Back to previous post: Restoration Hardware et al. vs. the TSA

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Thanksgiving

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

November 25, 2009

Boycott Black Friday at Wal-Mart
Posted by Teresa at 01:11 PM *

Boycott Black Friday in general, for its hype and fraud; but definitely boycott Wal-Mart.

A year ago, on Black Friday 2008, a man named Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death by a crowd at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart on Long Island. Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters immediately responded by announcing that Damour was a temp worker employed by a subcontractor. They also called it a “tragic situation,” but they didn’t mean anything by that. “Tragic” is just the word corporate PR people automatically use when someone’s been killed.

Xeni Jardin wrote about it in Boing Boing:

Wal-Mart Worker Crushed to Death on Black Friday; Union Responds
Posted by Xeni Jardin, November 28, 2008 1:19 PM

A worker at a New York Wal-Mart location was crushed to death this morning, “Black Friday,” when hordes of shoppers overwhelmed to get inside for bargain-hunting. Snip from AP account:

At least four other people were injured, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island was closed. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a “tragic situation” and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too. … I literally had to fight people off my back.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, which represented the deceased worker, has called for a investigation by OSHA and the NY State labor department.
Director of Special Projects for Local 1500 Patrick Purcell called Wal-mart’s comments in response to the incident both “cold and heartless.” “If the safety of their customers and workers was a top priority, then this never would have happened,” Purcell stated. “Wal-mart must step up to the plate and ensure that all those injured, as well as the family of the deceased, be financially compensated for their injuries and their losses. Their words are weak. The community demands action,” Purcell concluded.

Purcell also suggested that people visit the website walmartcrimereport.com to review other incidents of Wal-mart not providing a safe work and shopping experience.

After the comment thread broke a hundred, I wrote and posted the comment/article that follows. It was motivated by a number of things, one of them being the amount of astroturfing Wal-Mart had thrown at Boing Boing since comments recommenced there. Still, I might very well have written and posted the article if I’d never worked for Boing Boing at all. Wal-Mart is an appalling organization.

Some of the links may be broken. I’m sure there are plenty of others that could take their place.

===

Why Wal-Mart Is to Blame for the Death of Jdimytai Damour
Comment #128, November 30, 2008 11:13 PM

Wal-Mart holds these Black Friday sales every year—and every year, there are reports from all over the country of injuries when customers get trampled in the rush, or when fights break out due to inadequate stocks of merchandise and poor crowd control. There have been some very ugly incidents.

In spite of the obvious danger, Wal-Mart continues to put a lot of effort into creating mobs of shoppers charged with an artificial sense of urgency. Over the years, they’ve pushed their Black Friday starting times further and further back. They do stunt pricing—advertising a new laptop or Xbox or plasma TV for a fraction of its usual price—then stocking only twenty or thirty of each those items, when they know they can expect a thousand shoppers at their door.

Wal-Mart also appears to have decided not to require crowd-calming measures at their stores, like handing out numbered chits to the people waiting in line to buy big-ticket items, or stationing enough security at the front of the line to force people to enter in a well-regulated stream rather than a mob.

Game behavior is always conditioned by the rules, and the entire emphasis of Wal-Mart’s Black Friday game is that the first person with their hands on the package wins. (See above, “creating an artificial sense of urgency.”) Where there’s no regulation or crowd control, people who are first in line and have been waiting longest will still have to scramble if they’re going to get anything, since otherwise they’ll be beaten out by more aggressive shoppers.

Therefore, that mob at the door of the Green Acres/Valley Stream Wal-Mart didn’t just happen. There’s a mob at the door of every Wal-Mart Black Friday sale. It was engineered, and Wal-Mart did the engineering.

Every year, Wal-Mart’s had ugly incidents, scuffles, and injuries at Black Friday sales. It was a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, one of these stunt sales would result in serious injury or death. Wal-Mart has known that. They’ve done nothing to avert it, and much to encourage it. They’re responsible for Jdimytai Damour’s death.

Why would they set up a system like that? Simple: they’re raking it in. People who come to Black Friday sales spend freely once they’re inside. (If they’ve stood in line for that long, they’re damned well going to get something.) They tend to have a rough amount in mind they’ve budgeted for Christmas, and Wal-Mart gets first crack at it.

The mob rush at the Green Acres/Valley Stream store could just as easily have killed customers as Jdimytai Darnour. Crush incidents can form surprisingly quickly and kill a lot of people fast. All it takes is a chokepoint, an approach to the chokepoint that doesn’t let the crowd in the back see what’s happening in front, and a crowd with a strong motivation to get through that chokepoint. At its simplest, that’s a locked door, a dogleg corridor, a crowd of protesters or sports fans, and one tear gas grenade.

The Black Friday opening rush is a natural occasion for such events, but it’s not the only point of vulnerability. There’ve already been a couple of incidents of pepper-spray being used on crowds of Black Friday shoppers. You could readily come up with lots of further scenarios. The death of Jdimytai Darnour was awful, but it was just one death. We may see incidents with more.

Connie H. @82:

Human-chain formation in front of the doors was a supremely dangerous maneuver - it was an incipient stampede at a choke point. People moving from the back of the crowd couldn’t see what they were getting into … There seem to be disparate reports as to what went on with the doors—it’s quite possible that the crowd movement pushed people into them, then they gave way.
That is: the surge of the crowd—an annual event which Wal-Mart has engineered—was pushing forward against the doors. If the doors had not given way, there might well have been crush injuries among the customers outside the doors. If the doors did give way, the human chain of Wal-Mart employees were going to be in the direct path of the stampede. One way or another, there were going to be injuries.

Why Wal-Mart knew this was going to happen:

Note: I started researching at 2005, and found far more material than I expected, so 2005 is overrepresented and 2006-2007 are underrepresented. I’m sure you’ll still get the picture.

Raking it in:

2003: Bentonville, AK: Wal-Mart reported a single-day sales record for sales of $1.52 billion the Friday after Thanksgiving at its domestic stores. This represented a 6.3 percent gain over last year’s single-day sales record, also on Black Friday, of $1.43 billion.

2006: El Cajon CA: Footage taken “about five minutes” after the start of the 2006 Black Friday sale in El Cajon. Note the amount of merchandise already in carts.

ND: Black Friday in a Texas Wal-Mart. The ambient sounds are interesting.

2008: Secaucus, New Jersey.

2005 Incidents - compilations:

Nationwide Black Eye Friday wrap-up. Of 23 news reports about Black Friday violence, 16 involved Wal-Mart stores. Locations included Mountain View CA, Orlando FL, Oak Grove KY, Elkton MD, Cascade Township MI, Grandville MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Mays Landing NJ, Wallkill NY, Atlantic County PA, Warwick R.I., Kingsport TN, Beaumont TX, Lynchburg VA, Renton WA, and Puyallup WA.

ConsumerAffairs.com compiles shopper complaints and reports from all over the country, including inadequate or nonexistent supplies of advertised merchandise; store managers refusing to honor advertised offers of rain checks; customers trampled in the opening rush; and poor organization and crowd control inside stores, leading to shouting matches, pushing and shoving, fights, and a pepper-spray incident. Locations included Tigard OR, Chicago IL, Beaumont TX, Wilton, IA, and Gilroy, CA.

More complaints logged by ConsumerAffairs.com, plus some repeats in more detail. Lots of complaints about inadequate or nonexistent merchandise that had been advertised, and flyers offering rain checks which store managers refused to issue. Locations included Montgomery County MD, Chicago IL, Gulf Shores AL, Lincoln NE, Wilton IA, Memphis TN, Hinesville GA, and Gilroy CA.

A Democratic Underground reader posts a compilation of the full texts of news stories about violent incidents during Black Friday 2005 at Wal-Marts in Orlando FL, Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Puyallup WA, and Oak Grove KY.

The Scotsman on Wal-Mart Black Friday violence in Orlando FL, North East MD, and Cascade Township MI.

BoxTank’s compilation of stories.

Luke the Obscure’s Wal-Mart Trampling Roundup:

Wal-Mart Black Friday Trampling is here to stay! I was able to track down a Wal-Mart trampling account in nearly every one of the fifty states, and the lack of any class-action lawsuits speaks volumes about the corporate influence of everyones favorite corporation.
Locations included Cascade Township MI, Hamilton Township NJ, Kingsport TN, and Orlando FL. My favorite:
CNN Money - Calls made to several Wal-Marts around the country revealed that one of the hottest items on the holiday sale list, a $378 Hewlett-Packard laptop, sold out within the first hour the stores were open. “They trampled each other for ‘em,” said one Wal-Mart employee at a Maryland store. “It was great.”

2005: single incidents

Footage: Stampede in Cascade Township, Michigan (near Grand Rapids), with shoppers (mostly women and children) falling and getting trampled. There were several injuries.

Orlando FL: shopper gets into fight with plainclothes security officers.

Security guards wrestled a man to the ground and handcuffed him, this morning at an Orlando Wal-Mart. Eyewitnesses told Channel Nine that the man cut in line to get laptop computers that were on sale.

The man started arguing with people inside the store, and then scuffled with plain-clothed security guards.

One man told reporters that the laptops were being thrown into the air and people rushed toward them, collapsing on each other. Another man described the scene as crazy.

“It was absolutely pandemonium in there. They were throwing laptops twenty feet in the air, and people were collapsing on each other to grab them. It was ridiculous,” said shopper Brian Horwitz.

“A guy came on top of me and hit my head,” said Wal-Mart shopper, Jennifer Harris. “When he did it bounced against the other two people. I got hit on both of my ears.”

Some people weren’t fazed in the least. Many customers simply carted their stuff out of the store and passed right by the man in handcuffs, without any reaction.

When a Sheriff’s deputy arrived, he gave the man a trespassing warning and let him go. It turns out, in the confusion, he fought off the plain-clothes security guards, when they grabbed him, because he thought they were other customers.

Oak Grove, KY: A woman is trampled and hospitalized when a crowd waiting for laptops goes out of control.

Hamilton Township, NJ: a fracas breaks out in a Wal-Mart over inadequate stocks of desirable items. Police have to call for backup.

Lincoln, Nebraska: a scrimmage over laptop computers turns ugly.

Beaumont TX: A security guard pepper-sprays customers waiting in line in the electronics department. Beaumont TX, two years later: Customers who were pepper-sprayed are suing Wal-Mart.

Renton WA: Police have to be called in to deal with a crowd in the electronics department.

2006 Incidents

Footage: Chokepoint stampede at Wal-Mart in South Philadelphia. Two shoppers go down and can’t get up. A policeman wades in and rescues them.

Footage: A West Bend, WI store manager makes a crowd of waiting customers race to a row of chairs to determine who gets xbox systems. By report, people in the crowd were begging him to use some other system, like a simple lottery. Many people are hurt in the race. One is seriously hurt, and is hospitalized. See also: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the West Bend Wal-Mart footrace fiasco.

Another bad system for allocating scarce goods is to let the shoppers in early to take up positions near the items they want, but not allow them to lay claim to those items until the clock strikes. The results are predictable. Footage: A fight breaks out over six computers.

Lewis Center, Ohio:

at the Wal-Mart outside Columbus, customers dashing toward 5 a.m. deals pinned employees against stacks of merchandise.

“Oh, my god, stop pushing me, oh, my god,” screamed Linda Tuttle, a 47-year-old employee at the store.

Grace Smith, a 22-year-old customer in the store, was stunned by the scene. “I heard it would be crazy but I never thought I’d see anything like this,” she said.

Lafayette LA: Man suffers broken leg in the Black Friday rush.

2007:

Footage: opening rush, Wal-Mart Store 5450, North East Maryland. I suspect this “informal YouTube video” was made by Wal-Mart. All is sweetness and light. You’d never guess that two years earlier, on Black Friday 2005, this same store was the site of a melee that took ten policemen to settle, caused by atrociously bad crowd control measures on the part of the manager.

2008:

Footage: A mad scramble for a small number of 360 XBoxes.

Rapid City, SD: A teenage girl was holding an Xbox 360 was struck in the throat by a man who was yelling and pushing his way through a line of shoppers. He may face assault charges.

