Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Got Da Wally World Blues

So, I used to be one of those "Wal Mart is evil" liberals.

It didn't work out for me.

Oh, it isn't because of Wally World's low prices or convenience, I still don't shop at Wal Mart. I think I may have been there perhaps 3 or 4 times in the last seven years - including the Sam's Club visit last time I was in Athens to procure gasoline. I don't generally like the way they treat their workers, I don't like the crappy service I used to recieve, and I can generally get every thing I need somewhere else.

But I don't make documentaries (or watch them) or display bumper stickers about the place. I know why I don't like the place, and I vote with both my feet and my wallet by not shopping there or at any location nearby. It ain't a religious thing (the Athens visit was in September), and it really helps to not have a routine that takes me near Wally World during the usual course of my week.

It also has something to do with the SouthPark like reaction I used to get from folks about my habits. In a surreal turnaround from pro-business narrative about shrill protesters and their documentaries, I used to get the third degree because I didn't shop at Wally World.

"How can you live without Wal Mart!?" Exclaimed one former roommate. "I don't believe you don't shop there every week," from a young lady at the bar. "So you're just one of those crazy liberals who wants to pay more for everything," from a family member.

Surreal. I told you.

Now, like I said, I don't like many of Wally World's business practices. But I'm not going to protest shrill-ly. If the liberals of this country get it together so that every one of us chips in a few bucks a week to help support a national walkout, I'm there. But barring that, it ain't something I think about day to day.

But, right now, I'm thinking about it, because against the grain of Wal Mart's corporate history, one store in Hialeah, Florida staged a morning shift walkout, organized by department managers! I say more power to them.

The most effective way to change business practices is 1) for the consumer to vote with their wallet and 2) the worker to organize. Hells yeah.


Dante said...

It's easy to not like Wal-Mart. It's hard to hate Wal-Mart. Sure it's a huge empire but that's because everyone seems to shop there. You can't really blame them for being as big as they are.

I shop there quite a bit but mostly for groceries and toiletries. I still freqent the local Quality Foods for my meats and sodas (and usually most of my weekly food shopping while I'm there), but for day to day food purchases, Wal-Mart is where I go. Wal-Mart's produce is better than any grocery store in town. Their generic milk is better too (I don't pay the kind of money Mayfield wants for milk). They're closer to me. They're open late at night. They sell beer. Other than that, it's an abysmal shopping experience more often than not. I can drive the extra few miles to the Quality and usually be done faster due to the sheer number of checkout lanes open, but if I'm getting produce I'll stick to Wal-Mart. If I need some non-grocery item, I'll stick to Wal-Mart.

I can live without Wal-Mart and do so on a regular basis. I'll often decide to go a month here and there without them. It's not that hard. And while I do tend to pay more for particular items, on the whole I spend less because I have to take separate trips to get non-grocery items. That tends to lead to fewer non-grocery items being bought. In fact, on a month where we really need to put money back as a family, one of the first things we do is stop shopping at Wal-Mart. There are a myriad of other stores in town that offer what I get at Wal-Mart but generally speaking their customer service is just as abysmal and their hours are worse.

Now there is one area where Wal-Mart will always have my business (provided they keep their current policies). That is buying big ticket eletronic items. Wal-Mart will take back darn near anything. That's nice to know when you're spending $300 on a TV or even $40 on a DVD player (not that I've ever bought a DVD player). I'll put up with the abysmal customer service department to take advantage of that. The only exception I have to this rule is computer purchases. Sam's Club has a massive 6 month return policy so they get my business there (and yes they are a division of Wal-Mart).

"But, right now, I'm thinking about it, because against the grain of Wal Mart's corporate history, one store in Hialeah, Florida staged a morning shift walkout, organized by department managers! I say more power to them."

I hope it works out for them but Wal-Mart has in the past fired entire workforces at stores over walkouts. And while I'm all for worker organization, I'm also for a business firing a worker who doesn't show up to work even if that worker is engaged in some sort of walk out. The issue with organizing unskilled and semiskilled labor will always be the ease of replacement. And keep in mind that in Wal-Mart culture, department managers are still pretty low on the totem pole. Most department managers make about $10-$15 per hour plus a bonus that generally hovers around $2000. Their direct supervisors make at least twice that.

dadvocate said...

