Monday, October 12, 2009

The Evil Empire

Last week marked my 5-year anniversary. Not my wedding anniversary or the anniversary of our first date. It's not the anniversary of Jason's military service either. It doesn't even have anything to do with my kids. No, last week it was 5 years since I last shopped at Wal-Mart.

Do you think I'm crazy now? (Crazier maybe?)

A dear friend of mine really opened my eyes to the evils of Wal-Mart. Her husband is a grocery store manager whose business suffered when the greedy giant came to town. It's no secret that Wal-Mart shuts down small businesses and, as a small business owner myself, I hate to see it happen. Gone are the days of good customer service. Small business owners strive to please their customers because they know that a happy customer will come back. Personally, I'll pay more for good service any day. What incentive do the corporate giants have to satisfy their customers when they know their customers have nowhere else to go anyway?

Don't get me wrong, I am on a first-name basis with the cashiers at my local Target. I know Target is a big business. I'm not anti-big business and I'm a capitalist at heart. But I think Wal-Mart has unethical business practices and so I made the decision to spend my money elsewhere. I'm sure that Wal-Mart doesn't miss me but I feel like I'm doing the right thing. Just like the Nestle boycott. I hate to give money to a corporation that doesn't pay fair wages and discriminates against their employees.

Besides, I never enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart. The stores were always dirty and the customers and employees were generally rude. In fact, there is apparently an entire website devoted to the "people of Wal-Mart." You can see real photos of customers. It's a bit disturbing and a bit funny all at once. I'm relieved to know that there won't be any pictures of me. (I'd be the crazed mom with the huge stroller full of kids who hasn't showered. Can you imagine the caption on that photo?)
Last week my nephew told me about his Wal-Mart woes when he tried to buy a set of speakers. He spent 30 minutes trying to find someone to help him. It reminded me that it's now been 5 years since I stopped shopping there myself.

Fortunately, I have found other options rather than support Wal-Mart. I've never lived in a town that didn't have either a Target, a PX (Army department store) or something similar. I'm happy to support the mom & pop shops whenever possible. I like to patronize family-owned businesses as much as I can. We are not rich (not even close- google the salary for military) but I get better quality products elsewhere so it's worth it to me.

If you want to read about how Wal-Mart treats employees unfairly or how they force small business to shut their doors, there are plenty of articles out there. You can read about how they coerce manufacturers into cutting quality to reduce costs. You can read about how some towns are fighting back when Wal-Mart tries to open a store in their community. It's not hard to find the information. (Did you know that studies have shown that Target and Wal-Mart have comparable prices? I read an article about that too.) There's even a watchdog organization (called Wal-Mart Watch) that works to bring Wal-Mart's despicable business practies to light.

I feel like I'm not missing anything by avoiding the Evil Empire.
I guess I'm missing out on seeing this in the parking lot...

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