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China at Your Doorstep, or The Devil You Know -- Writer's Poke #348

Entering a Walmart is a depressing experience for me and for that reason alone, I choose to shop at Target, or someplace that doesn’t zap my soul when I walk through the door.

Like everyone else, I like low prices, and so the few times that I have entered a Walmart over the past year, I’m always amazed by how cheap the products are. But still, it’s not enough to make me shift my shopping habits. I also wonder why Walmart has received such negative press over the past decade but other companies, such as, have not.

Websites exist that even make fun of the Walmart experience – and the type of customers that Walmart attracts. I’m probably guilty of having had a laugh at a Walmart customer or two, but let’s face it: some people don’t have much choice but to shop there. 

But low prices is a viscous cycle. Walmart keeps lowering the prices, jobs keep getting shipped over seas, and the middle class in America continues to shrink. With the shrinking of the middle class comes the willingness to settle for what’s cheap.

Interestingly, Levis started selling clothes at Walmart. It did so, apparently, for its own survival. But what Levis sells at Walmart isn’t quality. Levis sold its soul – and a product’s soul is its quality. Consumers may be happy enough to have Levis slapped on their butt, even if the product no longer has a soul. To me, though, this is an example of Walmart as the devil in our economy. I hate to label Walmart in such terms, because it’s somewhat unfair, but what good is lower prices if it destroys the American middle class, removes the heart from its consumers and the soul from the businesses that sell their products there?

Do you shop at Walmart? Whether you do or don’t, what should Walmart do, if anything, to change the negative image that has developed around it over the last decade? Is there any way that it can successfully re-brand it?

“Our goal isn't to close Walmart down. It is to make it a better, more humane company toward its employees and the communities it is in.” – Robert Greenwald


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