Wal-Mart used to be my one-stop shop for everything—baby items, food, cleaning supplies, toys, prescriptions—but it’s been more than a year since I’ve even graced the store’s threshold. And, while I don’t judge the millions of others who still make Wal-Mart their first, and most times only, option, I no longer feel comfortable spending my family’s money there.
Why? Well, I can tell you the switch began shortly after seeing a documentary on the big box giant. The documentary entitled, “WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price” was released in November of 2005 and detailed some of the more questionable company practices employed by the company.
Some of the points that jumped out at me during that time were,
- First, the low-wages paid by the store contributes to many of their workers enrolling in state assistance programs. In 2002, in the state of Georgia alone, more than 10,000 dependents of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in the PeachCare for Kids program. Wal-Mart is one of the wealthiest companies in the country, yet they have no problem passing the buck of their labor costs to the taxpayer.
- Second, their desire to keep as many of their employees part-time as possible. They don’t want full-time workers on the payroll because then they would be forced to enroll them in the company-offered health plan—something they like to avoid.
- Third, they dislike unions, discourage their creation, and take steps, sometimes illegally, to ensure none form at their store.
The above points were enough for me, in 2005 to decide I would curtail my visits to Wal-Mart, but the birth of my first child made that difficult as watching the budget took precedence over taking a principled stance—particularly when Wal-Mart was still the only real game in town for low-priced, decent quality, goods and services.
That outlook lasted until 2009 when I learned about the infamous “dead peasant” policy:
After learning of this, the deal was sealed for me as far as Wal-Mart was concerned, and I haven’t set foot in one of their stores since.
Of course they aren’t the only company using shady practices to protect and bolster their bottom line (dead peasant policies are actually quite common—unfortunately), but they make so much money doing so that it makes them an easy target for those who simply don’t like the way they do business.
It seems important to add here that, as a consumer, I had issues with them long before 2005, but there were few alternatives to them at the time so I sucked it up.
I found that I was frequently frustrated by standing in long lines at checkout (Wal-Mart was infamous for having only a handful of cashiers working at peak times), returning food items because they were not of good quality (on more than one occasion, I came home with spoiled or expired goods because the shelves weren’t frequently checked or stocked), and I was never a fan of their sub-par customer service (I don’t know who those people on the commercials are, but I’ve never met such a character at a real store—at least not where I live).
Overall, I just feel a sense of relief because I know I’m not supporting a company that seems more interesting in taking from the community than giving back to it. This isn’t Sam Walton‘s Wal-Mart anymore, it’s just a big store, with a bad agenda, and a whole lot of question marks as to just how much value they actually provide.
For my money, there are better options…even if they won’t always come cheap.