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Walmart Blues

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  • Walmart Blues

    I was going to comment on the "What we're all reading thread" but thought it was too far off topic already.

    The thing is that I've seen the Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price and looked quite closely into their labour practices, which have included closing two entire stores in Canada as the workers became unionised. It's brilliant to see that the unions have scored a victory in the UK. There's a huge Asda / Walmarts near us, and personally I tend to avoid the place.

    However, I can also see the Adlerian's point:
    Also, places like local hardware stores, as I recall, were famous for being rip-off joints, because the owner could charge whatever they wanted to. So, Walmart was a gift to the poor people in the area.
    In the movie, we see the pathos of the family-owned hardware store being boarded up, but we don't get to hear any details such as was there a union there, how did the pay compare to Walmart, etc, we just have to assume it was better.

    It's similar with booksellers - ok Amazon are union-busting bastards, but does organised labour really stand any more of a chance in a thousand tiny bookshops? The small-business sector is notorious for exploiting workers and tends to be paternalistic at best. Maybe we're just looking at the past through rose-tinted spectacles?

    However, the "low road" Walmart employment practices act as a black hole in the economy, dragging standards down in its competitors (Safeway, for example, had to drop its employee health scheme because of competition from Walmart, which doesn't provide one). There's some truth in the statement "Shop in Walmart and you'll end up working there".

    The other sinister element is the corruption of democracy and the way that companies like Walmart can blackmail local authorities to get their own way, and ultimately give nothing back. All this is illustrated in the movie.

    I say strap them down and control them with regulations and unions. Not the "anglo-american" way, of course, but essential if we are to have any control over our lives, our communities and our culture.
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

  • #2
    Walmart is certainly uniquely interesting in world history, since they now dictate what their suppliers are going to produce. In olden days, a blacksmith or a farmer would produce what they liked, and then take their produce to market. Not so anymore: the farmer comes to Walmart and asks what they'd like him to produce. I guess Hitler isn't quite dead yet...
    "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

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    • #3
      two examples :

      - a little firm is doing small artisanal pastry ... a giant of super market industry contracts with it. Some years after, she asks the littel firm to invest to produce more products. The little firm borrows and next year big firm does not renew the contract. The little firm is bankrupted andsold for one euro : guess who buys ?

      - a little firm is working for supermarket firm. The big firms asks her to produce more and introduce her to asian firm. A contract is signed. Some years after, the big firm stops to buy to the little firm and buys directly to the asian firm.

      That' s not in the U.S. .....

      The worst is that a firm who does not want to sell to supermarket will be condemned by courts applying laws about free concurrence ......

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      • #4
        Jagged - I don't know if it's unique in world history - I was think of one failed superpower that worked on the idea of planned economics.

        Local stores were 'rip-offs' for a large number of reasons - they get less wholesale discount, they have less customers per day, because they serve a smaller area, so to make a living they need to make higher margins per sale.
        The people who ran them never actually seemed rich.

        I also think the problem with the 'good for consumers' rhetoric used to defend supermarkets, online stores, outsourced manufacturing, etc, is that in reality most people are workers as well as consumers.

        Last year I saw a delivery van outside our local butchers - which has now closed; the van had a Union Jack on it, and some promotional message about British meat. The van was a Toyota.

        (I think small businesses could perhaps adapt a bit better though. For instance, I would have used the local butchers if he'd opened 11-7, rather than 9-4. I was always at work during his opening hours. I have noticed in Germany that times are more staggered like that - school hours, business hours, and shop hours are all different. Most days of the week, there are 2-3 shopping hours left after the end of the office day).

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Jules
          (I think small businesses could perhaps adapt a bit better though. For instance, I would have used the local butchers if he'd opened 11-7, rather than 9-4.
          The problem with that is they would still have to have been there early in the morning to accept deliveries and then still spend an hour or two after work cleaning the blocks, etc. So the hours would go from something like 8-5:30 to 8:30-8:30. they'd have to do an awful lot more trade to justify it and then again, they might not want to work a 12 hour day.

          Of course supermarkets get away with this by employing part-time workers in shifts...

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jules
            Jagged - I don't know if it's unique in world history - I was think of one failed superpower that worked on the idea of planned economics.
            Interesting is it not, that these highly successful (whether we like it or not) organisations operate on the same basis as a "failed" economy? It's interesting that the theoretical attacks on planning were made in the 40s / 50s (by Thatcher's guru Hayek). Personally I think there may now be greater scope for planning with the development of IT technology and cybernetics (already they are talking in a gimmicky way of a fridge that can order your groceries).

