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October 15, 2003 2:31 PM   Subscribe

WalmartFilter: "Wal-Mart controls a large and rapidly increasing share of the business done by most every major U.S. consumer-products company: 28% of Dial total sales, 24% of Del Monte Foods, 23% of Clorox, 23% of Revlon... Wal-Mart plans to open 1,000 more supercenters in the U.S. alone over the next five years.. giving it control over 35% of U.S. food sales and 25% of drugstore sales...The $12 billion worth of Chinese goods Wal-Mart bought in 2002 represented 10% of all U.S. imports from China." Setting aside questions of monopoly, isn't this a potentially dangerous monoculture?
posted by alms (95 comments total)

 
I live in Atlanta and while I know of WalMarts in the area, I could not tell you exactly where any one is. I'm not worried.
posted by mischief at 2:35 PM on October 15, 2003


Monocultures, as any farmer knows, are particularly vulnerable to parasites. Once they are attacked by parasites, there is no stopping. The parasites can replicate without limits and kill the entire plantation because the entire plantation is made up of a single crop that just happens to be the parasite's niche.

Walmart has parasites? Well, I'm not going there anymore.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:39 PM on October 15, 2003


How does the monoculture analogy apply to Walmart? I'm not being disingenuous, I sincerely don't see your point.
posted by signal at 2:41 PM on October 15, 2003


I'll say this about Wal-Mart:

I believe Wal-Mart will continue to grow, and probably will open those 1,000 supercenters in the US in the next five years.

But I also believe, upon absolutely no evidence except my intuition, that Wal-Mart will approach critical mass in the next 10 years or so, and, just like McDonald's, will begin to collapse under its own weight or its own mediocrity.
posted by rocketman at 2:42 PM on October 15, 2003


I'm with rocketman on this one. They just opened a new wal-mart supercenter, and I've talked to many people that dislike it immensely (especially the locations of the items), mostly based on the immense size of the place... I can't seem to recall anyone who really found it to be all that much more of a benefit over the old, normally sized wal-mart. It's only a matter of time, really.
posted by angry modem at 2:49 PM on October 15, 2003


I would give more credence to the notion that middle American suburbs were already enough of a monoculture that the parasite Wal-Mart could take root. But seen from the inside, no individual Wal-Mart is a monoculture -- just look at the variety of crap they sell! -- and seen from without, I don't think they make the landscape they occupy any more vulnerable to, um, parasites. <derail>Unless maybe you mean SUVs.</derail>
posted by coelecanth at 2:58 PM on October 15, 2003


How does the monoculture analogy apply to Walmart?

Wal-Mart is a sort of cultural monoculture, if that doesn't sound too goofy. I suppose the parasites in the analogy would be all the nasty stuff that comes along with having a single sustenance port/teat for entire communities.

I grew up in a Wal-Mart town, a shitty little dirt-farming town in southwest Missouri. When I was really young, it was just another small town: a local grocery store, local video store, local hardware store. But by the time I left after high school the nearby Supercenter had put them all out of business, and the scope and vloume of the wholesale purchases Wal Mart makes made it impossible for any new businesses to start up with competetive prices. Now, all those storefronts that used to take in money that would stay in the community are payday loan places, cell phone stores, or empty, and every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves.

I suppose that the agricultural analogy used above is imperfect, but it's really just another way of saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket." The results are even worse if someone else tosses all the eggs in the basket without even asking you.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2003


I hate Wal-Mart with the blazing heat of ten thousand suns.
posted by konolia at 3:11 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius J. Reilly - every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves.

Noboby in that town owns WMT stock, or invest in a mutual fund that does? Bull.
posted by NortonDC at 3:26 PM on October 15, 2003


Stop posting hit pieces by that Clintonian mouthpiece, Business Week!
posted by rschram at 3:37 PM on October 15, 2003


Noboby in that town owns WMT stock, or invest in a mutual fund that does? Bull.

Someone may (like the manager of the Wal Mart), but the median income there is like $10,000 a year, so I doubt there's a whole lot of investing going on. I don't doubt that it's possible, but I also would not be surprised to learn that no one in a crazy-poor town in the Ozarks owns many blue-chip stocks.

Would you really think that the few people who do have Wal Mart stock as part of their retirement really offset the loss of all the profits that used to go to local business owners? Or all the people that no longer have jobs? Bull.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:56 PM on October 15, 2003


Noboby in that town owns WMT stock, or invest in a mutual fund that does? Bull.

Oh, give me a fucking break. The capital gains of a few peoples' portfolios versus the bankruptcy of local business? Nice try.
posted by solistrato at 3:57 PM on October 15, 2003


I would give more credence to the notion that middle American suburbs were already enough of a monoculture that the parasite Wal-Mart could take root.

I don't know about this. Did you grow up in a middle-American suburb? I did, and there used to be lot more variety before we woke up one day and found a Walmart at the south end of town. There used to be a little stores that would make ends meet by selling one product, but they'd carry a lot of other little things you couldn't get anywhere else, that you'd only buy occasionally. Walmart has kind of pushed those stores out of business. Now everybody drives to Walmart on their way home from work.
posted by Hildago at 3:57 PM on October 15, 2003


The problem for me with Walmart is related to the grocery strike discussed here. These huge stores drive out other options. Now that the megacorps who rule the groceries in San Diego have locked out their worker I literally have no options as far as getting the groceries I need. The fucking groceries of all things.

Other stores such as Asian markets don't have all the things I need. I'm going to try and switch to locally owned stores, but I'm having trouble even finding those. I'm not sure they exist. How much worse will things be once Walmart comes in and drives out even more options?

Bottom line: Super stores make it easier for huge companies to screw me.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:59 PM on October 15, 2003


I would think it would make your quoted statement false, Ignatius J. Reilly. Make your case without relying on bogus statements.
posted by NortonDC at 4:00 PM on October 15, 2003


WalMart is only a retailer, they don't make anything, so if the corp "collapse[s] under its own weight or its own mediocrity", it is easily replaced. Even now, I think a lot of people are finding ways to do that, just look at the 150,000 plus that are making a living selling on eBay. Further, I live in the SF Bay Area (represent!) and have little experience with the Midwest, but are you guys saying that WM is in these towns but not other low and mid-priced chains like Sears, Target, Ace Hardware, Costco and so on?
posted by billsaysthis at 4:16 PM on October 15, 2003


Setting aside questions of monopoly, isn't this a potentially dangerous monoculture?

HA! Yes, let's aside the question of "monopoly" - because Wal-Mart is NOT a monopoly, nor will it be anytime soon (or later). Second: No, it is neither (a) dangerous or potentially, nor (b) a "monoculture" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

Next question.
posted by davidmsc at 4:19 PM on October 15, 2003


every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves

That was the statement. It happens to be true, you know. Even if the dollar leaves town and later resurfaces in the bank account of someone in that town (which I'm note ven convince happens at all, given Wal Mart's general refusal to provide benefits and love of maxing out the schedules of "part-time" employees to avoid any sort of actual benefit packages), it still leaves. It doesn't sit in a local bank and get loaned to a small business. It doesn't get spent on things that prop up the rest of the community. It doesn't get taxed the way that other income does because once Wal Mart had my town by the nads (you know, almost the only employer) the tax incentives started flowing.