Secaucus NJ: a woman’s leg was injured in the scrum, and she had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

The Consumerist bingo card, which predicts everything but the killing.

In summary: Wal-Mart makes Black Friday happen. Wal-Mart knew something like this death-by-trampling would eventually happen. The blood’s on Wal-Mart’s hands.
Comments on Boycott Black Friday at Wal-Mart:
#1 ::: Kirby ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 03:58 PM:

Makes me glad I do all my shopping online these days. :)

#2 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:04 PM:

"In spite of the obvious danger, Wal-Mart continues to put a lot of effort into creating mobs of shoppers charged with a false sense of urgency."

The sense of urgency is quite real, despite its constructed nature. There really are only a limited number of washer-dryers, and if you don't get there first, you really won't get one. Perhaps artificial sense of urgency?

#3 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:04 PM:

The whole must-buy/must-buy-now environment of the day offends me, really. Been celebrating Buy Nothing Day for a while now.

#4 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:09 PM:

It might be a bit pedantic of me, but "false sense of urgency" makes it feel as if the shoppers are being stupid, or getting tricked, when in truth they're just following the scenario to its logical end. Shoppers aren't wrong to feel urgency; Walmart is wrong to create the situations that provoke it.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:09 PM:

They're called "doorbusters" for a reason.

#6 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:14 PM:

Firstly, I completely agree with the fact that the trampling was Walmart's fault and any patronage of Black Friday is a mistake.

However, Walmart is at least taking some measures to prevent a repeat. They're staying open all night the day before, just only starting the sales at a preset time, so the same sort of trampling rush can't happen. I guess there might be in-store rushes still, but I don't really know how the entire setup is going to work. Not saying that's a fix-all, but it is something.

(I hope the people stuck working that overnight shift are getting holiday pay for working late on Thanksgiving and then into Black Friday morning, because that is one shitty shift right there.)

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:24 PM:

Heresiarch, you're right, and I shall change it immediately.

#8 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:26 PM:

=)

#9 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:30 PM:

I take it that either nobody in charge remembered the crowd deaths at the Who's concert in Cincinnati in 1979, from the same choke point/closed doors problem, or else they just didn't care.

#10 ::: Miriam ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:31 PM:

Black Friday in and of itself is rather unsavory to my tastes, but Wal-Mart's policies in particular are highly disturbing. They know that people will get injured, and they're (probably) perfectly okay with that as long as their sales figures increase. Then, when they pretend to control the situation, we can all say, "They're trying to prevent people from being hurt or killed. That must mean it's the fault of the consumers for being greedy." As heresiarch (@4) noted, Shoppers aren't wrong to feel urgency; Walmart is wrong to create the situations that provoke it.

This is just one of many reasons why I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:48 PM:

If things go as planned a recently-licensed-pilot friend will be flying me over Yosemite on Friday morning. Far away from any malls.

Ironically, I'll probably be doing some shopping that day. I have to put together Christmas hampers for an aunt and some friends.

#12 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 04:53 PM:

"Urgent: compelling or requiring immediate attention; imperative"

Let's look at that, shall we? Is it imperative for anyone to get a bargain on an X-Box? No.

Does the sale require immediate action? Require? Not really. Because getting a cheap X-Box is not exactly a human need in the first place, but also because the chances of your getting one of the 20 units at the advertised "doorbuster" price are not much better if you show up at Walmart on Black Friday than if you don't. So, on the whole, I'll go with Teresa's first take. The urgency isn't just artificial, it's plain false. Bargain mania is an externally imposed, false urgency, and in a very real sense the people who feel it are indeed being tricked. Their endocrine systems have been fooled into responding to a claimed drop in price on a luxury item (a drop that for most of them will never materialize anyway) as if it were a life-or-death, adrenaline-soaked emergency. No such emergency exists, at least until someone gets trampled or crushed.

#13 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 05:00 PM:

If I'm over my cold in time I'm going to participate in Picture Black Friday, a photodocumentation project. Can't think of anything better to do that day...

#14 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 05:22 PM:

I already boycott Wal-Mart year-round, and I never, ever shop on Black Friday.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 05:27 PM:

It's so easy to foster greed and then blame those in whom you've fostered it while washing your hands of the whole affair. There's something fundamentally disgusting about the whole thing.

#16 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 05:28 PM:

Next time you see newspapers asking "Who will do all our hard-hitting journalism when we're gone? A bunch of bloggers?" ask them which newspaper is doing this kind of hard-hitting journalism on their big advertisers.

Meanwhile, I am arranging that - if possible - we don't even have to do any food shopping this weekend, so we can all stay far far away from stores, let alone big box stores. Friday we're thinking about taking the whole family hiking up to the Makapu'u lighthouse.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:04 PM:

Clifton and Lila:

Word. We've done all the food shopping for the weekend, and shouldn't need to go out again until Monday at the earliest. As for WalMart, I've been in one of their stores exactly once, years ago, and never will again. There are so many reasons, from their employee policies to their treatment of suppliers, with stops at Black Friday crowd generation and deceptive advertising.

Walmart is one of the best examples I know of the psychopathic corporation, with no concern for anything but profit.

#18 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:06 PM:

As long as our country's economy is based on consumer spending, retailers will do whatever it takes to promote themselves. Corporations are fundamentally amoral.

Wal-Mart does bear responsibility for its employees and they, or their families, should be compensated. But, really, these things have been on the (if it bleeds, it leads) local news for years. Only an ostrich would not know that these "Black Fridays" are dangerous. The news, contrary to Clifton at #16, has always reported these incidents.

For the customers, I'm afraid we're seeing Darwin at work. If these people are so hypnotized by Wal-Mart's propaganda, they deserve what they get. The employees and children do not.

By the way, much as I hate to say this, without Wal-mart a lot of families would be less well fed and clothed. We liberal types sometimes forget that.

#19 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:12 PM:

"The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, which represented the deceased worker"

And. this. is. why. workers. need. union. representation.

Because Wal-Mart couldn't give a damn. And the worker's family probably doesn't have the means to take on Wal-Mart even over something local like this.

Corporations need counterweights. Unions are the counterweights. Individual workers - most especially those in the very worst jobs in the economy, which is Wal-Mart's specialty - can never have enough power to balance that of the corporation.

It is a national scandal that Wal-Mart is not unionized. They are scum. They should be in jail, not sitting on billions of dollars.

Wal-Mart is a giant money vacuum designed to suck out every last penny of local profit that might accrue to workers or to business or to manufacturers in a situation where the retailer had less leverage, and ship it all back to the owners. Nobody benefits from a deal with Wal-Mart except Wal-Mart.

If the Obama admin had any balls (not in evidence so far) they'd order a binding nationwide union election for Wal-Mart. On, let's say, next Monday.

It could be done. It should be done. Think it's going to get done? ... [crickets]

#20 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Micah @ #6, the overnight employees are there every night they're scheduled, they don't really get holidays. I'm not sure they get holiday pay. (we have a friend who is a 'night stocker'...)

I have always avoided such sales because: a) I think they're a gimmick. b) Get up at WHAT in the morning to SHOP? WTF? and c) I get nervous in crowds of people. I will panic if I get into a press if people and can't get out easily.

#21 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:25 PM:

What baffles me are the lines. Every year I read about crowds sacrificing part of their Thanksgiving evening to wait in line for the midnight opening at Wal-Mart or Best Buy, like teenagers camping out for hot concert tickets. There are people who go straight from Thanksgiving dinner to the mall.

I would have assumed Thanksgiving was one of the few nights of the year when almost everyone had something better to do.

#22 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:26 PM:

"without Wal-mart a lot of families would be less well fed and clothed"

If Wal-Mart vanished tomorrow this might be true. Right now they are the monopoly retailer in an enormous number of (unfortunate) American towns.

But what is implied by that statement is usually something a lot stronger: that without Wal-Mart ever having existed those people would not be well-fed or clothed.

And that's a statement with considerably less evidence to back it. It relies on looking only at the prices at Wal-Mart and not at the consequences of having a centrally-owned and centrally-operated megaretailer with gigantic leverage over its suppliers and the ability to bankrupt competing local retailers, one that pays miserable poverty wages and outsources as much as possible of its production to save money.

Option 1: Work at Wal-Mart and make minimum wage. Have no healthcare (or crappy healthcare) and no union representation. Work only when they feel like employing you. Be just barely able to buy food & clothing at Wal-Mart. Or perhaps be unemployed because the local factory was told to move to China by Wal-Mart. Maybe welfare stretches to bare survival needs. Maybe not. Have no surplus profit to spread around your town. Just keep feeding everything you've got into the giant money vacuum.

Option 2: Work at a local business with union representation and healthcare. Maybe have a job at a factory making things. Get paid 3-5x minimum wage. Pay twice as much for food & clothing. Have some money left over.

Hmm, tough choice. Truth is, plenty of places, pre-Wal-Mart, did not look like that latter choice. Plenty of poverty in America and plenty of small towns without any jobs before Wal-Mart. But what Wal-Mart does is make it just about impossible to choose Option 2. Open a new factory in America? When you can open one in China and pay everyone 1/10th as much, and not have to worry about any pesky unions or OSHA rules? What are you, stupid? All the local retailers are out of business. There is no union representation. And Wal-Mart likes it that way.

So sure, yeah, we liberal types sometimes think that a hollowed-out economy of grinding poverty and just-barely-making-it jobs or welfare is an inferior substitute for one in which people make a decent wage and can afford products made by people also making a decent wage. Not going to apologize for that.

#23 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:51 PM:

Jacob, #22: Thank you. Given that the rest of Rick's post is made up entirely of right-wing talking points (including the trendy and elitist victim-blaming), I strongly suspect the phrase "we liberal types" of being a smokescreen.

Not buying anything is one way to protest, of course. Another way, if you feel up to it, is to go out and do some of your holiday shopping with local independent merchants instead of giant chain stores. When I do that, it always makes me feel as if my money is counting twice -- once that I'm not spending it for the benefit of an amoral corporation, and then again because I'm re-investing in my community in a very direct way.

#24 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 06:56 PM:

Ugh, ugh, ugh. This worries me, because for my family it isn't academic: my mom works at Wal-mart*. She works the graveyard shift and usually she does receiving, but not Black Friday! Oh no, I guess they have everyone on the floor. She just told me she has to watch a video on crowd control, which I suppose is the extent of the training the employees get.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

---

* Would she be working a better job if Wal-mart didn't exist? I don't know. She used to work at one of the the travel trailer factories in town, but being a middle aged, female, GED holding, single parent with a couple of chronic illnesses meant one place bullied her into quitting and the others were more interested in promoting young males over her--despite her 20+ years of experience. When she got fired a few years ago for having a bad attitude (something those young males could get away with cold) it was get a job at Wal-mart or nothing.

#25 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:00 PM:

We give thanks for the year's bounty, and the next day we decide that we still don't have enough.

#26 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:09 PM:

Places like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are fine examples of the failure of the libertarian theory of market regulation of business. They satisfy some of their customers (rather fewer of them, now, thanks to the collapse of the middle class) and their investors at high costs in human lives.

Croak!

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:37 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 19 & 22:

Not yes, but Hell Yes! After coring out hundreds of small towns, so that they have no viable economy left to them, the inhabitants get offered crap jobs with lousy pay and benefits, and are then discriminated against if they're women or blacks (and if Walmart get's taken to court it just pays the fines out of petty cash if it can't smother the case with lawyers).

Walmart's low prices are possible because they put much of the real cost of goods on their customers: the inferior products need to be replaced more often, the inferior wages they pay locally reduce the ability of their employees to buy anywhere else, and the minuscule wages they pay for outsourced manufacturing sucks the jobs out of the country they supposedly are a part of.

Oh, and just in case you think they treat their business "partners", like their suppliers, any better, ask one who has to pay for the inventory control technology that Warmart has mandated for all products they buy. Hint: it's not Waremart.

#28 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:47 PM:

This thread has reminded me that my canning and pickling projects (kim chee and pickled beets, first time for me for both), for which I've been putting off the shopping, can be supplied entirely at local McGuckin Hardware. I called them up, and they said most everything I need is in Housewares.

