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A World Without Walmart

The planned protests and quest for unionizing will, in my opinion fail, not because their charges are not accurate but simply because people don’t care.

While others are bickering over whether or not workers at Walmart are underpaid, should strike, have a right to strike, I have chosen a different path. I simply don’t shop there. I choose to spend my dollars just about anywhere else.

This is not because I am so wealthy-far from it-or so cavalier with my money that I don’t bother to look for the best prices for the things I need; it is simply because I choose not to support a company whose business practices offend me. Yes, their workers are low paid, but it is an entry level job requiring very little skill. The charge that they don’t offer full time hours and benefits may be valid, but then again, how many entry level jobs that don’t require any special skills or schooling do?

Walmart imports most of its goods from overseas, there is no question about that. Nor is there any question that when a Walmart comes into a town or area, small local businesses often close because they can’t compete. Walmart corporate policy was for many years to scout the local stores and then undercut their prices. Supposedly, this practice has stopped but the truth is it is just done more quietly. I know this for a fact because a friend’s daughter who until recently worked at Walmart did this as part of her job. She no longer works there because she finished college and found a job as a teacher.

The planned protests and quest for unionizing will, in my opinion fail, not because their charges are not accurate but simply because people don’t care. On several levels.

For the most part, these are jobs that pay what they are worth. Stocking shelves, cashiering, bagging groceries, driving a forklift, pushing a broom are simply not jobs that will feed a family of four. If this is what you want to do with your life, if this is the only job you qualify for because of choices you have made, skills you have not developed, educational opportunities you did not take advantage of, then this is the pay scale you will receive. Please, spare me the diatribes on how hard the economy is, how few jobs are out there, how hard it is to make enough money to pay a mortgage, car payments, groceries, insurance, etc. I get it. We all get it. But the same people bemoaning the state of the economy and the low pay and unfair labor practices of Walmart are contributing to the success of this company and others like it by continuing to buy things they don't need.

Take a look at the clothes you are wearing, specifically at the labels. Do any of them say “Made in the U.S.A”? Look in your closet and check those labels. While you are there, how many shirts do you own? How many pairs of shoes, pants, socks and underwear? Do any of them have that “Made in the U.S.A” label? Then take another look and ask yourself, how many of those articles of clothing are needs and how many of them are wants?

Walmart will stay around, and remain successful as long as consumers continue to buy into the obsessive desire to have more. Everyone wants the latest and greatest of everything, the new styles, the new colors, all at the lowest prices, but then complain when a corporation gets rich off our gullibility.

For several years, I ran an online business selling embroidered clothing. One of the criteria in my search for a wholesale textile company was that it sold American made items. I found that many of these manufacturers are family run, small companies that are struggling because they simply can’t compete with the prices of outfits that import their goods from third world countries. It was a policy I adopted for my business, and continue in my personal life, to purchase American made goods whenever possible. Even when I can’t find an American made version of what I need, I still choose to make my purchases at a local retailer, and I don’t mean the local outlet of a national or multinational chain.

I have a friend who is originally from another country. When their family came to visit, the obligatory shopping trip to get souvenirs and presents for those back home was planned. They had never been to a Walmart and wanted to see the inside of the world’s largest retailer.

As they wandered the aisles, wide-eyed at the variety and volume of goods, they repeatedly commented on the fact they couldn’t find a single item that was actually made in the U.S.A. They joked that if they bought these things, people back home would think they not only went to America for a vacation - they would have pictures to prove that - but they also went to China, Viet Nam, Pakistan and India.

Everyone knows times are tough right now for a lot of families, and say that shopping at Walmart helps them stretch their ever-shrinking budgets. I get that, but I have to ask, what did people do before there was a local Walmart?

The answer is simple – they went without. I’m not talking about foregoing basic necessities, but does anyone really need seventeen shirts? Does anyone really need four sets of sheets for every bed in the house? Does anyone really need another set of plastic glasses and cups so they can sit outside without fear of breaking them? Oh wait, that’s right, but this one is in the newest, hottest, latest style or color. Folks, that is a want, not a need.

