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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: WalMart & China on 02/23/2009 11:04:36 MST Print View

Craig,

WalMart is the biggest. People tend to like to go after the biggest, which then becomes the "badest."

In the U.S., WalMart's success lies in the fact that the American consumer makes purchases based only on price, not quality. Because of this, China is benefiting from the low quality goods that WalMart's customers are willing to purchase. WalMart purchases most of their products from vendors. These vendors are the ones who are sending the work overseas.

Another factor is that because WalMart is so big, they can and do have their vendors build products to WalMart's specifications, which can be less than what that vendor has done in the past.

Here is the crux of the issue... consumers and vendors are willing do business with WalMart. That is the heart of Capitalism. Nothing wrong with this. We are willing digging our own grave.

So, what is the end result of all of this?

Here is a story, that I cannot validate, but it illustrates the problem. WalMart contracted with Vlasic Pickle to purchase pickles. However, they only wanted the plain pickles in the large jar. Vlasic sold tons of these pickles to WalMart. And many people bought them at a very good price. The price was so good, that people stopped buying the gourmet pickles, in the smaller jars, from other stores, because the were willing to forego their favorite pickles, and buy the plain ones. Vlasic's sales became increasingly dependent upon WalMart. Then WalMart demanded price reductions on the plain pickles. WalMart was reshaping the product brand of Vlasic, and driving down its profits, and Vlasic had to file for bankruptcy.

Similar story for Murray bicycles.

WalMart also has the power to determine how vendors will package and even build products. Again I cannot verify this. One large manufacture of camping ice chests started selling their product to WalMart. It was a "5 Day Cooler." But consumers started noticing that the cooler bought at WalMart, did not keep food as long as the "same" chest bought elsewhere.

WalMart is very good at going into smaller markets, gaining a huge market share, and driving the competition out of business.

Lets say that you are a barber in Small Town, USA. You make $18. You are so excited that WalMart is building a new store down the street. Unknown to you, WalMart is going to include a barber shop in this store. They open, and are paying barbers $12 per hour. They are not going to attract good barbers, but there are some that are willing to work there. Your barber shop charges $18 for a hair cut. WalMart charges $6. Guess what? People start going to WalMart for haircuts. They aren't as good as yours, but they don't care. They are saving $12 on a haircut. Now your barber shop, and all the barber shops in town are forced out of business. WalMart's volume has increased, so they need more barbers. But now, they are the only one's in town who has a barber shop. So they cut their wages from $12 to $8, and raise the price from $6 to $8. Classic WalMart. They did nothing wrong, and the public and some of the barbers were willing participants in this transformation. And most of the people in town are walking around with terrible haircuts.

My last visit to WalMart, several years ago... I needed to find something, but couldn't. Finally I asked a WalMart employee, who was wearing WalMart garb, where I could find the product. Answer, "no speeky english."

Regarding product quality of Chinese goods. Try and find a shirt in WalMart that uses double stiching on major seams. Nada. Try to find one at REI or your favorite gear shop -- yep, the have them. But will your double-stiched Chinese garmet hold up as well as the one that used to be made in Small Town, USA? Probably not.

Sometimes you cannot find a product type you want that is not made overseas. Lets take footwear into consideration. I have 3 types of hiking footwear. A trail runner. No choice here, most of the known names are made in China. A light weight mid-boot, again not much choice in country of origin. The third one I own is a heavy (gasp) leather boot. I need these for certain conditions. My research found that most of the well known brands had shipped production to China, product quality decreased, and customer service became a relic of an age long past. But... the price these companies charge us has not gone down. Go figure.

A couple years ago, I decided to replace my 20 year old leather Danner boots. Danner boots are still made in the USA. And, they can rebuild my old ones for $150... wow, how many off shore companies can do this? But I wanted a little different boot, with some different features. Finally got a pair of Lowa boots that are made in Germany. Great product quality. It was a difficult and time consuming search to find a product that was not made in China.

I read somewhere that Brian at ULA, looked into shifting production offshore, where he could reduce his costs by 75%. But he passed, because he could not control the quality.

I am almost 60 years old. I have maybe around 20 years left on this earth. And they will be good ones. But I feel sorry for my kids. Globalization is going to pull Western civilization down to the standards of the third world countries. And we can only blame ourselves if this happens.

