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Neo

The Walmart virus

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I am far from a fan of Walmart due to their employment practices and how they manage to squeeze the life out of local stores and even regional stores. I have boycotted Walmart for several years now and have converted much of my family to shopping at alternative stores.

One of my first jobs after graduating high school was working for Walmart, not in the retail portion but in the warehouse distribution portion of the company. On my very first day of working at Walmart we were all told that we were costing Walmart a lot of money to be in operation and any inefficiencies were not tolerated. On the backend of Walmart's operations they have it amazingly streamlined. Even in 2000 they had voice recognition software running on wireless headsets for all fork-lift operators (order pullers) and each fork-lift was networked to all Walmarts served by that distribution center and was actively updated depending on the needs of the store.

I give Walmart amazing credit for pushing technology to the limits of what can be done, but that's where my credit of the company hits a brick wall. The insurance offered by Walmart (at least then) was the absolute worst, so much so that I couldn't afford to use it. The out of pocket requirements for Walmart's insurance plan (keep in mind this was in 2000 before healthcare got truly out of hand as it is today) totalled roughly 50% of my pay each week, and even then you were lucky to get 70% of your in-network doctor's bill paid by the insurance.

Walmart will do absolutely anything, including losing money for a period of time, to drive competitors out of business, regardless of who they are. This is most common in their grocery business since it produces such slim margins to begin with, it doesn't take much to drive others out of the grocery business. Walmart is also notorious for being hard ball negotiators with their suppliers, so much so that what the consumer ends up getting is cheap quality goods. It seems Walmart doesn't care about the quality of the merchandise they sell, just so that they can sell it cheaper than the next guy. If you can get what appears to be a nice sprinkler from Walmart, why would you go to your local hardware store for one? Unfortunately this mentality has affected the way we all live. Because of Walmart's practices we feel we are all entitled to cheap goods.

It is amazingly how fast Walmart has affected our society and communities. I cringe every time I hear of a new Walmart opening. Locally there is a Walmart Supercenter 5 minutes from my home which is just a few years old, amazingly they are under construction of a brand new Walmart Supercenter 5 minutes away from my home in the other direction. Of course I can also get to a THIRD Walmart by driving another five minutes beyond that (10 minutes from my home) and they are under construction of a replacement Supercenter for that location as well.

Here is a video of the "Walmart Virus:"

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FlowingData has a much cooler video of the sheer amount of Walmarts popping up all over the place:

http://projects.flowingdata.com/walmart/

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In a small town near where I grew up they just built a huge Wal-Mart. The most depressing part was that most residents were thrilled that the Gods of Cheap Shopping had blessed them with such a place. Almost everyone I've talked to who has gone there a time or two said they were pretty disappointed, which is pretty funny if you ask me.

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My hometown just got its third incarnation of WM (it also has the dubious distinction of having the first WM store in SC--1981). It's a town of 6,000. It now has two rotting former WM carcases.

I agree with your sentiment regarding the evil Smiley-Face Empire, but aren't all big-box stores just as guilty? Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, Staples, Target--they all run on the same tenet: cheap stuff at any social cost.

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My sister will drive 45 minutes to get to the nearest Walmart. She lives in a small town, and the savings for her are great enough to justify the trip every couple of months.

The only problem I have with Wally world is the overcrowding in the store and the idiots in the parking lot. Usually both are tolerable early Friday afternoon; other days/times, I'd just as soon go to Kmart or local stores.

Saving money is a big thing to a lot of people.

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I agree with your sentiment regarding the evil Smiley-Face Empire, but aren't all big-box stores just as guilty? Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, Staples, Target--they all run on the same tenet: cheap stuff at any social cost.

No doubt that other big-box stores are as guilty as Wal-Mart is in this regard. My wife and I do our best to not visit the big boxes when we have the option of visiting a smaller local store instead. The only store we absolutely boycott at the moment is Wal-Mart, though I can't remember the last time we purchased anything at Best Buy. Target seems to be slightly more mindful, and their stores are super clean in comparison to the stories I hear of Wal-Mart and the visits I made several years ago to Wal-Mart stores.

Wal-Mart's grocery business is probably the most brutal to local grocery stores. Considering it is such a slim margin business to begin with, when Wal-Mart comes in selling groceries they can afford to make a smaller margin on those items and in some cases lose money (since visitors will likely be spending money on other goods sold under the same building). It is this specific practice that makes me so against Wal-Mart. I also haven't heard the horror stories from as many other big-box employees than I have from employees of Wal-Mart (self included).

Saving money is a big thing to a lot of people.

Saving money is a big deal to most everyone, but I'm not sure it is worth it considering it destroys the local economy little by little by offering such low prices.

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^^^

We have a Target here in Raleigh that was fitted for an urban setting. You wouldn't even know its there if it wasn't for the Target symbol. The Target is underground so you don't even see it and it attaches to a parking garage for parking.

