Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wal-Mart Redux



My blog posting on Wal-Mart generated quite a few comments. Instead of responding by way of the "Comment" section of the blog, I am responding by another blog posting, because my response is that long. Specifically, I am responding to the coments that Jim Rossingale, who differed with me on patronizing Wal-Mart stores.

I always like a good, well thought out and mutually respectful discussion of a topical issue. I am glad Jim has engaged me in this conversation. My longtime friend, Nitewrite has also joined in the discussion. For years Nitewrite and I have engaged in discussions, usually disagreeing with one another. And yet we remain good friends. Isn't that the way it's supposed to me?

I am always willing to listen and sometimes I even change my mind. However, on this issue I will continue patronizing the Wal-Mart stores even though I know they are giant behomoths who are out to wipe out every mom and pop grocery store they come across. Below is my response to Jim's comments:

Oh, I do enjoy a good and healthy discussion of issues. I am so glad you brought up your concerns about Wal-Mart to me Jim. Both you and Larry (, Nitewrite, my longtime friend who I used to trade comic books with and who took over my paper route when I was 15 years old) bring up valid points as to Wal-Mart's behavior. To your point Jim, about Wal-Mart aggressively going after the woman's settlement with her insurance company; I had forgotten about that aspect. I remember now. Keith Obermann, on his show "Countdown", featured Wal-Mart's outrageous behavior on his show until they finally came to their senses and dropped their claim for the woman's insurance money. When I learned of Wal-Mart's behavior, I was very disappointed. To me it was just one more example of Corporate Bureaucracy run amok. Personally, I have been caught in this tangled web twice in my life which resulted in me losing my job (a subject I will cover in a future blog posting.) Wal-Mart was totally wrong in going after the woman’s settlement but they did correct their mistake, albeit after a lot of negative publicity.

As to your other points Jim, yes, Wal-Mart does go into communities and push out other businesses. I don’t have a problem with this. Even though I consider myself a liberal Democrat at this time of my life, in my previous life I was a conservative Republican. Perhaps my view on this business aspect is a result of some residual conservative Republican principals left in my political outlook. To my way of thinking, competition is good. That was exactly the point I was making with Comcast. For too many years Comcast was the only game in town when it came to cable and Internet connection. When I moved to my new house here in Delaware, my house was already prewired for Comcast cable. Uh, wait a minute. I don’t remember giving approval for the hookup. Again, the arrogance of a company used to practicing a monopoly. I tied Comcast for a while but I decided to leave after the way they treated me. Their bills were too high and rising almost every other month. Their customer service was atrocious. That’s when I decided to go with the competition, Verizon. I got a better price for more services. Initially, I also had trouble with Verizon’s customer service but when I threatened to go back to Comcast, they sent out a high up to take care of my problem personally. Yes, competition is good. It’s called capitalism. Sure, capitalism has it’s downside but so does every other system. However, in my opinion capitalism is the best system to ensure that the majority of the populace enjoys a higher standard of living.

To your point Jim of the “the bigger problem ……………....when the day comes (and surely it may) when Wal-Mart has run practically every major business out of town and we’re left holding the rope?” A valid concern but I doubt if that day would ever come. There will always be small stores and other specialty stores. There will always be people like my neighbor Barbara who wouldn’t be caught dead shopping in Wal-Mart because of class. Wal-Mart will never put all the stores out of business. The stores who feel threatened need to get more competitive.

I’m not anti-union but I can always tell when I’m in a store with union employees. Their attitude towards the customers is different. They act like they’re doing you a favor. I grew up in a union household and witnessed union abuses first hand. That is why I became a conservative Republican at a young age. My first presidential vote was cast for Barry Goldwater. Unions have had a positive impact on the work place. They have kept in check corporate abuses. Oh yes, the corporations would have you working for slave labor is they had their way. I’m not totally na├»ve. But I have to be realistic. I prefer a non-union work place over a union work place. I’ve just seen too many abuses by unions to feel any other way.

