The Rural Patriot

August 14, 2006

Wal-Mart: Friend or Foe?

Earlier this spring, we were informed that there was a possibility that Wal-Mart stores might be built in Salamanca and Wellsville.  At this point, I’ve not been able to verify where those plans stand as of now.

Salamanca Area Chamber of Commerce President Susan Zaprowski thought “it would be terrific”.  Salamanca Planning Board Chairman Michael Zaprowski said, “We certainly could use a project like this.” Joe Roosa, one of the possible developers of the project, said “It will be good news for Salamanca”. 

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, said, “I think it’s important to open up the area for development because of the positive economic benefits.”

Personally, I think that it would be just great … for Wal-Mart.

Much has been written and discussed about the Wal-Mart Corporation.  The more I read and learn, the more I am concerned.  Yes, our areas do need an economic boost, but is adding to Wal-Mart’s empire the best answer to our problems? 

They have recently announced that they are cutting back a significant portion of full-time staff to part-time positions.  This will happen in the next 12-18 months.  And although they have recently “rolled out” various options for insurance plans for employees, those working part-time have a one-year waiting period for coverage, and it may prove difficult for them to afford the premium for their choice of insurance plan.

Wal-Mart recently announced that they will be raising their starting wages at over 1200 of their stores.  However, what they also are instituting with this announcement are wage caps on positions throughout all of their stores.  There are currently workers who are earning wages above these caps.  Their wages will not be reduced; however, they will no longer be eligible for a wage raise, no matter how long they choose to continue working at Wal-Mart.  (These current employees are not happy with this arrangement.)   With the rising costs of insurance premiums, utilities, food, gas, etc., they are basically in a lose-lose situation from year to year.  Wal-Mart indicates that employees are eligible to apply for management positions, but I ask you – how many management positions does Wal-Mart have to offer, and how many employees qualify or would want a management position?

Union-funded campaign group WakeUpWalMart.com called the pay caps an effort to drive out workers who had been there longer, in order to cut costs.

And then, we have the economics of Wal-Mart:

… the firm is also one of the world’s most intrusive, jealous, fastidious micromanagers, and its aim is nothing less than to remake entirely how its suppliers do business, not least so that it can shift many of its own costs of doing business onto them. In addition to dictating what price its suppliers must accept, Wal-Mart also dictates how they package their products, how they ship those products, and how they gather and process information on the movement of those products. …

We should be most disturbed by the fact that Wal-Mart has gathered the power to dictate content, even to the most powerful of its suppliers. Because no longer is the retailer’s attention focused only on firms that produce T-shirts, electrical cords, and breakfast cereal. Every day Wal-Mart expands its share of the U.S. markets for magazines, recorded music, films on DVD, and books. This means that every day its tastes, interests, and peculiarities weigh that much more on decisions made in Hollywood studios, in Manhattan publishing houses, and in the editorial offices of newspapers and network news shows.

From The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works—and How It’s Transforming the American Economy:

… the Wal-Mart effect is the most powerful market force expelling jobs and technology from our own country. …  At the same time, it forces American taxpayers to subsidize its low wages by transferring the cost of health insurance to government programs.

Do Wal-Mart start-ups in Salamanca and Wellsville still sound good to you?  Surely there are other positive alternatives.  Perhaps those who are enthusiastic about the possibility of Wal-Mart coming to their areas aren’t very familiar with Wal-Mart policies and “The Wal-Mart Effect”, or maybe their interests and priorities lie elsewhere.

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14 Comments »

  1. In an area where you have to travel at least 18 miles just to buy a pair of underwear, such as where I live, any new business should be welcomed. The real question should be: why and where did the original businesses that Walmart is taking the place of go? Who and what starved them out?

    Comment by mikes — August 14, 2006 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  2. I also live in an area where walmart is the only store within driving distance. Walmart didnt choke out the other stores, they were already gone, pre walmart chain stores like k-mart and ames did that work for them. The remaining few stores offer a few consumer goods, clothes, shoes, furniture. Those store need support to stay afloat, but people in cities need to realize there really is no walmart alternative in todays economy. Wish there was but there isnt. Its easy to say walmart is bad and we shouldnt support it, when you live in a city that offers alot of alternatives, but when you drive 25 miles just to get to walmart and have to drive another 35 to get to anything else it makes your decision for you. Can we blame walmart for this? I feel this started many years ago. long before walmart was around. Walmart is just an escalation of chain stores that came before it, it has many busness examples to follow and learn from. I would love to see mom and pop stores on main street of every town but thats hasnt been a reality since the 30’s or 40’s. If you have an alternative to walmart by all means please support them, walmart doesnt need to get any bigger, but for some of us its not worth the extra $20 in gas.

    Comment by Fallout — August 15, 2006 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  3. Living in rural areas, as we do, offers challenges as far as retail shopping goes. I have three choices of Wal-Marts; one about 18 miles away, the second about 22 miles away, and the third about 25 miles away. And yes, all three of them offer me the closest option for retail shopping.

    But do you know what? I DO NOT shop at Wal-Mart. It is a personal choice – I just cannot contribute my hard-earned money to an outlet where I do not agree with their policies and philosophies. The above post hi-lites just a few of Wal-Mart’s ideals. There is much more that could have been written; however, for the sake of space, I’ve decided to keep it short.