That being said, I would like to add another dimension to the discussion...the majority of people in toay's society in North America do not live in the same area their entire lives these days. This could lead to a detachment from local stores and an attachment to chain stores. The reason for this is people like consistency and places where they know they can find what they are looking for and chains provide this in all corners of the country, so people don't have to worry so much if they were to move whether they will be able to find "x" and the like. Local stores are just that, local. When people are not attached to the local environment, they are less likely to go to these places. They have no feeling of "this is home," but rather, a mentality of "this is just where I live for the time being." People don't lay down roots so much anymore and many people, even while living in various cities over time, consider their place of birth as home.

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My sister will drive 45 minutes to get to the nearest Walmart. She lives in a small town, and the savings for her are great enough to justify the trip every couple of months.

Saving money is a big thing to a lot of people.

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That being said, I would like to add another dimension to the discussion...the majority of people in toay's society in North America do not live in the same area their entire lives these days. This could lead to a detachment from local stores and an attachment to chain stores. The reason for this is people like consistency and places where they know they can find what they are looking for and chains provide this in all corners of the country, so people don't have to worry so much if they were to move whether they will be able to find "x" and the like. Local stores are just that, local. When people are not attached to the local environment, they are less likely to go to these places. They have no feeling of "this is home," but rather, a mentality of "this is just where I live for the time being." People don't lay down roots so much anymore and many people, even while living in various cities over time, consider their place of birth as home.

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I wonder how long it will be before your sister realizes it costs her more in gas to drive to and from the Evil Smiley Face than it is for her to buy local and keep money in her local economy?

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Besides cost, another factor is the simple fact that you can buy nearly anything in a Wal-Mart. In an hour you can get your car tuned up, buy a month's worth of groceries, get a new set of luggage, and let your kids get the hot new video game. There really is no alternative to that kind of convenience -- if you're avoiding big boxes, that would have been an entire day's worth of errands.

It recently occurred to me that there's been a natural progression throughout human history -- at some point in the long-distant past, the entire concept of a "store" was a threat to local markets. A while later, the general store came along and threatened the dozens of specialty shops that existed in even the smallest towns. Walmart is a threat to these general stores. The internet is a threat to Walmart. Later on, something will be a threat to internet retailers.

IMO, the problem is not the retailers themselves, but the anti-competitive and unsustainable practices that go along with them. Everyone knows that Walmart's profits are based largely on dirty deeds -- manipulating wholesale prices, contracting with companies that run sweatshops, building stores in an environmentally and socially harmful manner.

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Walmart is a symptom of the materialistic society that we have in the United States, not the cause of it. I really see no difference between Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, Lowes, and a host of others like it.

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My sister will drive 45 minutes to get to the nearest Walmart. She lives in a small town, and the savings for her are great enough to justify the trip every couple of months.

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^ I agree, but to some extent we have to accept that Walmart operates within "the system", so as long as we tolerate "the system" and the majority agrees that the rules are A-OK, Walmart will be the norm.

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Only half joking here, but I didn't think there was anywhere left in America where you have to drive 45 minutes to find a Wal Mart.

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We have a Target here in Raleigh that was fitted for an urban setting. You wouldn't even know its there if it wasn't for the Target symbol. The Target is underground so you don't even see it and it attaches to a parking garage for parking.

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I loathe Walmart because they have the WORST customer service I've ever encountered. And their bargains arent such a bargain when the product breaks in a month and you have to buy a new one. Its a shame poorer people shop there for cheaper prices but then end up paying more in the end because they cant afford a higher quality good up front. We've run into a related problem in my region at work with people unable to afford monthly unlimited ride bus passes for $55 at the beginning of the month, and instead paying ride for ride which then adds up to over $100 per month in the end.

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There is a Target store that was put into the basement of a 35 story retail-residential tower in White Plains NY. The bottom few floors are the retail, the upper 30-32 are housing. Like your story, you would never know except for the logos in the plaza.

I highly highly doubt Wal-Mart would do something like this.

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I have never seen Wal-Mart in a urban setting. I also doubt they will ever do something like this. In fact, it will look out of place.

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Would it really look any different than Charlotte's two-story Targe/Home Depot conglomeration? A big box is a big box, Sooper Dooper Center or not. They're all ugly.

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IIRC, there's a Wal-Mart being built in Harlem in some new retail development there.

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Walmart receives all sorts of government subsidizes to give you those "everyday low prices". Cities hand out TIF dollars for greenfield development to Walmart. Walmart in more than a few states gamed the system to push healthcare costs on to the state (like here in Wisconsin). And here in Wisconsin works dilligently to avoid paying any taxes. These are just a couple of the issues I have with Walmart, without even getting to the impacts on local business and wages.

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An urban Wal-mart wouldn't be so bad, would it? Certainly would make its area more livable.

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An urban Wal-mart wouldn't be so bad, would it? Certainly would make its area more livable.

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An urban Wal-mart wouldn't be so bad, would it? Certainly would make its area more livable.

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yep. I would rather look at Target's box than Wal-Mart anyday.

..

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