I do have to agree with you Jim that, at times, I sounded like a commercial for Wal-Mart in my blog posting. I had to stop myself and tone it down a bit but apparently I didn’t tone it down enough. I’m not enamored with Wal-Mart or any big behemoth corporation. They will all screw you if they had the chance. Been there, had that done too me. Your comment to me “Sorry to go off like this on one of your treasured institutions” did sting. No way is any institution a “treasured institution” to me. Your apology is accepted. I look at all institutions with a jaundiced eye. You know the definition of a liberal don’t you? That’s a conservative who has been mugged. Well, I was mugged (several times) by big corporations that I had put my life into. I’m not alone in this experience as you well know. However, the fact that I was “mugged” hasn’t affected my belief that capitalism is the best economic system for the majority of the people. In this opinion I agree with my friend “Nitewrite.” Lately, we seem to agree on little even though we had a common background where and the way we grew up. Both of us even worked for major banks and were canned because we got too old but Nitewrite still holds his conservative principals both in the economic and social area. My conservative views are only in the economic area, not social. The 1992 Republican Convention in Houston Texas threw thousands, if not millions of gay conservatives like me out of their tent with the hateful speeches of the two Pats, Buchanan and Robertson.

Your comment “There is no doubt that Wal-Mart serves a purpose and not all of it is bad” is very accurate. Wal-Mart provides jobs for thousands, if not millions, of people who otherwise would be unemployed. One good example is Cathy, a former co-worker of mine from the Hampton Inn in Exton, PA. Cathy was the breakfast hostess for many years. For about 10 years she would arrive five or six days a week at the Hampton in at 4:30 in the morning to set out Hampton Inn’s breakfast. Cathy lived about 20 miles away from the hotel in a double wide trailer with her invalid husband who was on disability from his Navy service. She would get up at 3 am in the morning in order to be at work on time. On those days when there was bad weather, she would stay overnight at the hotel so she would be there to set out breakfast.

Over the years she worked her hourly pay up to the maximum. After two years without a raise because she was at the maximum of her pay grade, she was called into the office by the new manager. She thought she was getting a raise for her exemplarily and dependable service. Instead, she was told she was being let go. “Why?” she asked. She was told that the hotel was going in a “different direction.” So there she was, without a job at 59 years of age, and an invalid husband to support with the help of the VA system. They couldn’t survive on his VA disability and Social Security payments. Where was Cathy going to get a job? I think you know where this I going. The only place Cathy could get a job was Wal-Mart. Granted, she’s not thrilled to be working in the shoe department and her hourly pay is less that she received at the Hampton Inn, but she is working. Also, her workplace is closer to her doublewide so she doesn’t have as far to travel now. Another benefit is that she doesn’t have to get up at 3 am in the morning to go to work. She now has more time to volunteer at the local Veterans Administration facility, which is one of her favorite activities. I wonder how she and her husband would have survived if there was no Wal-Mart to provide a job for her and other countless older people who have no special skills or education but who want to work and need to work for a living. I would not feel good if Wal-Mart went out of business because of a boycott of their business and women like Cathy didn’t have a job.

Another reason to not boycott Wal-Mart and put them out of business is that Wal-Mart provides a wide range of products at low prices which enables the Great Unwashed to live a higher standard of living. That includes me.

Now that I’ve had my say about boycotting Wal-Mart, don’t think that I’m against boycotts. I will not guy gas at Exxon for two main reasons. The first being their total irresponsibility in the way they handled the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They are still contesting that court judgment. To me Exxon is reprehensible. Oh, they are also the only major oil company not to have domestic partner benefits. That is just another reason not to do business with them. Perhaps the biggest reason is, have you noticed but Exxon gas is almost always the highest priced on the block. I don’t need to contribute to Lee Raymond’s pension plan.

Other businesses I boycott are businesses that are overprice and provide poor service. They are many, sad to say. Especially down here where I live in this resort community. High prices and poor service must be endemic to resort communities.

