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Cross-posted at the Writing on the Wal.

You may remember that back in November, the firm Global Insight released a big study that claimed "total cumulative savings to consumers" by shopping at Wal-Mart and taking advantage of its alleged low prices "amounted to $263 billion by 2004, or $895 per person."  This was the basis of claims by various conservatives (and a former Kerry advisor named Jason Furman) that Wal-Mart is really a progressive force that liberals should embrace.

My first inclination upon hearing this was "what does Wal-Mart do for me if I don't shop there?"  In fact, Global Insight argues that Wal-Mart has indirect effects on other grocers by forcing them to bring their prices down:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that when Wal-Mart enters a market, its everyday low prices are anywhere from 5% to 25% lower for identical goods.  In addition, Wal-Mart's presence in a market has led its competitors to lower their prices.

[Emphasis added]

This leads me to ask a few obvious questions:

  1.  If Wal-Mart's prices start lower, do they stay lower?  Global Insight based its conclusions on the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Last time I checked, there was still competition Dallas/Fort Worth.  What about those little towns in Texas where all the other grocers are gone now?  Are you trying to tell me that Wal-Mart will never raise its prices on anything, even after its competition has disappeared?

  2.  How many identical items does Wal-Mart have with other grocers?  Sure there are some big name brands, but are they assuming that an apple is an apple even if one is brusied or older because it was imported from a low wage South American country with no pesticide regulations?  If I only buy organic food, does that mean that Wal-Mart doesn't save me a cent?  Are the conservatives and DLC Democrats who now tout Wal-Mart's virtues as an anti-poverty tool condemning the poor to eat crap?


Originally posted to JR Monsterfodder on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 06:27 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I know the answer to #1 (4.00)
    #2 I could use a little help on if you have any insights.


    •  organic (none)
      I heard a segment on organic food on npr's weekend edition saturday a couple of weeks back, and they said Wal-Mart purchased 30% of all organic food.  Doesn't seem credible to me, but that was the story.

      Talk doesn't cook rice.

      by sophiebrown on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:44:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had... (none)
    ... a long delayed talk with my GF last night. I told them "No more Walmart."

    After much explaining, wailing & gnashing of teeth, she agreed.

    •  Good for you! (none)
      Conversations like that explain why I do what I do.  Some time I'll have to blog about the one I had with my wife a few years ago.  She was hardcore.


    •  Wow I just heard something on the News (none)
      The Religious Right is going to air commercials calling for the Boycott of Walmart!
      Holy crap, could we actually agree with and join forces for this subject and this Walmart.

      The Religious right wingnuts are going to air commercials saying. " Should a person of Faith shop at Walmart". They condemn the poor working conditions for employees.

      America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand-Harry S. Truman

      by wishingwell on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:02:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was lucky (none)
      My girlfriend and I came to the conclusion at about the same time. It might have had something to do with living in nw Arkansas at the time and seeing the power of Wal-Mart up close and personal, though.

      I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

      by incertus on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:42:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You have made some good points (none)
    Walmart saves you nothing if you do not shop there.  
    If Walmart contributed to the local economy by providing a living wage and benefits, they would not be so offensive.  But they are union busting and ripping people off.
    Now they hire "progressive" cunsultants to pimp their business to us....LOL.  Who are they kidding?
  •  I prefer the first spelling (none)

    Truth, Justice & the American Way Wesley Clark 2008

    by raster44 on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 06:49:53 AM PST

  •  Ban of Walmart still in progress. (4.00)
    We have banned Walmart, the last time I remember going there was to buy a Christmas grab gift, in 2001 or 2002, I don't even remember now.  We had been cutting down shopping there before that, but went cold turkey.

    I haven't been sorry, not one bit.  Many of the clothes we bought there were of low quality, of course, and did not survive for very long after the boycott.

    I encourage those of you on the fence on this issue to do so, it's good for your soul.

    "There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead." - GWB, 5/11/01

    by Stymnus on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:04:48 AM PST

  •  Wal-mart helped put the knife (none)
    in my hometown's downtown.  Now they are the biggest employer.

    I am doing my best to save an infinite amount of money by not shopping at Wal-mart.  The only way you get these soulless cutthroats is to hurt 'em in the pocketbook.

    •  where is your hometown (none)
      do you have a story?  my town, Moscow Idaho, has survived with a Wal-Mart on the outskirts for about ten years.  Some businesses on main street closed but a few were able to keep going.  Now Wal-Mart has announced plans to build a superwal-mart on the other side of town.  We are fighting it, but could use other stories.  I'd really like to hear yours.

      Talk doesn't cook rice.

      by sophiebrown on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:47:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My hometown (none)
        is Kewanee, Illinois.  The closest "big" city is about 1 hour away, either northwest or southeast.  All local communities shop there now.

