25. I can’t afford to pay that little

So I just watched the documentary Wal-Mart – The High Cost of Low Price. For most of it I sat, literally, with my mouth hanging open. I mean, I don’t live in a vacuum, I knew that there were problems with them. Everyone in Canada heard about the Jonquiere, Quebec, store closing down after the employees managed to get a union in there. They get a bad rating all over the Better World Shopping Guide. But I had no idea just how bad it was.

This is the largest and richest company in the world. They treat their employees terribly, paying minimum wage, keeping as many as they possibly can as part time, fudging time sheets so that employees never receive overtime payment (by either removing any overtime hours worked or moving overtime hours to the next week). They have a class action suits against them for treating women associates poorly. They have factories in China with inhumane working conditions, $3/day wage where workers work 7 days/week for 15 hours/day. (There are similar Wal-Mart factories all over the place. Sweat shops in Bangladesh, Mexico…) The are constantly receiving subsidies to open new stores, to the tune of over a billion dollars. In the U.S. there are over 26 million square feet of empty Wal-Marts – the stores they built and abandoned before or after a brief stint in them. They have fines all over the states from the EPA regarding clean water act violations. They open stores on the outskirts of small towns and the downtown streets become like a ghost town because they close down all of the mom and pop retailers within 6 months or so. The fact list goes on and on… (and there’s another fact list here.)

For those who respect Wal-Mart for different reasons (e.g. because when they work with the supplier to make sure that they can meet their needs), pick up the film and watch it. And tell me you still respect them in the morning. Oh, and have a look at the article on them from Fast Company or another good article from Harper’s.

The number of times I’ve been into a Wal-Mart store I can count on one hand. It’s going to stay that way. My conscience can’t afford to give them any more money.

Oh, and FYI, Sam’s Club is a part of Wal-Mart, as is ASDA in the UK.


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