The Eighteenth Brumaire of Sam Walton

They beat a hasty retreat from the German market, chalking up over $1 billion in losses, but at least Wal-Mart made this photograph possible:

Via Club for Growth.

Last year, reason's Kerry Howley wondered if the retail giant had peaked.

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  • Rich Ard||

    ...chalking up over a $1 billion in losses...

    pedant points!

  • ||

    Cheaply-made, shoddy crap for sale; poor treatment of the workers allegedly in the name of general prosperity; carefully chosen examples of the best deals strategically located to be the most visible locations producing an inaccurate impression of the deals throughout the store being better than they actually are...sure, Karl-Marx Street works just fine.

  • x,y||

    Change a few words here and there, joe, and you'll describe the public school system.

  • ||

    Cheaply-made, shoddy crap for sale; poor treatment of the workers allegedly in the name of general prosperity; carefully chosen examples of the best deals strategically located to be the most visible locations producing an inaccurate impression of the deals throughout the store being better than they actually are...sure, Karl-Marx Street works just fine.



    Spoken like a man who never set foot in one!

    Personally I am pretty impressed with the combo of quality and price there - and evidently so are numerous other people too. :)

  • ||

    I guess the Germans are pretty good at resisting the "buy me" mind-control rays emanating from Wal Mart ads that lefties swear make us 'Mercans unable to shop anywhere else.

    Nope. Couldn't be the free market. "The people" can't be trusted to make a good choice. Nosirree.

  • robc||

    I go to wal-mart to buy target ammo. None of the other "big boxes" or sporting goods stores will carry 9mm ammo, they only have shotgun shells and other hunting equipment. Other than that I avoid wal-mart as much as possible (although they have built one of the wal-mart grocery stores near me, Ive been using it since it opened a few weeks ago).

  • SPD||

    So, Wal-Mart isn't the all-powerful entity people feared it might be. Can we stop wringing our hands now?

    If you don't like Wal-Mart, shop Target. Or S-Mart. Other choices are always out there.

  • ||

    Actually, tarran, I was forced to go into one to buy stuff for work, for the first time, just this past week.

    And the crappiness of the goods on offer, the eager glee of the employees, and the huge difference between what was on the end caps and what was in the center the aisle were all quite apparent. Whether you find it politicallyh convenient to acknowledge that or not.

  • ||

    Wal*Mart sucks. So does Justin Timberlake. So did that "chicken noodle soup" song. None of these things discount the fact that, apparently, a lot of people like them and find value in them.

  • Episiarch||

    Surprise, surprise...joe hates Walmart. Of course, he only went into one for the first time this past week.

    It's good that you were able to confirm your pre-existing conceptions of Walmart, though, joe. Nothing like being right about something that you yourself admitted you knew nothing about.

  • ||

    "the eager glee of the employees"

    I guess these folks need to be informed by the "enlightened ones" that they are being oppressed by the man. They are too stupid to know any better......

  • ||

    Uh, yeah, the operations of Wal-Mart are so shrouded in mystery than one could not possibly know anything about their business practices unless one had actually gone in to buy some of the cheap plastic crap.

    I mean, it's not as if their labor practices or promotional strategies have ever been discussed in in public or anything.

  • ||

    JLM,

    Nope, they seemed pretty damn aware of how shitty their jobs were.

  • ||

    joe, I withdraw my insinuation. Your single involuntary trip proves me wrong.

    Certainly it completely negates the wonderful, inexpensive stuff I have found there, including my kids' bikes, various tools, children's clothing, and good diapers that cost 20% less than at competing stores.

  • ||

    Maybe you should go lecture them about how much happier they should be, JLM.

  • ||

    Hey, tarran, has it ever dawned on you that different people mike have different opinions?

    The part where I said yours was wrong was, where, exactly?

  • ||

    Anybody that pisses on welfare mart needs to go in there sometime and fill a grocery cart. It will cost you about 2/3 of what it would cost just about any place else (maybe even less). I'm just a dumbass, but it seems to me that Mr. Joe Average who makes just enough to support his family probably benefits greatly from this.

  • Episiarch||

    joe, you don't know shit about Walmart's promotional strategies and labor practices other than what you hear in your echo-chambering head. If you did, you'd realize that Walmart isn't the fucking devil.

    You want to know how their prices are so low? Because their turnover is so fast, they have sold items before they have to pay for them (NET 30 or longer). They are making interest on the money from the sold items as that money sits in the bank waiting to be paid out to the suppliers. This allows them to sell under cost if they want, totally fucking their competition.

    It's not dark magic, joe, just smart business.

  • x,y||

    joe complains that the products on the endcaps are better than the ones in the middle of the aisle. But why is this a bad thing? Are they misleading their customers or putting their best foot forward?

  • ||

    Of course not, Episiarch. I couldn't possibly know that they close down stores if the employees try to organize; that their drivers have lousy pay and harsh schedules; that they offer incredible prices on the cheapest item in a category and put it on the end cap, but that the prices for items a step or two up, in the middle of the aisles, are pretty much the same as any other department store; or that they are constantly being sued for sex discrimination.

    After all, these things look bad for your preferred politics, and that's how you really know what's true.

    Now stop swearing and putting words in my mouth. You don't have to completely lose your head because someone expressed a contrary opinion, you know.

  • ||

    x,y,

    I guess it's neither good nor bad. It just gives people a misleading impression about their overall prices.

    If people are walking out feeling happy because of some imagined savings they assume they realized on the decent microwave they found in the middle of the aisle, I suppose that's a good thing.

  • ||

    Joe,

    What kind of cheap plastic crap are you referring to? Everybody I know that shops at Wal Mart buys the exact same stuff you can find at other stores. There is zero difference between the household items like toilet paper at a Wal Mart and other lefty, yuppie approved stores. If paying 30% extra for your laundry detergent makes you feel better about yourself, perhaps it is not the Wal Mart shoppers that are the mindless idiots.

  • ||

    i believe one of the reasons wal-mart failed in germany was because germany doesn't really allow businesses to put things "on sale".

  • ||

    And one forgets that it may not be a free market issue when it comes to Wal-Mart. The German market has long been known for being heavily regulated, including rules governing the hours stores can be open and restrictive building codes. So it's difficult to tell if it is simply a rejection of the Wal-Mart offerings by consumers or heavy regulation that makes doing business in Germany too difficult for an American retailer.

  • Episiarch||

    joe, what you say might have some legitimacy if it wasn't so predictable. You trot out the party line on Walmart, admit that you had never even been in one (!) until last week, and then tell me that their drivers have lousy pay and harsh schedules. How do you know this--did you work for them? What constitutes "lousy" and "harsh"? I've never met a driver who didn't complain about their schedule and pay, so I'm having a little trouble believing you.

    Why is it about a store providing really, really cheap goods that drives people like you nuts? Why do you hate poor people, joe?

  • stephen the goldberger||

    I don't like wal mart, and I don't shop there, but that's because I can afford not to shop there, I have options with my budget that others do not.

    The main beneficiaries of walmart are the poorer whose dollars now go much further than before. Maybe it does belong on Karl Marx St.

  • ||

    Scott,

    Why do you suppose that you need to insult people? Or rather, why do you suppose that you interpret criticism of a business as an insult towards its customers?

    Is it sort of an All-Red-vs-Blue-Culture-War-All-The-Time thing?

    I don't like Wal Mart. I don't like how they do business. I don't like how they treat their employees.

    If you don't like that, too bad. If it really, really bothers you that people feel like that, to the point that you become angry and begin to insult people or swear, mabye you need to put a little thought into why you have such a reaction to someone having an opinion about a department store.

  • ||

    "they are constantly being sued for sex discrimination"

    Do large businesses that AREN'T constantly being sued for discrimination of some sort even exist?

  • ||

    All we need is for Wal*Mart to open a few abortion clinics and we will have the...

    GREATEST THREAD EVER!!!

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    This: what you say might have some legitimacy if it wasn't so predictable. doesn't make any logical sense.

    Maybe you should use some other formula for judging the validity of a statement than whether it sounds like something the people you dislike might say.

