Thursday, December 13, 2012


During this season of shopping, I thought I would address something that has been on my mind for a while—Walmart. Walmart is popular to dislike these days for various reasons. A common complaint is that they come into areas and put small businesses out of business. Also there are cries that they don't treat their workers fairly. I think that some of the Walmart bashing comes from the fact that there may be some truth to the common complaints, but I think most of it comes from the fact that the bigger something is, the easier it is to attack.

I don't know about the every Walmart situation, but I can speak about Walmart in the small town that I grew up in and where my parents still live. First let me describe the area. The town is in a rural setting and has a population of a couple of thousand. It is surrounded by farmland and smaller towns. The next town of any size is about an hour and a half away. The unemployment rate is in the double digits.

When Walmart built a store there twelve years ago, it was a godsend. First there were new chances for employment in a place that desperately needed it. And these just weren't jobs, these were good jobs that actually had the possibility of benefits. Next there were new opportunities for shopping that the townspeople didn't have before. Shopping, that previously they had to travel far to do, was now convenient. This was especially important as the price of gas rose. It was also important for people like my parents who don't drive long distances any more.

And did all of the local businesses go out of business when Walmart moved in? No. The local businesses adapted and provided services that Walmart didn't offer. One of the drug stores now has a delivery service. One of the grocery stores is known for having the best meat in town. And sometimes, people just don't want to deal with the size of the Walmart store, and shop in the smaller local stores. But all of these people are very happy to have Walmart available at other times. They appreciate the low prices Walmart can offer because, as you can imagine in this depressed area, there's not much money to go around.

And what's the Walmart shopping experience like in this grateful small town? Wonderful. You can really tell that people like their jobs and are there to help. The staff is friendly, helpful, and pleasant. When I shop there, I sometimes feel as if I'm stepping into a Walmart that I see in commercials. The customers are also friendly and seem happy to be there. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

If Walmart is so wonderful here, why is it not considered wonderful everywhere? My opinion is that in some places it is an extra option and some places it is not. When you live in a place where you have multiple choices of where to shop, or when you have enough income that you can chose to buy something that costs more because it fits better with your life philosophies, you don't need Walmart. But when you don't have those options of convenience and/or a good income, Walmart is truly a godsend.