    So how do I shop? I have a local grocery store that I support. There is another grocery store that is about 12 miles away where I shop if I happen to be in that area. I support the local hardware stores, auto parts store, and greenhouses. And I do make that “warehouse store”, (not Sam’s Club), trip about every 4-6 weeks to stock up on dry goods.

    The internet and catalog shopping have afforded me the ability to buy just about anything I want. I have my choice of clothing, shoes, books, movies, computer hardware, electronics, etc. You name it – chances are, you can buy it. (And I have researched the big internet stores, also. There are some that won’t see an order from me, either, because my beliefs and ideals don’t align with their beliefs and ideals.)

    I’ve placed orders through Sears for major appliances. I had the time to research and compare models and prices, instead of being stuck with what was available at the nearest small Sears store.

    Yes, you don’t have that “instant gratification” of buying and bringing home the same day, but I don’t mind. I also do not miss standing in a long check-out line, fighting the holiday crowds, and wasting time and gas traveling to and from these stores. I’ve been buying on-line for many years; its a way of life for me, and in the long run, has probably saved me a good bit of money because of the lack of chance for impulse buying.

    So, its your choice. It does require a change of lifestyle, but it is the choice that I have made. And I don’t regret this choice, either.

    When a retail store comes to my area where I’ll feel OK about spending my family’s hard-earned money, I’ll be more than happy to shop there and support the local economy.

    Comment by theruralpatriot — August 15, 2006 @ 10:55 am | Reply

  4. I added your site to my bookmarks. I’ve got this growing list I’ll actually be coming back to. 🙂 Yeah, other than the ones we all ignore. For now though I have to go back to work. No rest for the weary!

    Comment by bc golf schools — September 2, 2006 @ 11:14 pm | Reply

  5. I live in Wellsville,NY. We have a kmart. This Kmart practices some of the same bad practices that a Walmart would. While working there in the past I have seen full-time employees dropped to part-time, just for a way for kmart to save money. I have read in local papers in Wellsville that citizens were concerned about Walmart not supporting the community like are local kmart has. This kind thinking is nuts. We all know Walmarts help out there communitys as much as kmart if not more. We have simple minded people in the Wellsville area that don’t like change and small businesses that want to run a communist state in a small community. This type of attitude only hurts the Wellsville area. The village is all ready in a depression. There are many large buildings empty on main street. A walmart in Wellsville would close a few small merchanse, but a look at the large picture, Walmart would produce a few hundred jobs in a town were jobs are hard to find. This Walmart is suppose to be a Super-Walmart in fact. A select group of Big shots are not thinking of the big picture theyare thinking of themselves.Aswehave seen in other communitys, a Walmart brings in other huge corporations around it. This would give Bolivar Road a chance to get even larger, like State Street in Olean has. I feel that we should work with Walmart Corp. better in the town of Wellsville. Considering the high sales tax rate in Allegany County and the property rates we should be happy that Walmart even considers Wellsville a prospect for development. This development would give some relief to tax payers in Wellsville, beacuse Walmart would become a huge tax base for the town. The possibilty of other deveolpments in Wellsville could increase property values. I thank those of you that are in favor of a Walmart in Wellsville. You are thinking of the community as a whole and are not afraid of change for the better. If this community wants to improve econimical, some folks need to change there attitudes or Wellsville and Allegany County will conitune to turn downward. E-mail me at trend14895@yahoo.com with your comments.

    Comment by Dan — October 21, 2006 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

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  11. I agree that Walmart is needed. Ames left some time ago, and somebody has to give Kmart a run for their money.

    In addition, where else can you do all of your shopping at one store? I don’t buy clothes there, but i buy underwear and socks, toothpaste, vitamins, bedding, and other things…while I get my oil changed. Who wants to walk around from store to store in the cold winter when you can have it all done while you go from department to department within one building?

    I agree that Walmart would bring jobs to the area. It is sad that the US has allowed for employers to shift from full time jobs to part time, but it wasn’t Walmart’s fault for this to occur. Think about this when you vote! We need to stop shipping jobs offshore to India and China. Their economies are booming, ours is now worse off. Similarly, we can only blame the politicians for pushing through bills that give tax benefits (savings, rebates, cuts) to large corporations…who then drive up the price of healthcare. Be smart, vote YES for Walmart and NO to stupid political bigheads who support offshore drilling instead of renewable energy!

    Comment by M — October 23, 2008 @ 8:06 pm | Reply

  12. M: You’re telling me you’d rather shop at a morally reprehensible company than go from store to store? Check out their record on a whole host of issues. http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/company.cfm?id=306

    You may not realize it, but these jobs that are being offshored to China are, in part, a direct result of patronizing stores like Walmart. They have absolutely fought for offshoring, use plenty of questionable labor, and do whatever they can to avoid paying taxes. They don’t provide healthcare and pay so little that they can (and do) tell their employees to go look for help from Medicaid. Disgusting. Do your part and shop elsewhere.

    Comment by Ryan N. — November 2, 2008 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

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