Walmart won’t contribute in the long run
January 24, 2013
About the last thing that Douglas County needs is a second Walmart, but now we have exactly that. Not only is the new Walmart contrary to the historic and distinctive character of our towns and the rural nature of our county, but Walmart presents many other challenges that may have long-lasting negative effects on our county.It is well-known that Walmart pays low wages, always. Not only are many employees below poverty level, but where will they be able to afford to live here in Douglas County? If the hundreds of employees live elsewhere, they will further burden our already struggling road system, creating more congestion and deteriorating conditions.Walmart is also known for its lack of adequate (and affordable) benefits, particularly healthcare, which often forces their employees to use the emergency room for their primary care. Many will remember the Walmart employees “walk-out” this past Black Friday, bringing attention to their requests for a “working wage” and decent benefits.Equally disconcerting is the vast array of cheap, sub-standard, usually Chinese-made products that Walmart peddles. All too many of these products end up being recalled, from lead-laced baby bibs and dog treats tainted with poisonous melamine, to DVD players with an alarming tendency to catch on fire, flip flops that cause skin rashes, and jewelry with high levels of cadmium, a toxic chemical. (Please refer to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and multiple news stories, or “google”: “Walmart recalls.”)People should also be concerned about the income equality inherent in Walmart. Four of the nine wealthiest Americans are Waltons (Walmart founders), with a combined wealth of well over $100 billion (see the “Forbes 400”), while many of their employees are on Medicaid, food stamps, and other federal, state and local subsidies. Last year a massive corruption scandal enveloped Walmart in Mexico, as reported in a lengthy article in the Business section of the New York Times on April 21, 2012. Walmart executives at their Bentonville, Ark., headquarters claimed no knowledge of the corruption, but seemed more focused on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing. Two weeks ago, however, it was revealed that, in fact, Wal-Mart’s top executives were aware of the corruption as far back as 2005. This was confirmed by emails released by Congress. Walmart is under investigation in this matter by both the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as reported by Reuters and other news agencies. As is often the case, the crime was bad, the cover-up worse.I’m sure that some people, however, even if they were aware of some of these problems, might still choose to shop at Walmart because of their “low prices.” But would they really be getting good value, selection and service? I encourage you to check out the results from various articles in Consumer Reports, the well-respected, unbiased consumer magazine (available at the Douglas County Library).The March 2012 issue rated the nation’s major chain stores. Walmart finished dead last, tenth out of ten. They rated low in products, but highest (worst) in reader’s complaints. By the way, overall, Costco was highest rated, followed by Kohl’s, JCPenney, and Target.In the May 2012 edition, they rated supermarkets. Walmart finished second-to-last out of 52, scoring particularly low on service and perishables, and only average on cleanliness. For your information, of the supermarkets in this area that were rated, the top three were Trader Joe’s, Costco and Raley’s, in that order.So, is Walmart worth the few pennies you might save? Many would argue that it is not. You should also consider that the new Walmart may well have a disastrous effect on local businesses, particularly in the towns of Gardnerville and Minden. Most of these businesses are run by our friends and neighbors. Wouldn’t we rather have profits stay in our local community, rather than heading off to Bentonville, Arkansas to further enrich the Walton family?I encourage everyone to watch the video “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price,” available from Netflix and elsewhere. More importantly, I urge you to continue to support our existing local businesses, and to think twice before patronizing the new Walmart.