureth's avatar

@woodcutter – Rarely.

I know it’s hard for people nowadays to imagine someone who has never owned a cell phone, never owned an iAnything, uses things until they wear out, owns three pair of shoes (one everyday, one pair of sandals, one pair for weddings), and spins her own yarn, but that would be me.

woodcutter's avatar

So it seems that in part ,you are arguing your point from a perspective that would be impractical, if not impossible, for most people to adopt?

laureth's avatar

@woodcutter – What I’m saying is very like what the Conservatives have said for years. It’s all about choices and personal responsibility, right? For me, I make different choices than most people, I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s impractical or impossible for other people to do it.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”
—Upton Sinclair

woodcutter's avatar

True but it has to be practical for most people, for it to have any sway. Are you against globalisation?

laureth's avatar

Like I said up there^^, people have to choose what is important to them. If it is important enough to them, they’ll do it. And if getting cheap plastic crap that breaks, for a low price, is worth more than protecting your own job someday, that’s what people will do. I, for one, am ashamed that so many of my fellow countrymen can be bought for so little.

And, it depends on what you mean by globalisation.

woodcutter's avatar

The pay structure is the way it is because it wouldn’t work any other way. You express that you want everyone to get a living wage. Sounds nice but it cant happen. What exactly is a living wage? Let’s say a living wage is 20 dollars an hour. From now on, the least a person will get is that. That will mean that everyone who was far above the old minimum wage will have to get a pay increase also. All those people at that quaint little farmers market…20 an hour. You won’t be able to buy a squash for less than 10 bucks..a piece after that. It will all catch up and those same min wage workers who were poor on 7.50 an hour will be just as poor on 20 an hour. Difference being they will be poorer with much more money,and your currency will be even more worthless. There will be a net loss in wealth not to mention that because of how the rest of the world are trading partners now, they won’t touch us with a ten foot pole. You think the jobs are going overseas now, wait till after this new theoretical plan goes into effect. Inserts giant sucking sound.

Min wage are gateway jobs. Sure, there are full grown adults who have never done any better than that still, but the majority move on. There aren’t really that many min wage occupations compared to all the others. They aren’t meant to to be careers.

laureth's avatar

If everything got that much more expensive, it sure would make it suddenly a lot more practical to put in a garden and not use a cell phone, eh?

But tell me, when you are saying that it can’t work to pay Wal*Mart associates more than peanuts, are you counting in the subsidies (like food stamps, or Medicaid) that make it possible to survive on such a low wage? What if, instead of paying these costs through the government, we paid them directly at the register? Same amount, but you say that can’t be done.

Do you think Michele Bachmann’s idea to pay Americans the same <$2/day that Haitians make is something that would make the economy here better or worse?

woodcutter's avatar

Michele Bachmann is a twist that I never take seriously. Min wage is motivation enough to want to escape from. There are people making much more than that still getting some kind of assistance. Not everyone has room for a garden, and cellphones are cheap enough now so that many people don’t even have land lines.
Here’s the deal with all those subsidies. The right wants to eliminate those as well as pay people crap, but that’s never going to happen. It’s used as political hay to get votes. Private businesses aren’t going to volunteer to pay more to people so their taxes will go down on the other end. Everyone wants it both ways and thats just the name of the game..the big fight between the haves and have not’s. So the employers would rather pay low to keep profits up knowing their help will just make up for it on the dole. They hope to cause a sea change to lower their taxes and pay for it with taking away those bennies, Not ever going to happen. It’s not good, it’s not bad…it just is.In a way it’s better this way because really… if many of these people got the pay they dreamed of they would squander it and still need assistance anyway, but they would not qualify.Not trying to profile but really, much of the poor population just can’t handle money… at all. You know it’s true. So as a fail safe, the govt.assistance monies come in a metered package so these people stay out of trouble easier. Possibly some remedial classes to show people how to handle money would do wonders?

