Worst Company In America Round 3: PayPal Vs. Walmart

Which is mightier: bricks and mortar or bits and bytes? That age-old question will finally be resolved on the blood-soaked ultrasuede floor of the Worst Company In America Ellipse of Evil.

For many years, Walmart has been the knee-jerk, go-to brand name to throw out when one needs to reference a big, bad retailer. And though the company continues to have an unmatched influence on not just the way Americans shop, but also on how other stores handle everything from pricing to packaging to logistics, readers still react with a slightly annoyed shrug.

Just look at how Walmart has squeaked through the first two rounds, winning by less than 20% over the fizzling combo of Sears and Kmart and barely eking out over GameStop, in spite of the disparity in the two stores’ sizes.

And then there’s PayPal, which most customers only use to make online purchases. Yet, despite the fact that the service often represents a relatively small portion of consumers’ transactions, those that use PayPal don’t seem to be to pleased about it.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that it beat a bottom-rated regional cable company by a wide margin, but for PayPal to take nearly 73% of the vote in its matchup against Capital One demonstrates the anger this company seems to foster in its customers.

We could keep talking about these two companies until we’re blue in the face, but it’s probably better if we just suck it up and vote.

(Voting on this poll has now closed. Thanks to everyone who voted! Check back March 29 to see who made it through to the semifinals)

As we mentioned when announcing the Round 3 contenders, we want to add some suspense to the remaining contests so the results will stay hidden until we post the four victors on the morning of March 29. So be sure to check back Thursday morning to see if your least-favorite made the cut.

If you like competing for free stuff, there’s a sweepstakes on the Consumerist Facebook page that lets you pick who you think will win the Golden Poo. The prize packages includes the usual T-shirts and coffee mugs, but also our own Laura Northrup will knit you a little something nice. Go HERE for details.

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2012 series. The companies competing for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. See the entire WCIA 2012 bracket and schedule of match-ups HERE.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tegan says:

    As much as I don’t care for Walmart, Paypal is much more evil towards consumers.

    • incident man stole my avatar says:


    • Coffee says:

      Yeah, but Walmart may be more detrimental to society, what with its effects on local economies and insistence on a business model that pays employees so little that many qualify for government benefits, which are paid by the taxpayers.

      Not trying to go on a huge tangent…just pointing out that each company is evil in its own way. Regardless, I’ll vote for Paypal, if only in hopes that a fresh new face enters the finals.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        If it weren’t for tangents Coffee wouldn’t go anywhere during the day.

      • KyBash says:

        I’ve heard that litany for decades, and it makes me sick to think that people actually believe it.

        The tax base always goes up when a Wal-Mart moves in. Even though they’re on cheap land at the outskirts of town, their size and the value of the upgrade offsets the difference, and they raise the value of surrounding land. Property taxes go up an average of 1.7% in the first 5 years.

        Although small retail shops have to close because of the competition, those buildings don’t sit empty forever — high-end retail or service businesses move in, upscaling the business district.

        Wal-Mart’s lower prices mean a lower cost of living for the people in the area, improving the lives of tens of thousands. They also offer entry-level jobs for people who might otherwise have a hard time getting the work experience and work history necessary for good jobs.

        The lower cost of living has a general effect of letting people save up to open their own business. The increase in small business openings in an area is an average of 8.4% higher 10 years after the opening of a Wal-Mart.

        The “they’re a big corporation so they must be evil” mentality needs a good shaking. Once you open your eyes, you see that’s it’s only a shift in economics, not destruction of a habitat.

        Wal-Mart is far from perfect, but the only reason it grew so large is that it give people what they need.

        • jayphat says:

          You also forgot the bit about people removing themselves from public assistance by working for Walmart, not climbing aboard it.

