Is Wal-Mart as evil as they say?

Yesterday I was on a long commute from Atlanta, GA to Jacksonville, FL. On the radio was conservative political personality Sean Hannity. At one point during the show Sean Hannity had about an hour long interview with Wal-Mart CEO, Bill Simon. During the entire interview Sean Hannity lobbed soft-ball questions Simon’s way (because they were so easy to knock out of the park). Frankly the entire interview was disgusting and at one point Sean Hannity even said, “You guys should be advertising with us, we are huge supporters… I mean, I’m a Wal-Mart guy.” At that point I decided pull over and vomit.

The majority of the interview focused on two key things:

1. the fact that Wal-Mart employed around 100,000 veterans and a slew of elderly people, and
2. a barrage of criticism of anyone who has bad things to say about Wal-Mart

Sean Hannity basically slobbered all over Bill Simon’s metaphorical nether-region then praised him for being a true patriot and job creator. That got me thinking: Is Wal-Mart as bad as they say?

How Bad/Good is Wal-Mart, Really?

Like almost anything Wal-Mart is a mixed bag. They do create millions of jobs for people across America and they offer affordable prices. Their business model is perfectly legal and frankly a pretty good example of free-market capitalism. They found a niche (cheap retail) and used good business sense and leverage their size and power to capitalize on opportunities. Can I really complain about that? No, not really.

But let’s be honest. Wal-Mart is not the most considerate company either and that’s where I think they deserve some critique. And if Hannity wasn’t too busy massaging Bill Simon’s….ahem…ego in hopes of a little ad revenue perhaps he would have made this point too.

While Wal-Mart does provide a lot of jobs their overall business model has led to a corporate culture that is less than savory. Their retail employees are generally low paid  and Wal-Mart corporate is notoriously difficult to deal with. I would even argue that this strategy will eventually lead to their own demise. Let’s examine.

For one thing I know of almost no one who thinks positively about Wal-Mart. Most people think of the less-than-pleasant atmosphere, their relatively rude and unpleasant staff, and the if you’ve dealt with them professionally – their corporate bully tactics. All of this culminates to a bucket full of ill will and general distaste. I, for one, would rather pay the Costco membership fee than go to Wal-Mart and I think more and more households are making that choice too.

Another issue I have with Wal-Mart is their overall lack of generosity. Sure their employees are relatively unskilled labor, but why not pay them a bit better to attract better talent? In fact, the head of Wal-Mart’s food chain sports a number of billionaire’s. Who needs a billion dollars and why not spread the wealth? I’m all for capitalism and reaping the rewards of hard work, but what does it say about the upper management of Wal-Mart that doesn’t spread the wealth voluntarily?

I look at Costco’s CEO, for example, who takes a salary of $500,000 a year. The rest is spread to employees of the company who all work full time jobs that pay a good wage with benefits. The result is great customer service, a nice shopping atmosphere, and even (in my opinion) better customers.

What I’m saying is…

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t knock Wal-Mart for being hard-core capitalist predators. I can’t say bad things about the number of jobs they provide, their low prices, or even their no-nonsense business practices. I guess that is what a business does. They are responsible to their shareholders for growth.

BUT what I can critique is their leader’s refusal to give up a little of their own wealth and success willingly to promote a little corporate consciousness. In the long run, I would argue, it would actually help their brand.

I also think this is a good example of why you can’t listen to anyone in the media. They are too concerned with ad dollars and not concerned enough with asking good questions.

17 thoughts on “Is Wal-Mart as evil as they say?

  1. Rattlesnake

    I love Walmart. All I care about is getting things for low prices. It probably would help them to pay their employees a bit better, but I really don’t think they need to change a lot, considering how incredibly successful the company has been. What I would be concerned about is whether or not they have been given favours by governments. I’m sure they have been, because they are a large corporation and most large corporations seem to have a close relationship with the government. But I have no evidence of such.

