I hate Wal-Mart. I mean, I HATE Wal-Mart. I heard it referred to once as "The Evil Empire" and have since adopted that phrase when I discuss it. There are many reasons why Wal-Mart is "The Evil Empire". First, there is the issue of space utilization. Most of the Wal-Mart parking lots I have been in have been one giant asphalt block in which an automobile free-for-all continually takes place. There's no easy way in or out of the parking lot, and most patrons ignore what little faded traffic directions are spray painted onto the pavement. Tensions mount and blood pressure rises before one even enters the store. Things only get worse inside. The only word I can think of to best describe most of my experiences inside a Wal-Mart store is: chaos. Many Wal-Mart stores now have an open area before entering the actual store where carts are stored and continually slammed about, kiddie arcade games blast crazy carnival tunes, and customers attempt to walk in and out at the same time. I'm rarely able to focus on the greeter, and when I can, they tend to look rather haggard and run-down. The aisles of the store are small and crowded. Two of the store's over-sized carts cannot make it comfortably through. Shelves are piled high with densely packed products. The fluorescent lights are dim and make everything look a little dingy. It always seems that everyone, regardless of the amount of goods they are purchasing, feels the need to push a cart, which makes efficient navigating through the store impossible.
I feel panicked and claustrophobic in Wal-Mart stores and have even, on occasion, had to stop what I'm doing and immediately head to the check-out to leave. The check-out lanes are another source of stress and hassle, with some stores having checkers three lanes deep. Goods are placed in plastic bags and spun around to you on a big lazy susan. It is your responsibility to remove the bags from the lazy susan, pay, and take your receipt in the fifteen second interval given to you before the cashier moves on to the next customer. Finally, you must wind your way through the maze of abandoned over-sized carts back to the exit/entrance and spend the next few minutes playing dodge-car as you try and find your way out of the parking lot. I always leave Wal-Mart feeling as if I've been beaten up.
Second, there is the issue of unfair labor practices which continues to dog the Wal-Mart company. The Wal-Mart corporation has been struggling since 2004 to have a class-action lawsuit filed against them on behalf of female employees dismissed. Their attempt at dismissal has proved unsuccessful (see the link below for more information)http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070206/ap_on_bi_ge/wal_mart_discrimination
So, they are now facing a huge discrimination lawsuit for unfair labor practices.
Finally, there is the damage that Wal-Mart has caused to independently owned businesses throughout the United States. Hardest hit have been retail and grocery stores in small-town America. I come from one of those small towns in which Wal-Mart has driven out many long-time businesses. Fortunately, the town in which I grew up has a historic downtown area and has committed itself to supporting local businesses in that area, but it has still lost all but one of its supermarkets and a few retail stores.
One of the most frustrating aspects of Wal-Mart is that you can't beat their prices. Although my husband and I try to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible, there are items we can buy at Wal-Mart for one dollar or more less than at Target. Those dollars add up. For families who truly struggle financially, Wal-Mart can be a lifesaver. Therein lies my Wal-Mart dilemma, and I find myself wondering, "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus be more concerned about the awful place that Wal-Mart is, or would he be more concerned that people can get what they need at an affordable price? I have a feeling it would be the latter. But then there is the question of the unfair labor practices. I can't see Jesus pushing that to the side since much of his ministry was on behalf of those who were oppressed or underprivileged.
To be fair to Wal-Mart, they have tried to clean up some of their business practices. They are one of the first big retail corporations to put money and effort into making their stores environmentally friendly. I believe they have changed some of their labor policies to be more proactive in regard to anti-discrimination. They also have a great benefit program for full-time employees, and they're the first business to offer low prices on all generic prescription drugs.
So, what am I to do? Do I shop at Wal-Mart and get more for my dollar, or do I spend a little more and support businesses I feel are better? In the end, I have to admit, that I split the difference. My husband and I go to local grocery stores for food, Target for the everyday stuff, and Sam's Club for bulk items. I realize that this probably makes me a hypocrite and possibly negates much of my previous argument, but it's the best I can do at the moment. Oh, and by the way, I still hate Wal-Mart.
Blessings and Peace,