Wednesday, October 12, 2005


No. I am not talking of a Bihari pronounciation of our favorite he-who-must-not-be-named. I am referring to the all-encompassing, rollback-pricing, melting-pottish, China-venturing Walmart. As a graduate student venturing initially into the US, Walmart was a haven for cheap shopping, be it groceries or bicycles. How do they manage it? Well, Walmart caters to the lowest common denominator. They run their business on volume and single-handedly would have wiped out the mom-and-pop stores all across the US. I think their brilliance also lies in the fact that they have everything. I mean, everything. If isn't available in Walmart, you will be hard pressed to find it elsewhere. Last I heard, Walmart is proliferating (?) in China. Can you beat that? The largest consumer market possible (I would imagine bigger than the Indian middle class too) being treated to a chain of stores that can take care of all their needs.

Now to the drawbacks. At the risk of sounding elitist, there is a bottom percentage of the populace (financially) that they cater to. Their quality sucks once you look for it (which you don't necessarily as graduate students). Off late, I have also realised that they aren't very popular among their employees either (hence the evil title). Some material that I came across that don't necessarily think too highly of Walmart
1. Wal-Mart: The Facts
2. Walmart and Capitalism
3. WakeUpWalmart

Corporations have social responsibilities, especially the large ones. The first one is to treat their employees well. The second is to treat the community well. The third is to look beyond just profits. In our company, there is a streak of philanthrophy that is unmatched on a per-capita basis("evil empire" notwithstanding). Once you inculcate that kind of culture around you, it becomes norm rather than a exception. Perhaps its easy for me to say given the average salary may be four times that of a Walmart employee. But the least they could do is to provide fair working conditions for their workers. Of course, some of these things are being debated in a court of law, and may not be completely true. But there is generally no smoke without fire. Should I stop buying from Walmart? Oh, why not? Its 20 miles away anyway!

P.S> A side note. I have not experienced as much road rage as I have navigating a trolley in the crowded aisles of Walmart. I absolutely hate it when people plonk themselves and their trollies in the middle of the aisle lost in thought about what to buy. Hello, there is barely place for two carts to pass side by side. Can you not move to the side? Then there are those abandoners who just leave their trolleys in between and go on a treasure hunt. Maybe matter for another post, but this is very relevant in the context of Walmart.


Raahy said...

I wouldn't count shopping at Walmart is not one of my most pleasant experiences either :)

With the advent of global economy and especially the rise of China as the manufacturing powerhouse of the world, it was only a matter of time before someone tried the Walmart model.

It is true that a corporation (especially a large one such as the Walmart) is expected to play a positive social role as well. But,I think that many of the cases related to Walmart are simply unavoidable. For example, it's next to impossible for a large corporation to avoid being sued for some kind of harassment or other.

aparna said...

hmmm... no idea about walmart. but was a regular at 'carrefour' which is french... am not sure if its in the same league as walmart though. but one can get anything and everything there.

Extempore said...

This may seem irrelevant given that your post is about Walmart but since we were having this discussion at work just this evening - here goes!

It should be true of all corporations that they should treat their employees well and not think about only profits.

I work in the IT industry here in Bby and the number of people incredibly unhappy in my workplace because they don't get their due is just phenomenal. And attrition keeps rising.

What you said about your company is true, in India, in the IT sector only of the Oracles and the HPs of the world. And Redmond, eh? If memory serves correctly, that's where the Gates Of MS open, no? :) Just teasing!

Thanks for dropping by my blog. I look forward to seeing you there again.

RS said...

Hmm...interesting. Didnt think much about shopping for groceries - just wanted a store nearby, which happens to be Kroger - smaller, easier to navigate and closer :)

I used to look at the cash counter walmart assistants and wonder though if there could be a job more monotonous than this - I used to feel bad for them for a few seconds and then forget all about it!

OMG said...

Corporate Social Responsibility is the buzz word of the day. Look at Google, just more than a year old and already contributing.

But Walmart takes more hits than others because of its size. However, if it doesnt watch out, it could run the risk of going belly up.