There are foods I do not eat, thus I do not support those companies that produce that food. I will not eat veal or lamb. I’ve eaten veal (a long time ago and felt very guilty about it), but I’ve never eaten lamb. I don’t eat baby animals. Recently, I saw how turkeys were being mistreated (a secret video by PETA) and I considered not eating turkey. My neighbor Barbara tells me she doesn’t eat chicken because she sees how they are processed. But where does all this stop? I have to eat and I like some meat. I don’t eat beef anymore just because it doesn’t agree with me. I like pork but I rarely eat it because it sometimes doesn’t agree with me. I’m not ready to go totally veg yet though. So I keep the chicken processing factories in business by eating boneless breast of chicken.

Well, I’ve went on quite a bit about my response to your comment about Wal-Mart. I may have wandered of the subject a bit but I think you understand my style of writing now. I summarize, I understand your concerns with Wal-Mart and I agree that they acted reprehensively when they aggressively went after that injured woman’ settlement. That was so wrong and they finally “got it” and reversed their decision (probably because of all the bad publicity and not so much out of altruism.)

My good friend Nitewrite brings up a very valid point about going after the lawyers who sliced off a good bit of that woman’s settlement. Where was their heart? Nitewrite is correct when he says “Frankly, if we decided we would boycott businesses whose behavior was sometimes less than sterling, we wouldn’t shop anywhere and we wouldn’t work anywhere. But that said, it is also perfectly fine to not give business to a company they feel is doing wrong.” I agree with my old comic book trading friend 100% on this point.

Now, I have to get ready for work at the Inn. I’m working until 11 pm tonight and then I have to get up at 4:30 am tomorrow to have breakfast set out by 7 for the lawyers who are in the hotel for the next week for a big court case Georgetown. They have to leave at 7:30 am to be in court.

Note: I’m not the breakfast hostess; she usually comes in about 7 to 7:30 am after she drops her kids off to school. The lawyers informed me last night that they need to have breakfast at 7 am. The regular hostess can’t drop her kids off to school earlier so I will come in and get the breakfast out. Sometimes one does what one has to do. It is ironic that I’m setting the breakfast out early for lawyers who have to go to court early. There is a Super Center Wal-Mart in Georgetown. I wonder.

2 comments:

  1. jim rossignal9:33 AM

    Ron,

    I wish I had time to reply even briefly to all the many good points you set out in this post (especially those where you agree with me :) I think you have about as fair and well-rounded point-of-view as it gets on this one.

    Probably the most resonate point for me was "where does it all end?" Especially in this complex day and age. You could spend all day for weeks researching companies and then what? We'd probably be down to a few vegetables grown in our back yards, and even then there'd be stories about evil seed companies and movements about how vegetables are alive and have awareness to soil and light and...

    As you oft and rightly say, there's a lot of gray out there. If anything this W-Mart topic has showed me that I can be well-informed on a topic and still be a long way from having a command of it. Keeping an open mind and really listening to others opinions is vital if you want to approach anything like the truth. In that once again I take my hat off to you and thank everyone for their input.

    Loved the end about the lawyers!

    Jim

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  2. Jim,

    Thank you so much for the stimulating discussion on a very important subject. I am always open to new dialogue on any subject. That's probably why the only TV I watch are MSNBC, CNN and other opinion shows. My views and opinions are in a always in a fluid moving swirl.

    One of my only consistencies is a sense of fairness, whether it be on the left or right. Also, I believe in freedom. I resist when someone else tries to foist their lifestyle (for lack of a better word) on me. Whether it be religion, politics or anything else. I do not take for granted one day that freedoms we have in this country. The freedom to disagree. The freedom to decide the path of my life. My only parameters are that in exercising my freedoms I do not impose on anyone else's freedoms. Life is a challenge. I treasure every day, the highs and lows (last night at the Inn was a low by the way - that story later.)

    One of my goals in life is to make a difference during my time here and not to make too many people mad while I'm doing it. I want to leave happiness in my wake. Doesn't always work that way though but one has to keep on trudging on. Remember the old song my Curtis Mayfield? "Keep On Trucking." That's me.

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