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This is a little spot to call my own. I'm here to blog about what is on my mind and my plate! This is a place to share my journey to becoming a healthier and stronger me!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why I Dislike Wal-Mart

There are many things I love about America. After living abroad for 6 weeks, I have come to appreciate modern conveniences like dryers, air conditioning, and iPhones in a whole new way. I am proud to be an American in every sense, but I cannot move beyond my extreme dislike of Wal-Mart and what I believe it is doing to this country.(Breakfast: 2 slices Ezekiel toast, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 banana, cinnamon)

Seeing as the company represents an ever increasing share of the consumer market, I find myself in a complex place between sadness and anger that this is the direction our country is moving toward. Allow me to explain...

Yesterday, I accompanied a friend to our local Wal-Mart Supercenter to help her shop with her 90 year old grandmother. Her grandmother is completely immobile and therefore needs a wheelchair. Wal-Mart had 1 in the entire store and it had no basket on top. So my friend had to push her grandmother while trying to carry everything she needed to buy. When this was explained to a store employee, they simply responded that it was not their problem.

We spent over an hour in the store weaving in and out of the countless aisles. Product after product lined the shelf with price tag's claiming to be the lowest in the city. Indeed, the products may be cheap for you and I to purchase, but what is the real cost hidden in your $5 sleep shorts or $1 plastic dog toy?
(Lunch: 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg {all cage free}, 1/2 de-cobbed corn, 1/2 pineapple tomato, spinach, onion, 1 La Tortilla Factory whole wheat wrap, salsa).

The answer: an entire exploited market of demand driven suppliers that are forced, in a sense, to exploit workers (mostly abroad) to produce products under harsh and often dangerous conditions with no concern for their well-being. You see, in America, Wal-Mart is king, and all others must bow to him to play in his domain.

The story continues as I walked through the frozen food section of the store. There are no less than 5 industrial sized freezer laden aisles stuffed to the brim with "ready in 2 minutes!" meals that contain a slew of unpronounceable ingredients and are just shy of a days worth of caloric intake. As I took it all in, I noticed a common trend. The bright colors and beautiful pictures appear to parallel cheap prices.

The food in the store is cheap. Plain and simple. And at those prices, many American's feel as though they do not have an alternative but to shop at Wal-Mart. They must provide for their families, which in this economy is increasingly difficult. I understand.(Dinner: 1/3 cup teriyaki tofu, 1/2 lentils, oven roasted broccoli, carrots, onion, 2 tbsp hummus).

You and I (I assume) are in a different position than the average Wal-Mart customer. Sure, you may drop into a store every once and a while to pick up an item to save some money. But overall, we have a choice. We are educated in the ways of healthy eating, and know that although fresh, organic, and local produce and meat may cost more, you are paying for what you receive. There are no hidden costs in the form of agricultural subsidies and antibiotic laden meat. Furthermore, we are able to see the long term investment in our health by purchasing what is often labeled "health food."

Going back to the employee's response that the situation "was not her problem," I am left with a host of questions. Who's responsibility is it then to provide for those unable to help themselves? Where do we draw the line at what is marketed toward our families? Should there even be a line, or should people take responsibility for their own lives and decide what to buy and eat for themselves?

Moreover, big companies in general are composed of people. People like you and I. So how did a company full of individuals come to the point where the dollar was more important than the health and safety of the consumer? Is that somewhere they would want to shop?
(Mom's dinner creation: Portabella Mushroom Pizza: portabella mushroom, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, crab meat, and onion).

I do not believe Wal-Mart is entirely at fault for these problems. Americans are the demanders and at some point down the line it was a smart business tactic for the company to respond to demands and provide the products that were asked for. The fact that they are able to edge out the competition by offering the lowest price is simply sound economic principals.
(Dessert: 1/2 cup So Delicious Soy Peanut Butter organic ice cream, 6 black bean brownie bites).

There are no easy answers. I am not sure that regulation (governmental or otherwise) is the right solution. All I know is that I do not like what I see when I walk into Wal-Mart. I do not care for the atmosphere, the products, nor the prices. I would rather pay more and sleep soundly at night knowing my dollar went to someone who needs it and values it.

If you have any opinion, at all, on this topic, please leave it in a comment below. I am very curious to read about how others view Wal-Mart and what it represents.

~Jenn

2 comments:

  1. A good, thoughtful post, Jennifer.
    And it's not just Walmart. Unfortunately, corporate America in general is increasingly driven by greed. Focus has shifted to ONLY the dollar, rather than just making a reasonable profit PLUS respecting employees AND being a responsible corporate citizen.

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  2. Here in Canada Zellers (owned by the HBC Company - The Bay) used to be king. Well sadly they started to lack in the products. i.e. I went looking for white computer paper one day to find 3 shelving sections empty where the computer paper should have been. They are trying to be a supercentre, but don't have the space or the budgeting that Walmart has. So when Walmart opened in my town last month I was excited, that I would be able to go and find what I was looking for.
    Many people in town say support the Canadian chain (zellers), however HBC is now American owned, not Canadian.
    I totally understand your point of view as well having worked in retail about treatment of employees as a means to an end - the good 'ol American Dollar.
    It's not always easy to make the right choices, especially when convenience and price play a factor for the majority of the population. :-S

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