Happy Hiking.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: I love Wallmart on 02/23/2009 11:22:49 MST Print View

This is what I dont get about the anti-Walmart thing,
-The local shop sells the same made in China crap as Walmart.
-The local shop hires kids and the elderly and pays them minimum wage- just like Walmart.
-The local shop is run by the owners and when they are jerks -your out of luck, at Walmart I go over their head.
-The local shop charges more for that same made in china crap.
-local Walmarts hire local people and put some of them in positions of management- not likely to happen at a small store!
I have lots of small businesses in my area- one is a grocery store 5 min away from me. I NEVER GO THERE! Why? because the owner is a jerk (wont get into the stories), I grew up 5 minutes from that store my whole life and been there like maybe a half dozen times in dire food emergencies.
I can see that Walmart and other big stores are just plain crass and tacky in their adds and street side signs, but I cant see any reason to be against them unless you just hate the success of the free market. If small shops served people better they would put Walmart out of business- but they don't.
By the way plenty of small businesses do still thrive here because they have something to offer besides just being a small business.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Chicken on 02/23/2009 11:23:31 MST Print View

Wal-mart sells free range organic chicken now? Wow. Times they are a -changing.....still the best place for cheap CCF pads. And they carry mountain-house freeze-dried food.

This is going to sound really snobby, but although it's cheaper, I would rather pay the premium to shop elsewhere. It's always crawling with people and kids orbiting grocery carts like the 8 moons of Saturn, screaming and colliding occasionally. Then there's the long lines....what do they consider express? 50 items or less? (haha)

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: WalMart & China on 02/23/2009 11:27:04 MST Print View

I take issue with the idea of only being able to blame ourselves for this.

I, for one, have nothing to do with the trend of shipping production overseas. On the surface, I may seem to benefit (cheaper prices) but I end up paying the cost through a dysfunctional society.

Can we blame Walmart for paying minimum wage? This idea that they put people on welfare is nonsense. They couldn't do it without state/federal laws that enabled them to.
California minimum wage is $8.
8x40=320.
320x4=1280 month BEFORE taxes.
Average rent in Los Angeles is about $750.
Leaving you with, what, $400 for the month after taxes?
Car registration just increased and sales tax just increased by the way.

Add a single dependent into the scenario and see if you can go without food stamps/welfare. It's not Walmart. It's everywhere.

Run the numbers on what $15 an hour (nearly 2x minimum)earns you. Then throw some dependents in the mix. Check out the welfare brackets- you'd probably qualify.

This is our governement setting these numbers and enforcing them.
Is it Walmart's fault? It's the entire system.
I know a million businesses that keep an array of part timers to avoid benefits. One of them is the Cal State College system...part time professors.

Edited by xnomanx on 02/23/2009 11:43:09 MST.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
walmart and labor on 02/23/2009 11:42:10 MST Print View

craig - check out walmartwatch or some other info. about their labor violations. walmart is about as bad as it gets as far as treating "labor" goes & as far as piling up labor violations.

the govt. sets wage standards, but how a company deals with those and other labor laws is another matter. walmart from day 1 has taken an aggressive approach to pushing the existing labor laws as far as possible and routinely has pushed over the legal lines.

some companies, like Costco, have a corporate philosophy that sees an employee as a human first - others, like walmart, see the employee as merely a "resource" to be exploited to the full extent of the law, sometimes beyond, and we all end up paying for it.

http://walmartwatch.com/

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
nonsense on 02/23/2009 11:50:38 MST Print View

anyone who works for walmart CHOOSES to do so. end of discussion.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: nonsense on 02/23/2009 12:01:51 MST Print View

Right.
People choose to work for Walmart, end of discussion.
Beautiful.
Why don't folks just pick themselves up by their own bootstraps, eh?
I'm sure most of them turned down much better paying jobs, right? There sure seem to be so many going around these days, huh?
Certainly anyone that chooses to work at Walmart (or any other low paying job) deserves what they get, eh?

I suppose it only follows that none of us have any obligation to see to it that others in our society are taken care of, payed a living wage?



Maybe I'm not making my point clear;
I'm not defending Walmart. What they do is disgusting.
But what they do with wages and benefits is fully legal, and therefor sanctioned by government annd our society. They're hardly the only culprit.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: REI 'N WalMart on 02/23/2009 12:04:24 MST Print View

I happen to like REI and have a low six-digit membership number, so take my comments with a necessary salt dose.