I hate the service at Walmart but where I live Walmart is the best choice at times. I buy 90% of my groceries at Krogers. In general I spend as little at Walmart as possible. But the local Kmart is pathetic.

For school supplies, certain household goods, and cheap clothing, Walmart has no local competition. As far as hurting other businesses, I have my doubts. Walmart came to Maysville, KY, population 10,000 about 15 years ago. Since the number of businesses, locally owned and otherwise, has boomed.

Population has stayed the same but Maysville draws more shoppers from surrounding counties due to having a Walmart.

Dante said...

I wish I had a Kroger. Their name brand items are so expensive but their generic brand is the best generic on earth. President's Choice is fine for spaghetti noodles and sugar, but Private Selection rules.

liberalandproud said...

I would generally rather go without than shop at Wal-Mart. The quality of their goods corresponds to the price. If I want cheap, low quality stuff, I go to the Dollar Store. The service is better there. Sure would be nice to get more labor organization in the South, not just at Wal-Mart. Right to work, my ass. Right to exploit, more like.

Buzzzbee said...

Until last April, I sold electronics for Sears. It is true that their return policy sucks. It's 30 days on electronics. Circuit City's is 14 days(I know this because CC was the only other local competitor). Walmart is about a year, though it depends. They go by the model year. I know this because I got stuck with an mp3 player that I only had for about 6 months. If they have the new models in, they may or may not take back the one you bought.

I recently helped my dad purchase a TV, and though we checked out Walmart, they didn't have the best selection or prices. They have plenty of RCA's for cheap, but so does Sears and everywhere else. Since I used to sell electronics, I know better than to spend good money on anything made by RCA or Sylvania for that matter. After going to numerous places, Sams, Sears, Circuit City, BestBuy, and Walmart, we found the best deal at Sears. Unfortunately, they were out of stock, so we got it price matched at Circuit City, and saved $400. As far as the warranty goes, most manufacturers warranty their own products for around a year. So, I wouldn't buy electronics as Walmart just for the warranty, not big-ticket electronics anyway.

Also, I used to work for Kroger. They're Union and possibly have better insurance than any other company on the planet.

Dante said...

"As far as the warranty goes, most manufacturers warranty their own products for around a year. So, I wouldn't buy electronics as Walmart just for the warranty"

Warranty? Who's talking about warranty? I'm talking about returning the item. No shipping the item off to have it repaired. No waiting for them to get around to fixing said item and shipping it back. Warranties are nice. Returns are nicer. Just drop the item off at Wal-Mart and pick up a new one. Granted, once the return period expires, warranty is all you have left so that should be considered. I do also hear that Sams Club and Costco are decent about electronics returns now.

In the warranty realm, Philips/Magnavox are the easiest I've ever dealt with for electronics and Wal-Mart does stock them. Sanyo is probably the worst I've dealt with but I hear RCA is far worse. Sylvania makes nice automotive light bulbs but that's about all I'd use them for.

"though we checked out Walmart, they didn't have the best selection or prices."

Wal-Mart doesn't have the best prices anymore and they sure don't have the best selection but they're typically close enough.

And one thing Wal-Mart doesn't advertise much is that they do indeed price match but in electronics it's kind of a mixed bag. Wal-Mart often gets "special" models that don't exist anywhere else. It may even be an identical item with a different model number but that different model number lets them get away with not price matching more often than not. And even if you do find the exact model cheaper elsewhere, they may or may not match Internet prices depending on the store and/or department manager.

Buzzzbee said...

You can add Philips-Magnavox, to the list of brands not to buy. With electronics, you pretty much get what you pay for. Their stuff is really cheaply made.

Here's a tip for returning something or just trying to get someone to bend the rules for you. When you go in, be very, very nice to the cashier or salesman, then if you have to talk to a manager, get loud and angry.

It's been my experience that there are two types of managers, those who will stick to the very letter of company policy and those who don't like confrontation and will bend the rules to avoid it. Odds are, the cashier or salesperson you're talking to knows which ones are which.

I know I did, and whenever someone came and tried to jump down my throat, I would first make them look "crazy" in front of the other customers. I would start talking really slowly and loud enough for everyone else in the department hear. I would say something like "Sir, I understand what you're saying, but I'm going to have to ask you to calm down". I also made sure I called one of the two managers on staff who would never bend the rules.

On the other hand, if they were nice I would either bend the rules myself if I could or call the manager I knew would do it for me.