Not that I was in danger of getting said stuff at Wal-Mart, but I try to avoid malls and big-boxers of all stripes, and the suggestion above to do any/all Black Friday spending at local businesses prompted me to give this particular neighbor a call.

(We don't have family in town for the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but I have a tendency to spend the day cooking anyway. Fruitcake also is getting baked, and possibly apple pie. Apple sauce may get itself created too.)

#29 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:59 PM:

I almost feel bad that this is so easy for me to do, because Walmart *deserves* boycotting so much.

But I already do. I have never set foot in a Walmart, and never intend to. I find their business practices from top to bottom abhorrent, and I hate the way their new stores have driven out locally owned businesses in small towns.

And while I haven't thought of it as a boycott, you won't catch me in a store the day after Thanksgiving, unless I run completely out of cat food.

#30 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 07:59 PM:

Wal-Mart creates the poor and keeps them poor. It ruins lives and towns. I never shop at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, in many places, there aren't any alternatives.

#31 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:02 PM:

Rick:
"The media has always reported these incidents."

Sure, they'd have had a hard time not reporting that somebody got stomped to death. That's not what I said though. I referred to "journalism"; to my mind that means a wee bit of investigation and reporting should be involved.

Did the media seriously investigate or discuss any corporate responsibility or culpability for the incident? Advance knowledge of the likelihood of injuries? I sure didn't notice any of that last year - just the "tragic accident" line when discussing Walmart's role. The anathemas were reserved for discussing the crowd's behavior in isolation, as if a crowd had magically appeared there for no discernible reason.

#32 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:07 PM:

BTW, if you are wondering if Target (say) is just as bad, the answer appears to be "no".

Target is mostly not unionized either but it does not have the same institutionalized abuse of its employees that has been a specialty of Wal-Mart. It appears to make a decent effort to make the job a fair deal albeit not one that pays a whole lot - but they don't do lock-ins and force workers to work off the books the way Wal-Mart does. Its relationship with its suppliers no doubt piggybacks a great deal on what Wal-Mart does to beat them into submission, but whenever I have read complaints about treatment of suppliers it's always been Wal-Mart, never Target.

I'm not saying that's license for guilt-free shopping at Target - hey a little guilt is almost always appropriate - but for a lot of classes of products your choices come down to local boutiques aimed at the extremely wealthy, Target or Wal-Mart, or Amazon. The midground of stores and products in between boutique and low-end has almost evaporated - partly because trickle-down economics mean that small retailers do much better competing for the business of the top 10%, but to be fair, partly because even low-end products are now often of sufficient quality that most people are satisfied with them.

I'd like to buy more from local businesses but when it came to buying stuff for the baby, for instance, your choices are between rip-off BoBo baby boutiques, and Target. Well, I don't need $50 baby blankets, it turns out.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:13 PM:

Costco is much better.

#34 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:19 PM:

Just for contrast, and because I think it is a neat story:
Bethel, ME (pop. 2500) is a small town in the Maine mountains and on the Androscoggin river, and has been called the quintessential New England ski town. A short main street with a small grocery store, a few restaurants, 2 gas stations, etc. The big draws are Sunday River Skiway* (one of the largest New England ski areas, and my part-time seasonal employer), Gould Academy (a small private high school), a couple of inns, a bunch of motels and beds-and-breakfasts, and a golf course or two as well as a small cinema (frequented by Jim Macdonald from 50 miles away across the mountains). Local industry is tourism, timber, some farming, and commuting to the paper mill in Rumford.

It also had a small sole proprietor drug store. A few years ago the Rite-Aid chain drugstore setup shop there. They expected that their mere presence would drive the small drugstore out of business. It worked for them many times before.
Well, the locals didn't like that. They kept shopping at the little drug store. People who had been getting their prescriptions in the nearest market towns (Rumford on one side, Norway on the other) moved their business to the little drug store. The pharmacist kept working long shifts, and was making a bit more money than before. This went on for a while, and Rite-Aid gave in. They made a respectable buy-out offer and an offer of employment to the pharmacist which he accepted. The townfolk still have their well-liked pharmacist, and the pharmacist has a nest-egg, a five-day workweek complete with health insurance, sick leave, time off, and the ability to spend time with his family.
And the Rite-Aid in Bethel is finally making money.

*Sunday River is actually in Newry, ME (pop. 389) as is one of the golf courses.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:31 PM:

I stay away from Foul-Wart, but are there reasons why I should do the same thing with Target?

#36 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:35 PM:

Serge, Target is a pain to do business with (don't pay by check!), and their stock tends to be thin, but they're not the worst.

BTW, Consumers Union Black Friday shopping advice. Oh, and don't buy gold-plated cables.

#37 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:49 PM:

What Lila @14 said. Never, nohow.

What I may do Friday is go to this. It's almost walking distance.

Some of us in the Twin Cities remember Target when it *was* as local chain.

#38 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:50 PM:

This year, Walmart is letting people into the stores early, but not starting the sales until midnight. I expect to see fistfights, if not shootings. But I'm feeling cynical tonight.

The doorbuster game is a dangerous one. You're right -- the rules encourage panic and aggression. It's sick.

Renatus, I'll be thinking of your mom's safety. Tell her if it looks like a bad situation, get away.

#39 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 08:52 PM:

I wasn't planning to do any shopping on Black Friday anyhow, but after reading this I'll plan to do my not shopping at Walmart. :)

(Horrified, and hoping the numbers of people injured join with the Damour family in a class action suit.)

#40 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:33 PM:

DAMMIT I always forget to take the spam part out!

#41 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:34 PM:

Target just opened its first two stores in Hawai'i, and customers seem well pleased. OTOH, any new store/restaurant in Hawai'i gets swamped at first, just because of the new & shiny aspect it brings to a jaded populace.

I was there trying to spend a gift cert yesterday and had a terrible time finding a pair of walking shorts that wasn't either blue denim (I own six pairs of those already, thanks), cargo (I don't like the style) or 1970s PGA Tour golfer (window-pane patterns). I ended up with one of the only two pairs of khaki flat-front shorts they had.

#42 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:41 PM:

Nngh. Due to having no car earlier this week and being too pregnant to walk that far (and taxi fare being high enough to eat a large chunk of my wage), I have to stock for one of my employers at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Joy. At least I'll be in the souvenir section and I'll be able to dodge past the audio-visual section to get to the stockroom.

Not looking forward to it, no.

#43 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:48 PM:

Ulrika @ 12: "Does the sale require immediate action? Require? Not really."

Barring the sudden anti-consumerist enlightenment of America, the fact of the matter is people like stuff. They like getting it cheap. You can critique that, and I'll probably agree with you, but it's missing the point a bit: IF those conditions = TRUE, THEN doorbuster behavior is the logical outcome. They might be better off not playing the game, but they're not playing it wrong.

#44 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 09:53 PM:

#43
It's the immediate-gratification doorbusting part that I object to. There are few things that require immediate gratification, and doorbusting is never a good idea outside of emergency escapes.

#45 ::: Mia ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 10:39 PM:

It's not entirely greed that fuels this. It's exploitation of the poor. These sales at places like Wal-mart and other large chain stores that carry electronics offer lower income people the opportunity to purchase items that they ordinarily wouldn't be able to afford. It's easy to say "well, you don't *need* these things so it's your fault" when you already have everything that you *need* (ahem, *want*) because there's an undercurrent of "if you can't afford it you don't deserve it anyway."

I am not implying that posters here are saying this, but it's a general underlying attitude when saying that people don't need something. Of course *I* would never fight my way through a crowd for an inexpensive laptop...I can afford a laptop.

These sorts of stampedes will never happen at Saks or Macy's or FAO Schwartz because the ordinary customer that they market to wouldn't ever have this level of desperation to acquire something nice for themselves or their children.

#46 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 10:49 PM:

Mia has a real good point. Right now my family is really short of money because I've been unemployed for almost two years (and that looks like it will end, thanks to the IRS).

So we already have just about everything we need to survive. I'm typing this on a laptop, we have all the consumer electronics we can stand, etc. We're being really frugal about groceries, but we're not doing without. We don't really need to go to 'doorbuster' sales though I learned tonight the other two in my family are doing that... I'll be sleeping.

I offered to make rolls for tomorrow, my mom called back and went "We don't want you to spend any money!" and I let her know that if I can't make bread, we need serious help. (I buy bulk flour and yeast really cheap, and the rest of it depends on what we have....) Plus I like doing it, I find it easy and etc.

#47 ::: Natalie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 11:02 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 32: I worked at a Target 15 years ago and it was very nearly the worst job I ever had. They locked employees in every night--if you worked until close, you didn't get to leave until the manager let you leave and it was never at the time the schedule said you were off, it was always later. Much later. (This is, I know, not exactly the same way Wal-Mart locks employees in but it's still not okay.) It was a very, very long time before I felt okay about shopping at Target.

#48 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 11:24 PM:

Natlie L @ #47 - and they weren't dinged for it by the feds (who have caught Wallyworld at such shit)? I used to work for a media company that had gamed at the overtime issue and got whipped to the floor by the feds over it. After that they were very concise about our overtime.

#49 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2009, 11:28 PM:

We're making ornaments on Friday. Not sure what, since craft supplies are low after 1.5 weeks of flu. But we've got woods and wool stashes and stuff, so we'll survive.

#50 ::: Natalie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:10 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @ #48 I have no idea--I was only 19 at the time and rather stupid about that sort of thing. I do know that a year or so later I went back to the store and they had a new manager. So Corporate may very well have done some housecleaning.

#51 ::: Paul the ex-poet ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:31 AM:

I talked to a guy whose living was inspecting factories in Asia for American businesses. Walmart warned the factories when he was coming, Target believed in surprise inspections. Take that for what you will.

Target has, in my experience, a great returns policy, so I've always been satisfied.

#52 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:12 AM:

Barring the sudden anti-consumerist enlightenment of America, the fact of the matter is people like stuff. They like getting it cheap. You can critique that, and I'll probably agree with you, but it's missing the point a bit: IF those conditions = TRUE, THEN doorbuster behavior is the logical outcome. They might be better off not playing the game, but they're not playing it wrong.

Of course they are playing it wrong. The deck is stacked, the cards marked, and the house always wins. You keep acting as if the thousands of people who show up at Walmart on Black Friday all get the under-wholesale bait-and-switch bargain that induced them to show up. But they don't. The vast, vast majority show up too late to be among the few who grab the brass ring, and instead spend their money on stuff they didn't mean to buy at non-reduced prices.

I'm not railing against consumerism here, I'm just pointing out that your reasoning is fundamentally flawed by being based on a false premise, as is the "logic" that incites the frenzy in the first place. If the object of the game is to actually get what you want at the price that you wanted to pay, then shopping on Black Friday is playing the game wrong.

#53 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:40 AM:

The only reason I've gone shopping on Friday after Thanksgiving is because I'm on my way home from work when the stores open at 4 am. Every where I've been people have been nice, chatting in line, no pushing or shoving. But I'm not looking for a Wii or a cheap laptop, or the must have toy, I'm in line at Kohl's or Kmart.
Either way, I've got the one thing I wanted to get this year already - on line.

#54 ::: Mags ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:49 AM:

I'm going to the hockey game on Friday. :-D

At least there the body contact is somewhat regulated!

#55 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 07:38 AM:

One software house I used to work for had several products that Walmart used, a lot.

Walmart demanded that they open a branch office for support in Russelville, so they could be close to Walmart's corp. HQ.

One year I wound up down there for a week.

There are three employers in that part of Arkansas that dominate the landscape -- Walmart, JB Hunt trucking & Tyson Foods.

Damn near nothing but Walmart for retail.

What I found astounding was that the "Walmart Superstore" right across the street from corporate headquarters was staffed with surly people, the store looked grimy, the lighting was poor and the layout badly done.

At the time I thought it odd -- I had worked for another big regional retailer before, and the stores near corporate HQ were always considered showpieces.

Now I think the condition of that superstore was that way because "we don't care what you may think -- we don't have to care"

(I was shopping there because I had to bring home obligatory trinkets for the kids -- and re-read "Damn near nothing but Walmart for retail" up above)

#56 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 09:12 AM:

@34 --

I had wondered how Bethel managed to have a chain pharmacy when all the rest of it was little shops. (I live in Augusta.)