Make your case without relying on bogus statements.

I believe I've done so. Can you demonstrate why the statement is bogus? Make your case without dishonestly ignoring the big picture.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:22 PM on October 15, 2003


great answer, davidmsc. the logic in your arguments is amazing.

everything is so clear now.

... nor (b) a "monoculture" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

yeah, what the fuck is a monoculture? why doesn't somobody post a link? oh yeah ...
posted by mrgrimm at 4:26 PM on October 15, 2003


but are you guys saying that WM is in these towns but not other low and mid-priced chains like Sears, Target, Ace Hardware, Costco and so on?

In many towns, yes, a "Supercenter" is effectively the only retail outlet. It is often built in a strip mall that does have other chain stores, to be fair, like a Mailboxes etc. or a TGI Friday's.

daivdmsc:
Why is something that takes away jobs and income from small towns not dangerous? It's pretty dangerous if you are a business owner in one of those towns, or a consumer, or just driving through and hoping not to see a lot of boarded-up storefronts in what used to be Main Street.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:26 PM on October 15, 2003


I sincerely hope that Walmart doesn't succeed in opening another 1000 stores. They currently are trying to open 3 more stores in my town (Austin) where they already have 3. Not near Austin, in Austin. One of them in an environmentally sensitive zone (which they have given up on). With each of these stores being a 220,000 square-foot supercenter, they'd have well over 1 million square feet of retail in Austin (not to mention the countless acres of parking lots). That's a lot.
Eventually they want to have (I think) 50 in the Austin area. Do we really need that much? No.

I have not researched this, but I would not be surprised if Walmart acted as a monopsony with its suppliers. There was a time when Sears did the same: Because Sears was practically the only conduit for, say, washing-machine manufacturers, Sears could dictate to its suppliers what to make, and how much they could sell it for.
posted by adamrice at 4:35 PM on October 15, 2003


Want to kill WalMart? Raise gasoline & diesel fuel prices.

WalMart owns its own trucks; they don't contract shipping out to trucking companies. Since this means that the return to the distribution centers is a normally a deadhead run, WalMart hires the trucks out to other companies to ship goods on the return trip. The money so earned subsidizes the store's prices.

Clever? Yep. Resourceful? Yep. Another example of the effect of size on competition? Yep. Utterly reliant on cheap gas to make it work? Definitely.
posted by Cerebus at 4:42 PM on October 15, 2003


What I have learned from this post: we should not allow any company to get big, expand, merge with others, buy them up or put them out of business. We should keep mom and pop stores and pay lots of money tokeep them in biz. And that goes for Home Depot et al
posted by Postroad at 4:56 PM on October 15, 2003


I grew up in a Wal-Mart town, a shitty little dirt-farming town in southwest Missouri.

Every shitty little dirt-farming town in Missouri (and that's pretty much everything between STL and KC) was alike before Wal-Mart. Now, they're still all alike.
posted by Foosnark at 5:11 PM on October 15, 2003


i fully expected to see that OS monoculture paper show up here sooner or later, but never, ever, would i have expected it to be linked (so to speak) with walmart. what a stretcharooney.
posted by quonsar at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2003


fwiw, at the end of a long page of comments like this... I remember reading/hearing/watching something some months ago which went into detail explaing that underneath the dot-com boom was Walmart. According to the reporter Walmant accounted for 25% of the economic growth in the US during the "dot-com" craze. If I remeber correctly, the reporter opined that many large investors used Walmart gains to fund start-ups in California and elsewhere.

Wish I had a nifty link to point to but, hey, thats what google is for.

Personally I d(w)on't shop at walmart...
posted by efalk at 5:44 PM on October 15, 2003


Disclosure: I shop at Walmart and my wife loves going there, though I was never inclined to buy their stock. But once again I'm confounded by the whole anti-capitalist attitude of many posters in the discussion. Creative destruction people, and don't forget that success almost always (and as a practical matter always) sows the seeds of its own destruction.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:54 PM on October 15, 2003


We have a Wal-Mart down the street from the library that I work at. It's a rare WM in that it is actually *in town* not at the highway exit. Well, it's Vermont so there is no nearby highway exit but anyhow..... At any rate, it's not sucking the life out of the town like so many of them do. One of the things that's not great about WM is that they go on the outskirts of town. So, not only are all the stores that were in town boarded up, but no one even walks by there anymore because they are too busy driving to go to Wal-Mart. Then of course sometimes the Wal-Marts board themselves up to build superstores nearer to the ghiways. It's not like Wal-Mart intentionally tries to do that, but economies of scale do force certain realities in terms of site choice and structuring.

Other sucky issues with Wal-Mart, that are exacerbated by how huge they are are:
  • their systematic underpayment and lack of promotion to female workers
  • their insistence on censored or "clean" versions of music, magazines and books which is causing [thanks to economies of scale] actual shifts in content. This isn't just labelling, this is asking the artist to make two versions. Or one clean version.
  • just generally being crappy to their employees
They're the largest private employer in the US and they don't treat their employees well, or even legally sometimes. This is the monoculture I am most afraid of.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on October 15, 2003


mostly based on the immense size of the place

See, I just don't get this aspect of Wal-Mart. I mean, when your clientele is millions of fat, lazy, poor people who drive everywhere, why would you make them walk so much inside your store?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:07 PM on October 15, 2003


Walmart sells decent goods at very low prices. Those goods allow me to have more things than I normally would on my meager income.

I have no loyalty to Walmart whatsoever. If a store opens that sells better stuff, cheaper then I will go there instead.

Why is that so concerning to so many?
posted by revbrian at 6:07 PM on October 15, 2003


To those who claim or believe that Walmart is not a monopoly: you are deluded. While they may not be a legal monopoly, technically, they certainly wield the power of one.

Allow me to give you an example. Someone close to me works for a large company, probably the largest manufacturer and developer of product in their market. They are also considered by many to be one of those Big, Evil Corporations you hear so much about. Today, I heard about a conversation this company was having with Wal-Mart; they want to include a little insert in their packaging promoting one of their services, and Wal-Mart doesn't want them to. They say it interferes with their sales of another similar product, and if the Big Company goes ahead with their plans, Wal-Mart will stop carrying their products, which will basically ruin them, as over 60% of their sales happen through the big W. So, of course, they're going to cave. Wal-Mart basically owns them.

This is not a mom-and-pop shop. This is a giant, ancient corporation that everyone here would recognize. They're big and scary, like Darth Vader. Hearing this story was like finding out that Emperor Palpatine kicks his shiny black ass around whenever he feels like it.
posted by majcher at 6:08 PM on October 15, 2003


the millions of fat, lazy, poor people are the same mom-and-pop shops being defended here. heh.
posted by poopy at 6:12 PM on October 15, 2003


Why is that so concerning to so many?