    How do you know this--did you work for them? What constitutes "lousy" and "harsh"?,/i>

    Um, because Wal Mart's business practices, such as the working conditions for its drivers, have been widely reported on, and people who make the slightest effort to learn about the subject can easily find web sites, documentaries, and articles on the subject. Buying diapers at Wal Mart would have enhanced my understanding of Wal Mart's labor conditions, how, exactly?

    Why is it about a store providing really, really cheap goods that drives people like you nuts? Nothing. What is it about a store that treats its employees like crap that motivates people like you to leap to the barricades? Why do you hate working people, Episiarch?

  • ||

    J,

    Yes, they do. Wal Mart has a particularly bad record on that issue.

  • Episiarch||

    I don't like Wal Mart. I don't like how they do business. I don't like how they treat their employees.

    Seriously, joe...be honest for just one post. What do you really know about the "way they treat their employees?" Have you ever worked for them? Do you know anyone who has worked for Walmart? Do you actually know anything about how they "do business?"

    mabye you need to put a little thought into why you have such a reaction to someone having an opinion about a department store.

    Maybe you need to put a little thought into why you have an opinion about a department store. It just sells stuff, d00d.

  • ||

    Trying to say Walmart sells quality merch is like saying Two Buck Chuck was a class A wine. The truth is that Walmart sells low quality goods at prices befitting low quality goods.

    The idea that Walmart is capable of performing some free market miracle by which high quality products are priced inexplicably below their true value is absurd.

    Now, the truth is that a 5 year old kid doesn't deserve a quality bicycle. Kids outgrow clothes. Certain name brands are the same where ever you go. Fine. There are many fine and acceptable arguments why you would not prize quality over price. Just don't try to sell us the idea that Walmart deals in quality.

    Is anybody surprised that Germany, a country that gives us some of the finest engineered products in the world, rejects this low quality approach?

  • ||

    "Yes, they do. Wal Mart has a particularly bad record on that issue."

    Care to reference some data to back that up?

  • Episiarch||

    What is it about a store that treats its employees like crap that motivates people like you to leap to the barricades? Why do you hate working people, Episiarch?

    Considering that people line up to work at any Walmart that opens, your complaints about worker treatment--that I again ask how you know--seem to not bother the people, who, you know, work there.

    Maybe these people don't need your all-knowing benificence, and would just like to work for Walmart, and consider it acceptable?

  • Flyover Country||

    Lamar,

    Ever been to an Aldi? German company selling low priced, low quality merchandise. Maybe Walmart couldn't compete with Aldi. Germans actually pioneers in deep discount retailing. I'll try to find the article.

    http://www.aldifoods.com/

  • ||

    The value that Walmart added is in the supply chain, making sure that they're never overstocked and therefore reducing prices as much as possible.

    I know 2 people who worked at Walmart. They hated it, but it's no worse than Jennifer Aniston's job in Office Space. LOOK HAPPY! They also do the overnight lock-ins, which make business sense but do really suck if you have an emergency.

    I don't see why there's this "YOU MUST LOVE WALMART OR YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE AND YOU LOVE COMMUNISM" thing going around.

    I don't like big box stores. I also don't like Louis Vuitton. There are a lot of personal preferences that one can have that are backed up by a bucket of facts or no facts at all. That's why they're personal preferences. I don't recall joe ever saying that Walmart should be outlawed, so I don't get where the beef is.

  • ||

    I spent some time in France in the late 90s, and there was a big discount place there too. I think it was called Carrefour. It was the super-store (grocery and department) before they were all over the place here.

  • ||

    Flyover Country:

    Been to several superstores in Spain, but none in Germany. The question, of course, isn't whether Germany has a deep discount store. The question is whether they are able to support a multitude of Walmarts, Targets, K-marts, etc. Every country has poor people, but America, it seems, has a culture of cheapness in it's middle class, which is the target of my comment.

    I completely agree with Randolph Carter. I worked hard to lift myself out of having to shop at joints like Walmart. I feel sorry for anybody who has a crappy job, whether it's at Walmart or not.

  • SPD||

    If I shopped at Wal-Mart, it wouldn't be because I approve of how they force employees to work overtime, or drag their heels over unionization or better health care, or pass over female candidates for promotion. It would be because I needed something cheap, and lots of it.

    Where else would po' trailer trash be able to go to buy a TV set, or a year's supply of pork rinds, or cheap ammo? And where else would people virtually unemployable elsewhere in the private sector be able to find jobs, albeit low-paying ones?

    Some folks choose to work at Wal-Mart for the same reason others join the army or become priests: They have nowhere else to go. In that sense, I like to think of Wal-Mart as the world's largest private charity.

  • ||

    Of course, if Aldi has lower prices than Walmart, and does Walmart's schtick better than Walmart, that would seem to suggest that Walmart can do better by its employees.

  • ||

    You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear.

  • ||

    "what you say might have some legitimacy if it wasn't so predictable."

    I say the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

  • dhex||


    I don't see why there's this "YOU MUST LOVE WALMART OR YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE AND YOU LOVE COMMUNISM" thing going around.


    because people are short-sighted cunts who love to play this my team/your team sports bar thing?

    man i dunno. never been in a wal-mart. saw the high cost of low prices. larfed at a few points where they made incomprehensible bullshit comparisons. wouldn't want to work there. etc.

  • ||

    I don't like Wal Mart all that much, not as a company, but as a place to shop. The ones in the DC area that I have been to are poorly maintained, dirty, disorganized and the shelves are usually full of holes.

    I pretty much assume that the people there will quit and work elsewhere if the job sucks that much or they acquire some real transferable job skills. I don't think that Wal Mart has any special Svengali like powers over their employees that tricks them into staying.

    Like stephen the g., I can afford to shop elsewhere and do. That and Targets are much closer and nicer to shop. What I don't get online, I usually get there.

    What I do hate is how Giant Foods, owned by Ahold, and the UFCW 400 union chapter coluded with Monkey County, Md council members to get any store over a certain square footage that threatens their livlihood banned form the county.

    So, we don't get any Super Targets Wal Marts with groceries or Wegmens here, just the status quo. You gotta love the union who looks out for the little guy, just as long he's their's. Screw the other little guy who just wants cheaper and/or better places to shop.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    Already answered. Wal Mart and its labor and business practices is one of the most heavily-reported stories of the last decade. Playing dumb is a really good indication that you don't have an argument.

    Maybe you need to put a little thought into why you have an opinion about a department store. It just sells stuff, d00d. It also employs people, engaged in commerce with other companies, and because of its size, acts as an industry leader for the retail business.

  • ||

    JLM,

    Like I said, information on the subject is easily available. Have you tried looking for it?

    Episiarch,

    Considering that people line up to work at any Walmart that opens, your complaints about worker treatment--that I again ask how you know--seem to not bother the people, who, you know, work there.

    Wal Mart has, by far, the highest employee turnover rate in the retail biz. So much for your assumption. The behavior of people who have options is a better indication of revealed preference, and when Wal Mart employees have options, they jump ship at a dramatic rate.

  • ||

    Randolph Carter,

    I don't see why there's this "YOU MUST LOVE WALMART OR YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE AND YOU LOVE COMMUNISM" thing going around. Because Wal Mart spends a great deal of money paying "think tanks" to argue that case.

  • ||

    Wal Mart does have some admirable practices, though. They pioneered an urban model store which brought back department-store choice to urban neighborhoods that hadn't had it in a couple of generations. They've also done good work on their Green store model.

  • ||

    As someone who worked as a peon at Wal-Mart in the US, and has shopped there as a consumer in both the US and Germany, I can say a couple of things about this.

    First, working as a peon at Wal-Mart sucks. It means working for low wages, minimal benefits, and in an environment where employees have little leverage. I would work there again only if I had no other options and were totally destitute.

    Secondly, while low-wage workers here in Germany in general are not as bad off as they are in America (you don't go without healthcare, for one thing), they aren't all that much better off. There is no state-mandated minimum wage (outside of some weirdness with construction jobs), and while trade unions have been traditionally very strong here, in recent years low-wage jobs have not been keeping up with inflation and the unions have been unable to forestall this. This has driven some talk of implementing a statutory minimum wage in the last several months.

