For years and years, Peter and I have shopped faithfully at Wal-mart, putting thousands of our hard earned dollars into their coffers. Mom worked at Sam's Club for several years and kept telling us about their lousy treatment of their employees and we just let it slide right in one ear and out the other, just shucking off her words of warning like water off a duck's back. The prices were simply too low to even really try to find an alternative. Why mess with something that works for us, right?
Well, my conscience has been dealing with me for about a year now, and I've really been noticing things that happen when a new Wal-mart opens in a small town. I've been listening to the news, reading things online, reading things in magazines, etc. There are several things that really bother me about the chain, and I can't in good conscience continue to patronize their stores.
The prevailing phenomenon that's been really popping out at me, searing into my brain is the way all the Mom & Pop type stores tend to close shortly after having a new Wal-mart come into their community. They basically don't stand a chance. They can't compete with the low prices. They don't have the buying power that the retail giant does, and their clientele tend to gravitate toward the lower prices, and eventually, inevitably, they have to close their doors. Family businesses that have been going strong for generations are closing. The death of small-town America is imminent. They treat their employees much worse than most companies, and their motto is no longer "Made In America", but now they import substandard goods made in third world countries by people who work 18 hour days for pennies a day, live in human cattle yards and are treated inhumanely, then sell the goods to us for what seems to be a great price.
When you look at the actual cost of the "low price", it's a lot higher than we'd like to acknowledge. The high cost includes: the loss of American jobs to third world countries, the demise of small-town America, employees who have to use the social programs we pay tax dollars into since they don't make enough to live because they aren't allowed to claim their overtime hours, among other things.
Sam Walton must be turning over in his grave. I'm sure that he never dreamed that his small retail chain would ever grow to be the monster that it is. The numbers are astonishing. The effect it has on our society is daunting. The facts are sobering. He would be ashamed of the way things are run these days. He was an American and took pride in selling goods that were made here, by Americans. His family should be ashamed of their actions and for allowing things to become the way they are. They could do so much good for their employees, but they choose not to. That is so sad.
Having said all that, we have chosen, as a family, not to shop at Wal-mart any longer. It's a bit more expensive to shop at other stores, but it's worth it to us. We buy virtually all our groceries from Kroger, we shop at Target, but lately, we've been really trying to shop at the local small businesses, or at chains that are more socially responsible. Those who give back to the local economy and support programs and charities for those who live in our great country. It's a choice we have made, and we feel very comfortable with that choice. It's not always easy to pass up that wonderful "low price", but when you feel good inside about choosing the high road, it makes it all worth it.
To learn more about the facts behind the Wal-mart empire, check out WalmartMovie.com. It's very enlightening, and you may find yourself shocked at the actual facts & figures behind the low cost, which comes at a very high price.