Because it's just not fair!! *sniffle*

I mean, those poor workers! They'll all lose their minimum-wage jobs (with no-benefits) at those great mom and pop shops, and instead they'll have to work for no-benefits at minimum wage for the evil Wal-Mart. Oh, wait.

every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves

Go take Economics 101 before you deign to make such an unsubstantiated blanket statement like that.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:44 PM on October 15, 2003


Plenty of WalMart-angst in this thread, but no-one offering any alternative. You might not like them, but if there's one in your neighbourhood, then plenty of folks around you disagree. What are you going to do? Do you tell your neighbours not to shop there? Do they listen?
posted by normy at 6:51 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius J. Reilly - Make your case without dishonestly ignoring the big picture.

Heh, that from the same person insisting that when he says "every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves," that doesn't mean the town loses that money. That's rich. So to speak.

But no, even with your new spin the statement is still false, because WMT is not a monopoly, so every dollar is not leaving. In fact, the article cites several market segments that WMT has refused to serve, so there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly capable of your fabricated scenario.

Again, make your case without relying on bogus statements.

Cerebus, how would raising the price of fuel for everyone have a greater impact on WMT than other trucking operations?
posted by NortonDC at 6:56 PM on October 15, 2003


If Wal-Mart makes for a quarter of the sales of a bunch of big retail products companies...and therefore a big chunk of their accounts receivable....what happens if they go bankrupt? What happens when the whole retail sector sees a major line in their assets column go poof?
posted by gimonca at 7:32 PM on October 15, 2003


the article cites several market segments that WMT has refused to serve, so there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly

Ehh, not really. The article points out that Wal-Mart doesn't sell racier CDs, movies, and magazines, or the morning after pill. Fair enough; I might take advantage of this by opening the first Adult CDs/Movies/Magazines/Preven Store. But if you want food or clothing, you're going to have precious few (if any) choices.

And, being that food and clothing (and other Wal-Mart sold necessities) probably account for a significant majority of the retail transactions in a small town like the one Ignatius is describing, it seems like it's reasonable to say that Wal-Mart is becoming a monopoly-type force in those communities.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2003


You know, I do remember Wal-mart before Sam Walton died. The customer service was extraordinary, and it was halfway pleasant to shop there.

Now, I seriously would rather(and do) pay more somewhere else than go to Walmart. The superstores especially are so huge they are overwhelming, the aisles are clogged with slow people with screaming exhausted children (and why these kids are in the store after ten at night rather than home in their beds is beyond me) and the help look like they would rather be in a suburb of Hell rather than at work.

I do my grocery shopping in the one smallest grocery store in town (it's an IGA) and tho the selection isn't what it would be in a superstore, the prices are amazingly good-and many times even better. (This includes toilet paper and guinea pig food.)And I don't feel like I need a tranquilizer when I'm done with my shopping.

In short, I imagine that when the Walton family visits Sam's grave, it is a noisy experience, as he spins and spins.
posted by konolia at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2003


Heh, that from the same person insisting that when he says "every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves," that doesn't mean the town loses that money. That's rich. So to speak.

I didn't say that. The town loses the money. It "leaves," as I said, and you have said nothing to even try to refute it. If the money is not invested in the town, it "leaves." Would you like to suggest a different verb?

And whether Wal Mart is a monopoly (it clearly isn't) is not relevant. That's like saying that an old-time company town didn't matter if the company that owned didn't have a national coal monoploy. I didn't say that Wal Mart is a *monopoly*, I said that every retail dollar spent in a Wal Mart town leaves town. I define "Wal Mart town" as a community in which Wal Mart is the only retail outlet.

But you're right. Clearly, I have clue what happened to my home town. It must be that everyone there is remarkably poorer than they were 15 years ago because that's how they want to be. It must be that since I moved away my new urban perspective has precluded me from understanding why these people all chose to close their businesses and go on welfare massively and in unison.

Your insistence on focusing on semantics while ignoring the larger phenomenology speaks volumes of the basic tenability of your position, even more so given that the statement you have chosen to nitpick is true: in a town in which Wal Mart is the only retail outlet, every dollar of retail profit leaves that local economy. Note my use of the word "profit," just like in my original statement. If this is not true, please demonstrate why. Again, I find your claim that people who make minimum wage 30 hours a week have stock portfolios to be about as weak as the claim that if they were part of health plan (or something) that held Wal Mart stock in a mutual fund this meant that the money was actually staying in the local economy.

I don't know what a "bogus statement" is to you. Is bogusness self-evident and arbited by you? I have attempted to demonstrate the truith of my claim in numerous ways, and am finding you very hard to please. How do you define money "leaving" a local economy, and what is your personal litmus test for this phenomenon?

Plenty of WalMart-angst in this thread, but no-one offering any alternative.

The alternative is to punish the anti-competitive business behavior that Wal Mart engages in, the many illegal unfair practices that don't have anything to do with being a monopoly in the strict sense. As simple as it is unlikely.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:49 PM on October 15, 2003


More:

The most dirturbing part of the article, for me, was Wal-Mart's backing of a referendum that would change local zoning laws and allow them to move in. Why respect the laws that the members of the community have enacted, when you can just pay to have them changed? "perfectly legitimate part of the process, indeed.

I have limited experience with Wal-Mart, and their even their employees sometimes seem uncomfortable working there. Hired greeters always seem silly to me, but there's a visible difference between enthusiasm that's insincere and enthusiasm that's downright forced.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:53 PM on October 15, 2003


Go take Economics 101 before you deign to make such an unsubstantiated blanket statement like that.

Maybe I need to take the class again, but I don't know what the hell you're talking about. Can you lower yourself to actually explain what simple law of economics I'm missig out on here?

Look, Wal Mart is a blue-chip stock, and over half of it is still owned by the Walton family. Most of their employees have no benefits, because they utilize temp and part-time workers to avoid it. So when I buy something in a little town where Wal Mart is the only retail outlet, here's what happens to the money: some of it goes to cover expenses, like rent, light, and the shitty wages they pay their employees. That which is left over--traditionally called profit--is Wal Mart's to do with what they wish. Wal Mart does not keep their fortune in a bank in Ozark, Missouri, nor do the Walton's pay income taxes there. Many of these small towns--including the specific town that I was speaking of--get forced into (or greased into) major tax "relief" for the Wal Mart outlets.

So, barring the unlikely event that Wal Mart executives live in my hometown, how in the hell are the profits staying in the town? I'll shut up if one of you would deign to just offer a bit of an explanation.

I mean, those poor workers! They'll all lose their minimum-wage jobs (with no-benefits) at those great mom and pop shops, and instead they'll have to work for no-benefits at minimum wage for the evil Wal-Mart. Oh, wait.

I know you're just trying to be inflammatory, and generally have a sort of allergic reaction to reason, but you are aware that when these people worked for mom and pop stores, Mom and Pop lived, paid taxes, shopped, raised kids, and went to the doctor in the community. The profits were re-invested in the town and the local economy was able to grow.