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Response moderated
Response moderated
jca's avatar

@SpatzieLover: It’s not just Walmart’s fault. That’s my point.

woodcutter's avatar

I think all retail jobs are crap. The pay is crap, usually ,the hours are crap, weekends and holidays, under 40 hours so no kind of benefits and sometimes the occasional cranky customer. It’s 6 one way- half a dozen the other. Does anyone ever keep those jobs for long? I know I didn’t stay long before I found something better. And I was never more motivated to job search as I was back then.And no sometimes the customer is not right.

MagicalMystery's avatar

Not owning a cell phone and gardening are wonderful things to aspire to, but not practical for everyone. Not sure if you’re a parent, @laureth, but most parents, if they have the money and technology available to them, would want to be available by cell phone in case there’s a problem with the child. As far as gardening, not everyone lives in a house where they have a plot of land available.

woodcutter's avatar

Well if you aren’t taking care of children then you can pretty much shoot the rapids and make more extreme sacrifices because all you will be inconveniencing is yourself. There will be more money available to go to the expensive stores where their conscience will be soothed. Once kids come into the picture there goes most of the freedoms needed to innovate and scrimp. A family will spend a small fortune in diapers on just one kid, let alone twins, and all the other items associated with parenting. School supplies clothing, etc. Parents are going to shop where their money will go the furthest. Sure buying the name brand shoes is prime if you can afford it. It doesn’t mean anything that they will last as long as 3 pair of lesser shoes. If people spend 100 bucks one a nice pair of shoes when they need money left over to cover the electric bill then something has to give. So we get the average shoes and make them work as long as possible- worry about getting new shoes when that bridge comes.
If you have to get groceries for a family the logical solution is to go where they can get more, again. If people work for a living they’re probably not going to have extra time to manage a garden or knit their own socks and take care of the kids. A job will make us too tired for that… work hard all day and then come home and pull weeds in a garden? It’s easy to be daring when you don’t have kids.

jca's avatar

I have a four year old, and shoes that fit her in May do not fit her now, in November, so it does not pay for me to buy her $100 shoes. In addition, I pay over $1200 a month for childcare so I could not then buy her $100 shoes. $15 Walmart sneakers are perfect for her. That’s the reality. I also pay over $1000 a month for preschool and childcare, so I could not afford $100 shoes for her every few months! It’s just the reality of our life right now.

jonsblond's avatar

@jca I was thinking the same. My daughter outgrows her shoes in 5 months, if not sooner. I do buy most of my shoes from Payless, and I have a feeling they aren’t much better than Walmart. I do have a great pair of sandals I bought from Walmart that are 4 years old now and are still in good shape. (I don’t own a lot of shoes. I have a pair of 4 yr old sandals from Walmart, a 5 yr old pair of winter boots from Bergner’s and a 4 yr old pair of tennis shoes from Walmart. My slippers are 10 yrs old. They came from Pike’s Market in Seattle and are made from some kind of animal fur I’m sure someone would be offended by, but hey, they lasted this long. ;)

woodcutter's avatar

I think Walmart shoes and Payless are in the same league if not the same shoes. There may be a less aggravating shopping experience at Payless. Plus you sometimes get the 2nd pair ½ off. With a deal like that one can afford to burn through them.

YARNLADY's avatar

@jca I pay $5 for shoes at Once Upon A Child. They buy clothes from people and then sell them to other people. It is a wonderful place. I currently have shoes for my grandsons in sizes 6, 6.5, 7….....and so on through size 13. I buy at the ½ price sales they have every three months, and I get discounts with a frequent shopper card.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I buy my all of my 6yr old son’s shoes gently used (sometimes brand new…but sold as used) on ebay. I try to do the same with most of his clothing. He needs to wear soft clothing due to his condition. All of his 100% organic cotton clothes are purchased used or new from ebay & Hanna Andersson.

It is completely possible to have a child, be a SAHM, save money and not buy from a Wal-Mart.