Heh. That's interesting.

#57 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 09:19 AM:

Mia: For some reason, your posting put in my mind the image of gladiator games, where poor people do a Ben-Hur-like race (only on foot instead of wagons) and the winner gets the cheap laptop. Put the doorbusters on live TV, that's what you get.

Makes gambling seem positively ethical.

#58 ::: Lily ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 09:52 AM:

Where I live, the alternative to Wal-Mart is dollar stores. These are far worse rip-offs to the consumer because the products are seconds and irregulars or low-quality items deliberately packaged for these stores. The prices are not good, and are not just a dollar, either. In many poor towns, they are the only stores. They are non-union, low-wage shops as far as I know, and they are national chains. Not the near-mythical mom-and-pop stores that everybody assumes would flourish if only Wal-Mart did not exist. How many of such stores did Sears put out of business over 100 years ago?

Target enjoys a better rep than Wal-Mart with the middle class, but I don't think it is fundamentally any better. Target has jazzier merchandise, but it is not better quality, especially the clothing. Target does not employ enough cashiers, and once I realized that I would pay for my bargains with extensive waits in line to be checked out, I stopped bothering with Target.

As for urgency, if you have very little cash, and a discount store advertises, say, Q-tips at a great sale price, and you know that they'll only have one carton at your store, then your need for the Q-tips creates a sense of urgency to get to the store the moment it opens on Sunday. I don't think that's a false sense of urgency. It's a real sense of urgency. What I have learned is that you are so often disappointed that you have to forget about even trying to go on Sunday. Go on Thursday, and if the second truck hasn't brought the Q-tips to re-stock, cross that store off your list.

As for Black Friday, many people enjoy the rush of being around lots of eager customers. It's exciting to shop when people are walking fast instead of ambling, when they are filling their carts from extensive, urgent lists.

I'll continue to shop at Wal-Mart because it is convenient, has a reasonable depth of selection and a very broad range of merchandise at low prices and it is always very fresh, and it is local. By shopping there, I keep my neighbors in jobs. The factories are gone. They have nowhere else to work. I also patronize the union grocery store very heavily.

#59 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:17 PM:

Lily, the objections raised here to Black Friday were to the manipulation of the customer, not to the official start of the holiday shopping rush. That people enjoy shopping under those circumstances croggles my mind, but I don't see a problem with that, it just isn't me. I don't see a problem with stores discounting merchandise to get people to shop there rather than across town. Things like artificial scarcity, false comparisons, willfully negligent crowd control bother me greatly. As do people who come along to AstroTurf my online neighborhood.
WalMart vs. dollar stores is a false comparison made entirely of straw. Now that WalMart is the last retail option in small-town America, yes, that is where the only jobs are. When you're on a limited budget, boy do the prices look good. We pay too much attention to price and not enough to value.

Back when I had disposable income and a free parking space in Harvard Square, I'd shop on Black Friday, that is when a lot of the Christmas craft fairs open. Now I try to have all non-grocery shopping done by Thanksgiving.

#60 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:28 PM:

I'm going to be a contrarian here and suggest that it's fashionable to hate Wal-Mart because it's a big, high-profile target, but they're not doing anything many other retail chains do. They also make a lot of stuff affordable to people who could never afford it before, and that is not a bad thing.

Let me back up my assertions that Wal-Mart is doing nothing especially new or uniquely "evil":

- Forcing suppliers to cut margins to the bone and do things their way (inventory control systems, etc): If you've ever studied business management, this is the classic pattern of a dominant buyer with multiple small sellers. Sears did it in its day, and the Detroit automakers were notorious for treating small parts makers that way. The U.S. government has always been that way. It can be just as ugly the other way around, when there's one seller and multiple small buyers. The best situation over all is if there's a balance of power between buyer and seller. I agree the current situation vis-a-vis Wal-Mart isn't good for anyone but Wal-Mart, but it is a consequence of the capitalist economy, not a special evil intrinsic to Wal-Mart.

- Sweat-shop treatment of employees: standard for any non-unionized business, and far from unique to Wal-Mart. Good argument for unions; workers shouldn't have to depend on the company feeling benevolent this week to get a good deal. Again, Wal-Mart isn't good here, but they aren't special in their badness, either.

- "Black Friday" (and other) sales: every retail chain does this. I worked retail at an consumer electronics chain for a while, and it was scary how frothing rabid customers would get with raw greed when we had a big sale. Our normal day customers were a decent lot, but the sales brought out the crazies. If you worked retail on "Black Friday" and didn't quit, you were considered a "veteran" and up to handling most anything. I don't see how Wal-Mart is to blame for customers possessed by Raw Greed.

- Poor crowd control when the need for crowd control is forseeable: I can't really comment on this, because I don't shop Black Friday. I hate crowds. However, I will note that after Hurricane Katrina, Wal-Mart was the first grocery & stuff store open in Jefferson Parish, and they made a herculean effort at crowd control, letting people in at timed intervals, and they were careful to stock and overstock all the supplies people who needed to clean up their flooded houses would need, as well as groceries to replace the stuff we had to toss from rotten refrigerators. No insane rushes then, and they were very helpful to a broken and hurting community. Wal-Mart is not always and everywhere evil; sometimes they are very good.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:48 PM:

#60
I know of one company that stopped supplying W*lM*rt because they were being told that either they sold to W at W's price, regardless of their own profit margins and standards, or not sell to them at all. The company felt that their reputation was more important to them, and the rest of their customers, than that particular market, and dropped them. (They're still in business.)

Given the shoddy quality of some of the stuff at W*lMart, even when it's wearing a major brand name, I think they were correct, and that's why I avoid W*lM*rt.

#62 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 12:59 PM:

Non-unique evil is still evil.

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 01:24 PM:

I refused to shop at Wal-Mart for years, until the local chains were out of existence--Bradley's, Caldor, even Jordan Marsh. I still refuse to shop in Macy's, and after the congloberate which owned Macy's also whacked Filene's... it's left me with a dearth of places to get clothes.

#64 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:10 PM:

This will be the first time in well over a decade that I will be spending any money on Black Friday. Eldest has to be back at campus for a football game, and she'll need to eat after the game, and it's over 2 hours away. And I'll probably go to the LYS in college town, which is not having a sale, and look at sweater patterns while I'm killing time before the game starts.

#65 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:27 PM:

"near-mythical mom-and-pop stores that everybody assumes would flourish if only Wal-Mart did not exist"

It's not about "mythical" mom-and-pop stores, although given the number of first-hand descriptions of stores put out of business by Wal-Mart that I have read, they were hardly mythical. It's about substituting regional or even national grocery & department-store chains that have less power to crush their suppliers into submission, and treat their employees much better, perhaps partially because they tend to be unionized.

Nobody would mistake Safeway for a mom-and-pop store. But Safeway is a far better employer and corporate citizen than Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is not the spontaneous expression of the free market, something that some other corporation would become if Wal-Mart didn't exist. Wal-Mart is the result of a determined, concentrated effort to be the most miserable employer it is possible to be, to the point of regularly violating labor laws of all kinds; to grind every penny out of their suppliers; to put out of business every possible competitor that might pay a slightly better wage or pay a slightly fairer share to suppliers. They extend this determined approach to screw everyone else so far as to get the estate tax law changed - no matter the damage to tax revenues, damage that will have to be made up in less progressive means - just so that the scions can inherit as much money as possible.

This is not a normal business. It is a cancer on normal business.

#66 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:34 PM:

I boycott WalMart, period. The stores are dirty/grungy, the aisles are narrow, any space that might let two people pass has stand-alone displays, the staff is rude and downright unhelpful (assistant manager reply to a query of mine, the very last time I went to a WalMart: What do you expect *me* to do about it?), and the checkout lines are long, even on non-hyped days. Then there's corporate policies and behaviors, many of which have been mentioned here.

I'm an all year gift shopper, picking things up when they're on sale at other times. There hasn't been anything I've seen for sale on BF worth being crushed, elbowed, cut off by basket- or stroller wielding people looking the other way, or watching very tired kids get yelled at by very tired parents. I'll pass, thanks.

#67 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 02:56 PM:

I plan to buy some more cat pill pockets tomorrow, but I doubt the store will be that crowded.

#68 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Dragoness Eclectic, #60: They also make a lot of stuff affordable to people who could never afford it before, and that is not a bad thing.

How much lower are the prices, really? And is the merchandise of high enough quality that it's still a deal over the long term, or does the stuff need to be replaced that much faster?

Discworld fans may recall the tale of Sam Vimes's boots. This is what I'm reminded of when I think of Wal-Mart.

#69 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 03:19 PM:

I boycott Walmart. But I have choices--Target, Kohl's, and, most of all, Bi-Mart, which is a local chain which is now (I think still) owned by the workers. Bi-Mart was my first introduction to the big box membership discount store as a kid (in Springfield, Oregon) and I still like it. I was ecstatic when they opened up a local branch in an old Safeway, and there's two more branches on my commute. It's a good place to pick up all sorts of stuff, including sporting goods and housewares for reasonable prices.

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 03:20 PM:

Jacoob, #65: Actually, Wal-Mart is a spontaneous development of the free market, because they have enough clout to ignore any law they choose with impunity... or get it changed, as you note. They are an excellent example of the aphorism "the free market isn't" -- and without the regulations we have in place, and the unions, there would be many more companies exactly like them. Wal-Mart is the lowest common denominator of the free-market system, and should be seen as a giant red-flag warning.

#71 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 04:41 PM:

Other ways of doing sales:
Back when my sister-in-law was a young teenager, the local large department store held a sale. She had been saving up to buy her own TV and the sale
price on the cheapest one (limited stock, of course) was just within her budget. She and her mother got up early and went to the store - they were about 20 people from the front of the queue. Close to opening time, a store manager came along the queue asking people what they were in line for and handing out tickets for the relevant items (presumably to avoid the sort of scrum which ends up with injuries etc.). They said what they were there for and he said that sorry, all the tickets for that TV were taken already - so they turned and started to walk off. He stopped them and asked why they were leaving. Her mother explained they had come for that item, her daughter had saved for it, couldn't afford the next one up, so there was no poin in them staying. He listened, then scribbled a ticket for them to get the next-model up for the same price. Now -that's- decent behaviour - and of course, has encouraged a whole family to keep going back to that store. However, it does require the person handing out the tickets to be high enough up the ladder to be able to make that sort of decision.

#72 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 05:30 PM:

On Black Friday I won't be shopping, unless you consider a U-Haul rental "shopping." Last night I finished my first phase of training and start next week with the second, which is on-the-job training. Tomorrow I take a U-Haul truck to Chattanooga and load up with some furniture and boxes and bring them to my new apartment.

#73 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 06:50 PM:

DCB at 71, I had a similar experience a few years ago. I went to a Circuit City late on Black Friday to buy a 20 inch flat screen TV; the model was on sale for $200. They were of course sold out of that particular model. The salesman sold me another company's 20 inch flat screen TV (it was priced at $300) for the sale price. He got his commission; I got my TV; the store made money.

#74 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 07:22 PM:

The arguments about quality over price are nice, but irrelevant for many, many people. When your frying pan breaks and you only have $10 in your budget to spare, you buy the $10 frying pan. It doesn't matter if the $40 one would last longer because the $40 one was never in the running.

The town in which I went to college had exactly one place to buy plus-size clothing: Wal-Mart. I bought all my clothing there for years because it was that or drive an hour to Lane Bryant, and I couldn't afford $50 shirts that were almost as cheaply made. I've had Lane Bryant clothes fall apart within a month. Even Wal-Mart's stuff isn't usually that bad.

I'm not defending Wal-Mart. They're an evil entity, and "other companies are doing it too" isn't any excuse. For my hometown, though, the vacuum left by the textile and furniture companies moving overseas is what sucked the economy dry, and I'm grateful that my relatives can shop at Wal-Mart because they're lucky to afford even that.

I just think it's important to keep in mind that if you can afford to have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart, you may not be grasping why people who shop there, do.