        • Coffee says:

          Hate to burst your bubble, but I’m not speaking out my ass here…the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center published an article talking specifically about what I’m talking about vis a vis Walmart utilizing public safety nets for its employees. The full text of the article can be found here: http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/retail/walmart.pdf

          Just in the state of California, it was found that:

          • Reliance by Wal-Mart workers on public assistance programs in California comes
          at a cost to the taxpayers of an estimated $86 million annually; this is comprised of $32 million in health related expenses and $54 million in other assistance.
          • The families of Wal-Mart employees in California utilize an estimated 40 percent more in taxpayer-funded health care than the average for families of all
          large retail employees.
          • The families of Wal-Mart employees use an estimated 38 percent more in other
          (non-health care) public assistance programs (such as food stamps, Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized school lunches, and subsidized housing) than
          the average for families of all large retail employees.
          • If other large California retailers adopted Wal-Mart’s wage and benefits standards, it would cost taxpayers an additional $410 million a year in public assistance to employees.

          And this was just in California. Say what you want, but there are valid arguments regarding Walmart’s business practices. Also, I would be interested to know where you got your statistics.

          • KyBash says:

            You’re looking at only one aspect and that from a source with an ax to grind.

            • Kate says:

              It’s not been my personal experience that small shops open later – it’s been my experience that the diversity of retail shops, and locally based ones in particular in a stagnant area (and to some degree in a growing area) do not come back.


              I’d say I have experience in about 5 areas.

              • VintageLydia says:

                I was going to say the same thing. In my mom’s small town, when Wal-Mart opened, EVERYTHING that wasn’t a huge chain closed, including most of the restaurants. Chain retail is now the biggest employer within the “city” since the manufacturing plant there closed a couple years ago. No one could afford the high-end retail to support those businesses. My only other experiences with Wal-Mart opening are in suburban areas that are inundated with lots of chain retailers and restaurants, anyway, so there was little noticeable impact.

              • BackInBlack says:

                Re: “Although small retail shops have to close because of the competition, those buildings don’t sit empty forever — high-end retail or service businesses move in, upscaling the business district.”

                I agree with @Kate on this. While this theory may hold true in growing medium or large-sized cities with an otherwise strong economic base, it is NOT true in smaller, depressed cities nor in small rural towns. In the smaller depressed cities such as the one where I live now, it has driven the few local retailers that were left out of business, and for several years now, those properties have indeed simply sat vacant (along with everything else that was already vacant). In the small rural town where I lived last, again, it drove the mom & pop places out of business, never to return, and there are no “high-end” establishments willing or able to make it in that area, as the people are too poor and/or rural-practical to patronize anything “high-end.”

            • VintageLydia says:

              So what are your sources, then? i’m not trying to be snarky, by the way. I really am interested.

            • Coffee says:

              I’m not trying to write a thesis here, only showing information that supports my argument. The source is U.C. Berkeley, one of the most respected academic institutions in the country. You still haven’t shed light on where the statistics you cited came from.

        • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

          My god it makes you sick!??!

          I’ll go get some ginger root extract and some arsenicum for you from the apothecary!

          Awww Old Timey Apothecary is closed ;-;

          • Coffee says:

            Don’t worry…Walmart sells the ginger root extract, but you may have trouble finding arsenicum…it was determined that it’s used in pagan rituals and was therefore blacklisted by the Walmart Apothecary Society.

        • Not Given says:

          I wish we had a Walmart, even a small one.

  2. homehome says:

    I’ve never seen what’s so bad about Walmart, it’s moreso the ppl that shop there than the actual store.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      They can bully companies. They do bully companies to lower quality and move production offshore.

    • Coffee says:

      It’s a few years old now, but this documentary highlights some of the ancillary effects Walmarts has on local and global economies: http://www.walmartmovie.com/

      • homehome says:

        So the ppl in the local economies can’t just say they don’t want it there? I know the community I grew up in was a getting a walmart and everything, politicians were behind it, b ut it got shut down, why because the community didn’t want it and made sure they made the politicians and the higher up knew about it. They tried to pass it anyway amid the concerns and couple ppl got embarassed because of the backlash from the public. If you have a walmart in your community, either the ppl want it there or your representation is so weak you couldn’t stop it. Either way, it’s the communities fault because the community funds it.