            Interesting also that the corporate neoliberal state is leading us down the path of authoritarian control and cutting back on democratic rights in a manner reminiscent of Stalinism.

            Personally I believe in what used to be called a "mixed economy" with strong democracy at all levels, space for individual initiative but also with regulation, full employment and a welfare state to ensure a decent standard of living and security for all.

            Revolutionary stuff nowadays, but pretty much the consensus in the "post-war settlement". The question is - is there a space for behemoths such as Walmart in such a society. I think not. For all Sam Walton's folksy homilies, there is something sinister and totalitarian about the organisation. "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers", anyone?
            \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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            • #7
              We have online grocery services around here.I wont use it but I know people that do.I can accept it if you arent physically capable of purchasing your own but this service is used mostly by spoiled "yuppie' types that dont want to get off their arse and venture out to the supermarket.As far as the freshness or ripeness of your groceries is concerned, I know that I would clear all of the aged items (if I were a grocer) first since the groceries are delivered to your door and you cant check the quality until you unbag everything.
              They are near the completion of an enormous 50,000 sq. ft. addition on the Walmart near me.It is going to be a grocery only department.This will put more family owned, private grocery stores tits-up in these parts.Once Walmart does corner the bulk of the consumers market, watch the prices escalate!
              Last edited by voilodian ghagnasdiak; 07-05-2006, 11:34 AM.

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              • #8
                Forget about North Korea, I heard the Wal-Martians test firing rockets and bombs in their parking lot last night.
                "A man is no man who cannot have a fried mackerel when he has set his mind on it; and more especially when he has money in his pocket to pay for it." - E.A. Poe's NICHOLAS DUNKS; OR, FRIED MACKEREL FOR DINNER

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                • #9
                  That was the cash registers and money vaults exploding!!

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                  • #10
                    Walmart and its ilk are a more difficult choice for a parent. Many of you have the luxury of being altruistic in your approach to purchases...

                    I have two little boys. Do you know what it used to cost me to keep them in jeans for 8 months of the year? On top of that, there are very very few mom-and-pop kids clothes stores in most American urban areas. That happened long before Walmart moved in.
                    As the minutes gain momentum like a bird, man.

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                    • #11
                      >The problem with that is they would still have to have been there early in
                      >the morning to accept deliveries and then still spend an hour or two after
                      >work cleaning the blocks, etc. So the hours would go from something like
                      >8-5:30 to 8:30-8:30.

                      Some countries do seem to work around that pattern (parts of Italy and Spain for starters). And as said, the staggering of school, office and shop working hours in Germany seems to work - I presume the deliveries are made later (i.e. closer to shop opening hours). I strongly suspect there are more sales to be had between 5 and 7pm than between 9 and 11am.

                      > It's interesting that the theoretical attacks on planning were made in the >40s / 50s (by Thatcher's guru Hayek). Personally I think there may now
                      >be greater scope for planning with the development of IT technology and >cybernetics (already they are talking in a gimmicky way of a fridge that >can order your groceries).
                      You have reminded me about the 'petrol blockades' a couple of years back in the UK, and articles about the effects of a possible flu pandemic. It's become evident that the concentration of food distribution in so few hands, with 'just in time' delivery has become a strategic risk.

                      (From a computing point of view that is classic network theory. A network of many small densely interconnected machines is more robust than the 'hub and spoke' model - although the latter might be more efficient. The problem is that we have engineered the rules of economy for efficiency, rather than robustness).

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                      • #12
                        That ' s part of the problem ........

                        The same jean is less expensive in a super market than in a retail store .... and low price store are still less expensive.

                        Another thing is that if you buy a product quality A, you pay it more than a product quality B, C or D ..... but it resist a more long time.

                        Most people have not the money to buy high quality goods and for some goods, for them , it is more expensive in the long term.

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                        • #13
                          Mephisto_ Kur Wrote
                          I have two little boys. Do you know what it used to cost me to keep them in jeans for 8 months of the year?
                          I hear you loud and clear MK.I have kids also but theyre around 20.Take my advice and enjoy the Walmart days while you can.Once they hit their teens,fashion and name brands are priority.Keep them as far away from the rap video source as possible.Once they start looking at shoes,tops and jeans that the rappers wear your pant pockets will be hanging out like rabbit ears.I said that it would never happen in my house but I guess its peer pressure from school that drives them.Im glad that Im not a kid with all the shit that I see going on.Its all worth it but it can be gruelling at times.
                          Solution: Hey You Kids Get A Job...shananana...nananana..BAWooo
                          Last edited by voilodian ghagnasdiak; 07-05-2006, 02:29 PM.