#75 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 07:35 PM:

Teresa @ 33:

Correct. I've been going to Costco for more than ten years now, and I've been able to find what I need there for a reasonable price. Just talk to someone who works there and you'll immediately understand the difference between Costco and Walmart. Or look at their corporate disclosure info and see how much less of a corporate serial killer it is.

Dragoness Ecclectic @ 60:
Again, Wal-Mart isn't good here, but they aren't special in their badness, either.

Not true, as you can find out by looking up the history of actions taken against them by the Justice Department and some states' Attornies General. (I almost typed Justice League there, and you know, I rather think they'd have done a better job than DOJ).

Lee @ 70:

"There ain't no such thing as a free market" (TAANSTAFM)

caffeine @ 74:

Oh, I understand why people may need to shop there. That's part of the evil. I don't need to shop there, so I don't. And I'm not convinced that I pay that much more at Costco that it would make sense to go to Walmart unless there wasn't anything else within long driving distance (I typically shop at Costco about once every 4 to 6 weeks).

#76 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 08:18 PM:

Certainly not you in particular, Bruce. There was just beginning to be a strong whiff of sanctimony about the thread. It happens on sites like the Consumerist a lot: in response to a story about someone getting ripped off/injured/having their house set on fire* by a corporation's actions, ten people immediately comment to say "well, it's all his/her fault because they shopped at that store/didn't know how to do an oil change themselves/didn't know the company was lying to them/don't grow their own food/don't hunt down small independent retailers for every loaf of bread, bar of soap, and tube of toothpaste."

See: FIOS installers.

#77 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 09:59 PM:

caffeine, #74 & 76: Indeed, a great many of the issues I have with Wal-Mart are about the amount of effort they take in order to make SURE that a lot of the people who shop there have nowhere else to go, especially in rural environments. It's one thing to be the only game in town, but quite another to rig the game to that effect.

(Other stores do this sort of thing too, but less blatantly. See discussions of the difference in merchandise and pricing between branches of the same grocery or drug store in higher- and lower-class neighborhoods; typically, the lower-class store will have maybe half the merchandise selection and the prices for the exact same items will be 2 or 3 times as high. That's not right either.)

Also, you seem to have missed the point of the tale of Sam's boots, referenced at #68. Yes, if the $10 frying pan is all you can afford, that's what you buy, and then you buy another one when that one breaks in a year or two, and so on. This is one of the economic tactics used by the rich to make sure that the poor STAY poor, because you end up paying much more money for a string of those shoddy items than you'd have paid for a single good-quality one if you could have afforded that instead. See here for more examples of the same sort of thing.

#78 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 10:09 PM:

I will note that both Rick York at #18 and Lily at #58 are first-time posters, using lots of corporate talking points and making strong defenses of "why Wal-Mart isn't so bad" and "Clinton did it too! other stores do the same things, why does Wal-Mart get all the blame?" Anybody else get a whiff of astroturf here?

#79 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2009, 11:01 PM:

#60 Dragoness

a) There actually have been cases where the US Government has looked at contractors writing proposals and said, "We don't believe you can do this work for the price you are bidding."

b) There are businesses, chains even, which pay more than minimum wage to entry-level employeess. The epitome of unfair Wal-Mart practices regarding labor, include 1) giving employees instruction on how to be on Medicare instead of Wal-Mart providing affordable to employees health benefits and insurance, and 2) Wal-Mart being taken to court and convicted of deliberately hiring cleaning companies which use undocumented aliens paid sub-minimum-wage wages.... I also think that Wal-Mart got convicted of employing minors to operate equipment minors are banned from operating, such as forklifts.

Regarding crowd control--I came home at 10 PM or later a few years ago, and there was a long -line- in front of a Circuit City--people were queued up in an orderly fashion, some with blankets for warmth and sleeping, similar to Line Fandom at SF conventions coming prepared to be in line for big events waiting for the doors to open.... store which encourage mob scenes... ugh.

#62 Earl

Non-unique evil is still evil. Cogent line.

#65 Jacob

Also, other chains sometimes go out of their way to support the localities and areas they are in. Most supermarkets have places for people in the community to post notices of lost animals, nonprofit organization craft & such sales, local houses for sale by owner, moving & yard sales... sponsor coloring contests for local school kids, furnish space for local organizations raising funds to set up selling raffle tickets to support children's sports, social services, etc. --

#80 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 12:32 AM:

Lee @77, I do understand and completely agree with all those points. In the long run, it makes no sense whatsoever to buy a long succession of $10 frying pans. I'm just pointing out that in macro-level discussions, it's easy to forget that the macro is made up of thousands of individual decisions that make sense to the people making them. Responding to any particular bit of news with "well, I never shop there anyhow" seems a bit like missing the point.

#81 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 12:33 AM:

heresiarch @ #2: The sense of urgency is quite real, despite its constructed nature.

Ulrika @ #12: The urgency isn't just artificial, it's plain false.


I think you're both right. The urgency is false; the situation is not really urgent. The sense of urgency is real; for those who have been manipulated into buying into the situation, it really does feel urgent.

#82 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 12:51 AM:

I may actually do some shopping on Black Friday. Ever since the defunct carpet & flooring store just a few blocks away down on Central was fixed up as a St. Vincent de Paul, it's become trickier to resist St. Vinnie's Any Holiday Is An Excuse For A 50% Off Sale. Though I don't know if they have anything I'm looking for just now. I went ahead and bought the French-made, deep tart pan with removable bottom yesterday when I found it, because $1.99 was already cheap enough.

It's a very great species of luck, growing up without learning any stigma to second-hand goods, and always living in places where thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales provide fertile ground. Because it means that you aren't just having to choose between a $10 frying pan and a $40 pan. You also have the option of paying $3 and getting a better frying pan than either, with the added benefit of getting it already pre-seasoned.

#83 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 01:16 AM:

The problem with thrift stores is all the stuff that looks good in the moment, then clutters up your house till you get round to donating it back again. My best find was actually a Mike Ford book, The Final Reflection. I missed out on the OED though.

#84 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 01:41 AM:

Caffeine, #74: I just think it's important to keep in mind that if you can afford to have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart, you may not be grasping why people who shop there, do.

Erm, no. I have not set foot in Wal-Mart in several years, and I'm unemployed, with a husband who makes very little. We make a conscious choice to not shop WM. Granted, we have other choices, since we are in a large urban area, but it isn't that difficult to stay out of Wal-Mart unless you live in a town that ONLY has WM.

Groceries? Giant Eagle, a perfectly respectable regional chain. Or Aldi, which is cheaper for many items but has less variety. We frequent both.

Clothing? Goodwill, Salvation Army, other similar thrift stores, all of which are far cheaper than Wal-Mart, and you can get things that are both high-quality and nearly new in many cases. Oh, you meant new clothing? Target, K-Mart, hit up the fabric store and sew your own. (I do all of the above.)

Shoes? Payless, or the aforementioned Target and K-Mart. Heck, I've even bought shoes at thrift stores. Got an almost brand-new pair of Birkenstock oxfords there a couple of years ago, and some Rockport walking shoes, also in nearly pristine condition.

Toys? See above. I don't have much need to buy those, as we don't have kids.

Electronics, music, videos? Again, K-Mart, Target. Also Best Buy.

Books, music, videos? Half-Price, Amazon, the local library.

Around here we also have Discount Drug Mart, which stocks everything from typical drugstore merchandise to groceries, clothing, hardware and small appliances, all for prices comparable to those at Wally World. I'm in there at least once a week for some small item or other, usually milk or paper towels.

So really, unless WM is really the only retailer in or near your community, it isn't all THAT difficult to avoid them, and it isn't any more expensive to do so, either.

#85 ::: stefan jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 03:24 AM:

#69: Yea, Bi-Mart! Really bare-bones kind of place, with pegboard on the walls and cans stacked on palettes. There are two nearby, but not especially convenient. I keep an eye on their circular, though, and if there's enough stuff I need on special I swing down there to load up. I recall buying my carpet steamer there, and a clothes drying rack.

Yes, they're employee-owned.

* * *

Portland seems to have a Wal-Mart exclusion field. There's one out on I-205 way east of downtown, and one up in St. Helens by the river. There's no sense making a special trip given the proliferation of Targets and the presence of Fred Meyer, a very nice Kroger chain that is essentially a discount department store with a nice grocery.

#86 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 03:53 AM:

Summer Storms @84:
Caffeine, #74: *I just think it's important to keep in mind that if you can afford to have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart, you may not be grasping why people who shop there, do.*

Erm, no.

Well, actually, yes. You've given a long explanation of why you, in your particular place on the time-money continuum, don't shop at Wall-Mart. I note that a lot of the choices you make are based on spending time rather than money.

But not everyone is at the same balance between time and money. Indeed, some people have neither, and a big shop that carries a lot of things at low prices can save them both in the short run. And sometimes the short run is all they can work with.

What I'm getting from your comment is exactly what caffeine touched on: sanctimony. "I'm not in that position, so everyone who is is..." I don't know. What are you thinking they are? Stupid? Shiftless? Lazy? Cardboard characters in your narrative, certainly.

As caffeine @80 said, it's easy to forget that the macro is made up of thousands of individual decisions that make sense to the people making them.

And this is a general point. People make decisions based on a vast range of factors; most of them are doing the best they can with the information and resources available to them. To presume otherwise reveals a limitation in your understanding of the situation, not theirs.

Teresa criticizes Wal-Mart's Black Friday behavior because they are manipulating that information (and, for their employees and the markets where they've broken the wage norms, those resources).

(Oh, and Aldi? Not local. They're German.)

#87 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 04:09 AM:

Lee @78:

I doubt Wal-Mart astroturfs Making Light. These are just people with views, stating them on a blog. Happens all the time on the internet.

#88 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 04:52 AM:

But not everyone is at the same balance between time and money. Indeed, some people have neither, and a big shop that carries a lot of things at low prices can save them both in the short run. And sometimes the short run is all they can work with.

Thank you for saying that, Abi. This conversation has made me pretty uncomfortable because whether or not to shop at Wal-mart seems to be very academic to a lot (most?) of the people here boycotting it. At the same time, there seems to be... it's bordering on and sometimes stepping over to condescension. The people for whom it's Wal-mart or nothing are being written about as very hypothetical, almost non-people, certainly no one that'd be reading here.

Well. Me and mine aren't hypothetical. Nor are we stupid or don't know better--it's that we're freaking poor. Many cheap clothes from Wal-mart last as long as most clothes from the mid-range shops my hometown has (yes, really). They also have a wider variety of sizes than those stores. High-range clothes that'll last forever? HA. Pipe dream to afford that much all at once. Pipe dream to afford almost anything like that, really, as much as we'd like to, although sometimes we'd luck out with a find at (the now gone) Salvation Army store (although I always had bad luck with that, being an unfortunate combination of big, tall, and female).

Save up? With what? My mom's paycheck went toward feeding herself and two kids, bills, rent, and there was usually very little leftover. She bought better stuff on the rare occassions she could, but usually? It was like Abi's example about the $10 frying pan. Especially with two growing kids in the house.

So, yeah. Hi. I was one of those people for whom it's definitely not an academic issue (and now mostly because I live in a very different place than my hometown) and for my family it's still reality. Please don't talk down about us, and preferably not to us, either. Please have some respect for us as human beings who are making the best decisions we can under our circumstances.

#89 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:35 AM:

SlickDeals reports that Wal-Mart went to lining up inside this year, setting up roped-off lines with tickets at the various doorbuster specials.

#90 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 08:11 AM:

I'm betting that Walmart will eventually go under because it's pushing what it pays so low that eventually it will be selling such crap that someone will find a way to outcompete them. This *might* be wishful thinking. If their clothes last as well as the clothes from midrange stores, then the company culture is still paying some attention to quality.

Any theories about why most companies haven't gone the Walmart route?

#91 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:05 AM:

@90 - the reason Walmart clothes last as long as lower-mid-price ones is that by and large the mid-price ones have gone to using the same low-grade fabric and careless construction that the Walmart ones do, while still charging their old prices in an effort to make ends meet. (I've found that a $12 Walmart shirt will inevitably shrink or fade in three washings; a $20-$25 shirt from Fashion Bug isn't much better.)

