Is Wal-Mart the gate to riches for those who work there? No more than smoking marijuana leads to heroin usage. Wal-Mart is what it is a retail chain. I cannot think of anyone(hourly employee), in his or her sane mind, who works at Wal-Mart with plans of becoming wealthy solely from a Wal-Mart paycheck. Wal-Mart starting pay is usually higher than that of other retail shops. Wal-Mart does offer insurance to employees. Wal-Mart will pay for employees to attend college. Wal-Mart employees get quarterly bonuses and are able to purchase Wal-Mart stock at a discount. Wal-Mart also has a zero tolerance level for attacking employees based on sexual orientation. I gain this insight as a former employee of Wal-Mart.
As a consumer, Wal-Mart does allow me to afford the basics of what I need for my family. I live in rural Mississippi where jobs are scarce, food is taxed, and getting to the store can be costly. We plant gardens and raise meat for consumption but there are some things for which one still goes to the store. It is good to be able to shop without feeling robbed at the checkout. Before Wal-Mart came to town, the local retailors sold items 2 to 3 times higher than market value, no insurance for employees, no guaranteed work hours, and even the owners were openly racist, sexist, and homophobic. They knew the people had few other options for work or shopping. Wal-Mart changed that for my town. We lost jobs but not because Wal-Mart came to town but because we lost the manufacturing jobs. Lately it has become apparent that Wal-Mart takes to heart customer suggestions. I am now seeing produce from local farms (where I have picked produce) and more organic items in the stores. Wal-Mart allowing the rural Mississippian access to healthy foods. (Poverty in rural America is another blog posting)
Do I think Wal-Mart is the corporate Jesus? No. Sam Walton loved America, the people, and he understood the plight of those living in rural America. When K-Mart, Krogers, and JCPenny would not service rural America, Sam Walton did. I am thankful he saw a need and filled it. Wal-Mart is not the Wal-Mart started by Sam. After his death the new leaders, pushed aside the ideals of Sam in favor of higher stock prices. I am aware of how Wal-Mart games the system by having a majority part-time workers or hourly managers. I know Wal-Mart workers on welfare, Medicaid(until state of Mississippi ends it), and Medicare. I am aware that Wal-Mart is one of the few corporations in the world with the ability to self-insure all of its employees worldwide without going into the red. I am aware that suppliers who get in bed with Wal-Mart can live to regret it if they don't read the fine print.
Knowing what I know about Wal-Mart I shall continue to shop there for I am not about to drive 80 miles to pay less. If you think my shopping at Wal-Mart makes me a bad person, thank God you don't know all I do. Those who spend their hours bitchin about Wal-Mart would be better served coming together to start a new corporation. When Wal-Mart threaten to not build six stores in DC because of DC's minimum wage requirements, my tweet was "I see six opportunities". To those of you Wal-Mart bitchin, please send to me your money for I wish to take advantage of the six opportunities in DC. In 40 years I will show to you what less bitchin and more pitchin can do for you.