    Now, I don't know what dealings Wal-Mart had with their employees, and I've heard the company blame a lot of their failure on the state of the labor market here. But I find it difficult to believe that this is what caused them to fail. Compensation is simply not that much different.

    Furthermore, the quality of the goods was not the issue. There are plenty of other discount retail chains here in Germany (Globus, Plus, Lidl, Aldi, Metro, etc.) that sell goods which are more-or-less the same level of quality as the stuff you could buy here at Wal-Mart.

    Mostly what seemed to drive the company's failure here is it's inability to compete with established chains that had studied Wal-Mart's success in the last decades and imitated them. That, and a couple of really boneheaded moves by the company that gave it bad publicity, like offering a sale on pillow cases that were sized for American pillows, and not the double-sized pillows that everyone here in Germany uses.

    Frankly, Wal-Mart didn't understand it's market, got into it in a weak position against established competition, made several strategic mistakes, and got its ass handed to it. That is why Wal-Mart failed in Germany, not because of its lowest common denominater philosophy towards employees and customers.

  • ||

    I lived outside the US during WalMarts rise and only visited one for the first time a year or so ago. It didn't particularly impress me but if you know precisely what you want you can save money. I bought jeans there much, much cheaper than I would pay elsewhere. So I was pleased with that. It save me lots of money. Things like pans, etc, same deal so I was happy.

    I then moved to Germany and wondered about the Wal Mart you picture. I intended to visit it and never made it. I suspect the problems were several fold. One, a German friend says people were suspect when they had someone packing bags and giving out bags to carry things. You don't get service like that in German stores -- crappy service actually and you have to pay for each bag you use or bring your own. They will sit there and do nothing while you pack your bag. They won't help. So Germans looke suspiciously at this and protested that they didn't want to pay extra to have someone pack bags or give them bags they didn't ask for.

    The next problem is that lots of Berliners don't own cars and won't travel far for much shopping. WalMart is the sort of place you go to to stock up on things expecially since the one in Berlin was quite a way out from the city center. I would have had to take at least two or three trains and still walk some to get there. That would limit what I could bring back making it not so cost effective. I figured it would take me 30 to 45 minutes to get there. Add in the return trip.

    One result of lower European living standards is a lower car ownership rate. Most the people in my building travel on foot or by bicycle. So most shopping is done at tiny, cramped, expensive stores around the corner because longer distances are difficult to do with many bags of groceries. Even the large store near the train station (one short bus trip) from me I avoid. I would need to take my shopping cart with me. The bus is often crammed with people with no room for the cart meaning I may have to wait for another 15 minutes for another bus and hopefully it won't be full.

    Also most people don't have time to travel. Shop hours required the shops to close by 7 every evening. And they couldn't be open at all on Sundays or holidays. So if you miss the time between getting off work and closing you are screwed until the next day. That again pushes people to buy at the little local shops with the higher prices and poor selections.

    Shopping in German is really a pain in the neck because this. And I think that had an impact on Wal Mart. It was too far out and the savings were worth it unless one bought enough stuff and that is difficult if you go by foot, bicycle or mass transit. Add in the German mistrust of American companies and I am not surprised they failed.

    And it wasn't Aldi as one commenter suggested. Aldi in Germany is generally food only and very small. I have one a block from my apartment and I thought it was lousy. But the one in England (where I currently am) is larger and better. But not the one's in Germany. The same is true Lidl which is another one. They are smaller than the average American grocery store and much smaller than a WalMart -- I don't think that would have much imnpact.

    That's my impression from living in Berlin for the last year.

  • SPD||

    joe,

    I'm not arguing with the facts you've presented, but I always thought the large turnover was due to the number of employees who take part-time jobs there temporarily. People like students, those who need a bit of short-term cash due to unemployment, retirees who can't live solely on their pensions, spouses supplementing the family cash flow, etc.

    There are many reasons one might choose to work at Wal-Mart. I'm just thankful I don't have to... yet.

  • ||

    If joe doesn't want to shop at Wal Mart because of their reported business practices, I'm cool with that. Sounds like a very free market approach. I'm the same way with companies that abuse eminent domain to get land for their stores.

    Sadly, too many people like joe want to put their preferences into the rule of law and codify their economic theories and business models at the expense of Wal Mart and their customers.

    They can go suck non-organic, caged laid, non-union eggs.

  • ||

    "Frankly, Wal-Mart didn't understand it's market, got into it in a weak position against established competition, made several strategic mistakes, and got its ass handed to it. That is why Wal-Mart failed in Germany, not because of its lowest common denominater philosophy towards employees and customers."

    In my face! Sounds reasonable though.

  • ||

    SPD,

    I imagine there's a little of both going on.

  • ||

    "Everybody I know that shops at Wal Mart buys the exact same stuff you can find at other stores."

    The bicycles at Walmart, even the Schwinn's, are total pieces of garbage. Everybody cites to toiletpaper as if wiping one's ass alone props up the Walmart empire. Get real, folks.

  • ||

    "Everybody I know that shops at Wal Mart buys the exact same stuff you can find at other stores."

    The bicycles at Walmart, even the Schwinn's, are total pieces of garbage. Everybody cites to toiletpaper as if wiping one's ass alone props up the Walmart empire. Get real, folks.



    The Levis at Wal*Mart (called the Signature line) are cheaper than their normal jeans because they are designed to be cheaper to produce. They are not the same jeans. They are crappier.

    Ditto on stuff like lawn mowers.

  • SPD||

    as if wiping one's ass alone props up the Walmart empire

    Hey, it did wonders for Mssrs. Charmin and company!

  • SPD||

    de stijl,

    It's not as if people voluntarily sacrifice quality for affordability. Sometimes, you just gotta.

  • ||

    SPD,

    Agreed. But it's disengenuous to argue that all Wal*Mart merch is the same as every other retailer. Very often, it ain't.

  • SPD||

    de stijl,

    Well, you could argue that Wal-Mart is helping smaller business by getting their products onto shelves. Because these wholesalers are willing to sell bulk to Wal-Mart at discounted rates, and Wal-Mart owns their own means of transportation, the reduced overhead translates to lower prices.

    Does the quality suffer? Sure -- the smaller companies don't have the labor and technology advantages the larger ones do. But if they can move more of their existing product through a large retail chain, the increased revenue allows them to put more money into improving their product lines, which means they can attract the attention of higher-end stores.

  • ||

    You don't get service like that in German stores -- crappy service actually and you have to pay for each bag you use or bring your own. [Germans] didn't want to pay extra to have someone pack bags or give them bags they didn't ask for.

    This is true. The phrase "Deutschland: Die Service-Wüste" (Germany: The Service Wasteland) springs to mind. Globus (one of the other chains) actually tried this out last Christmas here but it didn't seem to go over well so they stopped. Hell, after living here a few years I don't want them packing my bags. They don't know what they are doing!

    One result of lower European living standards is a lower car ownership rate.

    This has less to do with lower living standards than it does with 1) high urbanization, 2) high gas prices (about $6.95 a gallon today for regular unleaded), 3) small land area, and 4) good public transport on which it is not a stigma to ride.

    Shop hours required the shops to close by 7 every evening. And they couldn't be open at all on Sundays or holidays.

    That must be a Berlin thing, and it is changing. Here in Rheinland-Pfalz chain stores like Globus and Real are open to 10 p.m., and the local shopping mall is open to midnight during the Christmas season. True about Sundays and holidays though (although they occasionally have "retail holidays" when they are allowed to be open on Sundays), and I won't argue that shopping in Germany is a pain in the ass from an American viewpoint.

    The thing I hate the most is not being able to buy non-prescription medication anywhere but a registered pharmacy (although that may change soon too -- a chain called DM is lobbying hard to be able to sell things like aspirin).

  • ||

    actually tried this out last Christmas here

    Heh. By this I meant having people bagging stuff for you, not the phrase as a slogan.

