Monday, April 23, 2007

The Wal-Mart decision

Okay, so a lot of people I know don't shop at Wal-Mart because of their horrible business practicesand the incredibly poor way they treat their employees. I have continued to shop there, however, despite having watched an enlightening PBS show on the subject.

It really was quite good, and I'm going to have to pick it up to show my kids.

Anyway, I knew how awful Wal-Mart is and how I shouldn't be shopping there. But for some reason I had kept going. Even though every single time I stepped into one I hated being there the whole time, despised the messy and crowded aisles, and kept asking myself why I continued to shop there.

I was having a great discussion about this with a few homeschooling moms at a playgroup one day, and one of the women I was speaking with - someone who is always very thought provoking - was saying that we don't always have the choices we perceive we do, that our choices are really quite limited. We discussed this and she tried to explain what it is she meant, and before I knew it, out of my mouth came "well, if I'm going to continue to be able to afford to feed my family grass-fed beef, I'm going to have to buy my hair conditioner at Wal-Mart". So yes, it is a choice whether or not to shop at Wal-Mart, literally speaking. But as my friend said, my choices are really quite limited; I could choose to not shop there, and feed my family crappy beef. Is that really a choice?

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for my family, it is. I can do both, but for some reason continued to shop at Wal-Mart. Perhaps it's because I simply love a bargain. Perhaps I had started feeling that one person couldn't make a difference. Whatever the reason, I could not bring myself to stop going.

Then my ten year-old and I had a very interesting conversation about the whole thing. I explained about how Wal-Mart employees are not allowed to work enough hours to receive insurance, how Wal-Mart refuses to let unions form, how Wal-Mart bullies companies into underpricing their merchandise so they barely break even, and even covered how Wal-Mart effects manufacturers in China. We even talked about how Wal-Mart had contributed to the closing of Caldor and Ames, and the decrease of K-Marts in our area. So together we decided to stop going there. Maybe I brought the subject up with him because my conscience needed a good kick in the butt?

We went to Target instead (who of course have their own issues). I was momentarily surprised to find a few of the items on my list not available there. We surmised that Wal-Mart must have a monopoly on these brands (Ivory soap, for example). The prices were not all that much higher than Wal-Mart's were, which was good news. We'll continue to shop there for now, and maybe make the drive to K-Mart to check them out too.

Overall I am glad to have "quit" Wal-Mart. And even if they don't feel my absence, I do. And it feels good.