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Wrong-mart

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-12-06


While on a road trip last summer, a friend expressed her resentment of Wal-mart. “It sums up everything bad about America,” she said. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Architecturally-challenged buildings full of
cheap crap not even made by fellow Americans, most of it bought in bulk so you pay the lowest price possible, always.

Business people point to Wal-mart as a success, I see it as corporate America in all its evilness: exploiting workers, hiring illegal aliens at below minimum wage, providing an outlet for sweatshops, all in the name of profit.
I know my refusal to shop there isn’t going to run them out of business.

Americans seem to want cheap crap, and if the goods are made some some kid in a third world country, isn’t it too bad and aren’t we lucky to live in America where things like that don’t happen. Because if the soccer ball you just bought for your kid was made in America, it would cost a lot more than what you just paid for it. And you probably wouldn’t have bought it.

I don’t hate the workers at Wal-mart. For them, it provides a living, though probably not much of one. in her brilliant book, “Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America,” Barbara Ehrenreich spent some time as a Wal-martian as an experiment to see if women fresh off welfare with no job skills could survive on what was paid at an “unskilled labor” job. Her experience, along with some other things, made me realize I could never work there, and hope I never have to.

Another good book is “How Wal-mart Is Destroying the World And What You Can Do About It.” I don’t mind businesses making a profit, but Wal-mart hides behind the smiling faces plastered all over its stores and the television. It tries to be as down-homey and small-town and as All American as possible, but it doesn’t fool me.

At the place where I used to work, a member of management encouraged us not to buy anything from China, as she claimed they were funneling the money into terrorist efforts. This was before Christmas of 2002. I wrote something for the
company newsletter stating that buying American was damn near impossible and set out to prove it. I went to Wal-mart, chose random items, and jotted down where they were made. I picked stuff that people would normally buy. Of course, all the toys were made in China, except for a Lite-Brite set that had some American components. So much for Wal-mart’s All-American image. In the article I wrote, I said it was interesting that a member of management was urging us to boycott Chinese made items, when most of the building we worked in was decorated with miniature American flags clearly stamped made in China. That piece didn’t endear me to management, but the union loved it.

However, despite it all, Wal-mart still stands. People want decent-paying jobs to be able to buy stuff, but they also want a bargain. And if it comes down to a foreign-made soccer ball for $7.99 and an American-made one for $19.99, well, you know which one is more likely to be bought. And so does Wal-mart. They always know, always.

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