  • ||

    But de stijl, being less costly to produce doesn't necessarily mean crappier. Levi Strauss, after all, is a mid-end brand, between low-priced Lees and Wranglers and higher-priced Sevens and Luckys. A Signature line would, on one hand, reach a lower price point without necessarily being of lesser quality.

    Jeans in general cost about the same to make -- most are made in factories in Mexico -- and are generally of the same quality. The difference is usually in how much customizing is done and the market in which a brand is trying to penetrate.

    So your argument that Wal-Mart offers lower-quality merchandise, on any objective basis, doesn't seem to stand. You will have to offer more evidence to prove otherwise

  • ||

    SPD,

    "It's not as if people voluntarily sacrifice quality for affordability. Sometimes, you just gotta."

    Sometimes they do. I buy the cheapo $15 kakis at WalMart instead of the $40 dockers. I can afford the dockers, but I don't care to. The cheapos last almost as long and I don't feel bad if they accidentally get screwed up at work when I'm working around equipment. Plus this leaves me an extra $25 for fishing tackle, surfboards, beer, poker or anything else that is higher on my priority list than a slightly better pair of pants.

  • Joshua Holmes||

    Karl Marx and Wal-Mart

    "What are two things that have nothing to do with the free market?"
    "Correct. Select again."
    "Potent Potables for $600."

  • ||

    Wal-Mart's cheapo gear isn't made by small companies - it's ordered in massive bulk from off-shore suppliers. They are able to command such incredibly low prices from their suppliers specifically because the volume of their orders allows their suppliers to operate on very, very thin margins.

    Whether you think this is a good thing or bad is up to you, but the idea that Wally World's mega-bulk purchasing allows small businesses to get their products on the shelves simply does not stand up.

  • ||

    Sevenmack, it is pretty clear that Wal-Mart offers lower-quality merchandise than other retailers in some cases. For example, as Lamar mentioned above, the bicycles are clearly lower-end products (at least to anyone who knows much about bicycles). Computer systems are another example.

    Now, I'm not arguing that there isn't a market for lower-quality stuff, or that it is bad to be a retailer (or buyer) in that market, but it's a bit naive to claim that Wal-Mart doesn't serve that market.

  • ||

    Actually josephdietrich, it isn't a Berlin thing. For years, German laws basically regulated the times stores could open or close, generally closing at 8 p.m. and remaining closed on Sundays and during the holidays. Two decades ago, it was even worse, with stores being mandated to close at 6:30 during weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

    While the national law has been scrapped, state governments are in charge of setting times. And there has been criticism of the changes, especially by churches. The region in which you live has actually been progressive when it comes to shopping hours, allowing stores to remain open until 10 p.m. Berlin does allow 24-hour shopping under its new laws, but not every store has embraced that change yet.

  • SPD||

    JLM,

    Good point, but what I meant to say was that there are people out there who don't have $40 to spend on a pair of pants to begin with.

    I remember being sent to London on a business trip and realizing I had nothing presentable to wear for that week. I was also broke as hell. I went to Value City and bought several shirts, pants, ties, a new belt, shoes and a piece of luggage. I spent a grand total of $140.

    It was nice to know that when necessity dictated the circumstances, I had a low-cost option available to me.

  • ||

    Actually josephdietrich, it isn't a Berlin thing.

    What I meant by that is that Berlin must be slow about implementing the changes you go on to mention. I apologize if you thought I was questioning your grasp of the situation.

  • Rhywun||

    Two decades ago, it was even worse, with stores being mandated to close at 6:30 during weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

    Yet when I lived in Germany two decades ago, I never had a problem finding time to go shopping. Of course I was a teenager and school ended at like 1 o'clock, so there you go.

  • ||

    But Josephdietrict, as far as bikes are concerned, most Wal-Mart shoppers aren't looking for a $1,500 competition-ready bike. Most people are looking for a relatively low-cost bike that can stand up to the typical wear-and-tear of casual riding. On that score, the Schwinns sold at Wal-Mart (and similar models sold at Target) are probably at as high a quality as you will get for such bikes. If you're looking for a competition-ready bike, well, you shouldn't be shopping at Wal-Mart.

    Quality in many cases is relative, depending on your needs. If you are Lance Armstrong or even a collegiate biker, Wal-Mart isn't the place you would depend on for competition-ready bikes or even for a high-end bike made of some carbon-based composite material. On the other hand, most middle-class people are looking for a bike that can hold up to ordinary wear-and-tear. So Wal-Mart does provide a high-quality product for them. For you? Well, there are specialty outfits that sell the competition-ready bikes for which you are seeking.

    What you seem to be doing, dietrich, is mistaking what you perceive to be quality -- based on a personal standard which cannot be transferred to another person's experience or needs because each of us is an individual -- with what the market actually says is quality based on price point. Essentially you can have both Banana Republic and Express sell shirts at the same price point and there still would be a perceivable difference in quality. Same thing if you shop at Wal-Mart and an American version of the Meijer chain. But expecting Wal-Mart to offer a Banana Republic kind of shirt is expecting way too much. They both offer quality products at their individual price points, but they can't really compare to one another.

    If you are shopping for a competition-ready bike, you need to shop among retailers and manufacturers of that level of product. If you are just looking for a bike that can hold up to normal wear, then shopping at a specialty store means you're getting more than what you really need for what you are doing. It is your choice, either way, but neither one serves as an actual measure of quality.

    And even the price point measure doesn't tell you much. The Banana Republic shirt I got yesterday from the outlet mall is of the same quality as the one I could have bought at the mall. But because it is an outlet mall and because it is being sold at clearance price, I paid less for the same shirt. Does that mean I'm getting a lower-quality shirt? Of course not. I'm just getting that shirt at a lower price point.

  • ||

    Sevenmack, I think you underestimate the quality range of bicycles. It is a broader than "competition-ready" vs. "those you can buy at Wal-Mart." Furthermore, you can measure quality with regards to a bicycle based on the failure rate of its components. So we are not simply talking about personal perception.

    The same is true of equipment like computers.

    In any event, call me skeptical of your claim that quality is a subjective phenomena based on price point. For clothing, housewares, or health and beauty aids, sure, the difference may not be all that big. For other products like electronics ... well, like I said, call me skeptical.

  • ||

    Sevenmack,

    I'm not a Wal*Mart basher. There is a reason that they offer low prices. Magically selling $50 jeans for $22 is not part of their business model. Their genius is with supply chain management and getting all of their suppliers into that SCM model. Sometimes it ain't pretty and it has unintended consequnces for the supplier.

    Levi's was a dying business. Sales were down dramatically in the late '90s early '00s. They wanted in on the number of doors and eyeballs Wal*Mart provides. They created a new jean line specifically for big box retailers - the Signature line. It is cheaper than the Red Tag Levi's and the quality is less. Almost no finish work and the amount of cotton per square foot is substantially less - 12.5 oz for the Red Tag vs. 9 oz for Signature. Wal*Mart wanted jeans at a $20-$25 price point; Levi's cheapest (and lowest quality line was above $30) so they created the new line for this reason alone.

    It may end up for Levi's much like it did for Vlasic where they will end up cannibalizing their sales at their higher price points and in all their other retailers and channels.

    Here are a few articles from Fastcompany with more information about Wal*Mart and Levi's (and other suppliers).

    The Wal-Mart You Don't Know

    The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart

    At an outlet mall, you very likely did get the exact same quality shirt you would get for a lot less than you would pay at a retail store. Outlet malls exist to get rid of merch that didn't sell at the full retail price.

    Wal*Mart is not an outlet store.

  • ||

    "On that score, the Schwinns sold at Wal-Mart (and similar models sold at Target) are probably at as high a quality as you will get for such bikes."

    The bicycles sold at Walmart stores are in the sub-$300 category. Consumers Reports strongly advises against these sub-$300 bicycles because they rust, fall apart, require more maintenance and generally don't hold up.

    So, no. Walmart stocks crap, and you pay low prices for that crap. People are so mesmerized by Walmart's supply chain that they think Walmart isn't subject to conventional economic laws. But it is. You get what you pay for. Even at Walmart, you get what you pay for.

    Also, I was under the impression that quality was different from value.