I can't believe I'm explaining the importance of small business to conservatives.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:01 PM on October 15, 2003


I just got a job at Walmart. My first day is tomorrow, after nearly two months of being in the hiring process. I'm really excited about it. I haven't worked in 2 1/2 years, and even though I have a B.A. in Philosophy, it is incredibly hard to find work. I feel very fortunate to have found a job that starts at a decent pay rate, with flexible hours, and opportunity for advancement. It's not a perfect company but I'll be able to pay my bills instead of going bankrupt.
posted by sadie01221975 at 8:06 PM on October 15, 2003


...it seems like it's reasonable to say that Wal-Mart is becoming a monopoly-type force in those communities.

whoooaaa. flashback.

microsoft, walmart, ignorant lazy lower-class, government apes... grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!
posted by poopy at 8:09 PM on October 15, 2003


Korea is a monoculture. Walmart is a cancer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:16 PM on October 15, 2003


>in a town in which Wal Mart is the only retail outlet, every dollar of retail profit leaves that local economy.

The retail profit is like a tax: small amounts of money from a large number of people are diverted into a central pool where it is administered by a few people.

The St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche are both owned by Wal-mart money.
>Bill and Nancy Laurie (heirs of the founders of Walmart) buy the St.Louis Blues and the Kiel Center for $US 100M... and
>Stanley Kroenke buys the Colorado Avalanche, the Nuggets, and the Pepsi Center from Ascent for $US450.
>Kroenke... is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, niece of discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s late founder Sam Walton. Last year, Ann Kroenke was worth $3 billion, according to the Forbes 400 list...
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:26 PM on October 15, 2003


One in 200 working Americans works at Wallmart. .. That means there are probably 8 MeFi'ers who work at Wallmart. Welcome aboard sadie.

Ignatius, your Ozark town has lots of Wallmart employees getting Wallmart benefits that they didnt get at Uncle Zeeks Hardware so now they can head to Branson and leave all their profits there.
posted by stbalbach at 8:31 PM on October 15, 2003


That said, I'm happy you've found work, sadie01221975.

Don't take it personally...
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:31 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius, your Ozark town has lots of Wallmart employees getting Wallmart benefits that they didnt get at Uncle Zeeks Hardware so now they can head to Branson and leave all their profits there.

They'll be happy to hear that they get benefits. Has that change been made since this thread began? Is Wal Mart bending to my MeFi pressure and treating their workers fairly by not keeping them under the designated number of full-time hours that require health coverage? How delightful, like the time I caught a serial killer by ranting on
Slashdot. You know, even the person who popped up in this thread who works for Wal Mart didn't say he/she was getting benefits (though I hope you are, sadie). Wherever did you get the idea that Wal Mart is more likely to provide people with benefits than independent businesses? Not from examination of the facts, one assumes.

I can't believe the scorn that people have for community owned business and local investment. One thing's for sure: I may not like it, but you can rest assured that you and your ilk are winning. Wal Mart and factory hog farms for all!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:47 PM on October 15, 2003


*the only retail outlet

I don't believe that.

*The town loses the money. It "leaves," as I said, and you have said nothing to even try to refute it. If the money is not invested in the town, it "leaves." Would you like to suggest a different verb?

combined with

Even if the dollar leaves town and later resurfaces in the bank account of someone in that town (...), it still leaves.

combined with my own "Noboby in that town owns WMT stock, or invest in a mutual fund that does? Bull."

equals bull. You are directly claiming to have it both ways: the money "leaves," and then comes back, so your leaves statement is true, and the "The town loses the money." So, if I toss a ball in the air only to catch it a second later, have I lost it? That's the only way to make both of your contradictory statements true.

*And whether Wal Mart is a monopoly (it clearly isn't) is not relevant.

Bull. For your statement to be true, no other business can exist in the area that sells at a profit. No liquor store, no gas station, no hardware store, nothing.

*Again, I find your claim that people who make minimum wage 30 hours a week

contradicted by the article

And you don't show the slightest clue of knowing what "phenomenolgy" means, so yeah, as long as your posts are constructed of language that makes them self-negating, I am gonna notice and comment on it, when I can be bothered.
posted by NortonDC at 8:49 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius, your point made I stand corrected, Wallmart compared to local businesses is not good. I have been in towns out in South Dakota and Oregon that have no Wallmart, not even ATM machines, only recently pay for gas with credit cards at the pump, and the people moan and complain but I tell them they are lucky but they don't get it. We get what we ask for.
posted by stbalbach at 8:59 PM on October 15, 2003


revbrian: Walmart sells decent goods at very low prices. Those goods allow me to have more things than I normally would on my meager income.

Yes, but would your income be as meager if Walmart wasn't putting downward pressure on the wages of the 1,000,000 Americans it employs? (That was so easy it's almost embarrassing.)

It's interesting, when I posted this article I wasn't expecting to start another "Walmart sucks/not" thread. I was actually just really shocked and scared by the fact that such a large percentage of the entire US retail economy is filtered through a single entity. That seems like a dangerous situation. And yes, the "monoculture" analogy was a bit off; the similarity is that a lack of diversity creates a brittle system, it creates single points of failure that can have massive effects, whether the effects occur through a virus, or by some sort of structural breakdown.
posted by alms at 9:20 PM on October 15, 2003


You are directly claiming to have it both ways: the money "leaves," and then comes back, so your leaves statement is true, and the "The town loses the money."

I never claimed that. The money leaves. I was saying that your claim that the money ends up in mutual funds still ignores the underlying phenomenolgy (i.e. capital flight), but I was not granting that claim.

So, if I toss a ball in the air only to catch it a second later, have I lost it?

If you toss a ball in the air, and the ball then gets placed in some billionaire's bank account in Arkansas, have you lost it? You would probably say no, which is fine, but you'd be wrong.

*the only retail outlet

I don't believe that.


Why not? It is true, so it's got that goin' for it. I mean, if we are just going to accuse each other of makin' shit up, what's the point of having a discussion?

And you don't show the slightest clue of knowing what "phenomenolgy" means

Maybe you'd like to educate me, then. I'm not going to go in the dick-waving/name-dropping direction here, but you might want to carefully choose what to be a dick about. I sincerely doubt that were our respective educations in the phenomenology of social systems compared side to side that mine would be the one shown to be lacking. Seriously, I by no means misused the word (though I probably spelled it wrong, and I can't type to save my life), so why take it in that direction? Isn't the cool thing about MeFi that arguments stand on their own without some appeal to authority like "I have a degree in this" or "my dad knows him, so I know what I'm talking about?"

For your statement to be true, no other business can exist in the area that sells at a profit. No liquor store, no gas station, no hardware store, nothing.

