Wal-Mart: What a Bargain!

The real cost of shopping at the big box

| September / October 2004

Seventy million people shop at Wal-Mart each week. On one fall day in 2002, the Wal-Mart sales total exceeded the GNPs of 36 countries. Wal-Mart grossed $244.5 billion in sales for 2003.

A typical employee's hourly wage is $8, with a standard 32-hour workweek. The company's voluntary health coverage plan would suck up nearly three months of wages, at $2,844 a year; employees would still pay a deductible.

More than two-thirds of Wal-Mart's employees are women. Less than 10 percent hold management positions, average for a company in 1975. A class action sex-discrimination suit is pending.

Half of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees qualify for food stamps. Wal-Mart employees compose the largest single group in the state of Washington's low-income health program.

A 250,000-square-foot supercenter with a 16-acre parking lot will produce 413,000 gallons of storm runoff for every inch of rain. Each year, such a lot would dump 240 pounds of nitrogen, 32 pounds of phosphorus, and 5 pounds of zinc into local watersheds while creating heat islands.

Once Wal-Mart stifles its competition in a region, it consolidates its holdings by vacating many of its stores. To limit competitors in the future, the leases of these dark Wal-Marts prevent them from being used for retail. Other uses for these massive windowless structures are limited.

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