  • ||

    When you pay $30.00 for a kid's bike that has survived 3 years worth of hard riding including two over-the-handlebars accidents almost unscathed, you can be quite happy with the deal.

    The fact is that Walmart is not some magical entity. They target consumers who want to spend as little money as possible for stuff. For some goods and services they are my preferred choice. For others, I shop elsewhere.

    Much of the Walmart hate, though, is the product of a concerted public relations campaign from Bernays' playbook by unions that are unhappy that Walmart didn't cave in to their demands to organize Walmart's workforce.

    Walmart isn't some choir-boy; they are quite happy to use government subsidies to enhance their bottom line, or call for regulation to hinder competitors, such as their notorious campaign to increase the minimum wage.

    In the end, though, they owe their power to satisfied customers choosing to spend money in their stores, something that many Walmart haters seem bent on denying. shrug

  • ||

    the eager glee of the employees

    Damn that Bob Cratchet and his glee!

  • ||

    All we need is for Wal*Mart to open a few abortion clinics and we will have the...

    GREATEST THREAD EVER!!!


    Where affordable quality at the lowest possible prices are part of the customer experience.

    "DON'T KILL YOUR BABY! DON'T KILL YOUR BABY!"

    "Welcome to Bort*Mart!"

    /bad taste

  • ||

    ... maybe that should have been "Wal*Bort."

  • ||

    Anyway, all I know is, if some store has unusually good deals on better-than-average merchandise, I'd much rather they bury that stuff in the middle of the aisles, instead of putting those on the end-caps where I might stumble upon them without having to go hunt for them.

  • ||

    tarran, I got no quarrels with your $30 bicycle purchase. A kid will outgrow a bicycle before he/she has time to destroy it. See my 10:56 post. I buy Converse All-Stars even though my Doc Martens have lasted 6 years and show no signs of aging (except my aging). I just don't try to convince people that Converse All-Stars are quality shoes.

  • ||

    Why does the left hate Wal-Mart? The answer is so simple: common people shop at Wal-Mart!

  • ||

    "In any event, call me skeptical of your claim that quality is a subjective phenomena based on price point. For clothing, housewares, or health and beauty aids, sure, the difference may not be all that big. For other products like electronics ... well, like I said, call me skeptical."

    This isn't exactly so. Think about the average DVD player that sells at $50. It holds up just as well as one that sells at a $100 price point. The differences between the two are less likely to be in the ability for each to hold up over time than the additional features (progressive scan) that will come with a $100 model.

    Or look at computers. If you look at the $400 Acer laptop I bought a few months ago and a $600 Compaq, there's going to be little difference in terms of quality -- and I should know because I also own a $1,000 laptop. Both will hold up well over time. The question lies with the features -- the Acer doesn't have a
    DVD burner while the $600 Compaq does have one -- than with quality. And ultimately, if the additional features aren't what you want, then you're simply comparing based on performance and how long the respective computers will last.

    Now this isn't to say there aren't objective differences in quality within price points or even across. But the differences in many cases are less than you would perceive them to be. One must remember that for most people, price point equals quality, even when in many cases, it doesn't. Same with retail area: We think a Wal_Mart item is of lower quality than a Target, even if it isn't exactly so. That's because of personal prejudice instead of because of objective fact.

    And Lance: Consumer Reports may have a point, but that point is likely based on the idea that you're going to hand down the bike. And it's also based on testing that doesn't always match up to the real world. Most people don't, for example, simply leave their bikes outdoors. They take them inside and thus avoid rust. And most people end up buying a bike every few years for their child because a kid grows and won't be able to get additional use out of the bike.

    One must also remember that most bike riders are casual riders, aren't mountain-biking and aren't in competition. For them, the quality measurement is less rigorous than for those who aren't.

    And as for Levi's: It's problems have less to do with Wal-Mart than its own mismanagement. If it goes the way of the dinosaur, then it will be because of other management snafus such as failing once again to take advantage of the designer jeans fad of this decade.

  • ||

    Why does the left hate right ogle over Wal-Mart? The answer is so simple: common people shop at Wal-Mart is big business!

    I find these generalizations to be pointless, and reflect poorly on the poster.

    "And Lance Lamar: Consumer Reports may have a point, but that point is likely based on the idea that you're going to hand down the bike."

    I think they're talking about grow-up bikes. As far as I know, there aren't any children's bikes over $150 or so.

  • ||

    I don't get the low quality argument. A ton of the stuff they sell is exactly the same brand and size as sold elsewhere, but considerably cheaper. If you want an example, check out spaghetti sauce . Exact same brand, style, and size, goes for 40% more at some other grocery stores. 90% of the stuff I buy at Wal-Mart is the same stuff carried at other "high quality stores."

    I don't get people who derive some sort of psychic satisfaction from where they acquire their laundry detergent, but if it floats your boat, go for it. But a large segment of the population feels like an idiot when they pay more than they have to for the exact same product, and aren't worried about signaling their socio-economic status by buying products of dubious superiority at outrageous markups from the right vendors. In a way, then, I would argue that Wal-Mart shoppers are the people who haven't bought into the consumerist mindset so bemoaned by Wal-Mart critics, while the critics themselves are victims of it.

    As to their employment practices, they don't sound any worse than you're likely to find from any low-end employer. I've worked a lot of crappy jobs, and frankly their pay rate and even a tiny hope of health benefits beats the crap out of most comparable jobs.

  • ||

    I don't get the low quality argument. A ton of the stuff they sell is exactly the same brand and size as sold elsewhere, but considerably cheaper.

    Granted. But I never said that much of their merchandise is not the exact same as sold in other retail stores. Pasta sauce is a perfect example for this category.

    However, some of their merchandise is different (and intentionally cheaper and "crappier") from what you will find at other outlets with the same brand name. Jeans is a perfect example of this category.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart carries very little I would buy. It's not because a "consumerist mindset", but because they don't carry the kind of laundry detergent I want to use, or the toilet paper or clothes that I would like. That doesn't make me a snob, but someone who wants a laundry detergent that gives me what I want. Or body soap that I love (that's my big treat to myself).

    Buying a cheap pair of jeans, or bra or really crappy shoes does not make sense economically in the long run. You keep having to replace them. I have bought clothes in the past from Wal-Mart and seams rip out, zippers break, elastic blows out at a faster rate than items I've bought over the years that I still have. Good grief I still have the classic overcoat I bought in 1986, for 188.00 bucks (in those dollars) from a local "dress shop" and shoes and purses I initally paid a bit for, but I have 15 or twenty years out of them.. Their purses are horrible. It might be great if you want to live in a disposable culture, but I'm old school I guess.

    Their cookware sucks, their plants sold at their garden center sucks and their CDs (that special Wal-Mart version) really suck.

    I want my local small stores to stay open. I want good rubber boots for our commercial fishing boat, bot cheap (and they are, they split at the seams under any real stress) Wal-Mart boots. A pair of boots that lasts a year versus more expensive ones that last two or three, have better tread for safety...I'm not sure there's really a bargain there.

    So don't try to make people who have shopped there and found the place abysmal feel guilty or elitist. Actually I find it a bit condescending to read people talk about the "poor" and Wal-Mart being their refuge and only resort. That's as elitist as they come.

  • ||

    toxicroach: First you say only "a ton" of Walmart stuff is the same brand and model as other stores.

    Out of the millions of tons of merchandize moved each month, "a ton" isn't much. [/sarc]

    You say that 90% of the items are the exact same as are available in "high quality stores" and such items retail for 40% less at Walmart.

    Now, you wouldn't happen to be one of these people who makes stuff up just to win an argument, now would you? Basically, you're saying that you can buy the same exact item at Walmart, same brand, product code, batch, etc., for 40% less at Walmart.

    A quick, random check (I chose MP3 players) reveals that Walmart doesn't stock Ipods, so I randomly chose to price the Creative Zen Vision M 30. Walmart was $215.95 shipped to the store (i.e., not your house) and Amazon.com was $226 shipped to your house.

    (1) Where the hell do you get the 40% number? Best I can tell, Walmart offers a 4-5% discount in exchange for you driving out to Walmart and going through their store.