Dry county, hardware store boarded up, gas at the Supercenter. And you need to make sure you know what a monoploy is. Typically, it means controlling entire industries. Just because Tony Roma's is the only place in Sheboygan to get ribs doesn't mean the Sherman Act needs to be leveraged against them. I wouldn't have spoken in such absloute terms if I didn't know what I was talking about, and if I wasn't talking about a specific instance. I would never have made such a broad generalization, but then I wasn't speaking generally. However...

My point about the broader phenomenology is that your incessant need to qualify my statements this-way-or-that really breaks down in the abstract. In general, I would not say that every retail dollar in every town with a Wal Mart gets sucked away. That would be a silly thing to say, but would hardly be neccessary to note that a significant amount of capital does get bled from thousands of communities, and it is having a real impact on the lives and financial well-being of those effected.

So, in your best case scenario, I am a stupid crank who is lying about my hometown but you are still denying a major economic and social trend. Have fun with that. But in reality, what I said is true and it is only about one town out of the thousands that are having their economic and social foundations altered. That your only argument is essentially against me--and doesn't even address whether these changes are desirable or sustainable--is about all I need to know.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:27 PM on October 15, 2003


God, I hate the smell of Dial soap. How can people use that shit on their skin? BTW, I stole a pair of sunglasses from Wal-Mart once, so I'm did my part to bring down the corporate beast.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:28 PM on October 15, 2003


I think the slow economy really helps walmart. Even those who are better off than others need to save money these days. These people usually wouldn't shop at Walmart. But now they head to Wally World and save themselves a buck or two, per product.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:31 PM on October 15, 2003


I can't believe I'm explaining the importance of small business to conservatives.

Ignatius, I'm so with you on this. Wal-Mart is undoubtedly not helping local economies. To suggest, as some have, that the solution for Mom and Pop Outtabusiness is to buy Wal-Mart stock? Are you kidding me? WM is forcing businesses to close and I very much doubt that these former shop owners are investing in stocks after declaring bankruptcy. I also doubt that WM stock pays the same in dividends as the lost income of these former business owners.

And the point about "conservatives": very few people are actually conservatives as we grew up knowing them. Many people are so blinded by the "free market" that conservative values don't matter any more - it's all about profit and growth at any cost. Wal-Mart is so centered on the concept of profit it has ignored not only the individuals, but the entire community.

It might shock people, but many little towns are different from other little towns. Small towns are defined by what is happening in terms of local economics. I've been in tiny little towns that have three bookstores. I've seen tiny towns with four liquor stores and one church. I've seen tiny towns with coffee shops where they call you "sugar." These towns have personalities because of their local businesses. To destroy these businesses is to destroy these towns and to shrug shoulders and say "hey, that's the free market" is sending a dangerous message: people don't matter, profits do.

I figure 100 years from now famous last words will be: "Let them work at Wal-Mart."
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:41 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius - Very well said.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:42 PM on October 15, 2003


>You are directly claiming to have it both ways: (1) the money
>"leaves," and then comes back, so your leaves statement is
>true, and the (2) "The town loses the money."
>
>I never claimed that.

Bull.

(1) was your attempt at justifying your statement that "every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves" against my assertion that stock ownership makes WMT's profits available to those in the town:

>> [IJR] every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves
>>
> [IJR] That was the statement. It happens to be true, you
>know. Even if the dollar leaves town and later
>resurfaces in the bank account of someone in that
>town (...), it still leaves.


(2) [IJR] "The town loses the money."

1 & 2 are both your own statements, and they contradict each other unless you want to assert that any lag between the revenue being collected and profits landing in a stockholders account equals "losing" the money, which is farcical.

You don't get it both ways.
posted by NortonDC at 9:53 PM on October 15, 2003


Can you lower yourself to actually explain what simple law of economics I'm missig out on here?

"Mercantilism doesn't work." People listening to your concern about not letting the money leave town are (part of) what made Spain the dominant economic power it is today.

I can't believe the scorn that people have for community owned business and local investment

I've shopped at "community owned businesses," "mom and pops," or whatever you want to call them, in semi-rural Florida and North Carolina.

And they're not to be missed. The prices were high. The selection was small, and the stock often ludicrously out of date as the proprietors buy what they're comfortable with instead of what people want because they know full well they're the only game for 20 miles. The help is either bad or uncomfortably nosy, in that small-town gossipy way.

Which isn't to say that Wally World is any great store -- Sears or Target moving in would be more preferable in just about every way, if they'd be more general-store than department-store when the local environment demands it. But there are real, no-shit reasons why Wal-Mart was able to move into these underserved rural areas and outperform the local stores, because the local stores performed so badly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:03 PM on October 15, 2003


You know a store is too big when, under the same roof, you can buy a pack of gum and a speedboat!
posted by dhartung at 10:17 PM on October 15, 2003


"Even if" is what is known in English as a qualifier. The statement made using this expression is known as a "conditional." Thus, by saying Even if the dollar leaves town and later resurfaces in the bank account of someone in that town (...), it still leaves I was engaging in a common rhetorical technique, whereby one grants the assumptions of the other party in order to demonstrate the falseness or inadequacy of the assumptions.

But you knew that.

And I'm going to use that cunning tactic once more, so watch out. Even if I am a backpedalling liar, have you actually said anything that disputes the central point of contention? Do you disagree that significantly more capital leaves small towns when Wal Mart replaces numerous locally owned businesses? Do you disagree that significantly more capital leaves small towns when the businesses are chains than when they are local? If you don't think these basic statements are true, then you should actually address them. Ultimately, what I typed (which is still there to be read, incidentally) several hours ago, however stupid, is not an important part of the real issue at hand. Do you actually have anything of consequence to say about that issue?

"Mercantilism doesn't work." People listening to your concern about not letting the money leave town are (part of) what made Spain the dominant economic power it is today.

People listening to the dishonest doctrine of the absolute sanctity of markets (especially when the corporations in question are anti-competitive) will be what makes the United States the economic shithole it will be in 100 years. And what made a lot of small towns in the US the shitholes that they are today. Noting a radical shift in the behavior of capital in a given market/region is hardly making a case for mercantilism. Is there no grey area between lasseiz-faire global capitalism and caveman mercantilism? It seems to me that for most of the last 200 years the US economy has operated in this grey area.

I'm not arguing for city states, ROU, just against rapid concetration of capital in the hands of a company with well-demonstrated track record of using that capital to fuck people. As for your point that local businesses suck, I'll have to disagree. Customer service and custom ordering are two instances in which Mom and Pop can usually whoop Uncle Sam.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:20 PM on October 15, 2003


Ignatius J. Reilly, you don't define "the central point of contention," e.g. your line of exploration is distinct from that established in the front page post. My central point of contention has been: "make your case without relying on bogus statements," because backpedaling and lying undercut attempts to convincingly communicate the value of ideas. It's only dragged on this long because we're both hardheaded enough to vigorously defend our positions on such narrow points. I just happen to be right.
posted by NortonDC at 10:53 PM on October 15, 2003


mrgrimm: great answer, davidmsc. the logic in your arguments is amazing. everything is so clear now.