        • Coffee says:

          You’re switching gears…you asked what was so bad about Walmart…I linked a documentary that would be happy to tell you. Now you’re saying that if your town gets a Walmart, you deserve it because you didn’t fight against it hard enough. That’s your opinion, and that’s fine, but it’s a separate issue.

          • homehome says:

            I don’t discount your answer, I’m just saying if this is the problem why don’t ppl fight it when it comes to their town or at least know the reprecussions of having it there. Walmart can’t just move there without any say of the community.

          • Naked-Gord-Program says:

            Apparently when he said “I’ve never seen what’s so bad about Walmart” he didn’t mean “Why don’t people like Wal-Mart” but “I know the opinions of others differ than my but I don’t know why anyone would have a different opinion”.

            It’s a dick debate trap to get on his Wal-Mart is great and anyone who doesn’t agree sucks.

            Funny thing is I shop at Wal-Mart (I can’t believe Target, for example, is better) but still find his position that others must suck if they have a problem with Wal-Mart annoying.

  3. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    Yeah, Wal-mart sucks and all, but they’re *usually* not out to completely dick you over the way Paypal seems to. I’m not proud of it, but I will shop at Wal-mart from time to time. Paypal – I avoid like the plague.

  4. PunditGuy says:

    I express my displeasure with Walmart by not shopping there. I express my displeasure with PayPal by no longer using the service and warning everyone else to run screaming in the other direction whenever PayPal is merely mentioned, or even hinted at.

    PayPal it is.

  5. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Damn you Walmart with your cheap prices and one-stop convenience driving mom-and-pop stores out of business! I don’t want to pay $12.99 for a new water hose. I’ve been paying $19.99 for years, and that’s the way I likes it!

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Give it time…you’ll be paying that $19.99 and even a couple of bucks higher REAL SOON at your friendly neighborhood Walmart the way they’ve been raising prices lately.

      • BackInBlack says:

        I agree. I’ve always suspected that yellow Smiley guy who goes around slashing prices at Wal-Mart has an evil twin, Frowny, who is simultaneously busy in other departments marking prices way up.

  6. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Paypal needs to “man up” and admit it’s a bank and follow all bank regulations accordingly.

  7. sufreak says:

    I just dont know. Walmart is well, Walmart. But Paypal…its often the only source (conveniently) for eBay. If you still use eBay.

    Walmart has a greater impact…and thus far, I’ve been ok with paying for stuff with Paypal. But I hate receiving payments with it.

    Wow..its like which will rape you slightly less. Bubba, or Bubba Sr.

    Still, Walmart has greater societal impact.

  8. I Love Christmas says:

    I was going to vote for wal-mart, then I found out paypal had one of their people arrested and charged with raping a 13 year old girl. It’s in the news and on twitter.
    But I can avoid wal-mart. We all have to be able to trust paypal 24 hrs a day 356 with our money. That trust is all gone. They can’t even screen their people, when they’re not busy bullying old ladies , stealing from kids, or breaking violins. Also, silence about that from paypal. Nothing on their blog. Are they going to try to ignore that and hope it fades away?

    • Gehasst says:

      I actually have to trust paypal 365 days a year, or 366 this year…but who’s counting? Well, besides paypal counting their profits?

    • RiverStyX says:

      Not trying to play Devil’s Advocate, but how is a company responsible for one person’s criminal behavior? That’s just how life is anywhere you go..You’ve got a significant population of honest people and a small percentage of criminals.

      The Boeing Corporation is regarded as the “Wisconsin of the workforce” because of all the criminals that used to work for them..Kenneth Pinyan being only one of them. They’ve had ex-employees who were child molesters and serial killers. Yet I don’t hold it against Boeing personally.