REI is #12 on Fortune's 2009 list of best 100 companies to work for. (1) Has WalMart ever had a presence on this list? Why, or why not? (2) Which of the two companies is likely to better treat their employees and customers?

http://www.greatplacetowork.com/best/list-bestusa.htm

Tax increment financing. Wal Mart (and many other big box retailers) is (in)famous for use and abuse of TIF, to the financial detrement of local government in many areas they build in. While it can reasonably be argued that they improve consumer access to affordable goods in many (but certainly not all) communities compared to what existed before their arrival, they can also significantly *reduce* tax revenue and harm local government and services, while simultaneously putting increased demands on those very services. I don't know whether REI cuts TIF deals, but their stores are generally vastly smaller than the typical big box supercenter.

US retail space is estimated to be overbuilt by as much as two or three times total demand. Except in very fast growing communities (not so many of those lately) every new shopping center, strip mall or big box center is emptying out retail space elsewhere. Something to think about with that massive new mall popping up at an exurb near you.

As to the co-op structure, it certainly sets REI well apart in how the corporation is managed, as well as how and how much management and directors are compensated--if not so much in the in-store consumer experience (although I'd gladly trade my worst REI experience for my best WM experience). What it doesn't do is shield REI from the brutal reality that is competing in the retail industry with its thin margins and aggressive competetion. I'd love to cut clothing floorspace by half and backfill it with gear, but there's no question that the margin in clothing, and clothing's enduring popularity makes that "wasted" floorspace the engine keeping the doors open.

The enduring difference between being a co-op member and a stockholder is that each co-op vote counts equally, while one has to be a significant stockholder to have any effect on a common publicly held corporation. That's massive. I can't guess what percentage of REI shoppers are members, but I'm certain its several orders of magnitude greater than the percentage of WM shoppers who are share holders.

I still say shop wherever you choose, as long as you still have a choice.

Edited by halfturbo on 02/23/2009 12:06:07 MST.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
REI return policy on 02/23/2009 12:06:49 MST Print View

Saying people chose to work at wal*mart is a very simplified view of the world.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
and now i am thinking of john donne - meditation 17 on 02/23/2009 12:12:48 MST Print View

even though i'm no christian, it seems apropos

http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/meditation17.php

"...No man is an island. entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath afflicion enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security."

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: REI 'N WalMart on 02/23/2009 12:15:47 MST Print View

These are great points Rick...probably extreme of me to compare the two. There is a difference.
But it definitely seems to me that the difference between Walmart and many of these big retailers is continually getting blurred- they will perpetually drive each other's prices down, dragging wages down into the pit with them.
To think China is now getting "too expensive".
Ahhh, but now it's Southeast Asia.
Who's next in feeding the neverending hunger for lower wages and cheaper goods?

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Choice on 02/23/2009 12:20:06 MST Print View

Michael,

I hope you realize how fraught with problems an argument resting on someone's supposed freedom of choice is. It doesn't end the discuss but rather open up a whole can of worms. Why are some people's choices so limited while others are not? Is it okay to treat people differently based on what they are willing to do? Doesn't this create a premium on finding desperate people for labor? ..... This is a huge topic of discussion in globalization studies, in particular, and one probably not suited for BPL, but no, just because people willingly allow themselves to be exploited does not mean that the exploitation is justified and we should turn a blind eye to it.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
capital shism on 02/23/2009 12:22:22 MST Print View

ok so you shoebox philosophers choose not to work for walmart - good, youve avoided the problem.

a very simplified view of "the world".. ha thats a laugh. that is a view of employment opportunities offered by walmart. there are dozens of people who apply to every walmart every day. call them crazy, but dont call me simple. You may embarrass yourself!

demonize walmart, whatever makes you feel like a hero - by trying to kill the demon and "save" all those poor folk who work for a company who follows congressional, federal law and pays their wages like they are supposed to. i voted for those congresspeople. just like you.

a low skilled job will pay a low wage. walmart is no different than Chick-fil-A or Jiffy Lube. Or target, macy's or payless shoes.

Nate, you have to agree that you are probably being exploited as well, maybe with a better wage, but exploited nonetheless. So am i...

anyway, carry on. im bored with it. im gonna go play with my gear that I just designed. Peace!

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 02/23/2009 12:35:27 MST.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
No difference? on 02/23/2009 12:28:53 MST Print View

Really...you think we are making fools or ourselves? What does this discussion have to do with philosophy, anyway? Isn't this an economic discussion?

Come on now...all those companies have different labor policies, some probably better than others. Walmart has been targeted for their aggressive anti-union (bordering on illegal) policies (intimidation, spying on workers, and the like)....in any case, yes it's far more complicated than just saying "hey, they are all the same!"

