Thursday, December 20, 2012

what you're supporting when you shop at walmart

In my area and for the first part of my life, Walmart stores only existed down south. Ignorance was bliss. We all shopped locally, happily supporting our community and small businesses like grocery stores, lumber yards, farms, nurseries and hardware stores. The employees were knowledgeable, vested in their work and prices were fair. Once Walmart infested our town, many of those small businesses either closed down or have struggled ever since, while Walmart has continued to expand like an over-fed tick. I've watched countless small businesses in my area be snuffed out by big box stores, crushed under their competitive prices and left empty by their ignorant customers trying to save a buck.

Boycotting Walmart 100% is my way of refusing to participate in their warped and economically damaging practices. I do not have a problem with capitalism. I do not have a problem with successful businesses. Heck, I do not even have a problem with other large chains , but what I do take issue with is companies that are actively ruining competition with bad business practices. As the largest company in the world, Walmart continues to operate in a way that increases welfare spending, contributes to suburban sprawl, drives local companies out of business, decreases employment in both retail and manufacturing while lowering the wages in both sectors and increases our tendency to consume natural resources that we do not need. Very few companies have generated more antagonism than Walmart because they've gotten so out of control. Many people instinctively dislike Walmart, but still shop there. We should all be aware of our choices, so if you read on, know that every time you shop at Walmart, you're casting a vote and supporting the following:
Killing small businesses. How? When Walmart builds a store in any town, they take time to research their competition. Taking note of prices, they then stock their shelves for less than the surrounding area. They're so big that it doesn't matter how much money they lose at first because the mother corporation is footing the bill. They keep their prices artificially low until their competition is forced out of business (it doesn't take long). As soon as that happens, Walmart raises it's prices back to profitable levels. So then, the town is left totally dependent on Walmart, or none of them can afford to shop their either (since they're all now unemployed) and Walmart eventually stops being profitable, closing it's door and leaving a ghost town behind. Due to Walmart's aggressive tactics, the number of independent retailers in the U.S. has declined by 60,000 between 1992 and 2000.

Screw the environment. Walmart has illegally logged in protected Russian habitats for Siberian tigers, one Walmart Supercenter uses the same amount of energy as 1,095 U.S. homes do in one day, their massive size promotes industrialized farming, every year, they pay millions of dollars for violating environmental laws by improperly handling, storing and disposing of hazardous materials, such as pesticides, chemicals, paint, acid, aerosols, fertilizer and motor oil. [1] They might be claiming that they're trying to be green, but they're not doing enough.

Supporting Monsanto. If you don't know much about Monsanto, you should know that they are the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), both of which are unnatural and openly laced with pesticides. Monsanto also strives to obtain patents over "their" intellectual property, ie. seeds, plants and food....yeah. They've manufactured many other controversial products such as DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange. Monsanto's genetically modified sweet corn (and other foods) are resistant to a common herbicide, which allows farmers to kill weeds without killing the food. So then the food just contains the toxins that fends off certain pests, but don't worry, it's cheap. Yum.

Terrible employee treatment. Companies like Walmart are the reason why blue-collar workers can’t get a leg up. They have policies that keep most at part-time levels to avoid increased health care costs, or they have management that allegedly uses retaliatory measures to avoid overtime payment. The big strike around Thanksgiving was not due to holiday hours, but the complaints centered around low salaries, planned cuts to health care, and most of all, the fact that many say management retaliates if employees complain about hours (that is against the law.) Whether you're a fan of unions or not, it’s companies like Walmart that make them a necessity. Otherwise, there is no way to stand up to the powerful company. [2] Despite all this, for those who really believe that Walmart is still actually "creating jobs" overall, please read below...

Imports from China. 85% of non-perishable Walmart inventory is now imported from China...85%! When Sam Walton began this business, he claimed to buy American-made products. If that were true, after he died, that idea was completely scrapped. If people weren't so concerned with saving a few bucks and were willing to spend a bit more for American-produced goods, then Walmart would provide them.
"One group estimates that the growing US trade deficit with China, heavily influenced by Walmart imports, is estimated to have moved over 1.5 million jobs that might otherwise be in America to China between 1989 and 2003." [3]
So not only are they sending millions jobs overseas, but they have never provided adequate supervision of their foreign suppliers. [4] Over the years (and currently have yet to clean up their act) they've been criticized for regularly using sweatshops, prison labor and child labor. But don't worry, you're saving $20 on your grocery bill!

It's hard to know the in's and out's of every business, but there's absolutely no excuse to ignore widespread ethical, environmental and social injustice. Everyone's first response to justify their continual patronization of Walmart is: "But it's so cheap, I can't afford to shop anywhere else." As a poor college student, I used to believe that too and I understand the temptation of their low prices. But once you know WHY their prices are so low and understand HOW they are generating and sustaining their business, how can you not care about at least one of the aforementioned facts? When a company is as huge as Walmart, it's not just about you anymore. The money that Walmart is sucking out of our communities is not getting recycled locally.

What can you do about it? Be informed and make informed decisions. Walmart is, in many areas and for many people, inescapable (much like work and drudgery and eventual death). In fact, 96% of Americans live within 20 miles of a Walmart, so it's clearly a widespread convenient choice. [5] But when you know the facts and live in a place where other stores are available, you've run out of excuses. Why insist on saving a few dollars now if you're destroying the economy for your future or your family? Why sustain a huge box store that is robbing your small town of it's charming businesses and sending millions of jobs overseas? Why buy organic if you're supporting a company that is in direct opposition those organic farms? You are destroying the things you think you are supporting. You might not realize it yet, but you can't afford to keep shopping at Walmart. 

If these facts haven't made you at least think twice about continually supporting Walmart, then I will assume that you either didn't read it all or you're directly related to Sam Walton... neither of which is necessarily a good excuse. ;) Check out the sources/info below and feel free to start a dialogue in the comments section! If this is your first time hearing about all this, I'd love to know what you think now.

For more information, check out the documentary Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, available on Netflix.

The book: How Walmart is Destroying America (And the World): And What You Can Do About It

These amazingly disturbing facts: 20 Shocking Facts About Walmart

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