Utne Blogs > Politics

Finding the Positive Side of Walmart

by Elizabeth Ryan 


Tags: Politics, Walmart, Nacogdoches, Texas, Retail, The Texas Observer, Elizabeth Ryan,

walmart-superstoreNot everyone would champion the arrival of a Walmart Supercenter in their town, but Joe R. Lansdale boldly argues in The Texas Observer that the mega-retailer isn’t all that bad. He tells the story of how his Texas town of Nacogdoches was revitalized when the regular Walmart was transformed into a Walmart Supercenter. Lansdale’s not advocating for child labor, unethical work practices, unfair wages, or outsourcing—he’s just in favor of convenience and practicality when it comes to small-town life. Here’s his take:

Let me tell you, the late downtowns in East Texas burgs were usually small stores run by locals. They generally priced things three times more than they were worth. Maybe they had to, but I don’t care. I don’t want to pay $30 for a hammer and a fistful of nails. If I wanted a banana, I had to go to another store. If I wanted to pick up a pair of shoes, another store.

If you worked, by the time you got off work, many of the stores were closed. Saturday, they might be open, but Sunday they were closed again. So for the working individual, the mother or father who had a kid wake up in the night with aching gums from teething, and you wanted something to make it all better, you had to wait until the next day.

With Walmart in town, lots of people can be put to work, far more than downtown ever employed. Someone has to run a 24-hour store, check people out, sack groceries, push carts, place stock, work at the McDonald’s sequestered in the back. The workers have all skin colors, not something I saw a lot of downtown, except for immigrants unloading trucks.

If you’re poor and barely making it, or even if your income is middle-of-the-road, it’s good to get what you need at slashed prices, anytime of the day, seven days a week, in a big, ugly, over-lit store that closes only on Christmas and half a day on Christmas Eve….now in our downtown are specialty stores that provide things we can’t get at Walmart, like maybe a stuffed deer head for that special place over the mantle.

Source: The Texas Observer

Image by jason.mundy, licensed under Creative Commons.

amber_4
4/14/2010 10:13:38 AM

I agree with you Liz. I have a colleague who when he talks of buying something he ALWAYS says he'll get it at Walmart. I don't think he ever shops anywhere else. I, on the other hand, go to a grocery store that is locally owned to shop, and isn't actually much, if any, more expensive than other grocery stores in town. Also, those low prices come at a cost. Not necessarily, monetarily for the consumer, but they effect all levels of production. Most of the products in Walmart are made over seas, and in many cases you may not be paying $30 for a hammer, but you end up with a hammer that is a piece of crap and you have to buy 5 of them over a short period of time. There also have been many issues in terms of Walmart not paying as well as other comparable retailers, not providing benefits to employees, and not promoting women. These are things that I have issues with. Perhaps Walmart has changed some of these things, but it may take a lot to make me shop there. They lost my respect long ago.


liz_7
3/23/2010 4:11:01 PM

My main concern with this is that too many people get tunnel vision and shop at WalMart to exclusion beyond all others. Example: I was in North Dakota and I asked where I could buy food. I was directed to "Walmart." It was never mentioned that there was a grocery store on the same street...


liz_7
3/23/2010 4:10:58 PM

My main concern with this is that too many people get tunnel vision and shop at WalMart to exclusion beyond all others. Example: I was in North Dakota and I asked where I could buy food. I was directed to "Walmart." It was never mentioned that there was a grocery store on the same street...