Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Real World Wednesday


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.


ruby said...

I'm a non Wal-Mart shopper too, I don't like the stores, the sheer number and intensity of its customers terrify me, and the fact that Wal-Mart always ends up closing down all the little stores within a 400000000 mile radius makes me livid. Great post!

brandy said...

Ahh Wal-Mart. I've been before, and go sometimes, maybe once every few months to stop up on things like craft supplies and socks, which are much cheaper there than anywhere else. But I understand what you are saying, it is insane how people get treated.

Reading this post reminded me a lot of Nike. Before I was sold on the idea of being a teacher, I took a lot of classes on global economics and found it fascinating. One class spent half the term discussing Nike, and how globalization is ruining the lives of so many people since Nike can have factories in small no-name villages across the ocean where people get paid nearly nothing for sneakers we pay a ridiculous amount for. Some in my class argued that at least Nike was giving them a job. I don't necessarily agree though. Ugh. It's such a huge issue (and one that is completely different from Wal-Mart... so I apolgize for this tangent!)

Mrs. said...

along with Wal-Mart and Nike, we also do not purchase anything from Tommy Hilfiger due to his racist comments...

Sarah said...

Ruby - My town already has a Wal-Mart, but the company bought land in another section of town that's literally across a little side street from K-Mart a bunch of mom and pop shops. The K-Mart's been here for 30+ years, and yeah it's big-box, but it's also become local...

Brandy - It's insane that Wal-Mart is the only place in my city where I can buy fabric. I have to leave town to get fabric. It IS a big issue, and I haven't worn Nike shoes in about 13 years as a result, but I know there are other companies that have the same practices, they just don't have the same huge's scary to think where the things I buy could originate.

Mrs. - and I still laugh when I think of Jessica telling me not to shop at Tommy and me having to remind her that I'm the one who told her that...

brandy said...

I don't really shop at Tommy for the same reason I don't really shop at Wal-Mart, the manufacturing process. It's been discussed on Oprah and other shows, but Tommy never actually said anything racist. It was just a rumor that went out of control. I understand people not wanting to buy his clothes, but I don't think not buying his stuff based on a rumor of something he 'supposedly' said is the right thing to do either. But, each to their own.

Sarah said...

Brandy - I think I've gone so long believing that about Tommy H. that until I see proof that it was all just a big misunderstanding. Honestly, that's why the post wasn't about Tommy, 'cause I've got some doubt that the story is true.

brandy said...

I'm not sure if the link will work, but you should check it out! Hope you are having a fantastic day, and can I say once again, that I love your real world wednesdays??

Sarah said...

Brandy - Okay, okay. So, Tommy can be off the hook for that vicious rumor...but only because Oprah says he was never on the show. In any case, if his manufacturing practices are bad, I won't have to worry about where on earth I'll find the money to buy the clothes he designs!

Here's a possibly more viable link to the Oprah story (thank you for the story, Brandy): (I love tinyurl!).

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