(snicker) My point is that the premise of this post is so incredibly biased and wrong to begin with, that a refutation of similar simplicity (which just happens to be true) is enough to counter it. "Setting aside questions of monopoly..." - as if the "monopoly" issue has already been settled and agreed upon by everyone. And throwing out the word "monoculture", with very negative connotations while providing no baseline definition or evidence of such "monoculturism", is just lame.
posted by davidmsc at 10:57 PM on October 15, 2003


backpedaling and lying undercut attempts to convincingly communicate the value of ideas

It's really hard to believe that you're being serious. Your wierd assertion that I was lying (which is buttressed only by repeated insistence that I was lying) requires infintely more faith than any of my statements (all of which I've tried to clarify, explain, defend, etc.) which you have called into question. But you have worn me out, so take from that what vindication you would like. I'll have to continue my lying at a later date, as trying to communicate with you has given me a bit of a headache.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:23 PM on October 15, 2003


And what made a lot of small towns in the US the shitholes that they are today.

You really think that? That it's, of all things, the retail establishments of a town that maintain the community? You really believe that if you went to a little Wal-Mart-less town somewhere and all 50 or so retail owners were sucked up in the Rapture, that that's what would make the town dry up and blow away? Not the plant closing, not the fishery being fished-out, not the land losing productivity, not demographic and economic shifts away from small rural towns and towards suburbs and exurbs, but the hardware store being replaced by Wal-Mart?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:29 PM on October 15, 2003


NortonDC, when Ignatius asked Do you disagree that significantly more capital leaves small towns when Wal Mart replaces numerous locally owned businesses? Do you disagree that significantly more capital leaves small towns when the businesses are chains than when they are local? If you don't think these basic statements are true, then you should actually address them.

I expected that you'd finally stop pussyfooting around and answer, but nope...

I think it's pretty clear that Iggy has presented his argument/opinions/what have you--even those who disagree with him can understand what he's saying. Why won't you just answer his questions or present your side instead of arguing semantics?
posted by dobbs at 11:57 PM on October 15, 2003


Want to kill WalMart? Raise gasoline & diesel fuel prices.

I believe this is precisely wrong - that is, 180 degrees from correct. One of the reasons for Walmart's success at metastasizing its way through the economic flesh of America is held by many to be the way in which it has spread, and much study has been devoted to the differences in the way that Walmart has spread and Starbuck's has, for example.

Walmart has a policy, apparently, of opening their own distribution node, saturating the area around that distribution point with stores, then opening a new node at the periphery of the coverage of the last node, and repeating. This ensures that supply lines are short, and the landscape is dotted with Walmart stores at as high a density as possible. The strategy, as we all can see, has been highly effective, but I would submit that an increase in gas prices would impact Walmart the least of any large retailer for precisely this reason.

One in 200 working Americans works at Wallmart. .. That means there are probably 8 MeFi'ers who work at Wallmart.

That might be true if Metafilter were composed entirely of Americans, and of people evenly distributed across geographies, socio-economic groupings and ages. I suspect this is not the case.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:14 AM on October 16, 2003


How about Open Source department stores?
posted by thedailygrowl at 12:23 AM on October 16, 2003


Not the plant closing, not the fishery being fished-out, not the land losing productivity

The closing of numerous smaller businesses would be similar to "the plant" closing, wouldn't it? As for the rest of it, I don't think that Wal Mart is responsible for the general decline of small-town America, but it is a symptom.

You really think that? That it's, of all things, the retail establishments of a town that maintain the community?

It can be an important part, no? Would Northampton be the same without all the small bookstores and coffee shops? Would Key West be as fun with a Hooters Megabar instead of the cool local places? What if you went to Provincetown and had to buy your rainbow flags from some gay corporate giant (I'm reaching here)?

From a cultural standpoint, having locally owned businesses is often overlooked. But from an economic standpoint, it is pretty obvious that if less capital gets reinvested in a given town, that town's economy is going get crappier. Go to a poor black neighborhood anywhere in America, and a primary complaint will be the lack of black-owned businesses. This isn't because black people hate members of other races, it's because those few historically strong black communities that have experienced economic development have done so with black-owned business.

It's a sort of microcosm of the way that nations develop economically. While I would agree that trade between nations/communities and the attendent movement of capital is important, we would all be hard-pressed to come up with an example of a nation which experienced significant economic development without some protectionist measures.

It's the same with smaller communities. No one is saying that small-towns should be forced the stay in some fictionalized 1950's state of innocence, but that needn't cause one to ignore what are very real economic and social problems popping up in rural America. You're right to point out that Wal Mart is but one of many causes, but I think you are underestimating it's impact nonetheless.

So I don't think there is anything inherently special about Wal Mart making a hardware store go out of business, just as there is nothing special about any one kind of illness. But an epidemic is an epidemic.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:30 AM on October 16, 2003


Ig, I agree that Wal-Mart is a symptom of a larger problem, though I'm not sure where on the chicken-egg spectrum I stand. If you look at the areas where Wal-Mart is most and least successful, you'll see certain trends. When I lived in the North End in Boston, there was no room for a Wal-Mart. Real estate prices were simply too high to drop a supercenter in the middle of the city. In more rural areas, large plots of land are cheaper and more plentiful. Additionally, there's a certain shopping mindset that spurns small "mom-and-pop's" and spurs "supercenters".

When stores are put next to each other, like you find in a city or a town that has a village center, your primary means of getting from one place to the next is by walking. In cities, it's simply not efficient to drive from store to store because you have to deal with traffic and parking. In small towns, shops are closer together and sidewalks abound. Why would you limit yourself to Wal-Mart's selection when you can drop by the local hardware store and talk to Joe the owner, or saunter down the block to Bill's Pet Supplies and ask Bill to order more of your favorite cat-chow?

Unfortunately, American zoning is increasingly becoming Balkanized. Developers buy large plots and create Shady Oaks Housing Communities or strip-malls and shopping centers. You can't walk into town because "town" is either miles away or inaccessible by foot. This is the epidemic of the automobile; in cities developed after its invention (and particularly the boom following the second World War) it is more convenient -- or necessary -- to drive from shop to shop. Strip malls help to allieviate the annoyance, shopping malls are even better if the developers have the money. Wal-Mart is just the next incarnation of this niche: a shopping mall under one banner, with low prices and above all, consistency between stores.

Until people start rethinking the design of their towns, or their attitude about walking, Wal-Mart (or another successor) will continue to prosper.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:38 AM on October 16, 2003


It just seems like WM is pushing retailing efficiency gains more to the edge. I'm still buying the same groceries, tv, paint, dvd, but I am, generally speaking, paying an equal or lower price for it.

If WM is simply doing a better job of bringing goods into a town and retailing them, I find it hard to find fault with them.
posted by rudyfink at 1:52 AM on October 16, 2003


"I mean, those poor workers! They'll all lose their minimum-wage jobs (with no-benefits) at those great mom and pop shops, and instead they'll have to work for no-benefits at minimum wage for the evil Wal-Mart. Oh, wait."