Most of his shoes cost between $3 to $12 per pair. His clothing costs between $1.50 to $12 per item/outfit. Due to his condition, he is extremely sensitive and picky…so I have to purchase wisely.

tom_g's avatar

@SpatzieLover – Couldn’t agree more! We bought second-hand clothes for all of our kids. My daughter is getting older now and we have brought her to buy new a few times. But for young kids, I can’t see any reason to buy new. Plus, the places we bought from allowed you to “sell” the clothes back for credit once they no longer fit (and were in good condition).

laureth's avatar

Because I am not outgrowing my shoes every five months, I don’t have to buy cheap throwaway shoes. I can see where you wouldn’t want to buy $100 shoes if you were going to give them away in so short a time. Please note that the feature of $100 shoes that I mentioned is that I, an adult, can wear them for much longer (multiple years) than I can wear a pair of $20 shoes. My last two pairs of $20 shoes lasted me about six weeks each. At that rate, the $100 shoes are much cheaper than the $20 shoes. If the shoe-wearer doesn’t plan on wearing them for multiple years, that advantage would be lost, clearly. However, even if you buy throw-away shoes for your little ones, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to consider a sturdy pair of non-throwaway shoes for yourself (unless you, too, are growing out of your shoes every five months, eh?)

Let me do the math here. Say my pair of sturdy shoes lasts 3 years. That’s $33/year for shoes. Now let’s say I kept buying those cheap shoes and replacing them until the three years was up. Every six weeks, for three years, I’d buy a new $20 pair of shoes, for a total of 26 pairs of shoes, for $520 total. Ouch! If I just buy the $100 shoes, this would be an extra $420 I have in my pocket for something like the electric bill. Yes, something has to give, and for me, that was $20 shoes.

The suggestion I was going to give for baby shoes is the same as @YARNLADY suggested. If you are getting rid of baby shoes every few months, and acquiring them at a similar rate, why must they be new?

As far as needing a cell phone to keep a constant ear out for child-trouble, what, may I ask, did parents do in, say, 1995? When I was babysitting in the 80’s, they used regular telephones, and nobody panicked that they couldn’t helicopter-parent.

YARNLADY's avatar

@laureth nobody panicked that they couldn’t helicopter-parent. Please don’t be so quick to use such a blanket statement. If my Cousin would have had a cell phone, maybe he would still be alive today, instead of dead at age 18

laureth's avatar

@YARNLADY – I’m sorry for your tragedy. However, one could say the same for any technology. For what it’s worth, I grew up without any phone whatsoever. No cell phone, no land line.

woodcutter's avatar

But you are using a computer…right now. and basically that is what a phone is really.

woodcutter's avatar

@laureth Ok I gotta ask, What in the world are you doing to your shoes that would cause them to blow out in only 3 weeks time? Three weeks? Seriously? I do construction and hike out in the mountains where it is mostly rock and I’m getting almost a year out of them. Granted, by that time they are pretty thrashed. Unless you frequent jagged lava flows you should be getting better mileage than that. Not trying to call you out or anything but that is some hardcore shoe usage. Get the better cheap shoes for about 30 bucks see if that helps.

bkcunningham's avatar

The absolute best deal on shoes for adults is the Bass outlets. You buy one pair and get two pair free. Mix or match. (hehehe I just thought about how my post looks like those spam ads I see on here every morning for purses and stuff.)

jca's avatar

@laureth: Are you a parent? if you are, you would understand the desire to be connected with a cell phone in case of emergency. What did they do before cell phones were invented? I would ask why not use the technology if it helps. What did we do before any discovery or invention? Now that we have it, why not use it.

For the record, my cell phone is provided by my employer. I don’t have my own, to save money, I just use theirs.

laureth's avatar

@woodcutter – Six weeks. And the shoes were really poor quality. The soles, for example, were not solid rubber. They were waffle inside, with large empty spaces. Simultaneously, my heel would collapse into the sole, as well as the rubber on the bottom of the sole wearing away into the cavernous hollow area. Not pretty. However, after more than a year, I haven’t even worn through the tread on these more sturdy shoes. I think they’re awesome.

@jca – No, I’ve never been able to afford a child, so I am not a parent. I am not rich. But I do have family, and I’ve never felt the need to be in constant earshot of them. But my point here was not cell phones. It was that it’s possible to get along without buying cheap crap from Wal*Mart. If you need cheap crap, it’s possible to buy it from elsewhere, skip the cheap crap altogether, or buy more-expensive not-crap that will last longer.