You have to get up into the upper-mid-range to exclusive to find stuff that's made better and lasts long enough to be worth it (I've had good luck with the retail-$50 shirts from LL Bean - they probably really ARE wearable four or five times as long as the Walmart ones, but you have to have $50 in one place to get one to begin with. Unless you live in Maine and happen to find one at the outlet store for 40% off. And even then, it's not a cheap shirt.)

#92 ::: Paul the ex-poet ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:09 AM:

I don't think the people posting against Walmart mean to be posting against the customers just because they give advice on how to shop elsewhere; I know I didn't. But it is hard to tell the emotional nuances of what people say on the Internet. I think that's how flame wars get started. By the way, I've bought some perfectly good stuff at thrift stores, too. I even tried out some books I wouldn't have bought otherwise, just to see what other genres were like. It's hard to feel cheated by bad writing when you only paid 50 cents.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:21 AM:

Paul @92:
I don't think the people posting against Walmart mean to be posting against the customers just because they give advice on how to shop elsewhere; I know I didn't.

And you didn't come across as doing so. The difference is that you were talking about Wal-Mart and their competitors. Others were talking about the people who shop at Wal-Mart. Or sometimes, about themselves, and how they aren't that sort of people.

#94 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Summer Storms @84: Not everyone who is poor shops at Wal-Mart, of course. Abi is exactly right about time costs as well as financial costs, though. You live in an urban area, so you have access to all those things.

If we're going anecdotal, here's one. I transferred from one college to another, lost most of my credits, and thus was a very poor college student for many years. The first college I attended was in a town with an Ingles grocery store, a hardware store, a couple of fast food places, and a couple of touristy shops. That was it. The nearest city was only 20 miles away, but I didn't have a car, so I went without.

The second college was in a slightly larger town. Still rural. The choices for general shopping were Wal-Mart, Payless, and some high-end boutiques aimed at the tourists. The nearest city was an hour away down the mountain. Once again, I didn't have a car, so I shopped at the places I could walk or take the bus to. (This was just before the Internet really became useful for shopping.)

Payless shoes are at least as poor quality as Walmart's. Never been able to wear them; they hurt and fall apart within a month.

While at that second college, I worked at a grocery store next to the Walmart to pay bills. I was trudging home one night through the Walmart parking lot, in the snow, and stopped to buy a $3 scarf. That $3 scarf was available right then when I was cold, it was literally all I could afford, and it kept me warm.

We could trade anecdata all day, but the point is that assuming other people are making decisions in a vacuum, or through the same lens as you, is alienating, condescending, and less likely to lead to an accurate, productive discussion.

#95 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:48 AM:

Regarding thrift stores: It seems like even the thrift stores are getting spotty on deals in the past few years. The last three Salvation Army stores I've been in have charged as much for used Wal-Mart-type furniture as it would cost new. The small independent thrift stores in this area still have some good prices, though.

Thrift-store clothing is a different game altogether. If you're a nonstandard or plus size, good luck finding clothes. The prevailing theory at some of the fat blogs is that plus sizes are rare at thrift stores because fat women have such a hard time finding clothing in the first place that they hang on to what they do find until it wears out.

Then again, there are also some fat bloggers who wear primarily fabulous thrifted and vintage clothing. But they spend great amounts of time doing it and don't pretend it's something the average person could do if they'd just suck it up and not be so lazy.

#96 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 10:15 AM:

caffeine #74: I'm not defending Wal-Mart. They're an evil entity, and "other companies are doing it too" isn't any excuse. For my hometown, though, the vacuum left by the textile and furniture companies moving overseas is what sucked the economy dry, and I'm grateful that my relatives can shop at Wal-Mart because they're lucky to afford even that.

That is, actually, what makes the evil so grating. It leaves the people who it hurts most no choice but to support it.

#97 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Where I lived in west Texas, the nearest city had acquired a W*lM*rt distribution center, and insisted, as part of the deal, that they got a store also. (It already had a K-Mart.) The K-Mart closed, partly because it was a little more difficult to get into for people from in town - there was a left turn across a main street involved - but I'd bet that the fact that W*lM*rt put its store right across the street didn't help.
Direct comparison: the W*lM*rt store always seemed to be darker, dirtier, and more crowded with stuff, if not people.

#98 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 10:36 AM:

Thena@91: I've got some Wal*mart shirts around 5 years old that are holding up well; far past three washings! I believe they were $10. It was the only place I could find a range of button shirts with straight tails at the time.

#99 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 10:45 AM:

How does one wear out a frying pan? (or a series of $10 frying pans?)

(Oh; non-stick coating? I've never bought a frying pan with that, but I hear it's very easy to ruin those.)

I have, I think, passed on the cheap sauce pan I got early on (might still be in a box in the attic, though). Simple aluminum. worked fine for boiling single-serving quantities of noodles and stuff, or cooking veggies. I replaced it with "better" stuff, but mostly I replaced it with a SET of pans, which was much cheaper than buying individual pans. A better pan distributes heat more evenly, but really, I rarely do the sort of cooking for which that's critical.

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 10:52 AM:

#99
Handle comes off, or cracks or breaks; pan bottom gets warped. (I have some stainless-steel pans that are older than I am, and are showing those kinds of wear.)

#101 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:13 AM:

Ulrika: The trouble with thrift stores and flea markets, I found, is that they prove the "time=money" equation. What you do not pay in money, you have to pay in time. If you have neither, you're SOL.

When I was broke, it took me half a year to find kitchen scales, but they only cost 3 Euro. Last month, I paid 30 for new ones, but it took me only half an hour to get them. With the charity stores where you get stuff for free, you *cannot* use them if you have regular work hours.

Also, I do not shop at Wal-Mart because I live in a place where groceries are so cheap that Wal-Mart could not compete and had to move out. Which is pure blind luck, even if it's satisfying. (Not so much luck for the farmers who have to sell meat and milk below the costs of production, though. Someone always pays.)
And Messrs. Aldi (not their real name) are some of the richest people in the country.

#102 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:36 AM:

David: I never got a cheap (less than 20 Euro) frying pan that was not non-stick coating. Apart from that, the metal is thin: Cats throw it on the tiled floor, it get so banged up that it won't work on a flat stove plate anymore. Handle breaks off. Screw or rivets holding it together rust through(the latter happens with expensive pans, too).

The indestructible hammered-from-one-piece iron pans are more costly, and they work best on gas or on an open fire.

#103 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:38 AM:

I hesitate to defend Wal-Mart, since simply walking in their front door gives me cramp in the soul, however. . .

The ghost of Sam Walton has done a wonderful thing for health care here in Colorado and (last I heard) 17 other states: the $4 prescription.

Wal-Mart charges $4 a month for their top 100 generic drugs. Lots of blood pressure meds, heart pills, a couple of decent antibiotics.

Most of the other pharmacies in town have had to follow suit.

My seniors use this list a lot to delay hitting the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription coverage.

Also, my understanding is that the feds have forced Wal-Mart to give their staff members health coverage which is at least adequate.

I have a lot of patients working 20 hours a week at Wal-Mart, just for the health care coverage alone.

So I can be thankful even to Wal-Mart.

#104 ::: Lily ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:39 AM:

I had to look up astroturfing on Wikipedia to understand the insults you guys were heaping on me because I explained why a person would shop at Wal-Mart.

Sorry, but it's just me, ordinary consumer, with no agenda here but the truth as I see it. My spouse sent me the link, and I felt it was worth a comment. If you don't like a new person reading and commenting, then I guess you don't want to hear anything different from a reflection of your own opinions.

I don't disagree with you that what happened at Valley Stream was terrible. Of course it was. That is a good reason to avoid the overly avid crowds seeking the super buys on Black Friday. Everywhere. Not just at Wal-Mart.

We should all consume less. Of course. Who argues with that? But when you have little children who want toys, consuming less is not the first thing on your mind. Because childhood is fleeting. And if all you remember is your pride in never having bought that _____ for your kid, are you any the richer? So it is not mere greed that sends people to the stores in a frenzy for bargains. The thoughts and feelings behind customer behavior on Black Friday are complex.

Is Wal-Mart the Evil Empire of today? Yes. But just like the people who had to live under the regime of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, we have to deal with what we've got.

It all comes down to choices. People who live in high-priced suburban areas have plenty of choices. People who live in pressured urban neighborhoods or impoverished rural areas don't have lots of choices. I've lived in all of these places, so I get that it is easy for a person to not shop at Wal-Mart if they have a long list of other options. But many people do not.

I don't understand why you discount the dollar store comparison. When I drove to an even more rural area than the rural area where I live, that was the only store in many tiny towns. Other than some 7-11 type of store. Those people undoubtedly were held hostage by their lack of choice. And mom-and-pop stores historically have had lack of choice, too, plus the freshness of the stock was always an issue. So when these people get in the car and drive the many miles to the nearest place offering a broader range of merchandise, they go to the store that offers it. And these days, it's Wal-Mart, among others.

In rural (and urban) areas, all of the other store options you people mention are many, many miles away. And they are expensive. The quality of a cheap frying pan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond is not any better than the quality of one anywhere else. So why would I drive many extra miles (or use public transportation) for the same thin pan made in China, priced higher at BBB (unless I had a coupon)? And yes, the example of the $10 versus the $40 pan is apt. When money is scarce, you don't buy what you need as an "investment."

Let me give you another example. I saw Fruit of the Loom long winter underwear at Wal-Mart. I went to the FOTL website looking for a different retail carrier. (FOTL won't sell it directly to me.) It said K-Mart. But K-mart did not carry that item. Where else do I go, then, for a product that I know is dependable, reasonably priced, and fits? And they carry it year in and year out, unlike the upscale stores that are always such slaves to fashion that they never have the same thing twice? I only get to live once. I can't wait until Wal-Mart becomes a better company to have winter underwear.

By the way, in poor areas, even the thrift stores don't have much beyond recycled junk. Maybe in urban areas, if the store employees don't cherry pick it all, you can find some quality items that have been donated by richer people from the suburbs. But if I had only five dollars I could spend on a shirt, why would I buy a used one at a thrift store when I could buy a brand new one at Wal-Mart?




#105 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:53 AM:

"Is Wal-Mart the Evil Empire of today? Yes. But just like the people who had to live under the regime of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, we have to deal with what we've got."

This is the single most depressing sentence I have read all year.

#106 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 01:26 PM:

Abi, #86: I'm going to disagree with you on this, and do so rather strongly, because the only sanctimony I see in our exchange is coming from you. Accusing me of painting WM shoppers as "Stupid? Shiftless? Lazy?" when in fact I offered no description of them whatsoever is a telling point, I think.

Now, let's address the realities of shopping choices. First, we'll tackle time and money, and the intersection of both:

Using the multiple stores I mentioned takes me no more time on a weekly basis than using one big-box one-stop store did back when I lived in an area that had Meijer stores. Meijer is a chain of stores which function the same as WM in that they carry everything from soup to snow tires. I was a Meijer shopper in those days, until I figured out that Meijer was often so crowded and took so much time to go through that I was better off hitting up Cub Foods or Kroger for my weekly groceries and saving Meijer for times when I actually needed something else. It also relieved me of the tendency to run in for groceries and then see something else that looked tempting but was non-essential. I worked two jobs back then, totaling 60+ hours per week (so I know a little bit about time issues, I think). I was still poor - poor enough to have my car repossessed at one point and have to get by with the help of non-automotively-challenged friends until I cut a deal with my boss at my day job to buy an old car he wanted to sell, making weekly payments directly to him. One thing most poor people do is make groceries their only weekly recurring purchase. For those weeks, you really do only need a grocery store; there's little point in going to a place that has more than groceries unless you plan to buy non-grocery items while you're there. Considering that I have been some variation on poor or near-poor for well over two-thirds of my 45 years (thankfully, it's been broken up some by years that were merely sort of lean) starting in childhood and running right up to the present day, I'd like to think I know a thing or two about it. One thing I can tell you with certainty is that buying clothing, shoes, or entertainment items like toys or electronics has never been a weekly or near-weekly occurrence in any configuration of my household and its finances. As my mother always taught me, if you can afford to buy stuff like that every other week, you really aren't poor.