I'm surprised to see this argument brought up again and again in the sophisticated FreeRepublic forum (as well as our - let's be honest here- more mundane one).

Am I missing something or are conservatives preaching the virtues of being an employee over being a business owner?
posted by magullo at 5:00 AM on October 16, 2003


Back on the FPP topic/thesis .. which is actually pretty good question.. Wallmart is a big monoculture that is a single point of failure. I would say if Wallmart were to self-destruct it would be replaced by something else so I don't think it presents a danger. The danger is a loss of culture but again we get what we ask for. Lot's of choice, cheap prices and convenience. There have always been Wallmarts (Sears in the 19th C) the difference today is the supply and transport system and efficiencies that make it possible to have on in every town. I'm sure in the 19th C the old folks complained how shopping by catalog was the end of the local craftsman culture, and they were right.
posted by stbalbach at 5:47 AM on October 16, 2003


I was interested by this thread and expecially by the ongoing debate between Norton/Davidmsc/Ignatius
until I noticed there was a flaw in the debate itself

Ignatius:every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves (statement)

NortonDC:Noboby in that town owns WMT stock, or invest in a mutual fund that does? Bullshit (statement)

Ignatius:Someone may , but the median income there is like $10,000 a year, so I doubt there's a whole lot of investing going on
(reasonable doubt, needs to be verified)

Norton:I would think it would make your quoted statement false, Ignatius J. Reilly. Make your case without relying on bogus statements
(plain simple attack, calling Ignatius liar, burden of proof on Norton)

Ignatius: (Profit at Walmart) doesn't sit in a local bank and get loaned to a small business (statement) Can you demonstrate why the statement is bogus? (reverses norton attack, the burden of proof is on Norton who started the attack). Why is something that takes away jobs and income from small towns not dangerous? (question to DavidMsc, David doesn't answer)

NortonDc: even with your new spin the statement is still false, because WMT is not a monopoly, so every dollar is not leaving (False Logical Implication) In fact, the article cites several market segments that WMT has refused to serve, so there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly (False Logical Implication) capable of your fabricated scenario (calling Ignatius liar, burden of proof on Norton).

If you keep on reading and doing comparisons you may notice that Mr.David and Mr.Norton don't add much, in my opinion, to the debate. At least Ignatius tries to defend himself with more statements , while I think he should call out the rethorical tricks he spots before going on, but maybe he prefers not to do so.

Again, a good reading is Index of Logical Fallacies which may help you understand better what's going on.
posted by elpapacito at 6:16 AM on October 16, 2003


What's killing small towns is the death of the downtown business district. And I don't understand it.

I'm a libertarian — but if the government is going to spend the money anyway, why not take some of the absolutely mindboggling amount that's been spent on the federal highway system and put it toward real, useful rail transport? My small city (~70,000) had an extensive system of streetcars connecting the downtown, the suburbs, and nearby towns in the 20s and 30s, with of course a much smaller population than it has today. Why did this end? The city has spent plenty on three new parking garages over the past few years when rail would be more efficient economically, better environmentally, and better for local business, since people tend to shop more when they are walking around a small urban area and passing by dozens of shops than when they drive in, get what they want, and drive back to their subdevelopment.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:29 AM on October 16, 2003


I can support the lack of benefits. I hope you have better luck sadie...

My dear friend, also with an advanced degree, has been reduced to working at WalMart. She was very happy to find she would have benefits... until she found out she doesn't. What they offer is very meager, and they carefully juggle her hours to be sure she never qualifies.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:36 AM on October 16, 2003


Am I missing something or are conservatives preaching the virtues of being an employee over being a business owner?

Surely the advantage in this case is plain? The Walmart employees still have jobs, the mom and pop business owners no longer have businesses. ;-)
posted by biffa at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2003


elpapacito: I know that I have contributed little, if anything, to this "debate" -- I just wanted to point out the flaws/bias/assumptions in the baseline FPP. Nothing more (or less).

Carry on.
posted by davidmsc at 8:39 AM on October 16, 2003


elpapacito, I'm asserting that not every dollar is leaving with WMT. As I understand it, that's IJR's assertion, that WMT has a monopoly on selling things at retail for a profit in the town, and that all of those profits are lost to the town, or merely leave the town before coming back, depending on which version of his argument he chooses to champion at any given moment. That is a requirement for either version of his assertion to be true, if he, like me, understands "with WMT" to be a part of his assertion.

In fact, the article cites several market segments that WMT has refused to serve, so there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly (False Logical Implication)

I'm not following your thinking here. What makes it false?
posted by NortonDC at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2003


Hellooooo: county sales tax. Some money stays. If Walmart's sales are greater than the sales of the boarded-up mom and pops, more sales tax!

Could we please factor in the local government's take here?

Besides, what's so great about all the profit staying in town anyway? What do you think Mr. Pop and Ms. Mom do with the money? Invest it with some sort of 1890's era local bank that it not connected to a larger banking system?

Is the problem in these towns really a lack of captial? Last I checked, the market for loans in the US was pretty much a national business.

I'm missing the part where having the profits socked away in the local bank makes any difference at all.
posted by Mid at 9:08 AM on October 16, 2003


Is WalMart a monoculture? Maybe, I think it might be subjective.

However, is it a monopoly? Most assuredly it is not. WalMart is a channel captain. Their method of doing business with their suppliers is set up so the advantage is always on their side, and of course this is a viscious cycle -- the more power they have over their vendors, the more powerful they become, which means they can exert more influence over their suppliers...etc.

It works great for them. It sucks for those who have no alternative to shop elsewhere. But it is not monopoly.
posted by contessa at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2003


WalMart is an oligopsony.

There are at least two interesting articles about it here (WalMart's role in creating a cultural monoculture) and here (WalMart's role the recording industry).

The entire site is filled with good information.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 AM on October 16, 2003


I still say this whole thread is ridiculous. Sears came, sears (more or less as a dominant force) went. MontogmeryWard was another huge retail chain and when it went bust there was little impact outside of the staff losing their jobs. My mom had a retail store (women's clothing) for over 30 years in suburban New Jersey and while it was profitable (thanks for college, Mom), she never offered, nor did any of her employees ask for or expect, any benefits even though most of the staff worked full time. Like many other big businesses (calling Redmond!), WMT is trying to use its size for competitive advantage and using labor law for same, but this just means the government needs to do some investigating and (perhaps) litigating plus some tune ups to the labor laws.

On one block of one street (well, one side of the street is a strip mall) right here in Mountain View, we have a WalMart, a Target, a Ross, a Mervyn's, a Sears, a RiteAid, and an Albertsons. All of them seem to be doing enough business to stay afloat. Monoculture, whatever.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:59 AM on October 16, 2003


WalMart owns its own trucks; they don't contract shipping out to trucking companies.

