The Daily Switch

Wal-Mart: Friend or Foe?

Posted by maker on March 16, 2009

(Special thanks to Emerson who contributed the bulk of this article)

Actual Image?

Actual Image?

It is increasingly rare to find a report in the media that shows America’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, or any large corporations for that matter, in a positive or even neutral light.  A loud minority have waged a cultural and public war against Wal-Mart, referring to and viewing it as an evil corporation, a burden on the economy, and even an oppressor of the lower class.  These viewpoints are erroneous and have been disproved by multiple studies showing that Wal-Mart’s existence is very beneficial to our country as a whole, while also providing benefits to millions of individuals, especially the lower class.  Despite what is shown in the media, Wal-Mart has gained the approval of the majority of Americans by being a consistently affordable supplier, employing well over one million Americans, thereby increasing their purchasing power, and (through its prosperity) benefiting the United States and its economy as a whole.

After seeing all the slanted coverage, selective exposés, and ‘evil’ smiley stickers, it would be easy to fall under the assumption that all level-headed Americans must despise Wal-Mart.  However, the not so convenient truth is that the majority of Americans approve of this supposedly cancerous corporation.  A recent Rasmussen poll, revealing that 69% of the adult American public has a favorable view of Wal-Mart, indicates that the vast majority of Americans enjoy the benefits of the low prices and convenience that Wal-Mart provides.  A widely accepted criticism of Wal-Mart is the alleged mistreatment of employees, yet when the Rasmussen survey sample is narrowed to include only employees and family members of Wal-Mart employees, the favorable ratings increase to nearly 80% approval. Wal-Mart’s employees are satisfied with their jobs at a rate far above the average 47% of Americans nationally, as reported by Jenna Bryner of LiveScience.com.  Clearly, Wal-Mart is well loved, despite poor PR, because of its continued offering of an excellent shopping and employment experience.

The oft publicized notion that Wal-Mart is damaging low income workers, families, and communities across America is equally ludicrous.  Wal-Mart is the world’s single largest private employer, giving jobs to nearly two million people.  This alone challenges any notion that Wal-Mart might harm mid to low income people, as they provide these people with jobs to feed their families.  It is estimated that the lowest quintile of American households spend 26% of their income on groceries.  Wal-Mart’s food division posts an average of a 25% discount compared to other large supermarket chains; this percentage saved “is equivalent to a 6.5% boost in household income.” The aforementioned Rasmussen report also reveals that “lower and middle income Americans are more likely to have a favorable view of Wal-Mart than upper income Americans”, which suggests again that Wal-Mart does indeed benefit the lower and middle class.

Too often in today’s culture ‘wealth envy’ hardens society’s views of the successful. However, even with the prevalence of this growing sociological trend it seems odd that a company as universally beneficial as Wal-Mart might be hated.  Because Wal-Mart has been able to succeed, they are now in the position to give generously to various charities and community development programs.  Wal-Mart has given over two hundred and seventy million dollars within the US, making it the “country’s largest donor of cash.” (AP)  Wal-Mart can also be credited with much of the economic dominance that all of America has enjoyed over the past fifteen years, as Wal-Mart and corporations like it account for a large portion of our international financial activity.  Harvard economics professor, Kenneth Rogoff, claims that, “together with a few sister ‘big box’ stores (Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot), Wal-Mart accounts for roughly fifty percent of America’s much vaunted productivity growth edge over Europe during the last decade.”  It is difficult to imagine the privileges and luxuries we as American’s would forego if not for the contributions of Wal-Mart.

Because of innovation and resourceful development, Wal-Mart has been able to grow into a thriving corporation that serves as a haven for many Americans who rely on the company for its affordability, valued employment, and its advantageous affects on America as a whole especially the lower and middle classes.  With growing volatility in the economy, we should be thankful for corporations like Wal-Mart that give us so much for so little, allowing us to enjoy the luxuries we have grown accustomed to, with little sacrifice.  If Wal-Mart were to part from its current ways of operation, the effects on Americans would be difficult to stomach.  For the lower twenty percent the fall of Wal-Mart would effectively mean a 6.5% pay cut, while the adverse effects would ripple throughout the rest of America in varying ways.  It is easy to demonize a company with such incredible wealth and success; however, it is important to not be consumed by resentment or envy towards other’s triumphs.  We must, instead, view the accomplishments of others in a positive way, using them as inspiration for our own pursuits of success.

The Daily Switch

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6 Responses to “Wal-Mart: Friend or Foe?”

  1. Ender said

    Reminds me of a column I read awhile ago. It is written by a reporter who went undercover to get a job and work at Wal-Mart. It’s pretty interesting the views and opinions he comes away with at the end. He finds that poor and low skilled workers and consumers flock to the store because they appreciate the role it plays in their lives. It really reinforces the fact that companies thrive on satisfying the customers needs not by exploiting them.

  2. Christie Bowles said

    I had no idea anyone felt that way about Wal-Mart. I for one wish we had a Super Wal-Mart close by. Very interesting and informative write up. Thanks for educating me!

  3. Randy said

    I managed record (cd) stores for about 5 years for a large chain. I once questioned why we had so many stores in plazzas near or that included Wal-mart. The answer was that they were the most sucessful stores with lots of customer traffic. The fact of the matter was that even though Wal Mart sold some of the same cd’s cheaper than we did, business thrived as we carried more than they could. The bottom line was that lots of people shop Wal Mart and all the stores in the area benefitted from the additional customers Wal Mart attracts.

  4. Ender said

    Randy, I think that is a great point. Yes, Wal-Mart has a low cost, high volume business, which means it cannot meet the needs of every niche in the market. Because of this, it opens opportunities for small businesses to compete inside the niche markets.

  5. mattbenchener said

    Much of Wal-Mart’s demonization has come from the unions. Wal-Mart is famously non-union, and has strongly resisted any movement to unionize its workforce many times over. As a result, liberal commentators, politicians, and union supporters have pressed hard against Wal-Mart and attempted to paint it as an unfair employer. Thank goodness capitalism won out.

  6. Randy said

    Well that was boring that we all agreed on something. I think I might need to rechange my thinking on this whole thing. Agreeing with all of you scares me a bit. 🙂

    Anyway wating for your take on AIG. I know you were against TARP, but I think AIG makes an argument for why the free market alone can not be trusted. I figure you will have something on this in the next day or two. Looking forward to your take.

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