    (2) Walmart doesn't have the iPod, which is, you know, "exactly the same brand and size as sold elsewhere."

  • ||

    Brandybuck | September 4, 2007, 2:27pm | #

    Why does the left hate Wal-Mart? The answer is so simple: common people shop at Wal-Mart!


    And here we see a conservative engaging in his favorite behavior: the politics of projection.

    Go to any thread about Whole Foods, farmers markets, or any business that appeals to a liberal clientelle, and you actually will find post after post after post from people proclaiming their hatred of that business, because of the sort of people who shop there.

    Since they do it, then they assume that everyone else does so, as well. Brandybuck refused to shop at stores with a lefty vibe because of his snobbishness; so he assumes that everyone who refuses to shop at Wal Mart does so for the same reason.

    It's sort of like the Iraq hawks assertinig back in ought-three, "If you don't think this is going to work, it's because you don't think Arabs are capable of living in a democracy." Well, no, but as we've seen over the past two years, that most certainly is how THEY perceive the failure.

    The Politics of Projection are quite popular on the right these days.

  • ||

    Lamar-

    A while back I bought a little plastic globe for the transom light on my boat, because the old one deteriorated in the sunlight. Boater's World: $7, WalMart: $3; same brand and part number. This is one insignificant example, and I don't pretend to know what percentage of WalMart inventory falls into this category vs. the "cheaper quality" category, but I've stumbled into similar cases enough to know that it is not insignificant.

  • ||

  • ||

    Not saying I buy it, of course. I usually find that there's a cheapo product with a deep discount, but the brands and models you find at other stores have the same prices as other stores.

  • ||

    Interesting, but I assume that "their competitors" in this study largely consists of other big outlets like Target, and the typical price differences may be small. A narrowly focused business like the one in my example (Boater's World) is almost always going to be more expensive on any item that a it and a large retailer both sell. If there was a Target 2 miles from my doorstep I might shop there more often than I do Wally-World........

  • ||

    JLM: You certainly have a point on specialty shops. It's expensive to either hire people who have some expertise or retain them long enough to develop an area of knowledge. I don't discount that people find things priced for less at Walmart. Pun not intended...

  • Syloson of Samos||

    I buy stuff at Wal-Mart. Things like dish washing detergent, paper towels and the like. Like any store one buys what seems like a quality product for a good price.

  • ||

    The thing I find strange about all of the "why the hate for Wal-Mart" comments is that, in fact, I don't hate Wal-Mart. I'm definitely more sympathetic to the "left" liberal viewpoint than most, but still. Even when I worked there I didn't hate it, although I would never work there again. When I lived in the US I shopped at Wal-Mart, and didn't have a problem with it at all. Just because I would never buy a bicycle or a computer there doesn't mean I have any hate (or love) for the place, and it makes me think that some people read way too much into things.

    But back to Sevenmack: I'll agree with you that subjective personal preference does play a role in what people consider to be "quality" in a product. That's pretty obvious. And you seem to agree that there are objective measures of quality across the same price point. So I'll call that a consensus; it was just the "on any objective basis" in this comment that struck me as a bit overboard.

    [The devil in me can't help but point out, however, that your DVD-player and computer examples of quality-equivalence are simply assertions without any evidence to back them up. Of course, I've made evidence-less assertions about bicycles, so I'll call it a wash.]

  • ||

    "90% of the stuff I buy" is what I said. Not that 90% of what they carry is the same as other high end stores. And the 40% is specific example of a particular item that I personally saw as well, not an overall generalization of every item in the store.

    You don't go to Wal-Mart to buy fishing boots or items like that if you are interested in long term use. I grant you that. And I wouldn't buy a generic brand MP3 player from Wal-Mart either. I wouldn't buy furniture or anything like that either. But Wal-Mart isn't exactly killing the competition in those sectors either. Wal-Mart makes its bread delivering the daily consumables of life that pretty much everyone needs, not high end personal electronics and sporting goods. And my point was, as fair as those daily consumables go, its pretty much the same stuff at generally cheaper prices.

  • Episiarch||

    Many things are cheaper at Walmart. Some things are not. And some things are way cheaper.

    I go to Walmart and buy those things. I then go to other stores who have the cheapest price on the other stuff.

    If I require a specific brand (like Genova for tuna), I buy that, otherwise I buy the cheapest thing they have.

    This seems like the most common sense way to do things. Going or not going to a store because certain people hate them seems dumb.

  • Mike Laursen||

    You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear.

    Kudos, de stijl! That was the best Godwin non-sequitir ever!

  • ||

    Also, the anti-Walmart in general is about class. It's the same attitude that worries about who manufactured your clothes, the car you drive, where you shop, what you read and what music you listen to. Which is fine as far as that goes, everyone does it, but you'd also have to be pretty naive not get that part of anti-Wal-Martism is about differentiating yourself from the poor fat mullet wearing Republican stereotypes that reportedly shop there.

  • ||

    There is zero difference between the household items like toilet paper at a Wal Mart and other lefty, yuppie approved stores.

    It's not as if people voluntarily sacrifice quality for affordability. Sometimes, you just gotta.

    Toilet paper is one item where I won't sacrifice quality for affordability. Only high quality tp for me.

  • Mike Laursen||

    The Left has a problem with Wal-Mart because they are anti-union.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I don't see Wal-Mart as being evil nor exemplary.

    As a libertarian, I have a problem with their benefitting from eminent domain abuse.

    Critiques of their medical benefits are misplaced. The true problem is that we have a crazy meme in American society that your medical care should be the responsibility of your employer, the one entity in your life that's listing you as an expense in its accounting ledger.

    On the plus side: those low prices and jobs are a boon to people without a lot of money, no matter what the left says. And it cannot all be attributed to their screwing over their employees and suppliers -- Wal-Mart has been an innovator in using heavy-weight computing in its supply chain management.

  • ||

    "the anti-Walmart [meme] in general is about class."

    The left supposedly hates Walmart because of it's anti-union stance, yet simultaneously hating union workers. Fascinating!!

  • ||

    See, I thought the left hated Wal Mart because of our cowardice, anti-Americanism, and admiration for Saddam Hussein.

    I mean, that's pretty much what motivates us. You can tell this is true, because it's what the people who hate us the most say.

    Oh, wait, I almost forgot - there's the desire to kill off a few billion people by forbidding them to heat their homes. That's pretty high on our list lately, too.

  • ||

    Oh, dammit, Teh Gay! How could I forget teh gay?

    Obviously, since we're talking about the Left, part of the motivation is our desire to turn people gay. Like your children, for example.

    Wal Mart is a serious impediment to our efforts to turn your children gay, what with their not selling that Cheryl Crow album and all. So...there's that.

  • ||

    There's no way any kid will grow up gay shopping in a store that sells auto parts alongside clothing or groceries.

  • ||

    There's no way any kid will grow up gay shopping in a store that sells auto parts alongside clothing or groceries.



    And don't forget...guns. :)

    Actually several WMs in the Orlando area have stopped selling guns. Walmart responds to some odd pressures.

  • ||

    The idea that Walmart is capable of performing some free market miracle by which high quality products are priced inexplicably below their true value is absurd.

    Lamar, if you knew much about economics, you wouldn't think there was such a thing as "true value" (or "true price"). Value is what an individual thinks something is worth. Individuals have different views of the value of something.

    What WalMart does is sell things cheaply enough that huge numbers of (mostly poor) people think it is worth shopping there, while offering wages and working conditions that huge numbers of people think are better than any other alternative they have at the moment, which is why they work there and not somewhere else. Yep, real evil folks, those WalMartians. Gotta stop them before they benefit even more poor people and job-seekers.

  • Mike Laursen||

    See, I thought the left hated Wal Mart because of our cowardice, anti-Americanism, and admiration for Saddam Hussein.

    Don't forget your godless, secular-humanism. Oh, and Al Franken.

  • ||

    Um, because Wal Mart's business practices, such as the working conditions for its drivers, have been widely reported on, and people who make the slightest effort to learn about the subject can easily find web sites, documentaries, and articles on the subject.