      You know, based on your reply if it were any other crime then you wouldn’t have bothered mentioning it..This whole “Save the children” concept is just getting out of hand..George Carlin had a LOT to say about people like you.

  9. MikeVx says:

    I have to assume that most of the people voting in the WCIA awards don’t have to deal with/are not really aware of PayPal, I can think of no other reason that they haven’t been the winner all along.

  10. Snaptastic says:

    At least I can avoid Wal-Mart by choosing to go elsewhere. I tried to avoid using Paypal, but I had to go back because other non-Paypal options were extremely limited and restrictive.

    • tbax929 says:

      That’s my logic as well. I still shop at Walmart, but I’m not obligated to do so.

      • BackInBlack says:

        Ditto here. I’m still pondering before I post my vote, but this thought was one of the first to cross my mind and may tip my vote. I do have options to Wal-Mart, especially in larger towns, and even in most small towns there is another small grocery, however much more expensive.
        Lemme think some more before I vote, but I’m thinking PayPal will edge this one out.

  11. watcher says:

    I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart when the receipt checking started, but still they are better than PayPal.

    • BackInBlack says:

      I don’t know where your Walmart is, but I haven’t had my receipt checked in several years, and then only once or twice over maybe the last 10+ years, ever, regardless of how big or small the load I was carrying out.

      However, I know Wally’s cousin, Sam’s, checks almost every receipt leaving the store (and if I’m not mistaken so does Costco).

  12. Crackpot says:

    It’s this simple, folks:

    Bank of America, TicketMaster, Walmart, AT&T, Comcast & EA each have a clear method of escalating. Can’t solve your problem? Take it to the next level of corporate hierarchy and try again! But two companies don’t have this:

    PayPal and Facebook

    Have a problem? Tough luck. Don’t like an action they’ve taken? Tough luck.

    One company is a social network. If you’re smart about what you post, odds are good that you’ll never have an issue with them. Don’t post anything potentially sensitive to Facebook. Don’t post personal things that you wouldn’t want others to know. If you assume that everything you ever post will be seen by your spouse, extended family, friends, colleagues, government, and anyone connected to these people, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT IT IS “PRIVATE”, you’ll be fine.

    The other company is a financial institution. Did you know that PayPal was once x.com, an online bank? Do you know why they changed their name and their web site? It was because the Fed said that, under their existing rules, x.com was an online bank and therefore subject to banking regulations. PayPal didn’t like that, so changed their brand and their business model so that they didn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else… and you have the PayPal of today.

    PayPal controls the money of millions of people. WIth no oversight. With no options, given their market penetration. With no ability to appeal a decision. With no ability to complain to a regulatory board. With no ability to escalate up the corporate ladder… at least in a way that makes a difference.

    THAT is the worst company in this list, in my opinion.

    • BackInBlack says:

      You’re right! I forgot about that x.com business back in the day. I do remember right after they became PayPal, they were offering I think $20, then $10, then $5 just for signing up. I sold my soul to the PayPal piper for $10 only.

    • BackInBlack says:

      You’re right! I forgot about that x.com business back in the day. I do remember right after they became PayPal, they were offering I think $20, then $10, then $5 just for signing up. I sold my soul to the PayPal piper for $10 only.

  13. DerangedKitsune says:

    I have to give it to paypal. Walmart hasn’t blatently stolen my money or facilitated theft against me.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      You sure everything rings up right at the register? Or are you like most other people and don’t watch?

      Just sayin….

      • DerangedKitsune says:

        I watch the register and have caught things in the past.

        And even so, it would have to have been over a long time to equate to what paypal has deprived me of in a pair of transactions.

