I saw Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price at a hippie free showing over at Simmons College on Tuesday night. If its not obvious by my seeing it, before I criticize the movie, I want to make clear that i am *anti Walmart* for a variety of reasons, not all of them economic.
My favorite fact from the movie (one of the few with another data point for comparison) is that the Walton family has given 6% of its wealth to charity. Bill Gates: 58%.
Walmart’s anti-union behavior is quite amazing in its sophistication, and you have to see the movie to believe it.
The movie was an ok documentary, but it only stands as a parade of anecdotal evidence- even that was glammed up. I mean, you don’t need to do an interview with a former loss control manager of a Walmart while he’s driving his truck down the Las Vegas strip, do you? There could have done with quite a few less of these stories, because they were all the same really.
###Lies With Numbers
W:THCoLP tries to convince the audience with a series of numbers on top of all the interviews, but they are all completely context free. Here’s a list of major number gaffes they made:
####Walmart “associates” on welfare
Lists of the numbers of Walmart employees on welfare by state are shown, but there’s no context to tell the audience what those numbers mean. They need to be broken down by percentage of employees in the state, state population, percentage of that state’s population on welfare. What would have been better is to show a comparison to other retail chains like Target or KMart to see if any of them use the state and federal government’s social welfare programs to subsidize their low prices as Walmart does.
There was some whining about the way towns throw money at Walmart to make all the infrastructure improvements to bring one to town, and a case where Walmart moved to the next town over right when its tax abatement was to expire. I’m against towns giving away things like this to sports teams and walmarts alike (especially when mom and pop store can’t get this stuff) – if only all towns would not lay down and take it for megacorp to come to town! Here’s the list of subsidies, as flashed by on the screen:
$2.1million $1.2million $300,000.00
Yes, they made the $300k look bigger by adding all the zeros, *including the cents*. Do people fall for this?
Then there was this round of bellyaching by firefighters, police officers and teachers about how the money their dumb ass elected leaders gave to Walmart could have gone to teaching kids/fighting fires/gassing up cruisers, followed by this amazing train of logic:
1. Walmart subsidies drain towns of x million dollars (that, ignoring the fungability of money, apparently came directly from the school budget
2. There are 25 something million square feet of *vacant* Walmarts (from the old tax abatement bait and switch)
1. An average classroom has X square feet of space
1. That’s enough space in vacant walmarts to teach (huge free space)/(avg space per classroom) kids to read!!
Not sure what they were smoking when they came up with that sequence of “logic”
There were two cases where lists of occurrances scrolled by. In the latter, at the rah-rah, Walmart is beatable, go get ’em ending – a list of towns and cities that successfully lobbied their local governments to reject Walmart’s advances, I’m pretty sure I saw the same towns scroll by two or three times.
Another was the list of all the crimes that have occurred in Walmart parking lots in the first seven months of 2005, (because apparently 80% of crimes at walmart happen in the parking lot, yet most walmarts don’t have any parking lot security) but again there was no indication of crimes happening at other retail stores, or how crime prone those areas were anyways.
So I’m all done with that list of things. I’ll leave you with a ridiculous, yet priceless quote from Ron Galloway, the director of a competing *pro*-walmart movie (Why Wal-Mart Works and Why That Drives Some People Crazy):
A hundred and thirty-eight million people vote with their feet every week to go to Wal-Mart. And Americans are pretty smart. And
I think Wal- Mart if Wal-Mart were really doing something genuinely wrong, the American people would be able to figure it out
and not go.
I think we all know that a whole lot of the American people are asleep at the proverbial switch.