    Not that any documentarian would EVER be biased or anything. There are also documentaries that state the opposite. Target is not a union shop, but it seems lefties have no issue shopping there. And for the record, Wal-Mart offers part-time workers health insurance. I don't know many places that do that.

    I personally hate shopping at Wal-Mart, but as I think profit motive is actually a good thing, I'd rather a world with Wal-Mart than a world without.

  • Lamar||

    "Target is not a union shop, but it seems lefties have no issue shopping there."

    Suggesting that there is something peculiar about Walmart.

    "And for the record, Wal-Mart offers part-time workers health insurance. I don't know many places that do that."

    According to a post above, German discounters insure all of their workers, and seem to still have a significant advantage over Walmart.

  • ||

    I'm not a liberal, but I shop at Costco rather than WalMart in part because the employees at Costco seem more cheerful. I imagine that's in part because Costco treats them better and pays them more. In effect, I'm buying a luxury good -- paying a bit more for happier employees because how they interact with me makes my day more pleasant. And, I don't have a problem with liberals like my mother-in-law when she's being a secular evangelical AntiWalMartian ("Friends don't let friends shop at WalMart" is her motto.) But, that shouldn't give me, or her, or anyone else, the right to try to pass laws tailored toward excluding WalMart because we don't like the products they offer and people voluntarily buy, or the employment package they offer and people voluntarily accept.

    Take away their penchant for government coercion, and liberals would be far more likeable people, IMO. (Course, then they wouldn't be liberals any more, they'd be libertarians ...)

  • ||

    Cheaply-made, shoddy crap for sale; poor treatment of the workers allegedly in the name of general prosperity; carefully chosen examples of the best deals strategically located to be the most visible locations producing an inaccurate impression of the deals throughout the store being better than they actually are...sure, Karl-Marx Street works just fine.

    I got my ipod at one...and I buy my nicotine patches there. The patches are cheaper then anywhere else in town...the ipod was the same price as you would pay online from Apple but without the wait.

    But...I am a connoisseur of consuming things, i like buying shit and I like how the things I buy improve my life...I even like looking at things i don't buy and wondering "what if". that said the Walmart I frequent is not a fun consuming experience. Goods are disorganized the aisles are cramped and for some reason customers there do not know how to shop and i am constantly slowed down by idiots blocking the aisles or standing in front of the stuff I want to look at.

    Give me a Target or Fred Myers any day.

  • ||

    See, I thought the left hated Wal Mart because of our cowardice, anti-Americanism, and admiration for Saddam Hussein.

    Shucks joe, you had us at cowardice. No need to overplay your hand and go fluffin' up your resume.

  • ||

    "Target is not a union shop, but it seems lefties have no issue shopping there."

    I'm not endorsing the "lefties" comment; I'm just going to call it "whoever thinks big brother should punish WalMart" and leave it at that. But I think the answer to your question is that right now, Wally World is the popular target (no pun intended). If the John Edwards' of the world get the sheep marching to the "Target sucks" tune, that will be their new purpose in life.

    Just this afternoon I saw a Pepsi commercial where they were advertising a product with extra caffeine and some of that other stuff that generally lives in "energy" drinks. Weren't we hearing just a few years ago that Mt. Dew/Coke/etc. are deliberately putting too much caffeine in their product, it's bad for kids, these evil corporations this-and-that and blaah-blaah-blaah? That talk seems to have died out. They are off that kick and on to other things. Maybe next year we can get back to demonizing the evil cola companies.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Whoops. I realized later I should have been more specific: The Left has a problem with Wal-Mart because they are the largest non-unionized employer in America.

  • ||

    hmmm.... Wal-Mart's core customers are poor and are trying to make every dollar count. Having shopped at Wal-Marts in the past, before I decided that I grew tired of big box stores with customers and employees that have all the glee of depression-era urbanites, I really would rather spend my money in a less depressing place.

    I've found that I really don't save that much for what I buy (certainly no where near the '30%' that some above have claimed) and I'm not surrounded by depressed zombies in a dingy environment. If you look at the locations where Wal-Marts are located you'd notice that they aren't typically anywhere near the 'upscale' areas and are typically located conveniently near their customer base; low to lower-middle income.

    ----
    http://tinyurl.com/2out8h
    Chief Executive Lee Scott blamed the disappointing performance on economic pressure around the world.

    "It is no secret that many customers are running out of money toward the end of the month," Scott said on a recorded conference call.

    He also said strong sales of low-margin items like groceries and weak sales of higher-margin goods like clothes were hurting profit margins.

    In addition, Schoewe said Wal-Mart was contending with higher levels of "shrink" -- inventory that is lost employee theft, shoplifting, errors in paperwork or vendor fraud.

    "If you think about the macro environment, where customers are under pressure, there's generally a correlation between theft and macro economic pressure," Schoewe said. "Unfortunately, that's what we're seeing."
    ----
    Low-income customers with NO income by the end of the month? Increased shoplifting and employee theft? In this 'healthy economy'? Maybe whatever the pundits are using to measure the economy and determine its health isn't reflecting an apparently anonymous component: the consumer.

    If you care about the 'health' of the U.S. populace and not laissez-faire capitalism, I don't see how you can see the Wal-Mart business model (drive down costs until you suck down the rest of the market with you) as 'healthy'.

    But that's the thing that no one wants to really say outloud, right? That if you are a laissez-faire capitalist [L-FC] ('people have choices, let them live with the mistakes they make') you don't really care about 'the general welfare', and that if you believe that the economy exists to serve the people and not the other way around, that you do care about the 'general welfare.'

    Most of the L-FC arguments are concerned with pointing out the supposed hipocracy of 'lefties' who are 'hurting' the very people they are trying to help. What these L-FCs should be saying is how concerned they are with 'big government' cutting in to their business and keeping them from making a buck and screwing people at every possible turn (because it's typically more cost effective) because that's ALL they care about -- atleast that would be more intellectually honest.

    Of course, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.

  • ||

    Every time i look at comments, nobody can ever agree. Whether it be about wal mart, or a picture of a cat wearing a pirate costume. Basically wal mart is any other retail store. They want profits to be higher than the previous year, so employees suffer shitty pay, and benefits. The consumers will benefit from shopping there by saving money. So basically, people have a choice on where they work. If they want to work at wal mart and get fucked, that is their own choice. Its not the consumers responsibility to defend the employees from shitty business practices which is pretty apparent from people hating wal mart for that reason. I can understand hating wal mart if they took over your small town and forced everyone to work there, but a wal mart opening in a town that already has a k mart, tj maxx, and target isnt doing shit but giving you a cheaper place to shop.
    Actually, fuck wal mart.

  • ||

    I personally don't like shopping at Wal-Mart. The main reason isn't because of "the way they do business" or the "eagerness of the employees" or even "how they treat their employees".

    The main reason I don't LIKE shopping there is their aisles are too narrow. On those occasions when I have visited a Wal-Mart in the past ten years, I felt like the store was very crowded and I realized it was because the aisles were really narrow and it was hard to maneuver the cart. It made me feel uncomfortable to be there.

    The main reason I DON'T shop there is that I do not live or work near a Wal-Mart and I DO live near a Target.

    There are many things I don't like about Target and some things I do like. I do like the variety of merchandise (I like that about Wal-Mart too.) I don't like that the store is dirty. I don't like that the check out lines are always too long. I don't like the fact that the StarBucks in the Target has improperly trained baristas who don't know how to make an Americano properly (probably the easiest espresso drink to make as it is just espresso and hot water. One of them actually added decaf drip coffee into it which was very strange.)

    Have some small businesses gone under because of Big Box stores? Sure. But a lot of them were asshats to begin with. They charged really high prices, had crappy service and selection. They were open bankers hours and were really inconvenient. So, losing them is no skin off my nose.

    But really, I'm doing much more shopping online these days. Target is for toothpaste and the like.

  • Remote Backup||

    I think one thing that WalMart has done is bring down the prices of premium brands that were held artificially high before. I don't mean by them stocking them, but its difficult for a premium brand name to have such a huge difference in price for a 42" plasma when Wal Mart sell them for a fraction of the cost

  • ||

    "The Left has a problem with Wal-Mart because they are the largest non-unionized employer in America."

