Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Consumerism: the Wal-Mart documentary

"Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price"

Fascinating 2005 documentary by Robert Greenwald, about the Wal-Mart chain and their dominance of the American retail landscape. People differ on which side of the fence they sit on this one--some love the Wal-Mart, some just loathe it--I'm simply putting the film here for your own consideration and study, and leaving the conclusions up to you. There are valid points on both sides of the debate, of course.

Personally, I'm on no vehement crusade, particularly, to have all Wal-Marts everywhere shut down (like some people are--and more power to ya), but obviously, as a lover of all-things-vintage in this world; from the local American malls and stores I grew up with, down to retro architecture around town in general, I don't dig the idea of the same generic behemoth chain store sitting on every stinkin' corner you look--especially, especially when they have to demolish all my beloved old shopping malls, local corner stores, and drive-in theaters to do it! Uh-uh. That's where I do draw the line personally.

So in that sense and in those circumstances, yes, count me as against a retail "blob" rolling across the world and putting everyone else out of business, gobbling up all the land and old buildings in its fat, blobby path! Yeah, I'm against that.

But anyway, wherever you stand on the issue, this is a very interesting and fun documentary, nonetheless, and does have a bearing here at MOA, as we struggle to answer the question many of us ask ourselves more and more these days: "Where are all the shopping malls going??!"

Well, the truth is, many have been (and are being) demolished to make way for more Wal-Marts, man.

Official film website: here
Wal-Mart homepage
Resource articles: 1, 2
Buy the DVD and read reviews at Amazon

Note: Video is Flash format. If you don't see it, you must temporarily disable your ad-blocking programs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Lee Scott guy has issues. :|

Tue Aug 22, 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Yes, Lee Scott does indeed have issues. It's a disease called greed. Perhaps you've heard of it? Our current President is afflicted with it as well. That and denial.

Wed Aug 23, 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Chris B. said...

I've stopped shopping at WalMart altogether but for the same reasons you give - I'd prefer to support local businesses whenever possible.

The whole issue of the sweat shops in China is not really a WalMart issue - it's a human rights issue. We should be appalled that those environments exist but hold the Chinese government responsible for fostering them.

p.s. - love the blog. I grew up in the 70's when Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg, IL) was the largest in the world and had an ice rink and pre-IMAX, humongous movie theaters.

Wed Aug 23, 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

"We have record sales, we have record profits." Uhm, and we had to leave Germany, because we just couldn't make a profit there. Oops.

Actually, I am divided about whether Wal-Mart leaving Germany is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, I am as happy as the next guy that the US behemoth did not manage to conquer our market. On the other hand, Wal-Mart pulling out means that our own behemoths dominate the market even more, which isn't exactly a good thing either.

Wed Aug 23, 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger hushpuppy said...

Excellent documentary. I don't shop Wal-Mart because I prefer to given my business to a company that treats their employees fairly, but now I have so many more reasons never to shop there.

BTW: At timepoint 1:20 in the documentary (the section on parking lot security), there is a shot of the former Broadway Panorama City (c 1955), now a Wal-mart

Thu Aug 24, 04:12:00 PM  
Anonymous tkaye said...

To bring this back full-circle to our usual focus on the aesthetics of shopping, I find visiting Wal-Mart to be a very drab and boring experience. Unlike Target, their graphics and layout are extremely spartan and uninteresting. And unlike an old down-at-the-heel Kmart (or any of the other discounters that have since vanished), their stores lack any idiosyncracies -- no funky smells, dated signage, or enormous air conditioner vents in the ceiling. If you've seen one Wal-Mart (at least in my area), you've seen them all, unless the city planning department has forced them to at least have an unique facade that fits in with the neighborhood.

As for the economic effects of Wal-Mart, I've never been too sentimental about the loss of many independent retailers. As a shopper, it's nice to know what to expect... and many of the Ace Hardware or Ben Franklin types of stores are pretty hit-or-miss in terms of merchandise, presentation, or even service. What I do miss are the medium-sized chains that are all but gone from the landscape. To me they offered the best of both worlds, the benefits of a professionally managed store operation offering reasonable prices and selection while still reflecting the uniqueness of the region.

I'm a bit undecided about the effect Wal-Mart is having on enclosed malls. I think the death of many malls is a symptom of some sort of larger cultural and economic unraveling that pervades America today. Ten years ago, I could have never imagined once-successful malls with shuttered storefronts, teetering on the edge of extinction. They just seemed like they'd be there forever. Now I realize how fragile of a fantasyland they were and are. And I think it sort of reflects on the vulnerability, if you will, of elements of our entire free-market economic system. That's what's scary to me.

Sun Aug 27, 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WAL MART SUCKS, IT ALWAYS DID AND ALWAYS WILL. I stick to the better times as much as possible without ever stepping foot in Wal Mart. I shop for food at a grocery store, go to the tire store for tires and automotive work, and go to the mall or selective botiques for clothes.
This store RUINED AMERICA!!!!!!

Thu Sep 27, 12:08:00 PM  

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