In defense of Wal-Mart

No, I’m not forgiving them for paying their employees minimum wage when they could easily pay them $11 an hour and give them all health insurance and still make a hefty profit.    Not only would that be the right thing to do, it would also help the economy (money trickles up, after all — if people have money, they spend it.  Amazing, but true).   Instead, Wal-Mart admits their employees are basically living in poverty, and some stores are even holding food donation drives for the employees.  o-FOOD-BANK-570

However, instead of criticizing them for that (which is well deserved), today I want to defend them against the “closing on Thanksgiving” thing.  There is a boycott proposed against them (and other stores) for making their employees work on Thursday.

Lots of places are still open on Thanksgiving, because we the people want them to be open.  Someone always remembers a last minute thing they need and they run down to the grocery store and are happy when it’s there.  (Remember:  Wal-Mart has groceries, too.)  Many gas stations remain open (which you will be thankful for when you get halfway to grandma’s and realize the tank is empty).  And of course, some people never get holidays off (hospital workers, police, emergency services).

But really, we’re the ones to blame.  If we didn’t create the demand, they wouldn’t be filling it.

So the protests I see now asking people not to shop on Thanksgiving are good — because it puts the onus on us.  We’re the ones ultimately responsible for stores opening on holidays and at 12 am on Black Friday and so on.

Of course, one of the reasons for the protests is that Wal-Mart treats their employees terrible.  If they paid them well and gave them overtime for working holidays, you probably wouldn’t be seeing these protests.  So while we can blame ourselves for wanting these places open, we also need to keep in mind that the companies themselves can soften the blow to the point where employees will want to work on the holidays for all the extra benefits and money.

4 thoughts on “In defense of Wal-Mart

  1. My local Walmart is closed on Thanksgiving. They aren’t even opening at Midnight on Black Friday, they open at 1AM. Although I don’t agree with the amount they pay their employees, I will support my local Walmart, In this area they are pretty close to the only game in town, they employ hundreds of people in my area that would otherwise be unemployed. Many of these do not have a college education, some are lucky to have a HS diploma. Large big box stores may not pay that well, but having worked in small businesses I can say neither do small local stores because they simply cannot afford it. They do not provide the selection of products a larger store supplies. They cannot purchase in bulk thus having lower prices the way a big chain store does. People would have to travel further afield to get the products they want or need. Not to mention how many people would a mom&pop store employ at any given time? Besides family members maybe at most a dozen. There would not be enough jobs for the people in the area without large big box stores.
    I’m not defending Walmarts practices, you just have to take into consideration the other sides of the issue. If Walmart wasn’t here, would these people be employed at all? In many cases, the answer is no. A job and a small amount of income is better than the alternative.

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  2. PS. The people at my local Walmart are some of the nicest and most cheerful people I have ever met in retail. I never see any grumbling, they are always smiling and friendly.

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  3. I do not shop at Wal*Mart. At all. I’m a member of Costco, and I chose to do that deliberately after seeing how well they treat their employees _and_ customers.

    Wal*Mart deserves to fail in the market. I’ve heard anecdotes that they’re not even maintaining Sam Walton’s actual contribution to retailing, tight inventory management. (Their self-touted “price roll-backs” were invented by Sam exactly to move merchandise that otherwise wasn’t selling anywhere in the Wal*Mart system. He’d usually order products to the outlets where people were buying them, and only drop prices when moving the merchandise was infeasible. That all sounds obvious, but almost nobody else was doing that when he started, and Wal*Mart isn’t doing it now.)

    If Wal*Mart finds that their only outlets which make money are the ones in the boondocks with no competition, they’ll have to change in order to compete in denser areas. Or, y’know, go under.

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  4. Walmart could do a lot better than you want to make them do. Costco wages average $21 an hour. Which is why they get my business and Walmart does not.
    The reason that people have to work at Walmart on Thanksgiving is that the only difference between Walmart and a sweat shop is air conditioning.

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