That's my topic for today. Wal-Mart.
In many households, there is a split between spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends, brothers and sisters, mothers and sons on who does and who does not shop at Wal-Mart and for what reasons.
I, personally, do not shop at Wal-Mart. Here are my two reasons:
1) From what I understand, they pay next to nothing, offer few benefits and are altogether awful to their employees. Why should I support such a company?
2) The Wal-Marts in California are scary, dirty, messy, uhm, did I mention scary, places to which I do not wish to subject myself.
WG, Mr. Oklahoma, has no problem with Wal-Mart on general principle. But he agrees with me on my second point, and, thus, does not visit Wal-Mart in California.
My grandmother lives in a small-town in Arizona, where Wal-Mart is really the only option. It's a super-clean store complete with a nail salon, hair salon, grocery store and more. It's gigantic and could practically hold all of the town's residents.
Recently (click the link at the top of the post), Wal-Mart agreed to pay $3.9 million to California employees who experienced "underpayment of overtime and other wages" from February 1, 2002 through January 19, 2007.
In 2005, Wal-Mart voluntarily contacted the labor commission and admitted to payroll errors. Yet, the problems continued through the start of 2007.
So, let me get this straight, they had a payroll problem for three years, notified the proper authorities and then continued to have the same problem for up to another two years. That doesn't strike me as good business.
Where I live, I have choices about where to shop. I choose to take my business to Target, where the employees get health benefits and advancement opportunities. I choose to shop at grocery stories like Raley's and Trader Joe's, where the employees seem relatively happy and content to be working each day. At my local Raley's, some cashiers have been there since before I started kindergarten -- that kind of company loyalty signals a good company.
I'm not going to spread the rumors I've heard about Wal-Mart (though it is, in great part, those rumors that keep me from shopping there), but I will say that big-box stores need to create a healthy, positive work environment. The employees of such stores need to make a wage sufficient to support a good quality life in the cities in which they work. The stores need to be clean, well-lit and otherwise inviting.
Last week I wrote about the Utah coal miners, and even as of this morning, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, rescue efforts continue. We have no choice about where we get our coal - it has to be dug out of the side of a mountain. But we do have a choice about where we shop.
I am not encouraging a full-blown boycott of Wal-Mart, because I don't want those currently working there to lose what little income they do receive. What I do encourage is that you write your senators and congresspeople and encourage them to look at the labor practices of big-box stores, in general.
I also encourage you to make conscious choices about where you spend your hard-earned money.