10/13/2009

Why to Love (and Hate) Walmart

Posted by MJ

For those interested in Walmart, some recent articles on MSN:

Why you should hate Walmart
Why you should love Walmart

In praise of Walmart - another pro, but some interesting facts pertaining to the economy. And...

Finally, those who fault large discounters for the decline of individual shopkeepers are ignoring trends that have been around for more than a half-century. Similar accusations were made after World War II, when the growth of supermarkets such as A&P contributed to the demise of locally owned butcher shops, vegetable stands and dry-goods stores. Yet today, the supermarket is a symbol of the American way of life, and specialty stores that cater to particular tastes, such as ethnic and gourmet foods, are still thriving.


Let me say that my family and I have not stepped into a Wal-Mart store for years. When one opened in Philadelphia a decade ago, we found the checkout lines far too long and personal service lacking. We prefer to shop at more "upscale" discount stores, such as Target.
But I vividly remember the people who shopped at Wal-Mart. Many were from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods, and they shopped as if every penny counted. When I see groups such as Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, lead the battle against Wal-Mart by claiming to fight for "the disadvantaged classes," a thought comes to mind: Have any of their members ever spoken to any of the millions of Wal-Mart shoppers for whom the chain's "everyday low prices" are critical for making ends meet?

As an older rust belt city, Lockport has a big lower income demographic. Why should they have to pay $2 more a roll for paper towels down the road? I know the main issue is that the proposed Walmart is "too big for the site" but this is more for those that throw in other issues, even though they pertain to almost any big-box store. I understand Walmart is the biggest so it is the best target to attack but failing to note that it also applies to the rest is a bit disingenuous.

Walmart is so well run even making it better than our own federal government at providing disaster relief: Walmart at Forefront of Hurricane Relief. Though that may not be saying much? ;) When criticizing something (or anyone) it helps to also note what they do well. Nothing is purely "evil" and noting that helps give credence to your negative points.

Can Walmart to better? Yes. Though they consistently have done better than their competition, nothing is wrong with raising the bar. None of it though should preclude a new super-center here.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh gosh did you leave this one wide open - do some searches on Walmart and public assistance - sure, they can run hurricane relief better than the gov't, but then again thats because they let the gov't pay for their employee benefits! Check out some of these references -

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Wal-Mart forces employees to rely on public assistance to cover health care costs

* In 21 of 23 states where data is available, Wal-Mart forces more employees to rely on taxpayer-funded health care than any other employer. ["Disclosures of Employers Whose Workers and Their Dependents are Using State Health Insurance Programs, Good Jobs First, June 26, 2007]

Wal-Mart admits public assistance is a "better value"

* Despite over $12 billion in profits, President and CEO Lee Scott admits, "In some of our states, the public program may actually be a better value - with relatively high income limits to qualify, and low premiums". [Transcript Lee Scott Speech, 4 May 2005]

Costs to Taxpayers

Download the Costs to Taxpayers flyer - PDF

Your tax dollars pay for Wal-Mart's greed

* A 2004 estimate by the U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce found that Wal-Mart's low wages cost taxpayers up to $2.5 billion a year in the form of federal public assistance programs. ["Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart," A Report by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce]

* In 21 of 23 states where data is available, Wal-Mart forces more employees to rely on taxpayer-funded health care than any other employer. ["Disclosures of Employers Whose Workers and Their Dependents are Using State Health Insurance Programs," Good Jobs First 2007]

Your local Wal-Mart costs your community up to $420,000 per year

* These costs come in the form of many public assistance programs. A 2004 study found that one Wal-Mart store cost taxpayers $108,000/year for children's health care and $42,000 per year for low-income housing assistance. ["How Wal-Mart Has Used Public Money in Your State," Good Jobs First 2007]

Your tax dollars subsidize Wal-Mart's growth

* Wal-Mart has received over $1.2 billion in subsidies from state and local governments. ["How Wal-Mart Has Used Public Money in Your State," Good Jobs First , 2007]

* A Wal-Mart official stated that "it is common" for the company to request subsidies in "about 1/3 of all [retail] projects." This suggests that over a thousand Wal-Mart stores have received taxpayer subsidies, despite their $12 billion in profits in 2007. ["New Research Shows Wal-Mart Rigs the System to Skip Out on $2.3 Billion in State Taxes," Citizens for Tax Justice, 4/16/07]

* Through a loophole in many state tax codes, Wal-Mart avoided paying $2.3 billion in state income taxes between 1999 and 2005 alone. ["New Research Shows Wal-Mart Rigs the System to Skip Out on $2.3 Billion in State Taxes," Citizens for Tax Justice, 4/16/07]

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Just a great american company!

MJ said...

