Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking On the "Evil" that is Wal-mart

Everyday, I look down my list of friends on Facebook to see what their comments are. Tonight, as I scanned the list, I saw this comment, "one does not simply walk into wal-mart,... there is evil there that does not sleep." Sometimes, I wonder what is this great "evil", but I think Southpark addressed the key to Wal-mart's "evil" long ago. Instead, I think there is a better approach to dealing with Wal-mart. Shopping there.

I know, I know, it sounds like it is buying into Wal-mart's plan, but is it really? To be honest, I do shop for some things at Wal-mart, but things like produce and especially meat, not so much. I would rather shop somewhere that I don't think the managers will take shortcuts for a quick buck (see the numerous youtube videos on Wal-mart from their own workers if you don't get this). I also try not to buy too much of their frozen foods for the same reason, and their canned foods... have you ever noticed how dented they are? Most grocery stores won't sell those because of risks of illness.

So what's my plan if I don't shop for food there? Simple. It is the same plan I use for other stores: targeted shopping. I shop at certain stores for certain purposes. I go to the local asian stores for fish, rice, things like that for our family. I go to places like Kroger and Albertsons for meat, but I always load up on good sale prices and not on daily pricing. I go to farmer's markets for good produce at good prices that support local farmers if I can.

What does that have to do with Wal-mart? Simple. To undermine Wal-mart, you should not boycott them, but rather utilize their policies. For example, they have a clear return policy on most things: 90 days with a receipt will get you a refund. There are exceptions, and you should know them, but for most things, they will take it back.

Now, if you have a crisis of conscience that you are wasting things, then don't use them at all. Simply create your Sinking Wal-mart while Stimulating the Economy plan whereby you purchase items one week, don't use them at all, and return them the next week as you purchase more goods.

But why would you do that? The more you return, the more people they have to pay at customer service to take your returns. The more you return, the more people they need to restock what you bring back. The more you buy, the more cashiers they need. The more you buy, the more people they need to stock the product, the more cart pushers to bring in carts, the more maintenance people to keep the store clean, and so on.

But doesn't that support their business? I guess it does in a way, but if you think about it, if you return every single thing you purchase, they don't make a dime. Their costs increase, but their sales don't. That increases their need to pay people, but also increases their prices making it easier for other smaller businesses to more easily compete.

Look, Wal-mart doesn't compete, it uses its size to bully sweetheart deals and pawns off the costs on manufacturers who pass it on to all companies. Who can afford not to have their product in Wal-mart? So bringing back used products doesn't change much, but bringing back tons of unused products dramatically changes the dynamics of costs versus sales.

People will never boycott Wal-mart as long as they perceive it to be the cheapest around. So instead of boycotting it, use it to our advantage. Create jobs with our actions, but don't increase its profits. Create a more competitive environment for other stores like Target or our local small businesses and specialty retailers, but don't increase its market share.

When I was a young football player, my coaches taught me that sometimes you take the blocker head on, but sometimes you use their energy against them to save your energy for tackling the running back. Wal-mart is too big to take head on. The only way to beat it is to use its own energy against it. If people hate it that much, that is the easiest way to fight it.

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