Wal-Mart Will Always Suck

Listen: Two years ago Alison and i had to make a decision that really made us think: we had to decide to 1) stay true to our word, or 2) put 10,000 dollars in our pocket. The story leading up to this decision is boring--it was just one of those things that comes up when you're selling a house, so don't worry about the details. The only reason i mention it is because of how hard we had to consider which we were going to do.

To help us decide, we consulted friends and family. We consulted realtors and strangers. I think we both consulted higher powers than that, even. In the end, we went with what we thought was right and sent the 10k folks packing and i don't think either of us regret it. The amazing thing, however, was the number of people that thought we should take the big money. Evidently, when there's money involved, folks are tempted to have an entirely different ethical system than they might normally use.

Here's another short story for you: Right before our President took us to war back in 2002, or whatever, Alison and i were on a street corner in Nashville at an anti-war rally. We had a dog with us. We were not carrying a bongo drum. We did not smell of patchouli. I think because of these details, the teevee newsperson on site figured the two of us were probably good for a lucid comment. She asked something like "do you think the President's reasons for this war are legitimate" or something. Alison had the soundbites at her fingertips. She was great! And then the reporter turned to me...Sounding all the world like an Apocalypse Now-era Dennis Hopper let loose on Hillsboro Village, I pleaded man, it's all about the oil, man. The reporter, deftly figuring out that this one had simply left his bongo drum at home, quickly moved on. Had she stayed, however, i would have laid some heavy wisdom on her:

When there's ten trillion dollars at stake, you can bet yer sweet ass there's some funny business goin' on.

Anyway, read this .

Listen: Wal Mart wouldn't know an ethical business decision if it bit them on the butt. Making the ethical choice rarely ever makes one wealthy, and Wal Mart is one of the wealthiest companies in the world.

In the article the automaton of a reporter tells us,

"During an extraordinary meeting in Las Vegas in early October, competing bulb makers, academics, environmentalists and government officials met to ponder, at times uncomfortably, how Wal-Mart could sell more of the fluorescent lights."

Tell me: Since when does the world's most successful retailer really need a professor and a tree-hugger to tell it how to sell something?

Here's another brain teaser for you:

"To keep up with swelling orders from the chain, Osram Sylvania took to flying entire planeloads of compact fluorescent bulbs from Asia to the United States."

If this is so, then how many years does it take one planeload of 100 watt CFLs to offset the noxious gases pumped out by a single trans-Pacific flight?


We are told "Mr. Hamburg recalled telling [the CEO of Wal-Mart] “You need to look at what is being sold on the shelf,” over a dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes." Oh, those folksy Wal Mart guys! Eatin' mashed potatoes and turkey! Who gives a crap what they had for dinner? And, again, why on earth is an environmental studies professor giving business advice to the head of Wal-Mart? And even so, can't he do better that "take a look at what is on the shelf?"

And why did Wally World have to hold all these summits and stuff? Couldn't they have just gone to IKEA 10 years ago and see how they were trying to sell the same thing, for the same reason, and do that?

And when exactly did Wal Mart buy the Times? Man, believe me, i'll think twice before i take seriously anything this Barbaro guy writes. He quotes CEO Scott as saying: "The environmental movement is begging for the Wal-Mart business model” and then opines "It is the environmental movement’s dream: America’s biggest company, legendary for its salesmanship and influence with suppliers, encouraging 200 million shoppers to save energy."

Well, i assure you that my environment at least is not "begging for the Wal-Mart business model." I mean, heck, i like clean, free water and air. And, please! It is not the "environmental movement's dream" that Wal Mart is "encouraging 200 million shoppers to save energy." Environmentalists dream that Wal-Mart's Bentonville headquarters are attacked by a plague of locusts and that the rest of us develop the courage to do the next right thing.


Kathy V said...


Good sleuthin' Walter. I was all over this article when it came out. And you make a great point about Wal-Mart's true motivation.

BUT/AND....here's another thing to ponder. And this I worry about. Wal-Mart or not, those bulbs can save a bunch of energy, if used en masse....and that's a bunch of coal-fired electric plants' greenhouse gases not spewing into the atmosphere.....that's good news. However, each one of them has Mercury in them. So if we start selling them in huge quantities, and folks just chuck them in the garbage, we're talking about lots of Mercury leaching into the ground water. There are ways to recycle them safely, but that's going to take some education and going out of our way. And I'm not so sure that's going to be such an easy sell. It's not the instant, lets-feel-good-about-ourselves-without-having-to-change-our-lifestyles-too-much quick-fix.

The CFs are a great way to get people to take a baby step, a tiny, beginning action about Global Warming, but the sheer scale on which Wal-Mart influences everything necessitates big repercussions......

And, I love your point about the 10K......

Kathy V said...

Hey, Walter.

Great point about the 10K. WalMart can save 6 million a year by switching their floor displays to CFs.....And with the big push on the shelves, they get to look like good guys.

My first comment was swallowed up and is floating in the ether somewhere, so I'll try to be shorter this time.

My worry is this: (aside from the jets stuffed with CFs spewing emissions all the way from Asia, so we can feel good about ourselves for taking up the Global Warming Call)....All those CF bulbs contain Mercury. And Wal-Mart is selling them faster than they can be made. But if all of them wind up in landfills, that's a lot of Mercury leeching into the ground water. And it's hard to find a place to recycle them. There's none here in Nashville...I had to surf the web to find a place where you mail them in to be recycled (more burning fossil fuels)......

Walter said...

thanks kathy. and your comment obviously was not eaten. if there's anything worse than the losing something to the void of the internet, it's thinking that that you've lost something to the void of the internet, explaining how it was lost, and then finding out it really wasn't.

hmmm...that sounds like some kind of metaphor for living, although i don't know how....

anyway, that mercury is bad, but it has always been in those bulbs and still didn't stop us. we can figure that little bit out. besides, sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

Jay said...

Why bag on Walmart and not GE? General Electric is dragging their feet in CF's because they can make more money with traditional bulbs. This is the same corporation that makes jet engines and other things bad for the environment and humanity in general (like "The Apprentice"). If Walmart is going to throw their weight around it might as well be directed at them.