Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bashing Walmart is ultimately pointless.

It's Saturday and I'm feeling cranky.

In another blog, this sign popped up. The comments were the usual "Right on" and "We need more of this." My favorite was "Yes, we certainly do need to draw attention to vanishing local economies and signs like this would definitely do the trick".

I find this sign silly. It reflects antipathy toward one company that built itself up in a classic sense, just like every small but somehow more worthy company wants to.

It should read "On this site stood a dinosaur which couldn't adapt to the reality around it."

If we were talking about a car company, bigger and foreign-built would apparently be fine. Who wants to buy a car made completely in East Podunk, Vermont? Even if such a company existed, its costs would be prohibitive. If it still made a decent product, people would pay more for it - it's called "custom car."

More below the break:

If we were talking about a grocery store, bigger and cheaper would absolutely be fine. A small mom-and-pop store with 200 square feet of space wouldn't work for anyone - that's why they've all gone out of business. You can still have a small store, but you have to be better than the big one. Whole Foods succeeds because it provided more "holy" food than PriceChopper - but at a premium price. Surprisingly it grew and became a chain. It paid well and doesn't need unions. Neither did UPS, or Costco. (and the "Organic" tag is a complete joke - mostly an indicator of massive agricultural operations that have eliminated thousands of small farmers - oops.)

Being non-union is not a crime. Being out-of-business is stupid.

The local hardware store around here was Aubuchon's, a large chain with high prices and lousy service. It got replaced with a Home Depot with low prices and good service. The computer guy - Office Depot. The bookstore - B&N or WaldenBooks, which are now losing to and e-books. The Florist with a greenhouse is replaced by one with global shipments coming in daily from Columbia and other, warmer places.

Adapt and live, people.

Whine and go bankrupt.

The world doesn't owe you a living just because you are white and graduated from the local school to open a tiny store with too-high prices, a limited inventory and an unlimited attitude, selling things that you purchased wholesale from a company in Indiana who contracted out to Pakistan or Mexico or China ... "Assembled in the USA!"

WalMart succeeds because people go there. These people aren't making a political or ideological point, they are making a purchase. If your store goes out of business to the big box, it is your customers who are doing you in. Read the tea leaves and change accordingly.

Into town: Hannafords, Bed Bath Beyond, Dicks, Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens, Verizon Wireless, 99, Holiday Inn (et al), the freaking Malls, what seems like a million car dealers and chain dollar stores. Most are big, monopolistic chains and most have non-union staff, but some are union. It makes no difference.
Out of Business: Grand Union, Ames, P&C, porno shop, Aubuchon, three local hardware stores, Book Store, travel agents, clothing store, the Catholic School.

Who lives: the Pharmacy provides home delivery, the restaurants are good, the stores fill a niche need, the schools do a good job, the lumber yard allows contractors an account.

Adaptation wins. Price wins. Service wins. Quality wins.
Union or non-union doesn't matter. Local or Chain doesn't matter. Size doesn't matter (don't make that joke -ed.) Monopolistic tendencies don't matter - especially when it comes to gas.

Think about where you bought your last book, camera, rose, can of paint, chocolate, clock, linens. All little, local stores with no branches? Who holds your mortgage, the local bank providing local jobs or one in Delaware screwing over the country? Do you have a credit card? Have you ever purchased gas from Citgo, Shell, BP or do you stick with Exxon or Irving? Do you have any idea whether these are local, unionized, even if they are US companies? Are these businesses making money while streamlining the logistics to lower prices and still be a decent wage for most of its staff? Do you have a local insurance agent or did you go non-union and cheap with Progressive or GEICO? How about a local travel agent? or a local butcher?

Didn't think so.


  1. I still hate Walmart. I don't like the place. I hate how brazenly anti-union they are. I hate the impact the family has on politics.

    They are particularly noxious, and earn our contempt. Doesn't make any of the other outfits you mention into good guys, but these are definitely bad guys.


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  3. I removed my comment to another post instead of leaving it here.

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