I prefer to shop at places that treat workers with respect. Some of us pay higher prices to support companies that have progressive, equitable labor practices. We realize this costs more, but the benefits of having a working-class that is not a drain on the system is worth it to us. And this isn't even touching on how Walmart drives local businesses out of town....

If you value fair labor practices and locally owned and operated businesses, you probably won't shop at Walmart. If you only value getting the best deal, then you can sleep at night knowing that Walmart isn't running afoul of minimum wage laws.

Btw, Walmart is the largest company in the world. Truly weird.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: nonsense on 02/23/2009 12:35:35 MST Print View

Most low income people That I know choose to work at Walmart overt a small locally owned business. Since Walmart has at least some opportunity for advancement and you are more likely to have someone to turn to if there is a problem with management.
I dont think Walmart is great or anything but small businesses don't necessarily offer the customer anything special nor do they provide better pay and working conditions. Ive worked for both Walmart and tiny family run stores- I would choose to work for Walmart over them without even thinking about it.
I think the problem is the loss of job protectionism for US workers and low government standards, not big business just doing business.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
may i have another go? on 02/23/2009 12:44:53 MST Print View

"Nate, you have to agree that you are probably being exploited as well, maybe with a better wage, but exploited nonetheless. So am i..."

not gonna bite, eh?

i dont recall using the word fool. and it seems to me ('scuse me!) that you guys are speculating. Philosophy on how walmart treats its employees.. have you worked there? have you felt the sting of walmarts' evil policies?
then its not first hand experience, its heresay even if documented by ex-walmart employees (or current ones even), speculation.

my obvious point was: if you have little to no skill in retail, walmart is going to pay you as little as possible just like ANY other retailer. there are far more important things to gripe about so im done here, whether im right about any of it or wrong about any of it, so Peace!

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Capital Schism on 02/23/2009 12:46:56 MST Print View

I feel embarassed, but you are simple in your statement Michael. Apparently you have never had to make difficult economic choices; you're lucky there. It allows for your narrow-minded view of the world. Go back to playing in your hammock, surviving(ha!) in the woods; leave the real survival to people who make choices between shelter OR food OR medicine everyday. Maybe someday you'll be tough enough for a challenge like that, but I believe we are each given our own measure of hardship according to the strengths within us. By that measure, you're weakness is a blessing; revel in it, and thank whoever it is you will for sparing you the hard life. PEACE

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: REI 'N WalMart on 02/23/2009 12:53:08 MST Print View

Yeah!
We're heading ever deeper towards the capitalism vs. socialism question here...unavoidable it seems.

So my question is: If companies (like Walmart) are able to follow the law to the most minimal extent possible and we end up with thousands upon thousands of people employed in perpetually low paying jobs with no benefits, and those people become a greater burden on society because they now need government aid (be it financial or healthcare)...

...if we believe this is wrong and want to change it, wouldn't we be better off targeting the governmnet, laws, and lawmakers that enable corporations to get away with this disgusting behavior?

I think getting mad at Walmart is misplacing a very large share of the blame...

Edited by xnomanx on 02/23/2009 12:53:56 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: REI 'N WalMart on 02/23/2009 13:19:00 MST Print View

Hi Craig,

Several good points in your post. I'll add that while a lot of recrafting of the rules seems in order, it's not easy for John and Jane Q. Public to get a seat at the table for the discussion. It's clear, in the case of WM, they fear unionization above all else, and will continue to fend it off as much as possible. However, they may now have to play ball, at least a bit (if their shift in political contributions is any indication).

http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB121755649066303381.html

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Re: REI 'N WalMart on 02/23/2009 13:28:48 MST Print View

"I think getting mad at Walmart is misplacing a very large share of the blame..."

I couldnt agree more..
We as a society set up laws and standards we want business to live up to, and most business do live up to them, and no more than that. Then people get all upset that the very standards we already agreed upon are being followed to the letter.
What people are (or should)be mad about is how things like NAFTA and the like allow US based businesses who thrive under US protection and US bank guarantees go outside of our borders to exploit lax laws and low standards because the standards we have now still get in the way of maximum profits.
And on top of that the government looks the other way when US businesses use illegal labor- again so they can get around US labor laws designed to uphold a certain standards of living. We in the blue collar world get the shaft so that some can feel better about the redistribution of wealth to 3 rd world countries - which of coarse never even happened. Now we have a word market that NEEDS pi$$-poor living standards for workers to function. Walmart is the least of our problems...