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                          • #14
                            I have a 15 years old daughter ........ As for her fashion and brands are not priorities, it is easier, but it is a permanent negociation .... she always need something ....... Even going in low cost shops not supermarket.

                            One of his most frequent argument is : this Tee-shirt/skirt .. is not expensive and i need it/her.

                            The problem is that she is right and nonetheless expensive.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Talisant
                              Forget about North Korea, I heard the Wal-Martians test firing rockets and bombs in their parking lot last night.
                              Wal-Martians...love it!

                              Found this:
                              Wednesday, July 28, 2004
                              Wal-Mars collides with Planet Earth
                              BARBARA EHRENREICH
                              GUEST COLUMNIST

                              It's torn cities apart from Inglewood to Chicago and engulfed the entire state of Vermont. Now the conflict's gone national as a presidential campaign issue, with John Kerry hammering the megaretailer for its abysmally low wages and Dick Cheney praising it for its "spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity." This could be the central battle of the 21st century: Earth people versus the Wal-Martians.

                              No one knows exactly when the pod landed on our planet, but it seemed normal enough during its early years of gentle expansion. Almost too normal, if you thought about it, with those smiley faces and red-white-and-blue bunting, like the space invaders in a 1950s sci-fi flick when they put on their human suits.

                              Then it began to grow. By 2000, measures of mere size -- bigger than General Motors! Richer than Switzerland! -- no longer told the whole story. It's the velocity of growth that you need to measure now: two new stores opening and $1 billion worth of U.S. real estate bought up every week; almost 600,000 American employees churned through in a year (that's at a 44 percent turnover rate). My thumbnail calculation suggests that by the year 4004, every square inch of the United States will be covered by supercenters, so that the only place for new supercenters will be on top of existing ones.

                              Wal-Mart will be in trouble long before that, of course, because with everyone on the planet working for the company or its suppliers, hardly anyone will be able to shop there. Wal-Mart is frequently lauded for bringing consumerism to the masses, but more than half of its own "associates," as the employees are euphemistically termed, cannot afford the company's health insurance, never mind its Faded Glory jeans. With hourly wages declining throughout the economy, Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest employer -- is already seeing its sales go soft.

                              In my own brief stint at the company in 2000, I worked with a woman for whom a $7 Wal-Mart polo shirt, of the kind we had been ordered to wear, was an impossible dream: It took us an hour to earn that much. Some stores encourage their employees to apply for food stamps and welfare; many take second jobs. Critics point out that Wal-Mart has consumed $1 billion in public subsidies, but that doesn't count the government expenditures required to keep its associates alive. Apparently the Wal-Martians, before landing, failed to check on the biological requirements for human life.

                              But a creature afflicted with the appetite of a starved hyena doesn't have time for niceties. Wal-Mart is facing class-action suits for sex discrimination and non-payment for overtime work (meaning no payment at all), as well as accusations that employees have been locked into stores overnight, unable to get help even in medical emergencies. These are the kinds of conditions we associate with third-world sweatshops, and in fact Wal-Mart fails at least five out of 10 criteria set by the Worker Rights Consortium, which monitors universities' sources of logoed apparel -- making it the world's largest sweatshop.

                              Confronted with its crimes, the folks at the Bentonville, Ark., headquarters whimper that the company has gotten too "decentralized" -- meaning out of control -- which has to be interpreted as a cry for help. But who is prepared to step forward and show Wal-Mart how to co-exist with the people of its chosen planet? Certainly not the enablers, like George Will and National Review's Jay Nordlinger, who smear the company's critics as a "liberal intelligentsia" that favors Williams-Sonoma. (Disclosure: I prefer Costco, which pays decent wages, insures 90 percent of its employees and is reputedly run by native-born humans.)

                              No, Wal-Mart's only hope lies with its ostensible opponents, such as Madeline Janis-Aparicio, who led the successful fight against a new superstore in Inglewood, Calif. "The point is not to destroy them," she told me, "but to make them accountable."

                              Similarly Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, will soon begin a national effort to "bring Wal-Mart up to standards we can live with."

                              He envisions a nationwide movement bringing together the unions, churches, community organizations and environmentalists who are already standing up to the company's recklessly metastatic growth.
                              Earth to Wal-Mars, or wherever you come from: Live with us or go back to the mother ship.
                              One thing I wonder is how long it will take for the Chinese to buy up the company, as it sells most of their exports. See, the connection with sinister oriental dictatorships is already there...
                              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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