I know I represent the extreme. I’m not quite at the level of a hoarder, but I am simply constitutionally opposed to throwing out or replacing something that is perfectly functional but merely dated. I have clothes that I purchased before I moved to Plainfield fifteen years ago. Granted, styles have changed, but since I primarily choose simple, classic styles and neutral colors, it works. I am currently wearing jeans I bought more than eight years ago, despite the fact that my size has changed since then. For a while, I had to get a couple new things because I had gained weight, but now that I’ve lost most of those extra pounds, I’m back in my old wardrobe.

I still had my old wardrobe because instead of throwing things out when I unintentionally outgrew them, they went in a box in the basement, labeled with the season and the size. I have, however, donated or given away all the clothes I purchased in larger sizes, as a commitment to myself that I will never need them again.

Food is one of those things that is indisputably a necessity, but not every consumable we buy is a need. No one needs three types of flavored snack chips. No one needs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or T-Bone steaks. Those are luxuries, and if treated as such, your wallet in the case of the premium cuts of chicken and steak and your waistline, in the case of the chips, will both be better off without them. If you must have those higher priced items, there are other grocery stores in the area that run sales often enough to be able to accommodate those wants.

I remember going grocery shopping with my mother, and she never had a list. Actually, she did have the basics we needed written down so they wouldn’t be forgotten, like toilet paper, toothpaste, milk, butter and eggs. What was never listed were meats or vegetables, as which of those she would buy, what the meals for the upcoming week would be was always determined by what was on sale.

Sometimes it would be round steak, at others it was pork roast or chicken. And yes, she always bought a whole chicken, because that counted as two meals for our family of four. One night would be a vegetable rich soup with either rice or noodles as the main course and another the meat would be stripped from the bones to make a casserole of some sort.

I was surprised as an adult to find out my parents were not rich but were certainly comfortable. We took four or five family vacations a year, several long weekend getaways, had a nice car and went to the movies nearly every week. My mother’s answer was that we were able to do those things because she kept our grocery budget to a minimum and we didn’t have multiple pairs of the latest jeans and shoes.  

Unless or until we start living, and shopping and buying like we did before there was a Walmart in every town, that company and its low paying jobs, unfair labor practices and cheap, imported goods will remain. Vote with your feet, folks. Put your money where your mouth is and stop contributing to what you are calling the problem. And stop buying Christmas things before Thanksgiving.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jean November 21, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Well said, Denise. I agree with you completely.
Melissa November 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I'm so sick of hearing how Walmart has unfair labor practices. That is simply not true.
BillTexas November 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Your condescending statement "if this is the only job you qualify for because of choices you have made, skills you have not developed, educational opportunities you did not take advantage of, then this is the pay scale you will receive". Do you know how many people with Masters Degrees are unemployed? Even they cannot get these jobs right now. There are simply not enough good jobs for the entire population and there will not be as long as the population continues to grow at it's current rate. Some of the people that have these jobs were born into poverty and literally do not have the financial means to improve themselves. Get over yourself!!
Denise Williams November 21, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I guess you didn't read the next sentence - "Please, spare me the diatribes on how hard the economy is, how few jobs are out there, how hard it is to make enough money to pay a mortgage, car payments, groceries, insurance, etc. I get it. We all get it." This post is about the people who complain about the poor wages and intolerable conditions at a company then turn around and support that company by shopping in their stores. I promise you, I know as many people with advanced degrees that can't find a job as anyone else. I also know they can't get even one of these low paying, entry level positions because they are overqualified and employers fear (or know) as soon as they can find something in their field or that pays better, they will leave. Please tell me why it is condescending to state that if you have no skills, no education and no other qualifications, a minimum wage, entry level job is all you can expect in life?
BillTexas November 22, 2012 at 01:24 PM
It is condescending because you assume that they "chose" to be in the predicament they are in. You assume that they "chose" to not take advantage of educational opportunities. How do you know that they had educational opportunities? In short, it sounds like you think they are not smart enough to understand why they are in the predicament they are in or how to get out of it. Regardless, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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