This scheme by Cerebus to raise gas prices to defeat Wal-Mart has been debunked on other grounds, but I'd just like to add that Wal-Mart DOES use third-party carriers. My dad drives for Schneiders International and has delivered to them himself. Incidentally, their distribution centres treat those third-party drivers like shit - I gave specifics here.
posted by orange swan at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2003


Billsaysthis is right on one count - big companies, like civilizations, come and go. People used to be worried about companies like GM and IBM becoming monopolies, and it never happened. Sooner or later their market is oversaturated, or they make some stupid mistakes, or some other company comes up with better products. I seem to recall reading that Wal-Mart is setting its cap for a more upscale clientele, which could be a false move for it, as it was for Eaton's in Canada. Can't find a good link for it though.
posted by orange swan at 12:41 PM on October 16, 2003


GM is the biggest oligopoly of them all, swan. They own the best in every market.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:05 PM on October 16, 2003


My little Pennsylvania town has fought the Wal-Mart wars for the past decade or so, and while I do shop at Wal-Mart - frankly, the prices on diapers for my kid is substantially lower than anywhere else, making the drive worthwhile - I've always been kind of put off by what I see as the hypocrisy of those who are most opposed to Wal-Mart.

Which is to say people will show up at an anti Wal-Mart rally, decry the corporatization of America and the fact that small operations are being driven out of business. Then, on the way home, they'll listen to a Clear Channel radio station.

One little town fought tooth and nail against a Wal-Mart about seven years ago, with the usual suburbanites wailing about how traffic would be abominable, all the local merchants would be driven out of business, the works. They won; Wal-Mart ultimately went away - and on the same spot, a huge new shopping mall anchored by a massive grocery chain and filled with other national chains was constructed. No one fucking peeped. Which said to me that people tend to be more opposed to Wal-Mart the symbol rather the reality of traffic, competition, etc. created by the store itself.
posted by kgasmart at 1:25 PM on October 16, 2003


NortonDC: Ok let's review your statement

But no, even with your new spin the statement is still false, because WMT is not a monopoly, so every dollar is not leaving .

I shall thank you for pointing out a shortcoming in my statement. It is true that Ignatius (even if implicitly) said the Walmart is a monopoly, when he says "every dollar of retail profit in that town leaves". If -every- dollar coming from retail sales is taken by Walmart then we have reason to believe Walmart has command of supply in retail business, so it may be a Monopoly by definition of M-W. Which is at least unlikely unless otherwise proved, so your pointing out the fallacy is correct.

The second statement

In fact, the article cites several market segments that WMT has refused to serve, so there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly capable of your fabricated scenario

The fact that WMT has refused -in the past- (past because it is what WMT said before the article was actually published) doesn't imply that WMT -will- ever(in the future) become a monopoly. Walmart doesn't need to state their will to take/not take certain segments to become monopolist de facto or de iure.If that is true, there is no implication between "stating a will" and "being a monopolist"

So I guess this part of my statement is correct. We neither have or not have reasons to believe walmart will not become a monopoly.

On a tangent: probably there are other retailers in the towns in which walmart has some shop and so , unless we refer to the share of market each retailer "controls", we'll see that walmart hasn't got the exclusive command of supply as long as there's a mom&pop shop selling $1 of anything. Unfortunately the negative effects that may (and usually) come with a monopoly happen (usually) well before any company is declared to be a monopoly. Too little, too late, imho.

What I think is more likely to happen is the formation of an oligopoly, which may as well be very dangerous if there isn't any strict control of their competitive behavior, as the formation of a cartel appears to be more likely when you only have a few companies ruling one market.

While I'm here let me ask you a question as well: what do you think about Walmart ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:35 PM on October 16, 2003


By the way, just for anyone who's interested -- if ever you're asked for your address or ZIP code from a mega-store of some sort that you particularly despise, either refuse or give them a fake one. Many chains use demographic information about their buyers to decide where to open up new locations. I know for a fact that Home Depot does this.

Not that I have anything against Home Depot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:39 PM on October 16, 2003


Why does it matter whether the money stays in your town? Do you think it would be best if the United States were nothing but millions of little tiny economies? Sure, if I buy something at Wal-Mart, the money goes to Missouri.

But the next time they're looking for some impressive office furniture, they'll probably be sending money back here, just like so much of the money during the Internet Boom went straight from San Jose to Zeeland. When they order Gerber baby food to distribute to all their Wal-Marts, that money goes to Fremont. It's called trade. It works.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:31 PM on October 16, 2003


For what it is worth, I was hired for full time employment,
which means over 32 hours. I can start receiving health benefits after 6 months, which would suck for most people, but my primary insurance is through my husband's work.

Also, minimum wage in Ohio is a bit over $5.00 an hour. I start at $7.00, with a 90 day increase, and a substantial standard of living increase. Plus, if anyone calls corporate to say I did a good job serving them, I can get a raise.

Concerning community impact: My Walmart employs over 300 people and does a lot for local charities.

Plus, they buy thier pumpkins from local farmers.
posted by sadie01221975 at 7:21 PM on October 16, 2003


[Yes, but would your income be as meager if Walmart wasn't putting downward pressure on the wages of the 1,000,000 Americans it employs? (That was so easy it's almost embarrassing.)]

Hmmm. I work for a company that makes plastic sheets for airlines. I help formulate those plastics.

I'm a bit confused how WalMart is putting downward pressure on my salary. The biggest smackdown to my industry was 9-11.

You can stop patting yourself on the back any time now.
posted by revbrian at 7:33 PM on October 16, 2003


Sadie, what's the phone number? I'll call in a month and say you were fabulous helping me find the perfect OSU jersey.
posted by billsaysthis at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2003


elpapacito, you said:
So I guess this part of my statement is correct. We neither have or not have reasons to believe walmart will not become a monopoly.
apparently in answer to my statement. Except that my statement said:
there is no reason to believe that WMT would ever become a monopoly
(scratches head) With this comment, are you trying to communicate anything distinct from what I said?

what do you think about Walmart ?

I have a low opinion of the ones in my area, and haven't been a customer for, probably, at least two years. I find the shopping experience to be pretty disheartening, and imagine it would be even worse to work at those stores.

That's based on my direct experience. Based on what I've read, I think it is an amazingly efficiently managed business that really does pass its savings on to its customers (which is good), but it also faces unsettling accusations of mistreating workers with regards to abuse of time charging and unequal treatment of workers based on sex (which is not good).

In my personal assessment (which is not as price-conscious as many people's), the negatives usually outweigh the positives, and therefore I shop elsewhere.

P.S. (to whomever brought it up) I've read Nickle and Dimed, and while I found it to be peripherally informative, I judged it a failure at exploring it's central thesis. Has the author never heard of a roommate? And frankly, the writing quality itself was poor. I could recommend it, but only to someone with no other access to insight on what it means to bust your ass all day long and not be richly rewarded for it.
posted by NortonDC at 10:06 PM on October 16, 2003


GM is the biggest oligopoly of them all, swan. They own the best in every market.

I believe you meant GE, Five Fresh Fish. GM doesn't own anything significant outside the automotive market.
posted by VeGiTo at 10:22 PM on October 19, 2003


Oops. My bad!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2003


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