  14. RiverStyX says:

    I’m an ebay seller who accepts thru paypal, and these guys dragged me through the dirt for the first three months..Not releasing funds on time (3 day window period was turning into a week on some of them), the endless transaction fee after transaction fee..They just asked me for my social security number recently or I couldn’t get paid anymore – Something about the possibility of sales exceeding $20,000 a year gross, which in my case is never EVER going to happen.

    I’ve had to talk to paypal more than once during my new seller period, the people I spoke to were just INCREDIBLY rude..Threatening to disconnect if I didn’t give them all of my credentials before I was able to pull up my account info, and the tone they spoke in was just cold and made them sound like sociopaths.

    eBay is no better, calling customer service is always a headache..But that’s another topic.

    Walmart on the other hand has been doing a decent job at cleaning up their image. I actually don’t mind giving them business on occasion, my only complaints are the types of people who shop there and the price inaccuracies I find once in a while. From what I gather, they pricematch too.

  15. OldSchool says:

    Walmart does more economic damage to middle class Americans then Pay Pal can even dream of (although the thought probably does keep them up at night plottiing like “The Brain”)

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      “What are we gonna to tonight Paypal?”
      “The same thing we do every night Ebay, try to screw over the world!”

  16. packy says:

    TicketMonster vs. B of A was a much harder choice for me. For this one, I hit the Walmart button. I never shop at Wally World anymore, even though I have to pay more to not do so; Paypal, while they’ve been more evil to me PERSONALLY, aren’t as systematically evil.

  17. BackInBlack says:

    Ooh, close one! But I predict PayPal will throw a winning half-court swish at the buzzer.

    I’m gonna have to go with PayPal on this one. Besides their plot for global economic domination, Wal-Mart isn’t really that bad (“Other than THAT, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”). I do shop there, mainly for the lowest prices on most grocery and HBA items. Never mind that their auto place sometimes leaves the drain plug out after an oil change. Never mind that I won’t find my favorite product next time because they’re out of stock or quit carrying it. Minor inconveniences, and I have choices.

    While I suppose I have other buying and selling venues besides eBay, if I choose to use eBay for these, there pretty much is NO alternative to PayPal. Further, I hear a new ParyPal horror story almost every day. Heard another just yesterday when I stopped at a yard sale. The guy had been a former PowerSeller on eBay and of course been screwed over—three times in rapid succession, by PayPal.

  18. NightWriter says:

    For a ridiculously huge megacorp, Walmart is actually pretty good in how it treats its customers. Its how they treat their employees and the communities they invade that is the problem.

  19. zombie_batch says:

    Paypal censors e-books by refusing to transfer customer’s funds to the retailers of the e-books. Walmart also censors (more) things by refusing to sell them.

    They’re also both banks now, except that Paypal doesn’t follow the rules and will keep merchant’s money whenever they feel like it, then stonewall that merchant when asked why they stole all their money. From what I remember, Walmart’s bank follows regulations is not for personal banking but business banking.

    I don’t like Walmart, but frankly, saving pennies sometimes means a huge advantage for some people. I’m not sure I’d count the convenience of not having to type in my credit card details online really doing me or anyone else a huge favor.

    • BackInBlack says:

      What Wal-Mart bank? They have banks in Mexico, and a banking license in Canada, but do not own Arvest in the mid-South, as commonly believed and even reported. Arvest has is an entirely separate entity, although it is run by Sam Walton’s son, Jim. I had accounts there for many years, and they were actually an excellent bank, one of the best I’ve ever dealt with so far. Can’t say that for Wal-Mart though. SURE can’t say it for PreyPal.

  20. psm321 says:

    Walmart is still easier to avoid

  21. Sarcastico says:

    I don’t “have” to shop at Wal-mart. I don’t have to use Paypal but if I do use Paypal and have money in my account then it is mine. For Paypal to decide to hold my money hostage and not allow me to use it to pay for something because I have not “verified” my account by linking a checking account to it is over the top “wrong”. It makes Paypal the more evil company.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      It’s wrong. And bad. There should be a new, stronger word for what PayPal does. Like badwrong, or badong. Yes, PayPal is badong.

