Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2006.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

Challenging an American institution

Posted 22 April 2006

Or, How I Learned to Start Worrying and Avoid Wal-Mart

I've been doing some reading about Wal-Mart, lately. It's unfortunate that so many sites practice yellow journalism, running headlines that, while true, almost completely discredit the site; sensationalism doesn't work on unbelievers like it used to.

Sure, the stuff they write about is absolutely true. Yes, Wal-Mart has violated child labor laws. Yes, Wal-Mart has cost the American public over $1 billion because it refuses to pay its staff enough to avoid falling back on government safety nets. And yes, Wal-Mart's business model has accelerated the shift of jobs out of the U.S. and into other countries (for instance, Master Lock has moved two thirds of its jobs to Mexico, and Huffy Bikes hasn't made a bike in the U.S. since 1999).

Now then: having covered some of the shocking aspects of Wal-Mart, I'm going to leave it to you to look up more information about the company, and the effect it has on the economy and on taxpayers. You can certainly look for more information in my bookmarks; relevant bookmarks are tagged with "walmart".

I know some of my friends will remain committed to Wal-Mart because "it's their store", and that's fine. Although it was easy to stop shopping at Wal- Mart, I struggled with completely avoiding the brand due to their great 3-cents-off deal for gas. But then I did a little math, and I hope you'll consider doing the same:

With my gas mileage, it costs me just short of 11 cents to travel one mile at today's gas prices. A trip to-and-from the nearest Wal-Mart is roughly 10 miles, which means that to fill my car with gas at Wal-Mart, I have to spend $1.10 just to get there and back.

There's a Diamond Shamrock less than a mile from my house that matches Wal- Mart's prices without the 3-cent discount, so with a 15 gallon tank I'll save 45 cents at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, that means I'm still spending $0.65 to fill my car at Wal-Mart. Think about that.

If Wal-Mart is charging $2.65 (and then there's a 3-cent discount per gallon), Diamond Shamrock would have to be charging $2.70 in order for the Wal-Mart gas to be cheaper (if accounting for travel costs)!

So I urge you to consider the cost of shopping at Wal-Mart. I prefer to buy American-made products at locally-owned and operated stores. As I said before, several of my friends shop at Wal-Mart recreationally, so even getting them to consider taking their business elsewhere is an absurdity. Yes, as individuals they'll probably save money. But immediate savings at the cost of long-term economic damage isn't really a good deal.