Granted, my model does rely on living in an area where WM isn't the only store in town, and also upon having access to a vehicle, but unless you're way out in the middle of nowhere (I've lived there, too, and there fortunately my corner of it still had a couple of inexpensive places to shop other than WM, within the same distance from home) you still have choices. And from what I've seen, the majority of WM shoppers do arrive in private vehicles, except possibly - and ironically - in the very type of urban area where I live currently and which you so graciously admitted constitutes a Place With Other Options.

For the record: anyone who DOES live someplace where WM is the only game in town has my utter sympathy, and I don't fault them at all for shopping there. I'd do the same in that circumstance. The blame in those situations lies squarely and solely with WM itself, for creating that situation in the first place. And really, I'd have thought that so obvious as to require no mention on my part. But there, I've mentioned it.

Now, let's look at information:

I don't know of anyplace where the only ads on television are ALL for WM. If you're watching TV, or reading magazines or the internet, you pretty much have to at least be aware that other stores exist, and of what they have on sale at any given time. If the place where you live has its own paper but is sufficiently removed from other retail outlets that WM is all you've got, then granted the WM circular may well be the only one you get, but if that's the case, you fall into that category of people whom I already hold completely faultless for going to WM. Everybody else, however, has at least access to information about other stores and other sales, so the only information gap I see at work there operates on the fact that WM has gone to great lengths to smother the stories about how awful its policies are, and how it treats both employees and customers, as well as suppliers. But again, if you have the internet, you have at least a reasonable chance of being exposed to this information; it's a matter of choosing to actually read it and then act on that knowledge. If you can't read, or you truly don't have time to read, then again, you get a pass. Otherwise, though, why the hell would you shop there, if you know the ugly truth about WM?

So what it boils down to, for me, is this:

1. If you live in a place that only has WM, of course you'd shop there. Not your fault.

2. If you live in a place that only has WM and a bunch of overpriced boutiques you can't afford, see #1.

3. If you for whatever reason are only exposed to WM ads and you cannot - for whatever reason - seek out information about other options, see #1 and #2.

4. If you live in an area where there are affordable alternatives to WM, and you don't fall into Category 3 but you'd rather just go to WM anyway, you need to wake up and pay attention. Do a little research.

5. If you are in Category 4 and have been paying attention, and you know what WM is about but you shop there anyway, then you are choosing to support the evil that is WM. Period, full stop.

Oh, and Aldi? Of course, they're not local; when did I claim they were? I've known they were a German company (actually, they're owned by the same company as Trader Joe's) for quite some time. But from what I understand, they operate in a fairly aboveboard manner - if you can tell me otherwise, I'll stop shopping there too.

#107 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 01:36 PM:

FWIW, the Wal-mart in my hometown is bright and clean. I'm willing to bet that there are grimy, dingy, unpleasant stores in any chain.

#38 ::: Caroline: Thanks. I'll have to send her a message to make sure her shift went okay.


#95 ::: caffeine:

The prevailing theory at some of the fat blogs is that plus sizes are rare at thrift stores because fat women have such a hard time finding clothing in the first place that they hang on to what they do find until it wears out.

That's very much the case for me.


#104 ::: Lily:

Is Wal-Mart the Evil Empire of today? Yes.

Some years ago I discovered a fitting nickname for Wal-mart: Voldemart. It's wonderful in a 'haha, only serious' sort of way...

#108 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 01:38 PM:

Caffeine, #95: Thrift-store clothing is a different game altogether. If you're a nonstandard or plus size, good luck finding clothes.

I'm a plus size right now, and non-standard when I wasn't. Maybe it's a function of there being a lot of plus size women in my area (this is Cleveland, after all) who donate stuff, but I can actually find a lot of things at our local thrift stores that fit me as well as anything I'd find at, say, Target. There's a chain here called Unique Thrift that has an entire section in each store dedicated to plus size clothing, and its not just a rack or two - it's about a third of the women's section. Pants, tops, suits, dresses, even formal gowns, and most of it decent quality, for pennies on the dollar compared to what a similar item would cost new.

Of course, it may be in my blood... despite being an only child, I often wore hand me downs from neighbor families as a child. Mom taught me to pinch my pennies, and as a result I always have a hard time justifying to myself a purchase of brand-new clothing unless I've exhausted the possibilities of finding it used. Some of that may also come right now from the fact that I'm losing weight and hate the idea of spending money on something brand-new if it's (hopefully) only going to fit me for a month.

#109 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 02:59 PM:

@98 - Maybe their men's stuff is better than their women's stuff; I know the last pair of jeans I bought there ended up in the thrift store bag after the second washing because they shrank. They were cheap, so I wasn't out much money, but I'd rather had a pair of pants that fit.

I don't shop there much any more; I have other options and it's a big, noisy, crowded place with a ton of cheap crap I don't really need.

(I remember, however, as a child in the mid-80s when WM came into Louisiana, that their merchandise was both cheaper and higher quality than what K-Mart offered at the time [before it merged with Sears]. And there weren't really many other places to shop.)

#110 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 03:04 PM:

Lily: If it helps, your first missive didn't look like shilling for Wal-Mart to me: it read more like caffeine's screeds.

However, that being said, (And I may be stepping into moderator territory where when I am not a moderator, or even a terribly frequent poster lately, though I continue to lurk) your new message, 104, might have been better without the line about "you don't want to hear anything different from a reflection of your own opinions". Because with that, you did fall into insulting everyone here.

The culture on this board is such that disagreeing is acceptable; Insulting people you don't know yet, not so much. Sometimes longer-term poster can get away with getting heated. But newcomers? We don't know you well enough yet to give you a pass, and the internet is full of drive-by insulters. Make us *want* to get to know you.

Such as this: "The quality of a cheap frying pan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond is not any better than the quality of one anywhere else. So why would I drive many extra miles (or use public transportation) for the same thin pan made in China, priced higher at BBB (unless I had a coupon)? " which was an excellent point I hadn't seen brought up before.

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 03:29 PM:

caffeine, #95: My personal hypothesis about why larger-size clothing is rare at thrift stores is: (1) people donate clothing that they've gained too much weight to wear; (2) people who lose weight often hang onto their "fat clothes" for fear that they'll gain it back; (3) when you do find large-size clothing (especially the very large sizes), it's frequently going to be from an estate clean-out after the owner has died. The first part of this is undeniable, although the second and third parts are only my personal speculation.

#112 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 04:34 PM:

Summer Storms #106: One thing most poor people do is make groceries their only weekly recurring purchase.

I really wish a gallon of 2% milk didn't spoil so quickly; I have to buy milk in smaller units more frequently than I would like. I am not going to pour water over my Cheerios.

#113 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Earl, how long is it taking to spoil? Around here it lasts at least a week in the fridge, unless it gets used up first (the only person who drinks it is my dad; hubby is lactose-intolerant and uses soymilk, and I just prefer the soymilk). We still manage to go through a gallon or more per week, though, since Dad drinks a lot of milk.

#114 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 05:02 PM:

Well, one cup a day makes a half-gallon container of 2% milk last eight days (unless I skip breakfast or have toast instead of Cheerios). The last cup usually has a noticeable odor. A full gallon would theoretically last me sixteen days, but starts going bad well before then.

I'd really rather not switch to skim milk just to make it last longer; that stuff seems like chalk water to me.

Do you think perhaps I don't have my refrigerator set cold enough? The dial is just numbers and not actual helpful temperatures.

#115 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 05:09 PM:

If a gallon of milk is going bad in a week, then it does sound like you don't have the fridge set cold enough. Either that, or you're buying milk that's too close to its expiration date, or the store isn't keeping its coolers cold enough, so the milk is halfway to spoiling before you ever buy it.

Milk - regardless of its fat content - should remain fresh in your fridge until the expiration date stamped on it, even if it has been opened. At least that's been my experience. Have you been leaving it out long enough to warm up before putting it away? That could affect things.

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 05:43 PM:

Milk: It tends to go bad after a week, no matter what your fridge temperature is set to - unless you freeze it!
For small amounts, I use powdered milk and make the amount I need. (If it's cold, it tastes better.)

There used to be a brand of dry milk ('Milkman') that had some fat in it, so it wasn't blue, and it came in envelopes that made one quart.

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 06:00 PM:

Earl, have you considered buying a refrigerator/freezer thermometer, so you can check the temperature inside? They are quite inexpensive and reasonably accurate. Mine has numbers and a nifty little colorful dial which tells me if my food is "too warm,: at the correct temperature, or "frozen."

#118 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 06:15 PM:

I agree, when I was drinking milk it definitely began to smell off after about 5 days, although I think the fridge was probably up around 5 or 6C.

#119 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 06:26 PM:

And this year they're off to a good start.

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Summer Storms @106:
Accusing me of painting WM shoppers as "Stupid? Shiftless? Lazy?" when in fact I offered no description of them whatsoever is a telling point, I think.

Well, I apologize; I should have just asked instead of suggesting answers. Though I do note that both ignorant and evil make your list. Are you sure that's really that much better?

I think you're still underestimating the time crunches people get into, particularly people with children. I've certainly found that dragging a couple of kids through multiple stores is much more effort than exactly the same elapsed time spent in a single store. And frequently, the alternative to that is to shop at unsocial hours, when many smaller stores are closed. If your particular time shortages didn't put you in those positions, that doesn't mean everyone had the same constraints.

But we can play dueling anecdotes forever. What you apparently will not do is grasp that people who make other choices than you do may do so for good reasons. You've allowed as how some people have no real alternatives*, but when you get into this area:

if you have the internet, you have at least a reasonable chance of being exposed to this information; it's a matter of choosing to actually read it and then act on that knowledge. If you can't read, or you truly don't have time to read, then again, you get a pass. Otherwise, though, why the hell would you shop there, if you know the ugly truth about WM?

...you're assuming that people have the same priorities for their time and information consumption as you do, and that they want to turn their grocery shopping into political action.

Be careful going down that road; it opens you up to a lot of criticism. Do you drink Fairtrade coffee and tea? Do you choose local products over high food mileage ones? Do you research the brands you buy to ensure that they're ethical?

(Speaking of research, Aldi has a pretty good reputation. So does the other German supermarket taking over the world, Lidl. I was certainly glad to see Lidl come into our old neighborhood when Kwik Save failed; prices went down, produce was fresher and the staff were friendlier. And they used to give away perishables like meat on the last day of validity; I know many of the poorer families in our area ate better because of that policy.)

-----
* By the way, I don't recall touching on "other options", graciously or not.

#121 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:02 PM:

PJ, 116: you can freeze milk? The few times I've accidentally drunk frozen milk, I've been *very* sorry. Perhaps it was a case of bad storage that led to other problems, but I'm reluctant to experiment!

#122 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:17 PM:

TexAnne @121: I routinely keep a pint plastic container of semi-skimmed milk in the freezer so that I have an emergency back-up supply. The taste does change, and not for the better, but it's always been perfectly edible.

However, I've also always frozen it on the day I bought it, so it's as fresh as possible. Milk frozen to keep it going a bit longer when it's already starting to turn may be a different matter.

I've known people who only used milk in their tea or coffee and not on cereal to freeze it in ice-cube trays for ease of storage, leading to the question "one lump or two?" being applied to something other than sugar...

#123 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:22 PM:

I think freezing milk is like freezing eggs: you can do it, but you can't use the thawed product by itself - it's okay for baking.

(checking food books - they don't mention freezing, but they do say that at low temperature whole milk will keep for about five or six days.)

#124 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:30 PM:

Julia, PJ: Thanks! Aversive conditioning means I'll have to take your word for it, but it's always nice to learn stuff.

#125 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:41 PM:

When we were little, my mom shopped once a month, on payday, along with all the other moms on base. The commissary was *jammed*. She would buy something like 6 or 8 half-gallon cartons of milk and freeze them. I forget the thawing process, but it can't have been too involved as us kids were responsible for managing it. I think it was set the carton on the counter till you can feel a still-frozen chunk banging round inside, then pop the carton back in the ice box to thaw the rest of the way.