    1. Holden

      The thing you should be concerned with about walmart is how through their massive power as a corporation, they are able to effectively lower the standard of living for a community.

      For example, Wal-mart rolls into town, undersells many different higher paying competitors (tire shops, florists/gardening shops, automotive shops, grocery stores, clothing retailers, the local hair stylist and tax accountant service…) and eventually drives some of those businesses under.

      All those people now go look for work elsewhere, maybe… WALMART! Only, Walmart pays $2, $4, $6 less an hour…. who knows. But its probably less. And they only hire part time because they don’t care to give benefits. Then they’ll demand you work overtime and skirt paying you for it.

      Everything I’ve said has been documented as happening. Its not speculation. Its the honest to God truth how the corporate culture works. That’s why you should maybe go to a competitor to shop.

      1. Atticus Post author

        That’s a great point. I think people ignore the other services that Wal-Mart provides that isn’t retail related. Taxes, Optometry, Salon, Florist, etc.

        1. Atticus Post author

          It is just capitalism, but I do not think it is a socially responsible form of capitalism either. Like I said in the post, for better or worse, I think it will create ill will and negatively impact Wal-Mart in the end.

        2. Holden

          Yeah, but when only one or two companies come to hold all the power and corner the market, it isn’t capitalism anymore.

          Would you consider you utility company a capitalist operation? What about your cable TV provider or ISP?

        3. Jon Todd

          Real believers in our country are ashamed by people like you, who blatantly show their uncare for the welfare of their fellow citizens as a whole. Americans should want their fellow Americans to be able to prosper alongside them, and Wal-Mart has no disregard even for governments. Our tax dollars, yours included, go to pay insane amounts of money toward the medicaid and food stamps of near 40% of all Wal-Mart employees, so you should care. If you don’t care, it makes you an asshole.

    2. ralph

      It’s people like you who care only about them self ,that got this country the way it is i use to worked for walmart they are evil.

      1. Rattlesnake

        Yes, I’m a jerk. But I’m pretty sure the USA got the way it is because of people who don’t care enough about themselves to want to become successful and end up using government programs as a means of survival (with the help of opportunist, statist, corrupt politicians).

        1. Atticus Post author

          That’s not totally true. A lot of people are where they are due to social and economic issues. Others just aren’t smart or educated enough to rise into the middle class. My overall critique of Wal-Mart is that they are reactionary and mostly concerned with their bottom line by cutting cost – including wages. Ultimately that will probably lead to customer dissatisfaction and profit lost. So – they could be doing something that is good for employees and for themselves at the same time, but they don’t…

        2. Jon Todd

          And how can people become successful without even being able to get a full time job? Wal-Mart is one of if not the country’s biggest employer, and they make their employees, even managers, work for unlivable wages. Some people who live in some places, like my poor community (on which Wal-Mart sucks life like a leech) doesn’t have the option to succeed, because they have no resources, and don’t earn enough to gain resources.

  2. jomah

    wal mart is ran by bad people obviously, and yes the majority of corporate managers are cold slave- drivers. If you ever meet one make sure to thank them for turning our beautiful planet into concrete prison.”

    1. Atticus Post author

      On the other hand – should I also thank them for improving the amount of groceries and goods poor families can afford? It’s not all black and white, I guess.

  3. jargl

    worked there for three years we were constantly understaffed. people would constantly be overworked and injured, but out of fear would’nt report it. upper management gets a bigger bonus if they cuts hours, and they use repair costs out of employees bonus money. Most stores, warehouses work with run down equipment because corporate is ran by cheap skates that only care about profit. I actually believe in the devil now since i have worked there.

    1. Atticus Post author

      Yeah this plays exactly into my point. Sure they make a profit – but I wonder if that profit margin will start to fade after customers become dissatisfied with the customers service and poor shopping atmosphere. People may even start to refuse to live in communities with Walmart “eye sores”. So unless Walmart changes their tune a bit they could be in for problems. On the other hand – you never see an empty Walmart parking lot…


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