Monday, November 24, 2008

The modern market place


I shopped at Walmart today. You can give me grief about this. Go ahead. I'd like to hear it. I have mixed feelings about shopping there and feel somewhat ignorant about the issues.

Yet.

Why do some people hate Walmart but shop at Target? Is there a difference? Target has hip ads. Walmart doesn't. Target has some hot designers working for them. Walmart might, but they aren't talking.

Supposedly Walmart treats it's employees badly. I've read that. I know there are lawsuits. But, the people I've known who work at Walmart say they like it. In fact, a number of people have told me they are treated far better at Walmart than the local Food Coop.

What about the people who make the goods for Walmart? Yes, they are certainly paid badly, but what would they be doing if they didn't have those jobs? If you can illuminate me, please do.

I am hurting for money. I'd love to shop locally, but when I have a choice of paying nearly thirty bucks for a roasting pan at the hardware store, over a hundred dollars at the housewares store (!), or nine dollars at Walmart, well, there's really no choice there. I promise, when I have more money, I will shop at Walmart less. Or even stop. Who knows?

I do buy many things locally, but I realize they're not local items: Japanese and Himalayan rice. Irish steel cut oats and Italian cheese. The only truly local things we buy are eggs, milk and vegetables during the season. I also buy local yarn and fleece. But that's about it.

Living here in the countryside, there is less opportunity for local shopping than when I lived in New York City. I miss going to the green grocer, the bakery, the butcher, the pharmacy and the little newspaper shops. But even in New York City, those places are going by the wayside. That's not only a loss of local shopping, but a loss of community.

Another word about pay: Walmart pays its employees poorly. So does every other retailer employer. But, so does the school system, and that's criminal. There's enough inequity to go around in so many spheres, I don't know where to begin. This is too large for me, so I'm being more terse than I usually am.

Some days I wish I had succeeded in living a subsistence lifestyle, but I did not. And on my present half acre of land, with a mortgage, that's not going to happen.

I will say this, however, I did not buy a turkey at Walmart. For some reason (and maybe it was all that talk about factory farming), the idea of doing so was abhorent to me.

Painting note: Vincenzo Campi
The Fruit Seller 1580
Ah, that looks simply wonderful.

7 comments:

TMC said...

I'm not going to give grief, just sources of info.

Here's some on why folks object to them:
http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/cms/page1668.cfm

And here's the Tibet angle for boycotting Made in China goods (Walmart's full of them):
http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/section.php?id=34

My thought is to buy what I can locally, buy imported items of value to me (you Irish oats, Jasmine rice), & shop mindfully for everything else. If I can only afford a $10 muffin tin at Walmart, I'll buy that and only that there, and take care of it so I never have to buy another one. It's the old "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" adage.

I think part of the issue with big box stores (or even dollar stores) is that they make it super cheap and easy to buy unearth-friendly disposable crap. Everything's replaceable & value-less.

Julie H. Rose said...

Thanks, TMC.
I basically do what you wrote above.

I feel terribly guilty when I shop there, though I'm not informed enough to understand all the issues. Well, I better get informed.

Free floating guilt is rather useless. Informed guilt has some merit.

domy said...

Better if you first check and get quotes online before doing your shopping. It helps in the budget, and it's stress free too.

Kat - Three Cent Stamp said...

There are many reasons that people hate Walmart. They have environmental violations, lawsuits and the fact that they are big George W. supporters makes me hate them. However, there are many ways in which you can support your local economy and shopping is only one of them. The bottom line is that you do need to take care of yourself first and foremost. And no one -- no one -- should fault you for that.

LazyBuddhist said...

You're not going to find me giving you any grief either.

There are reasons I don't shop at Walmart, many of which were illuminated in the documentary "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices". But, yeah, I do sometimes shop at Target. They are probably just as guilty of many of the same crimes as Wal-Mart.

Fortunately, I hate shopping and am quite happy to make do with what I have. I wish I could say this is the result of some kind of mindfulness or decision to live green. Nope. I just hate to shop and I ain't fancy.

BitterGrace said...

I live in the country, too, and sometimes there aren't a lot of shopping choices. When we first moved back here (from Chicago) I dropped a fair amount of money at Walmart, because often my only other option for getting what we needed was to drive many miles and pay twice as much when I got there.

I eventually swore off Walmart, in part because of the labor issues--especially the gender discrimination--but mostly because it has come to represent all that is deeply wrong with contemporary consumer culture. My decision is as much aesthetic as ethical, as I remind myself every time I walk into a Target or a Lowes. All your points about the inconsistency (hypocrisy?) of people's complaints about Walmart are absolutely right, Julie.

FWIW, I think feeling guilty about these consumer choices amounts to punishing yourself for something that isn't your fault. You didn't set up this crazy system, and you aren't getting rich off it. Just do the best you can, and make compromises when you must. Let the Walton clan feel guilty.

Julie H. Rose said...

Unfortunately, folks like Sam don't generally feel guilt, do they?