        Wal-Mart built a store on the south side of town in 1984.  The local downtown pharmacy, JC Penney's, eye doctor, Eagle's and Kroger's grocery stores etc. eventually went out of business, hastened by the Super Wal-Mart that was built sometime in the early 90's (cheaper duplication of existing services, all in one convenient location).  They actually tore down the original Wal-Mart and made the land part of the parking lot for the Super Wal-Mart.  

        Many people I know work there.

    •  You save a lot mroe money (none)
      ... by reducing spending in the first place. People sometimes feel that they are somehow making money buy buying something at a discount. People's closets are full of crap that they bought that they don't use - that's all a waste of money.
      •  I agree we have to reduce frivolous spending. (none)
        Some of my necessity purchases are at K-Mart and Target, but I also try to buy local as much as possible now.  But I left my hometown over 7 years ago, as there have been no jobs for my experience.

        My hometown used to have a K-Mart when Wal-Mart came to town, K-Mart did not last very long.  This was before K-Mart made some bad business decisions on the corporate level.

  •  Greenwald DVD (none)
    I'm giving the "High Cost of Low Price" to my sister for Xmas. She is my only family member who shops at Wal-Mart, in Sacramento.  

    Is there even a Wal-Mart here in San Francisco? I've never been inside a Wal-Mart, a Target, or a Costco. It helps not to own a car, I guess. You can't load up on crap if you have no way to get it home. :)

    •  None (none)
      in the city, though there is a Costco (which is a fine establishment). I believe the nearest Target is in Daly City and there's one in Colma right across the 280. For Wal-Mart, I think you have to go to the East Bay.

      I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

      by incertus on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:53:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does SWA save you money (none)
    even if you don't fly on it?


    It's called competition. A living wage isn't Wal-Mart's responsibility, its a collective responsibility that the Government enforces as our agent. The People(tm) need to vote for the party fighting for the living wage, if that is what they so desire. Don't expect Wal-Mart to hold itself to extra rules that its competitors do not have to follow.

    •  Why shouldn't we? (none)
      Costco holds itself to a higher standard and still makes money by the fistfuls. Wal-Mart could pay a living wage and still be the most profitable company on the planet. They don't because they made a decision long ago that their stock price was more important than their employees' well being. It's that simple.

      I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

      by incertus on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:58:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  walmart would if they were cheaper (none)
      but in the end, they probably aren't any cheaper.  They seem to have made a real push in the last few years to start selling crap, whereas before they still were selling stuff that I wanted to buy.

      I don't like to buy low quality goods that I'm going to have to throw out in a year.  I really don't like it if that is my only choice.

      SWA may or may not save me money.  It's not always a direct effect.  Often, the other airlines can ignore them, which in my case they can because I'd have to travel 5 hours to get to an airport where they land.

  •  don't forget to say this about the study (none)
    Wal-Mart both sponsored the study and provided unprecedented access to detailed data on sales, employment, and wages at Wal-Mart stores and Wal-Mart Supercenters, going back to the mid-1980's; detailed data on its purchases from its suppliers in 2004; and, a sampling of employee wage data by store and job category for October 2004.

    Talk doesn't cook rice.

    by sophiebrown on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 07:53:00 AM PST

  •  Sure It Does--Just As It Also Saves Me (none)
    from opportunity.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 08:00:34 AM PST

  •  Other Wally*World Benefits (none)
    Having a Wally*World greatly lowers rents for commercial properties and storefronts in the area. That makes it much easier for enterpreteurs to open their own stores in the newfound and wide-ranging commercial ghettos.

    Also, all those imported goods helps us turn our underutilized assets into Tshirts and Barbie dolls as we pay for our $60billion per month trade deficit.

  •  Wal Mart pricing (none)
    Wal Mart offers low prices on some items, and calls attention to them in the store.  It gives the impression that nearby items are also a bargain, which is often not the case.

    Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. --Winston Churchill

    by rmwarnick on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 08:33:03 AM PST

  •  Wal-mart costs you money (none)
    if you don't shop there (maybe if you do, you re-coup some of the costs through the 'savings').

    If you pay taxes, Wal-mart drags you down . . .

    . . . the less workers are paid, the less they can contribute to the local economy and to the financing of the public services provided them and others.

    Wal-Mart does offer health insurance, but to get it employees must pay nearly half the cost. Only about 40 percent can afford to do so and instead must rely on public health services, as do many Wal-Mart retirees. A like number of employees qualify for government food stamp programs, free school lunches for their children, housing subsidies and other public assistance that Wal-Mart actually helps them apply for.

    from here

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