  22. scoosdad says:

    Yay for withholding the poll numbers until Thursday. I never quite understood why it was possible to see the numbers before voting anyway. I’m sure a lot of undecided people look to see how the vote is heading before they decide who to vote for. Let us see the numbers, but only after we’ve cast a vote.

  23. Elle86 says:

    I voted Walmart because they seem incapable of keeping their stores even remotely clean, their customer service is atrocious, and they’re terrible at pricing (ie; one price on the sign, another at the register) I shop at Target now.

    PayPal i don’t use often.

  24. crazydavythe1st says:

    Walmart is pretty good towards its customers. And in many cases they are unfairly villainized for treating their employees much in the same manner as any employer in that industry. In fact many Walmart employees have it better than they would at a small business – there’s a defined path for advancement if you have the ability, your pay isn’t frozen at minimum wage, etc.

    There’s concern about small business being driven out by Walmart. Some of that is legit. But how many of those small businesses were kidding themselves in thinking that they provided a level of customer service experience above Walmart’s? Is Walmart still not contributing to the local economy in some way?

    How many times do you see “All sales are final” at some mom and pop shop where Walmart will take back almost anything for 90 days? It’s not fair to expect a small business to take something back for 90 days, but to force me to deal with some manufacturer when something is broken or do a chargeback? Do you really expect me to visit your store when it is open from 8-5, closed for lunch and on the weekend – basically open when I’m supposed to be working? Should you really make me feel like a freeloader for wanting to use some Groupon that you committed to providing but that is currently a financial inconvenience to your company?

    I’m just gonna say it – many small business suck and aren’t worth saving. The ones that avoid some of the pitfalls I listed above actually have a strong chance at surviving, if only as the “anti-Walmart” for armchair activists.

    • Carlos Spicy Weiner says:

      From a purely customer point of view, Walmart’s pretty decent. From a hiring people from the local community, probably not bad either, considering all the people that work for them in some capacity. But I think you’re missing a couple things here:

      The sheer power of Walmart to run, not just little Mom and Pop stores out of business, but larger ones with a few employees. And it’s not just the jobs of the individual people that go, it’s the business diversity, it’s what that business might have provided to the community beyond what Walmart dos, that’s lost.

      Another dark side to Walmart’s size, is the tremendous purchasing power they have, and how they wield it. Because it might represent 60% of a company’s business, when Walmart says to do something, they do. If Walmart says that’s $2/unit too much, and the only way to get Walmart’s price point is to close down your plant and move everything to China, you do. Example… You ever hear the story of Rubbermaid? Walmart was a big customer of theirs, until the price of resin suddenly jumped. Rubbermaid told Walmart they’d have to raise their prices or face bankruptcy. Guess who blinked? Next time you complain that a majority of consumer goods are now cheap crap made in China, you can thank Walmart for being a huge reason :-(..

  25. IceCat says:

    For all of my dislike for Walmart, PayPal gets my vote because a lot of artists i would like to comission art from only accept PayPal for payment, and as I refuse to get a PayPal account, I an’t so it gets my vote.

  26. JLyles says:

    It’s Paypal.

    Walmart at least has something for you.

  27. JLyles says:

    Walmart, at least has something we can use, but not Paypal

    • Carlos Spicy Weiner says:

      I own a small manufacturing business and do not take credit cards. I do everything I can to get customers to pay by check because of the cut PayPal takes. I also hate the fact that Ebay basically requires me to accept PayPal for all my payments. However, they aren’t without value. PayPal has made it possible for our PTA to fundraise in a way they couldn’t before. It makes online purchases very convenient in many cases.

  28. JLyles says:

    Walmart does offer something that we can use especially without any mystery to the fees charged.

  29. parv says:

    “Poll Closed.”

    NoooooooooooooooooOO! Take my vote pretty please! No? F… ….