Wal-Mart: Fact or Fiction?

Though many chain retailers are in business to simply maximize their own profits, there hasn’t been a bigger, more destructive retailer than Wal-Mart. Many citizens of Corvallis are quite irate after hearing the superstore giant found a way to enter our city. And quite frankly, they should be. Regardless of what you’ve heard, the company has a long track record of ruining small business economies, poor treatment of their so-called “associates,” shady pricing practices, and incredibly low wages outside of the interior corporate structure.

 

There are, however, individuals who believe everything Wal-Mart does is for the good of local American economies, and not simply for the good of their company. To help clear things up, here are some popular myths surrounding the notion of Wal-Mart being “good” for local economies, and why they’re completely false to begin with.

 

Fact or Fiction: Wal-Mart creates steady job opportunities.

Sure, we need more jobs, and Wal-Mart always promises communities many more of them. Even with this neighborhood market, 85 positions will be made available to those interested. But really, is it worth it?

 

Right now, minimum wage in Oregon is $8.80. According to Glassdoor.com, the average non-managerial Wal-Mart sales associate makes around $8.84, which is practically minimum wage. Those in managerial positions usually only make up to $12.00 an hour, which isn’t much for a manager. Looking back at the $8.84, the yearly income would total to about $16,972 a year if a Wal-Mart associate worked 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, most non-managerial employees won’t receive up to 40 hours a week, and even when they do it’s hardly a living wage.

 

Now lower wages are common among many retailers, though another practice Wal-Mart implemented on some of their stories is just inhumane: Literally locking workers inside, and threatening to fire them if they (somehow) violate this rule. In an article from the New York Times, one worker describes his fear of not knowing what to do when he broke his ankle on the job. There was no manager with a key to help carry him out, and using the fire escape was instant grounds for termination. Another not-so-fortunate employee actually lost his life at a Georgia store in 1988, when paramedics could not access the building because of Wal-Mart’s locked door policy. In some cases, fire escapes have even been chained shut.

 

On top of taking away from other people’s businesses, and therefore also affecting whoever works at these other establishments, Wal-Mart’s “opportunities” barely pay off.

 

Fact or Fiction: Wal-Mart offers the lowest price, guaranteed.

It’s proven fact that Wal-Mart runs other local businesses out of town by simply claiming to have the lowest price. And that’s the key word in all of this, “claiming.” If you actually go into a Wal-Mart store, you’ll find some pretty neat sale items, but they’re usually of lower quality than a more popular brand name you’d prefer. Most people, believing Wal-Mart is the lowest price in town, wander off a little further and select the item they’re really interested in. Wal-Mart knows this tricks consumers into buying overpriced non-sale items, which may in fact be more expensive than their competitors (including local businesses).

 

In a “Frontline” special from 2004, a former Wal-Mart store manager, Jon Lehman, was interviewed regarding the conglomerate’s many business practices. He outlined the intricacies of this process, known as the opening price point, where he admits consumers are purposely lured into this trap. The company knows they’ll profit greatly from it, because the consumer (in most cases) never realizes that Wal-Mart doesn’t always have the lower price. Most customers are actually paying more for a product from a company only pretending to have the lowest price on everything. More than likely, there are always competitors around town, including smaller businesses that will either have or be willing to sell a product for less than even Wal-Mart has. The routine Wal-Mart customer, however, has already formed the perception that their favorite “one stop shop superstore” automatically has the lowest price around – no contest.

 

Fact or Fiction: As an anchor, Wal-Mart will actually increase the size and volume of community business.

So this sounds nice: A new business coming to town, getting a piece of the Corvallis economy, and filling pockets of their own corporate economies instead of legitimately giving back to the community.

 

Wait a minute, this sounds awful.

 

It’s a proven fact that Wal-Mart takes more away from local businesses than it gives. In an article from the New York Daily News in 2011, a study was cited which proved Wal-Mart destroyed three local jobs for every two it created. A 2006 study by Loyola University also cited how 86 small businesses went under after Wal-Mart moved into Chicago’s West Side. This is simply what Wal-Mart does best. The organization rushes in with their promised low price points, and therefore forces other local competitors to go under because of their practices. Wal-Mart claims to offer new job opportunities, but workers are offered nothing more than unsatisfactory wages and deplorable working conditions. Wal-Mart promises the lowest price in town, but in most cases, it’s not. And even when it is, it’s at the expense of lowered manufacturing costs overseas and a significant drop in product quality.

 

The very last thing a strong, self-sustaining community such as Corvallis needs is a Wal-Mart of any size. They always claim their best interest is in the community, but citizens who buy this and their “low price guarantee” must wake up and realize

 

By Sean Bassinger

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