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I used to only half-jokingly claim I refused to shop at Wal-mart. But when the urge struck me to buy lingerie at 2am, off I would go, slinking guiltily into the nearest megastore. I even bought a Sam's Club membership, not really processing the fact that the "Sam" in the name was Sam Walton, one of the richest and least moral business men in the world.

I protested the opening of the new Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas St. on the edge of New Orleans' Garden District, but didn't really think it would affect businesses on nearby Magazine St. much--reasoning that most of them were specialty shops or galleries or antique shops not likely to face much competition from the retail giant. But what about the hardware stores? Or grocery stores? Or sporting goods, or clothing... The more I find out about Wal-Mart's business practices, the more I realize what a dangerous beast we have allowed to move in to the heart of our city.

Wal-Mart makes a good many claims, but the facts tell the real story. I found the following on a site called, appropriately enough, "The Evil That Is WalMart" (Lest you think that because this site is adamantly anti-WalMart it must necessarily distort the information, all facts cited have references from mainstream media and academic studies. ) Ready? Here goes:
Disturbing Facts )
Following the links on the site gets you to such minority opinions as the New York Times:
NY Times Book Review Article (excerpt) )

Slightly less objectively written, but stuffed with real information, is a book I have seen referenced in any number of articles. Here is an excerpt from "Thieves In High Places" by Jim Hightower, www.jimhightower.com
WAL-MART: HOW TO PLAY 'BEAT THE DEVIL' )
[Edit] [note: this is the third fourth attempt to make this edit... damned browser keeps crashing on certain sites. &*#(^$&*%&*@#]

Three other points I find worth mentioning: In order to protect its unethical employment practices, Wal-Mart is rabidly anti-union. Canadian employees attempting to organize have been harassed and fired. (Granted, union organizers have also used less than polite tactics.) When a store in Canada voted for the union, Wal-Mart decided to close the entire store. When you read about standard practices such as chronic understaffing and demanding workers do more than they are able, it's no wonder Wal-Mart viewed the unions demands to hire more workers as threatening to their corporate model. (Info about employment practices can be found in the complete NY Times Book Review article referenced above.) Canadian Wal-Mart Closing

If you want to join a union, you can... in China. Wal-Mart has agreed to let the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) set up shop in its China stores. The catch? This is the only union allowed in China, is run by the Communist Party and is a tool to suppress dissent and conflict. Independent unions and collective bargaining are illegal. Wal-Mart to Allow Chinese Union

And lastly, Wal-Mart is currently faced with the largest class-action suit ever filed, regarding its discrimination against women. So what are they trying to do? They are appealing to the courts that the nature of class-action suits deprives the company of facing its accuser in each individual case. It is trying to undermine the entire concept of the class-action suit by asking that plaintiffs be required to bring suit locally against each individual store involved. You can read what Business Week says about it here: Wal-Mart Vs Class-Action

I have decided that the only moral and ethical thing I can do is simply put my money where my mouth is. I will willingly pay more to shop at local businesses. I will continue to patronize Harry's Ace Hardware, which is small enough to navigate easily but contains a larger selection of things I need. I will buy my groceries at a grocery store, my clothes at a clothing store, my shoes at a shoe store. I will do business with small stores as often as possible, knowing that the money they put into the register will go to paying a decent wage to its workers, be deposited in a local bank and spent in the local economy.

Yes, you can get a t-shirt for $4 instead of $15, but somehow that savings doesn't seem so big when you take into account the hidden costs.

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January 2014

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