Of coarse I left myself open. It's for discussion. Each company will have its pros and cons. The data you presented above may be valid but has no mean values to compare against. How did Ames compare? How does Kmart compare? How do other "higher" ones compare (Target, Kohls)? Do Kmart's workers not use Child Health care programs and subsidized housing? There is a data void that precludes discussion. I, admittedly, am too lazy to look deep into this beyond some internet searching. My main interests lie elsewhere (urban planing etc).

A quick search shows Tops corporate got $1.2 million form the state.
http://www.lockportjournal.com/business/local_story_088010406.html and $1.5 million form the Amherst IDA http://buffalonews.typepad.com/strictlybusiness/2008/01/tax-breaks-for.html. In tax heavy NYS any company that does not ask for assitance or PILOTS is nuts.

Rocketboy said...

Humm, Wal-Mart is 59 out of 500 in their Green Company list, but Target is only 72.

If you filter by retail, here's how the rankings go..

1. Kohl's
4. J.C. Penney
6. Wal-Mart
8. Whole Foods Market
10. Target
15. Amazon.com
38. Walgreen

Humm, better than Whole Foods, target, and Amazon.com?

Anonymous said...

Humm, Wal-Mart ranked #56 out of 59 for national grocery stores. Can't wait for that quality.

http://clarkhoward.com/liveweb/shownotes/2009/06/18/16012/

Meanwhile, the May issue of Consumer Reports took an in-depth look at the big national players in the grocery industry -- including warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and others.

The top-rated supermarket in the nation was Wegmans, which got the best possible scores in service, perishables and cleanliness. But the prices? Just average.

Trader Joe's came in at No. 2, with a top rating for service and price, a good rating for cleanliness and an average score on perishables.

Publix (No. 3), Raley's (No. 4) and Harris-Teeter (No. 5) rounded out the Top 5. Whole Foods came in at No. 8.

What of the warehouse clubs? Costco is at No. 7, Sam's Club is No. 38 and BJ's is No. 42.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart Super Center -- the nation's largest grocery chain -- came in at No. 56 out of 59! They got the worst possible score on service and perishables, a bad score on cleanliness and a good score on price. Kroger -- the second largest chain -- checks in at No. 37.

Rocketboy said...

As much as Wegmans get's praise, have you actually shopped there? The selection stinks (unless you like Wegmans brand goods), and they cost too much around here.

With regards to price, well, if Walmart's prices are that high, imagine how Tops would rank?

That, and someone HAS to be smoking something if Whole Foods is considered a better price. Clean, yes. Selection, also stinks on ice. At least in the sample size of 1 that I used. But in my defense, it was in a nice neighborhood in one of the largest cities on the eastern seaboard.

Either way, the rankings there are subjective. How did Consumer Reports come to it's ratings? What's there methodology? What's the sample size? CR has a very bad reputation in the car enthusiast market, because their readers would rather drive an appliance than something 'fun'. Which is why Saturns always did good, and yet, there really is nothing good about a Saturn.

Rocketboy said...

Oh, almost forgot, then don't shop there.

MJ said...

Tops ranked 51. I'd rather save my money and go to Walmart if I had the choice of both here.

"Williamsville-based Tops Friendly Markets ranked 51 out of 59 with a score of 70 out of 100. The company garnered mid-range scores for perishables, price and cleanliness. It scored slightly worse for service."
http://www.buffalonews.com/145/story/632278.html

I love and do shop at Wegman's. It is in between the cost of Tops and Walmart (at least for what we buy) and I love the shopping experience. But we would possibly shop at a new Super Walmart here for the convenience.

Aldi, at No. 14...hey we have one of those! ;)

Rocketboy said...

Ah, so the Buffalo News explained it. It was another infamous CR survey. Where the results were only as good as the responses. I wonder how many people who downranked Walmart actually shopped at Walmart? Because there's no way the prices are better at Wegmans and Tops. I can have less than half a cart of goods at Tops or Wegmans and spend around $100.

MJ said...

I think it comes down to what people are willing to pay for the shopping experience. Since I have to drive out of town for shopping anyways, I'll pay a little more overall at Wegman's (compared to Walmart though there are items that are cheaper) for the shopping environment, service, prepared foods to sample, etc. I refuse to pay up to 50% more for things at Tops (unless we are graced with a sale) for about the same cleanliness etc as a Walmart. I'll take consistent reasonable prices.

To cut costs bare bones things will be lacking in an experience. A lot of it is individual store management too. I've always been pleased with how clean etc the Super Walmart is in Scranton PA when I am there. We should be outraged when paying high prices and getting a sub-par experience ;)

Still, none of this really has to do with "allowing" a super center here. If so many people hate Walmart, other stores should have no problem surviving and thriving. Let those who need the lower prices chose the "lesser" experience. They should at least have the option.

Anonymous said...

No one seems to mention that when it comes to a dept store, Wal-Mart is all we have! I don't want to run into Williamsville every time a need to get a pair of socks. If we keep this up we won't have any. I don't think a Super Wal-Mart will effect Tops. They have very loyal customers.

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