Thursday, March 13, 2008
Is it bad to shop at Walmart?
I understand the idea that "how you spend your money is how you vote on what exists in the world."

I get it.

I also understand that discount stores, like Walmart might be bad places to spend my money because their low prices take jobs away from Americans. This is partly because even though Walmart employs many Americans, discount stores have put so many other American stores out of business (because they fail next to the Walmart model) that America now has fewer jobs.

Actually, I don't really have a big problem with this. It is capitalism at work and competitiveness is what keeps companies working hard and our economy strong. If you are the most popular- you win. Right?

That issue isn't my major concern. I am also not going to go into how Walmart is bad for the environment or about their poor reputation in regards to how they treat their U.S. workers (low-wages, forced overtime, discrimination, etc).

What I have a major problem with is the way they are going about dominating the market through offering their low prices by outsourcing to other countries (mainly China) who do not have fair labor laws. The outsourced workers who produce Walmart products often work long hours, 7 days a week for around $3 a day in hot, deplorable conditions.

I had heard about this before, but I always thought it wasn't Walmart's fault. I thought it was the brands fault. I thought that Walmart was innocently involved somehow.

So after my delusion was shaken I started wondering if shopping at Walmart and other discount stores was morally wrong. I started asking myself if I just go for the cheapest product or if I find out if the item is child labour-free and workers received a fair wage.

The thing is; however, even though I can afford to do that now- I can pay more for fair wage products- this wasn't always true.

There was a time when Walmart was all we could afford and I think this is the case for a lot of Americans. Walmart helped us survive in the early years of our marriage- especially with kids. Can you fault struggling Americans for shopping there? Even if they aren't struggling as much as the Chinese workers who made the products?

The more I think about it- I think that if I had known then what I know now I would have probably figured out ways to shop their less. I could have used Goodwill more often.

I could have gotten by without some of the things I bought there. I certainly can get by now without shopping there- especially with the plethora of online shopping availability.

According to The Better World Handbook changing where you shop retail is listed as one of the top 10 things to change in your life for a better world.

I won't go into all of the other actions on the top 10 list of changes to make, but I will link you to the page that mentions the top 10 best companies to buy from. Check it out HERE.

You can also search HERE for fair trade products from other countries.



What do you think about shopping at Walmart? Yea or Nay?

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12 Comments:
Blogger Maggie said...
No way. Their products are cheap, but it comes at much too high of a cost for me.

Blogger greenfilter said...
At least Wal-Mart is an American company. I'm not American, so I try to avoid shopping there for that reason and pick Canada's closest version and try not to buy stuff I don't need for environmental reasons.

I don't worry that much about Wal-Mart's rep, especially the aspects you're talking about regarding China's labour laws. Most stores of this type are pretty much as guilty, and so is everyone else. So much of what is manufactured comes from China now. It is not our fault as individuals that the economy is the way it is, and there is very little we can do as "consumers" to stop it. There's way too much emphasis on the individual in our society. I honestly think you're going to get more accomplished by sending these companies and your government reps complaint letters than by trying to choose the lesser evil. If countries got real about protecting the rights of their citizens, protecting the environment (which really fits into the first category too, right?) together, corporations would have to be more ethical. China still has the largest population in the world. It would be hard for those companies to outsource completely from China. Their government has more leverage than you do as a consumer.

It's wrong to think the main way we can express ourselves politically is through what we buy and where we buy it, especially since I hardly buy anything anymore but food, and you can't be too choosy when you have to eat. I'm not criticizing you, by the way, just this idea in society. I don't think it's fair that individuals should be fretting over this when we have so little power, and the corporations and government don't seem to be too worried about it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think you are starting to take this a little to far. Most places where everything comes from now days are like that and we can't help that !!!!!! So tell me where are we to shop !!!!!!! In my town we only have a Walmart, Krogers and HEB so in order to save gas and our air for you I need to stay in my town and shop !!!!!

Blogger Rob said...
For me, it's not so much where the merchandise comes from - since most retailer's wares comes from the same sources - although we strive to avoid products stamped "Made in China."

My bigger issue is with the idea of "If you are the best- you win. Right?" because Wal-Mart doesn't compete on a level playing field. The win, but aren't the best. They get local government tax breaks and subsidies to move into a community. Other retailers don;t get this sort of treatment. Then Wal-Mart leverages welfare and other public aid resources to reduce their own employee benefits costs.

Target may not be squeaky clean, but they seem much more ethical than Wal-Mart in the way that they treat their employees and community at large. And Target treats it's customers better too.

So, yes, I do think it's well worth the effort to vote with your dollars. Avoid Wal-Mart whenever possible. And avoid Chinese-made products whenever practical!

Blogger Beth said...
I am a Wal-Mart shopper. I find that I can get the best prices for the things I need there.

I have to think about the best way to make our money go farther.

And with gas prices as high as they are these days, I like that I can go into Wal-Mart and get all of my shopping done without having to drive all over town.

Anonymous Erin said...
Wow, I guess Walmart is a touchy subject too! I like the way your thinking girl! Don't stop your fight. If everyone would stand up for their right to breath clean air, consume safe products and just live a more satisfying life in general, then this would be a better world to live in. I applaud you! If you stand up alone, then you will be a muffled voice, but if we all stand with you then together we can be heard! I'll vote with my dollars....NAY TO WALMART!

Blogger jeneflower said...
I don't really have a problem with outsourcing to other countries as long as they get fair treatment and a fair wage. There are plenty of websites where you can purchase fair trade items from other countries. Such as: http://shop.thehungersite.com
You can find a list of fair trade products and companies here:
http://transfairusa.org/
content/WhereToBuy/

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The prices are great.
Its a one stop shop.
They have everything under the sun.
The store is clean and neat.
Employees are friendly.
I LOVE WALMART.
Do any of you who don't like Walmart drive foreign cars?!
America is a free country, and to each his own.
Im tired of over priced clothes, household items, and running all over creation to shop while the gas in my tank burns away.
For me, Walmart is a blessing.
Laura :)

Blogger greenfilter said...
Thought you might find this interesting, the "greening" of Wal-Mart.

Blogger heiresschild said...
i do shop walmart for household/personal items because they're cheaper there, unless they're on sale elsewhere. i have to stretch my $$$. i do see your point, and there are stores i absolutely won't shop at for my own personal reasons. i think we have to follow our own convictions about whatever.

Blogger Rob said...
Everyone falls back on the "I've got to stretch my money" logic for using Wal-Mart and that's kinda short-sighted. Don't get me wrong - I hunt for bargains, use coupons, and generally do anything else I can to make the most of our funds too. But to continue to support Wal-Mart while they pillage the welfare and other public assistance programs that our tax dollars have to pay for just doesn't make a lot of sense.

You may pay a little more upfront at a store that does offer their employees some benefits, but by doing so, you can help to send a message to Wal-Mart that you don't approve of their unethical employee practices and unfair advantages that they bully communities into giving them that cause smaller businesses to go under.

Blogger Amanda said...
I don't usually shop there, even though there is one very close to my house. But for some things it doen't matter where you shop, you'll see 'made in china'. Shoes, for example... I'm pretty cheap when it comes to buying shoes for myself. $20 is about as high as I'll go for office/casual shoes... just about anything in my price range comes from a country where folks probably aren't paid very well. Sneakers I'll go a lot higher, but good sneakers are essential to a good workout (plus they last for YEARS, as opposed to a pair of sandals).

I try my best to avoid 'made in china' and walmart, but these days it's nearly impossible to avoid completely. You can't even really be sure that you're not buying a 'blood diamond' or that the lead in your pencil wasn't derived by an 8 year old boy.

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