    I think unions are terrible and I hate Wal-Mart. So much for silly projections of why you think people hate Wal-Mart. Why don't you just stick to why you love Wal-Mart and leave other people's reactions to them?

  • ||

    Jess,

    Target pays and treats its employees much better than Wal Mart, and as a result has much lower rates of turnover and theft.

    They also turn quite a nice profit. And, as you note, lefties like to shop there.

  • ||

    I'd like to ask you where you got that information, Joe. But I know your standard answer is "You can find it anywhere if you look...have you looked?", so I won't ask. I did search, and the information that I found suggests that you may be wrong.

    http://www.alternet.org/workplace/35610/

    http://www.reclaimdemocracy.org/walmart/2005/target_better.php

  • Mike Laursen||

    So much for silly projections of why you think people hate Wal-Mart.

    I'm not projecting anything. And, as I wrote above, I neither love nor hate Wal-Mart. I've read a lot of liberal criticisms about Wal-Mart: the fact that they are the largest non-union employer is clearly the reason they receive so much more critical attention than any other retailer.

  • ||

    Mike Laursen: So it isn't that liberals are elitist pigs? It's really the union thing?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Of course, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.

    Quidam, you made a tremendous logical jump in assuming that Wal-Mart is responsible for poverty. You could convince me that Wal-Mart is a factor, but there are lots of other things going on that just gotta be factors, too: for instance, all the money being sucked out of the economy to support our foreign military escapades.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Well, considering that I'm a liberal-leaning libertarian, and I live right in the middle of the most liberal area in the United States so most of my friends are liberals, I have a pretty sophisticated understanding of liberal culture. I could never reduce that whole culture to a cartoonish description like "elitist pig".

  • ||

    JLM,

    It's not surprising that those sources would work to conflate the two, because they openly state that their problem is with big box stores, and they pledge allegiance to the "living wage" concept.

    However, employee turnover rates and labor conditions charges tell a different story.

  • ||

    Where might I find reliable data on turnover rates and labor conditions?

  • ||

    Why Wal-Mart failed in Germany (a customer's perspective):

    While Wal-Mart in the US has the stigma of low-quality products for low-income shoppers it appears to me that in Germany they tried a clean slate approach, which - in the end - made it impossible for them to set them apart from already established retailers like Real (Food & Non-Food), Novo (F & N-F), Lidl (F), Aldi (F), Edeka (F), Spar (F), Karstadt (N-F), Kaufhof (N-F), Schlecker (N-F) etc.

    I have no insight into how they treated their employees, but Germany is all in all very "workforce-friendly". Mistreat your employees and be prepared to face the law, the unions and live on the fringe of customer awareness (Schlecker, being a good example for reported mistreatment here in Germany). Aldi, on the other hand, while catering to low-income customers has AFAIK (hearsay, I admit) very low employee turnover and pretty high wages in the industry. (As an aside: Aldi offers quality brand products under generic labels and their cashiers - they don't scan - are the fastest in the west ;-)

    Germany has a healthy economy, lively shopping opportunities, downtown as well as in the suburbs, combined with the fact that public transportation is very well established. There is hardly any need for "Superstores" which stock everything. If I want a car radio, I can take the bus to my local Media-Markt/Pro-Mark/Saturn which offer a huge range of products. If I want a lettuce, I walk 2 blocks down the road to the corner Edeka.

    Why I personally stopped shopping at Wal-Mart:

    - No-Nonsense attitude: If you force or entice (don't know) your employees to wear funny buttons ("Cashier of the week", etc.), initiate group chants at the start of the workday and appear as models in the local paper supplement to advertise bargains you've lost in my book. They want to work there, I want to shop there. I don't expect them to be overly friendly or eager, this isn't Disneyland. It's basically a business transaction. I give you this, you give me that, good-bye, done.

    - Meat products, sausages, etc. were of *very* low quality. Germans are willing to pay extra bucks for quality food.

    - Unusually long lines at the cash registers. Don't know why, they just were.

    - My local Wal-Mart kept changing the layout constantly. Favorite detergent in aisle 15 one week, in aisle 2 next week and completely gone the following. WTF? They even tried building a complete loop (you know, where there is only one way through the entire store). Might make sense from a business psychology perspective of the common sheeple, but it makes me hate you.

    - FFS, don't stock all of the shelves during opening hours. Combined with the the two bullet points right above this paragraph it made shopping there basically impossible.

    - Flimsy plastic bags, albeit free, lasted exactly for 10,5 seconds after I left the store. (More rugged plastic bags, cost a few cents in other stores, but are worth the money and most germans reuse them as garbage bags anyway.)

    - AFAIK they never offered to bag your groceries here in Germany, which is a good thing as I don't like people handling "my stuff". My wife disagrees. Might just be me...

    As a customer, there was simply no need or incentive to go to Wal-Mart and while they tried to break into a well-established market without any concernible Unique Selling Proposition local retailers fought tooth and claw and proved to have the longer breath.

  • ||

    I can only related my own experience. I lived in NYC for 8 years, and people there wouldn't shop at Wal-Mart because it sells, aside from a few notable toiletpapers, cheap junk. I don't shop there for that very reason. That makes me an elitist pig in right wing circles. Most of my friends in NYC are professionals, and have a low view of unions. Then again, I'm not very far left, so I shouldn't have criticized your view of the left. After living in NYC so long, and being referred to as northeastern liberal more times than I can remember, I guess I got a bit turned around.

  • Anon||

    I don't understand this argument that Wal*Mart has low prices. Their fresh fruits and vegetables are invariably 5 to 10 cents a pound higher than Kroger or elsewhere. The quality also sucks.

  • ||

    JLM,

    Lots of good links if you google "Wal Mart Employee Turnover"

  • ||

    I'll never understand those that say Walmart has lower quality good than anybody else. Really? Is their Dawn dish soap cruddier than Targets? Are the Huggies at Walmart different than those from Kmart? Perhaps they get their TWIX minis from a secret crap plant somewhere.

    80% of what's in there is the same stuff that's at other stores, just a little cheaper.

  • ||

    Carlos:

    Did you bother to read the above linked study showing that 85% of Wal-Mart's prices are the same or higher as other places?

    Anon's comments above are also evidence that you're full of shit.

  • ||

    Perhaps that's too strong of language.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart sucks, they kill local small town economies, forcing previously middle class business owners into bottom feeder jobs at the home of the bottom feeding corporate whore that is wal-mart.

    And for those that think Wal-mart has quality merchandise, yeah ok, whatever, I'm sure your Cheap @$$ gear from Wal-Mart is as good or better than mine *scoff* thats sarcasm folks.

    The truly ironic thing about wal-mart is that some of our countries most "patriotic" people shop there, where 99.9% of the products are made in china, and the employees are insured and fed by welfare because the worlds richest chain store is to fuggin cheap to insure their own workers or at least pay them enough so they can afford insurance and food for themselves. I believe these are the same fools that voted for dubya twice and they again think they got a quality product at a budget price *points at broken bankrupt federal government over in the pile of broken plastic wal-mart merchandise*

  • Lamar||

    It bears repeating: You get what you pay for. No more, no less, and even at Wal-Mart. There are no economic miracles.

  • China Tattler||

    Everything about Walmart sort of proves what Old Karl was talking about, doesn't it?

    Too bad Walmart doesn't sell his books at low discount prices so maybe the companies customers could see it.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Everything about Walmart sort of proves what Old Karl was talking about, doesn't it?

    No, it doesn't, but thanks for asking.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Rob, seek out balanced information much?

  • ||

    I have found that walmart sells cheapest gas around here.

  • matt||

    I am heading out to Utah for the Front Runner Century bicycle ride and I am looking to see if anyone has ever used Map My Ride for the Front Runner Century Bicycle Ride. I have heard that people have used it for LOTOJA classic and for the Ulcer Ride as well as the Salt Lake City Century. If anyone has info for the Front Runner Century they could give to me I would be happy. Check out the http://www.frontrunnercentury.com and please let me know.

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