Close Up WalMart?

One of the fun things about living in Asheville is all the protestor’s around.  One common thing I’ve noticed about most of the protestor’s is their passion.  Another thing I’ve noticed is they tend to let their passion outrun their intellect.

Take Wal-Mart for example.  While I’ve not noticed any protestors standing outside the Wal-Mart Super Center here in town, almost everyone I meet is anti-Wal-Mart.*

I think that here in Asheville, like much of America, it’s become “fashionable” or “cool” to be anti-big business.  You know, kinda like the people that claim to be vegetarian – not because of health or ethical reasons, but – because all their friends are doing it.

Sure, when a Wal-Mart Super Center comes to town, there’s some negative things happen along with some positive things.  But I can sort of imagine there was some good and bad with the arrival of first the railroad and the the Sears Roebuck Catalogs.

Both instances put a damper on the local business owners.  The small mom-and-pop stores that figured out ways to adapt survived the arrival of the railroads along with the cheap northern made fabrics and wares that the boxcars carried.  The same with the Sears Roebuck Catalog.  The small store owner who insisted on carrying on business as usual soon closed up the store.

The same will happen in pretty much any town that good ol’ Sam’s family come to live in.  The store owners who will take an objective look at the situation and figure out ways to adapt and live along side the giant will not only continue to do business, they will thrive.  The ones that want to keep to the maxim, “we-never-did-it-that-way-before” will go the way of the horse and buggy.  Makes me wonder…did people in Asheville get all up in arms when the first auto dealership was opened and the ol’ grey mare was put out to pasture?

Take a look at some of the things that the big-bad-wolf named Wal-Mart has done.

After Katrina in September 2005, Wal-Mart donated $20 million in cash, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and not one employee lost their job!

In October 2005, Wal-Mart announced that it was taking several steps to help improve the environment.  Some of the initiatives are:

Spending $500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency in their truck fleet by 25%

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in seven years

Reduce energy use at stores by 30%

Cut solid waste from US stores by 25% in three years

They also take care of their workers

On March 20, 2009, Wal-Mart announced that it is paying a combined $933.6 million in bonuses to every full and part time hourly worker of the company. Also, an additional $788.8 million in 401(k) and stock purchase plans as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise.

And the good citizen approach of Wal-Mart seems to be working.  Even while America has been in a recission, the largest retailer in the U.S. reported solid financial figures for the most recent fiscal year (ending January 31, 2009), with $401.2 billion in net sales, a gain of 7.2% from the prior year. Income from continuing operations increased 3% to $13.3 billion, and earnings per share rose 6% to $3.35.

Oh yah, just one more thing for you folks who let your heart outrun your head.  If you were successful in shutting down Wal-Mart, you’d put 700 of your neighbors here in Asheville slap out of work.

Shut down Wal-Mart.  No, learn to live with it and if you’re a business owner figure out some ways that you can provide a service they don’t provide.  Do that and you will have found your golden ticket to success.

*Side note:  If so many people here in Asheville are anti-Wal-Mart, how come you never see any protestors outside the garden center?  Could it be that most of these folks shop at Wal-Mart and it could be kind of embarrassing to buy your organic milk from the big bad Walton chain after you’ve just yelled for them to close up shop?


Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist living in Asheville, North Carolina.  He has traveled the world documenting the tears, joys, laughter and lives of people everywhere.  He currently focuses his attention and his camera on people, places and things in the United States.  A portion of the proceeds from each photo shoot is donated to organizations that help the homeless in the communities in which he works.  You can see more of his photography by clicking here.

3 thoughts on “Close Up WalMart?

  1. I have had issues with walmart for two reasons; treatment of employees and treatment of their vendors. It’s possible what you’ve written is good news and things are much better, but it’s hard to tell without absolute numbers next to them. Back in my protesting days they were under paying employees to the point they were still qualifying for food stamps. It’d be interesting to know if they’re paying a living wage now.

    On the vendor front, you can’t compete to supply for them unless you’ve got a posse of 6 year olds working in China making the goods.

    Thanks for writing about this. It’s got me curious enough to do some research and see if I can shop there with a good conscious now.

    As alway, I’m enjoying reading what you have to say.


  2. Hmmm.. I work at walmart.. and while I have my days..for the most part I’m happy with my job, Sean. As far as the treatment of employees go..well, there is a door at located at the front of the building. If people don’t like the way things are ran, no one is keeping them from that door. That’s why we live in America… so we can choose where we want to work.. and who we want to work for. Just sayin,…

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