Monday, October 02, 2006

How Mom and Pop Gave it Away to Wal Mart

Seems like Wal Mart can't catch a break.

Now the NY Times says they are replacing more senior, higher-paid employees with newer, lower-paid part-timers and forcing all employees to be available any time of the day or night. Kids at home? Tough. You're pulling an all-nighter. You'll get, like $72 bucks for it (and probably no health plan).

How can Wal Mart keep doing stuff like this, when it ends up making them look so bad in the big-city papers?

Two answers: the first is easy. Wall Street likes it. And if Wall Street liked slave labor (just wait a couple of years), Wal Mart would be shackling their workers in chains.

The second answer is hard, and not so gratifying. It's about Mom and Pop and their small, local shop. You know, the one that got put out of business by Wal Mart.

It's about how Mom and Pop gave the store away. Because Wal Mart didn't serve Mom and Pop an eviction notice and remove all their inventory. They just offered folks a better deal.

The truth is, in many cases Mom and Pop hardly knew how to run a store at all. Like lots of small shop owners, they were kind of cranky, and offered kind of a poor value.

I know they were because the ones that are left in at least one small town where Wal Mart has moved in, and where I spend lots of time, they still are kind of cranky.  Maybe they're under lots of pressure, running a small, low-margin business. But they often aren't very nice when you go into the store. "If you thought you were going to come in to my store with your money and just go around spending it, you've got another thing coming!" Good-bye!

Mom and Pop never have the stuff you're looking for. If you ask for a particular item, more often than not, they don't have it. And the fact that you asked, is an insult. "Why would you want to buy that?" they seem to ask. Or, they "can order it for you". It will take seven weeks. Wal Mart has thirty kinds of that item on their shelves.

Also, Mom and Pop are never open. On Saturday they close at three. Forget Sunday. When are you supposed to buy stuff? How about nine o'clock in the morning on Tuesday? Oh, you're at work too? Come back Sunday.

Yes, Wal Mart is creating a heinous new low-cost, low-wage world. Yes, its morally ambiguous to enjoy a good bargain by shopping there. But Mom and Pop never really offered you much of a choice. They took you for granted. They kind of gave away the business. Anyway, I saw them shopping at Wal Mart last week.



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