Ask The Consumerist: Why Do You Hate Wal-Mart?

We’re off duty today, but we’ve gotten some great emails over the weekend so we thought we’d pass the goods on before it got stale.

Reader Dan F writes:

What is your problem with Wal-Mart? Do you not like saving money? Is your group so wealthy that it doesn’t matter? Or are you behind the very few business owners in small to medium towns that love the fact Wal-Mart is not there so they can make a killing by making us pay through the roof for food, clothes and other consumer goods?

Dear Dan,

We don’t hate Wal-Mart in a broad sense. We hate all companies that abuse their privilege as corporate entities, not because we’re rich, but because we don’t see the point in saving a few cents on toilet paper at the expense of, say, workers’ rights. We are doing well enough to pay a few cents more on toilet paper when we choose to, thank the lord of wallets, although we remember not that long ago when we couldn’t. If you feel like you’re getting a good deal at Wal-Mart, have at it.

Mostly, though, we really like what Wal-Mart could be. They are a ruthlessly efficient machine of consumerism. When that works in our favor, it’s very hard to resist. We’ve been known to shop there from time to time ourselves, although there are none in our immediate area, so our visits are infrequent—or online.

But we’ll continue to talk about—and critique—Wal-Mart for a single reason: They’re the biggest retailer in America. That makes them immune from neither criticism nor praise, but it does make otherwise trifling stories interesting.

Plus, they’re hillbillies from Arkansas. Since we grew up a full half-hour away from the Arkansas border of the Ozarks, it is our divine right to take pot shots at them from our rocking chair on the porch.


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  1. Mike Panic says:

    There are several reasons I do not like Wal-Mart.

    I hate the 20 minute walk across the parking lot to get to the store, every Wal-Mart, regardless of location or time of time of day is always packed.

    I hate waiting in long lines to check out.

    I hate the fact that everyone who works there knows nothing about everything and can neither help you find what you are looking for or give advice on particular product.

    I hate the fact that they pick and choose what they want to sell. When the Nirvana album In Utero came out, Wal-Mart not only chose not to sell it because of the song Rape Me but went as far as to request they make a different version, which they apprently did called Waif Me. What makes things hard is that whenever a Wal-Mart opens in a city, a good portion of that communities brick and morter stores are foreced to close because they cannot compete with the prices. Then when they do want to buy something like that Nirvana album, they are forced to either go online (which wasn’t an option for most when In Utero came out) or drive to some place farther away wasting their time and gas to buy what they should be able to buy as an American that is not banned or illegal anywhere other then Wal-Mart.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    As a native of Arkansas and one with some indirect personal connections to Sam Walton (Sam ran the Ben Franklin in my hometown and my next door neighbor took over the lease when Sam was so damn successful), I am duly offended. If the neighbor hadn’t been so greedy, Wal-Mart would be an Arkansas flatland company or Sam might never have left Ben Franklin.

    Don’t let your guard down, or you might end up with some slashed tars (you know what that means).

    What’s in the water down in Arkansas? Sure are a lot of big companies have sprung up out of the 49th state in the Union (thank God for Mississippi).

  3. Kat2 says:

    I’m an ex-Wal-Mart cashier.

    I hate the fact that their security cameras don’t reach all the way out to the employee parking lot. One employee got her tires slashed, another was attacked. So much for ensuring your employees’ safety.

    I hate the fact that they offer ridiculously poor health benefits to their employees.

    I hate that they force a company to deal with them on Wal-Mart’s terms. Let’s say you sell product, and there are rival brands, but Wal-Mart carries yours. Wal-Mart is your biggest customer – perhaps 25% of your business, in fact, and with the added revenue they give you, you’re able to expand. Then, they demand you sell them your product at a lower cost. So, you either shave your already razor-thin profit margins (or perhaps take a loss) to accomodate Wal-Mart, or they switch to your competitor and you lose their business entirely.

    There’s plenty of reasons to hate Wal-Mart.

  4. PsycheSolace says:

    Yep… that aggressive tactic that Wal-Mart uses with its vendors is dangerous. Let’s take a good American company and then force them to sell to us at a loss so they have to either make crappier products or ship their production overseas. Nice work Wal-Mart. Thanks.
    I’ll spend the extra 2 cents.

  5. Velociraptor says:

    I dislike Wal-Mart because they use the same kind of tactics in retail that M$ uses–they pressure their suppliers too much as PsycheSolace said. They treat their employees in much the same manner as M$ as well–pressuring them to work off the clock, providing low benefits, etc.

    As an antithesis to this look at Costco–they are a successful international company, provide superior products, *and* treat their employees like the gold they are–higher salaries, better benefits, and promotion from within. *And* they still have the excellent prices! Hello? Where’s the disconnect?