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Walmart catches some flack for its business practices, but they are not alone

I know what you are thinking. Why would someone write an article defending a corporate giant like Walmart? In my case the reason is very simple. I am a thrifty person and just love to purchase my goods on the cheap. Sure, Wal-mart has caught a lot of flack in the news over the years for low wages and use of inferior Chinese products to fill their shelves, but who doesn’t do that these days? I would wager that if you venture into almost any retailer at your favorite mega mall, you will find a large range of products that have been made by cheap overseas labor with the majority of that labor being from China.

Yeah, it is probably true that Wal-Mart uses a labor pool that costs them somewhere in the range of $100 - $200 a month per person (plus other expenses). But if Wal-Mart didn’t employ these people, would they have a job at all? I am not sure they would. This means that they do get to make some type of wage to send home to their family or save for the future instead of earning nothing at all.

The problem really lies with the Chinese government itself. Until they come up with laws that give their workers a fair days wage for a fair days work, this practice will never change. Honestly, At this point in time I don’t see any incentive for the ruling communist government in China to make sweeping labor law changes. It could create a thriving middle class and possibly hurt the entire power structure that is in place. I am pretty sure they are going to continue with the status quo until enough of the people of China demand change.

So, until the day comes that China makes the foreign companies doing business in their country pay a competitive wage to their workers employed in China. We are going to have our store shelves in America jam-packed with inexpensive products.

They offer a wide range of clothing options at low cost

Getting back to my defence of Wal-Mart…

My wife and I have two children and, just like all kids, they are always growing out of their clothing. More specifically, their pants. We don’t have jobs that pay a significant amount of money so when it comes times to replace their pants (which is often), we need to do it cheaply.

We can often purchase a pair of good pants and a shirt for both of them at a total cost of around $35. I have looked in several department stores in the past and the starting cost of jeans for girls can be north of $25 for their lower end products. When you look inside of the jeans to see where they were made, many times you will see a tag that says “Made in China” just like you would at Wal-Mart. Sure, the store you are shopping at might have a bit more respect from its customers than the big box giant, but when you get down to it they both source their clothing from the same sources, with workers that are working under the same conditions.

That’s it, it simply comes down to cost for us. If other stores offered pants for $10 we would probably shop there so we could have a better variety.

If you are looking for fresh produce, you probably should look elsewhere

There really isn’t much to say on this topic. Yes, they do offer reasonably priced produce with a small amount of variety, but the freshness is usually suspect. I regularly purchase cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, tomatoes and pre-packaged baby spinach. If you plan on getting any veggies that are a bit more exotic, I’d suggest going to a local grocery store that specializes in them.

Should you buy your makeup and toiletries at Wal-Mart?

The simple answer is yes. The majority of makeup and toiletries are simply going to be cheaper at Wal-Mart than at other stores. They also usually offer high quality “knock-offs” of the name brands that they carry under the “Equate” brand name. I recommend that you comparison shop for individual personal care products at your grocery store because you might find some cheaper ones. As a whole however, Wal-Mart is going to be cheaper.

Do they offer high end electronics at low prices?

Shopping for electronics at Wal-Mart requires the shopper to have some knowledge of the product they want to buy. They also need to do some comparison shopping in advance. They may have the lowest prices in town on most electronics, but there is a significant catch. The employees in the electronics section will most likely not be able to answer any technical questions. I have attempted to ask some detailed questions about several computers I was looking at before and the worker told me not to ask “technical questions” because he probably didn’t know the answer. If you don’t mind this lack of knowledgeable customer service, you can find some of the best electronics deals in town.

Customer service? Not so much

If you are looking for good customer service and love to get informative answers by knowledgeable employees, perhaps you should look elsewhere. They simply don’t have the training standards that other stores require. We often shop at our local grocery store in Texas called H.E.B. The employees that work there are required to go through a rigorous training process and must greet you at the register with a friendly smile and some nice banter about your shopping experience. (Also, all of their check-out lanes are always open.) It has not been my experience at Wal-mart to get this same level of customer service. Knowing this, my expectations are always lower when shopping at the big box giant and I know before arriving that I am probably on my own while shopping.

Wal-Mart - Get what you need and get out

In closing, Wal-Mart does not have the best produce, quality of products or a high level of customer service. What they do offer is low prices. If you are in the market for saving some of your hard earned cash then perhaps you should give Wal-Mart a try. If you have reservations about shopping there because you think they are an evil giant corporation, please remember to hold all stores to the same standard.

Commerce | Business


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