If you decide that not shopping at Wal*Mart is a priority for you (the way I did for me), you’d put your energy into finding the alternative options that are right for you. I don’t know what they are, but the decision to not shop there makes coming up with them easier.

laureth's avatar

Re: not being able to afford a child – if you want to question me on this, I’ll refer you to this Fluther question to explain what I mean.

woodcutter's avatar

Ya my bad but the time ran out before I could fix that but still even six weeks is pretty unbelievable even for cheap shoes. You can do better, I know because I do it all the time. Get more than one pair and rotate them instead of keeping one really expensive pair. A hundred bucks is too much for shoes unless they are purpose designed like steel toe. I’m not rich either and it would take too long to realize any practical savings by buying one pair vs two spread apart.

Those workers at Walmart need those jobs. Even if you could wave a wand and eliminate that corporation, would you be willing to be in the area when all those thousands of laid off and unemployed workers walked out of there for the last time? I think you would not. Where would they work then? Because chances are it will be at another min wage retailer that sells goods made in China with a similar working environment. There isn’t enough room for the cutsie shops to hire but a handful of people at a time. Walmart is holding people over until each of them finds better work elsewhere, if they apply themselves.

laureth's avatar

1. I worked retail (standing up) for so long that my feet and knees are pretty blown out. I have heel spurs and almost non-existent arches. I need more support than Wal*Mart or K-Mart shoes can give me, sorry. These are not steel-toe, but they are solid (my doctor recommended sturdier, solid shoes), and I don’t hurt after a day in them nearly so bad as I do after a day in cheap shoes. (When those cheap ones caved in, I really did try to soldier on, stuffing balled-up tissue and stuff into the holes, but I can’t walk on that with any kind of not-pain.)

2. I agree, they do need jobs. I’m not saying they should quit Wal*Mart, I’m saying that Wal*Mart should be a better corporate citizen.

woodcutter's avatar

Almost none of those cheap shoes have much of any arch support. My arches are about gone too, so for another few bucks I slide in a pair of orthodics. I can’t do a C- note for shoes even if they were recommended . Dr’s have a bad habit of telling people to do things that are so expensive just so they can cover themselves. Probably they assume we all have health insurance and lots of money. If that were the case we wouldn’t need them as much.

laureth's avatar

The shoes are just from a regular shoe store (but not a mass-market discount store). They aren’t special medical shoes, and insurance didn’t cover them. And while it’s hard to drop $100 at one time on a pair of shoes, I do feel like I’ll have them for much longer (and save way more money) than buying the cheapie shoes.

Really, I can’t believe my shoes have become this huge issue here. They’re just sturdy, sensible shoes. Here they are if anyone is super curious.

lonelydragon's avatar

I agree with @dannyc. While it would be preferable not to shop at Wal-Mart because of its labor practices, not everyone has that option. For low income families, shopping at Wal-Mart enables them to afford the food, clothing, and other basic items they need. For this reason, I don’t think we can classify Wal-Mart as an absolute evil.

woodcutter's avatar

Most people go there for the groceries and other household things. Most of which are produced in the states. We have a lot of the “Great Value” stuff on our shelves. I have yet been able to tell the difference between that and Del Monte food. Same stuff more than likely.

There are worse places to work that pay min wage, it’s just that WM is high profile and gets national attention. I’ve had jobs that were quite a bit above Minimum and still, it sucked being there. Finding a job with any decent benefits is getting harder and harder. It has become an employers market. They can be pickier and offer less and still fill all their positions. The counrty is still waiting for all those so-called jobs of the 21st century that were promised by the last 4 administrations. Does anybody even know what they are? Solar panels perhaps?

Paradox25's avatar

I only shop at Wal-Mart occasionally, and usually only for groceries. I’ve never been at a Target though. I don’t really believe that there is that much of a difference between how Wal-Mart conducts business compared to Target or most other larger corporations.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yet another reason I Avoid shopping at Wal-Mart is a SICK amount of money. (see link).

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther