What’s Wrong With Walmart Is What’s Wrong With America

A protest in Utah against Walmart. Photo by Joey Caputo

Today I ran across an old article, originally posted in 2010, 16 Facts About Walmart That Will Blow Your Mind by Ujala Sehgal on Business Insider. Actually, the piece was more slide show than article, but it succinctly explained some rather scary facts about this giant retailer. I thought I’d take this opportunity to go over some of the facts laid out in the article, with my own observations thrown in for good measure.

1. Walmart has more full-time employees — 2.1 million — than seven times the population of Iceland.

My first thought when I read this was about the irony of comparing any aspect of Iceland with Walmart.

Iceland was hit hard by the so-called “great recession” of 2007–2008. Prices on their local stock market dropped by 90 percent, inflation rose 18%, while unemployment increased by a factor of nine. Oh, at the same time all of the country’s biggest banks failed. However, Iceland has recovered nicely, not by bailing out the banks and leaving their private citizens to sink or swim. Instead, they concentrated their efforts on helping people get out from under crippling mortgages and prosecuted the bankers.

Guess what? It worked. According to Bloomberg their economy is now a shining example for the rest of us:

Since then, Iceland has turned in a pretty impressive performance. It has repaid International Monetary Fund rescue loans ahead of schedule. Growth this year will be about 2.5 percent, better than most developed economies. Unemployment has fallen by half. In February, Fitch Ratings restored the country’s investment-grade status, approvingly citing its “unorthodox crisis policy response.”

I don’t know for certain, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Walmart was backing the Wall Street side in 2008. The Waltons may earn their money from Main Street, but they and their friends live on Wall Street.

2. Walmart’s $405 billion in revenue last year makes it the 23rd-largest economy in the world, bigger than Sweden.

And our mom and pop local businesses are supposed to compete with this how? Hell, any country smaller than Sweden can’t compete with this–much less mom and dad.

IMHO, once a retail chain gets to be about one fifth of the size that Walmart is now, some sort of antitrust rules should kick in to keep it from growing any larger. However, I understand this would be un-American. Forget what you learned about our forefathers coming to this country for religious freedom or to escape political repression. Our forefathers really came here so that their great grandchildren would be able to take advantage of the always low prices offered by Walmart.

3. This year, everyone in the world will make an average of 1.1 purchases at a Walmart.

4. Each week nearly one-third of the U.S. population visits Walmart’s U.S. stores.

Really? That boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Let’s see, there’s seven billion of us on the planet right now, and each of us will make at least one purchase between now and December? And over 100 million of us free thinking Americans visit the Waltons on a weekly basis?

I need to go back to my Facebook page so I can explain this to a still photograph of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka so he can ask me back, “Tell me again how diversity is a good thing.”

I’d also like a count of the number of tea partiers buying the crap Walmart imports from Red China in that weekly mix. Tea partiers, you know, hate free trade and hate everything from China–but not if it’s coming from Walmart, I’ll betcha.

5. Last year Walmart sold more bananas than any other item.

I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with the price of tea in China, but it does make me wonder a few things. Like, how did they manage $405 billion in revenue on only 7 billion customers if bananas are their biggest seller? Evidently everyone who comes into the store for a giant flat screen TV or a new computer also picks up a bunch of bananas while they’re there. Either that, or the country of Sweden buys all of their bananas from Walmart in bulk. But wouldn’t they go to Sam’s Club for that?

6. China’s exports to Walmart accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006.

Okay, let me quit kidding for a second; this is important. Not only is Walmart increasing our trade deficit with the Chinese, their policies are forcing American businesses to close production facilities here in the United States and move them to China. This hurts us twice. First, when we lose jobs here to outsourcing forced by Walmart’s “always too low to be sustainable” pricing. Second, we lose valuable capital to the trade deficit. In other words, we lose twice, and the Chinese gain twice.

We lose in other ways too. For example, shipping massive amounts of goods from Asia to the USA contributes to global warming, and the fuel used for this shipping helps keep global fuel prices elevated.

7. Walmart is the largest overall employer in the USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.

This should scare the bejesus out of anyone my age–or else make us glad we’re nearing retirement time.

When I grew up, a full time job always meant being able to afford to get married and raise a family in a home in a decent neighborhood. Don’t expect that from a job at Walmart, where wages are so low that the company actually counsels their employees on how to get food stamps and medicaid. Congress could easily change this by merely raising the minimum wage so that full time work would be guaranteed to at least cover the basic needs of a small family. Evidently, however, that’s un-American in the 21st century.

8. If Walmart’s more than 8,500 stores were put in one place, they would take up more than 32 square miles — as much as 15,300 football fields.

9. Walmart parking lots alone take up roughly the size of Tampa, Florida.

In the last ten years or so I’ve watched a lot of new Walmart Supercenters go up. I don’t think I saw any constructed in areas where there were already stores or buildings. In other words, most of the time when a Walmart gets built, it’s not replacing old development with new. Acres and acres of trees are cleared away. Acres and acres of asphalt is laid for parking. Acres and acres of cheap, ugly, utilitarian building is constructed.

But it’ll be open 24/7 and it’ll be cheap, so who cares about crap like habitats for wildlife or trees to help keep carbon out of the atmosphere? After all, buying things is what the American way of life is all about, right?

10. In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours.

I don’t know for a fact, but I’m willing to make another dollars to doughnuts bet here. I’ll betcha suing Walmart is usually pretty futile. With $405 billion in yearly revenue they can afford some pretty fancy lawyers. And they can keep you tied up in court forever.

11. Walmart is battling 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost is $11 billion.

Actually that’s now old news and, if memory serves, Walmart won and the workers lost. However, Walmart continues to face pressure from workers for more money, better working conditions, etc.

Support the workers. Walmart is likely to remain the biggest employer in the country for the foreseeable future. With collective bargaining, they’ll finally get a decent pay package. They’re unlikely to win collective bargaining rights without help from customers.

12. The Walton family has given away about 2% of its net worth to charity — Bill Gates is giving away 48% of his net worth and Warren Buffet 78% of his net worth.

Anybody who watched TV in the 1970s knows that the Waltons live on Walton Mountain. Well, the mountain is built of money. They can’t give it away, because their house sits on top of it. Besides, giving money away is un-American, unless you’re buying a birth certificate. Don’t take my word for it, ask Donald Trump.

13. An additional Walmart Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.25 units and the obesity rate by 2.4%.

In case you don’t know, BMI stands for “Body Mass Index” and is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. In other words, it’s a measure of obesity and tells how fat you are. I’m figuring these numbers are going to go up even more now that we’re seeing more McDonald’s moving in to replace Walmart’s old snack bars.

This means, in addition to the fact that Walmart pays low wages, leaving local governments to pick up the slack with food stamps, medicaid and probably some section eight housing–they’re also contributing to higher health cost for all of us, as the obese require more health care for stuff like heart disease and diabetes. Heart bypass surgery isn’t cheap, you know?

14. The most frequent destination typed into GPS device Telenav is Walmart.

This only makes sense. With all seven billion of us on this planet going into a Walmart store at least once a year, it’s not surprising we’re using our technology to get us there. Google and MapQuest should charge the retailer a fee for providing directions to their stores. If they don’t pay up, each request for directions to a Walmart will give directions to Target or Kmart instead.

Which reminds me–does Kmart still have blue light specials?

Christine Hall

Christine Hall began her journalism career in 1972 writing for the "underground" newspaper the Los Angeles Free Press. From 1988 until 2005 she covered politics for various newspapers in the Greensboro, North Carolina area.

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