It never, ever tasted strange to me and no one ever remarked on it. This was whole milk.

#126 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 07:44 PM:

eric @ #83: The problem with thrift stores is all the stuff that looks good in the moment, then clutters up your house till you get round to donating it back again.

This is not a problem unique to thrift stores, I find. On the other hand, having gotten something cheaply can, for me, make the process of deciding that I don't actually love it and should therefore pass it on both faster and easier.

caffeine @ #95: Thrift-store clothing is a different game altogether. If you're a nonstandard or plus size, good luck finding clothes.

This may vary by region, and for that matter style-sense. I am indeed a plus size, and I have lots of clothes that were thrifted. But it helps that both Value Village and my late, lamented Meeker Street Emporium sort/(ed) by size.

inge @ #101: The trouble with thrift stores and flea markets, I found, is that they prove the "time=money" equation. What you do not pay in money, you have to pay in time. If you have neither, you're SOL.

That can be very true, though again it depends on where you are and what you're looking for. I'm quite lucky, in that I have a pretty good thrift store less than half a mile from my house, and it's on the way home, so I often cruise through quickly just for a look-see. Going through regularly means I don't spend much time on any given visit, so it isn't a big time investment. If I were setting out to visit thrift stores to seek a particular thing, that would be an altogether different proposition, and yes, much more likely to be a time sink.

#127 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 08:17 PM:

abi, #87: I doubt Wal-Mart astroturfs Making Light.

You might be surprised. A number of large chains do have paid employees whose job (or part thereof) is to Google for negative mentions of the chain online and come in with a defense -- I had that happen once when I posted a negative comment about AutoZone on my LiveJournal, which certainly gets a lot less traffic than ML does. And if you enter "Wal-Mart Black Friday boycott" right now, this thread is the first entry on the results page.

Lily, #104: Since you have in fact returned to engage in conversation, I withdraw my suspicion of astroturfing in your case. However, I do take issue with your characterization of it as "the insults you guys were heaping on me." ONE person (me) suggesting that your post might be astroturf based on a match to a known pattern of behavior, is hardly a dogpile, and attempting to frame it as such doesn't do you any credit.

If you were to hang around here a bit more, I think you'd find it a pretty congenial place. Come on over and browse thru the latest open thread, and see if there's anything there that you find of interest. Do you write poetry by any chance?

#128 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 08:41 PM:

pericat: It never, ever tasted strange to me and no one ever remarked on it. This was whole milk

IME taste is a lot about what you are used to.

When I was a kid we had lots of [brand x] convenience food (which has a distinctive taste), canned vegetables, and UHT skimmed milk. When I left home and experimented with fresh food, fresh vegetables and fresh whole milk, I found the taste very strange and exotic. These days, I need to be really hungry to stomach the foodstuffs I grew up with.

#129 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 08:55 PM:

I've had Lane Bryant clothes fall apart within a month. Even Wal-Mart's stuff isn't usually that bad.

See -- this is my issue with the Sam Vimes theory. Sometimes I've gritted my teeth and sprung for the $50 boots and found that they fall apart every bit as fast as the $10 boots. So then I'm out five times as much money AND I still have wet feet.

With clothing, I can sometimes find what I want at a store that offers a lifetime guarantee. If there's an appliance or electronics store that offers the sort of guarantee that comes standard with any purchase at REI or Cabela's or Land's End, I haven't found it. (Also, we buy non-stick frying pans, and it really doesn't matter how much you spend on a non-stick coating and how carefully you keep the metal spatulas away from it, it will slowly but surely get dinged up and require replacement.)

#130 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 09:07 PM:

Earl Cooley @114: as others have mentioned, milk can be frozen. I have found that if my work fridge is set cold enough, my milk freezes and this extends the shelf life. As long as some of the milk in the container is frozen, it will last longer.

At work, I keep the milk out all day, and return it to my fridge before I leave. Sometimes I forget to put it away; when I find it the next morning, and it still smells ok, I immediately put it into the freezer, and I've rescued at least one container from spoiling.

#131 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:26 PM:

inge @128 taste is individual, yes, but home wasn't the only place I had milk for drinking. There was also friends' homes, and school every day lunch, and there wasn't a particle of difference in the taste.

There's a for-sure huge difference in taste between UHT skim and fresh-from-the-dairy-truck whole milk, but the UHT skim has been through an entirely different treatment than simple freezing.

I think if you freeze standard homogenized whole milk right away, and thaw it gently, there's a pretty good chance it'll taste just fine. If not, well, don't do that any more.

#132 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2009, 11:41 PM:

Ulrika @ 52: "The vast, vast majority show up too late to be among the few who grab the brass ring, and instead spend their money on stuff they didn't mean to buy at non-reduced prices."

I think you're confusing the "Oh, crap, Christmas is coming!" Black Friday shoppers for the true doorbuster deal-seekers. I'm going to go out on a limb and assert that the vast majority of injuries suffered by Black Friday shoppers are among the latter crowd, and happen at the very moment the doors are first busted wide--not later in the day. Those deal-seekers are, in fact, the very ones who are paying the most attention to the logic of the game: if you want one of a limited number of great deals, show up early. Throw elbows. And they're also the ones most likely to get trampled by their fellow shoppers. In other words, the ones who play the game best are also the ones who create the situation that's most likely to lead to injury.

Jacob Davies @ 65: "This is not a normal business. It is a cancer on normal business."

Lee @ 70: "Actually, Wal-Mart is a spontaneous development of the free market, because they have enough clout to ignore any law they choose with impunity... or get it changed, as you note. They are an excellent example of the aphorism "the free market isn't" -- and without the regulations we have in place, and the unions, there would be many more companies exactly like them."

Yes, exactly. Walmart's particular vileness isn't a departure from the normal path of business--it is a return to it. It's what every business would be if they could figure out how to get away with it.

stefan jones @ 85: "Portland seems to have a Wal-Mart exclusion field."

Walmart's had a very hard time getting into the coasts.

"...After that defeat, the unions and its allies fought back, convincing city councils and governmental agencies in big East Coast and California cities to use zoning ordinances and bans on big-box stores to keep Wal-Mart out of town. Public indignation over the company's labor practices has also contributed to its inability to enter blue-state markets."

From this link.

Shorter Summer Storms @ 106: "How dare you suggest I look down on people who shop at Walmart? I never said anything of the sort! Now, let me explain to you in elaborate detail why anyone who, given any other choice, shops at Walmart is either willfully ignorant or evil."

#133 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 12:10 AM:

132
They were trying to put in a new store in a shopping center that was being remodelled. To meet the code requirements, they would have had to double-deck the parking area, which is at a busy intersection, right across from a mall. (It's also an odd-shaped lot.) The location is also within a mile of (1) Costco, (2) Target, and (3) K-Mart (later closed for redevelopment), and about three miles from an existing W*lM*rt with more parking available.
They didn't get the permit.
(It's now a Best Buy and an OfficeMax, with a fitness place upstairs and at least one food place, all tucked into the one building. And the parking lot usually isn't full.)

#134 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 01:59 AM:

hesiarch - Even if what you were saying made any actual sense, it wouldn't be responsive to my point. It's a complete non-sequitur to the argument you claimed to be making earlier. Given that, I give up. I'm not fond of nonsense games.

#135 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 02:48 AM:

#132 heresiarch

Not all businesses would be slime if unregulated.

That said, not all would not be slime. It depends on the cultures involved, in depends on the ownership, it depends on goals, perceptions.... the thing about community-based businesses is that they are more likely to be tied into the community and have a continuing and concerned stake in the community.

For that matter, the term "stakeholder" which showed up in business terminology some years ago, is one that reflects the concept of people having a personal investment, often emotional even if not financial, in the business and in issues--and the importance of making people "stakeholders" and having them be personally involved and concerned and forced to be responsible participants.

That's the opposite of the carpetbagger-type approach that Wal-Mart often had used as strategy and tactic--(Wal-Mart's not the only chain pulling that. There is a remaindered book chain which according to an indie bookstore owner, goes out of its way to rent storefronts near independent booksellers and try to drive them out of business apparently....)

Sometime chains have come in and taken over a local or regional store/collection of stores, and cleaned things up--putting money into the storefronts fixing up the facilities, changing nd improving the merchandise mix, being more responsive to what people buy and don't buy (merchandise people don't want sits on the shelf being an expense and taking up shelf space tht merchandise the might sell, can't get space on...), and contributing funds and enthusiasm and support to the local community.

In the case of e.g. Trader Joe's, it didn't replace an existing storefront when it moved into Burlington, MA, but it provided merchandise which filled a hole in the area, and the bulletin board towards the back of the store has a bunch of letters from community agencies and organization thanking Trader Joe's for its participation and generosity.

There's a new chain store down the street a few hundred feet in what had been a storefront empty for months since the demise of Decathalon which was a sports goods chain. H-Mart went in there, an Asian groceries superstore, full of kimchi made in-store, fresh fish (originally the store apparently was going to have people pick out live fish to purchase, however there was a sign by the fish tank that had had had live fish in them the first day the store was open, indicating the the local Board of Health was objecting to that and not allowing it... the tank were gone from that area a few days later), frozen fish and meat, fresh vegetables particularly Asian ones, consumer products including Korean-style grills, lots stations cooking Asian specialties offering samples.... there is a large in-store bakery with its own cash register, a food court.... the store is pulling large crowds, from people in at least two other states apparently. The parking lot may have stopped being too small--opening day there were signs at the adjacent mall parking lot that there was no parking there for H-Mart and a police detail doing traffic management in the H-Mart parking lot, and the police detail continued being present during open hours days after the opening, and the parking lot packed--but the store had been doing a -lot- of business. It especially seems focussed on Korean foods, as opposed to the smaller Asia grocery stores around Burlington, which include Indian subcontient, And Chinese/other-East-Asian/some-Indian-subcontinent.

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:45 AM:

Summer Storms:

By the way, I don't want you to think I'm anything less than impressed by how you're managing your shopping life. I can see that a lot of effort and intelligence has gone into it. You're justly proud of being able to do a lot on very little money.

But I'm impressed and pleased for you the way I'm impressed and pleased by friends who have found a spiritual tradition that works for them. It's great for you. But when it turns into an assertion that it works for you and thus should work for everyone (regardless of their circumstances), or that people who don't share your values and your ways of expressing those values are unfortunate, ignorant or wrong, well, you lose me. And you lose people like Renatus and caffeine, who feel like they're in your cross-hairs.

I felt that 84, in the context it was written, was the first assertion. As a stand-alone comment, it's not at all judgemental, but as a reply, it is. And 106 is definitely of the latter type.

#137 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 06:41 AM:

In happy news, my mom made it through Black Friday okay.

#106 ::: Summer Storms:

And from what I've seen, the majority of WM shoppers do arrive in private vehicles

And how many of those have health/mobility issues? Not everybody with problems moving has a helpful sticker on their car to identify them.

Like Abi says in #136, you're losing me. I'm very impressed at all you're able/have been able to do, and envious that you've been able to do it at all, and bitter because you seem to be assuming that no, really, it's more possible than us benighted souls would like to think, and, finally, that we're evil and/or stupid if we know that Wal-mart is crap and don't go out of our way not to shop there.

Yeah, well (again). Not everybody is healthy, able-bodied, or has large stores of cope (hi there). Also and relatedly, as Abi said, not all of us want to turn our shopping trips into a political action. Some of us are commiting political action by the simple fact of continuing to exist and really, really don't have much energy for any more.

I'm going to bow out of this thread now. While I definitely agree with Teresa's post, this particular tangent is upsetting me too much and I'd rather avoid saying anything regrettable.

#138 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 09:22 AM:

"hit up the fabric store and sew your own"

Right now I'm taking a break from assessing my fabric stash. I'm trying to be realistic about the chances of my ever using some of this fabric, because *sewing* *takes* *time*.

It also takes money. Money for patterns, money to buy a sewing machine and to keep it in good repair. You don't have to use patterns or a machine, but not doing so will cost you time. And it takes a skill which many people have never had the chance to learn. Even unpicking a worn-out garment and using it as a pattern takes practice to get right, and there is a cost of time and the fabric wasted in the course of that practice. Good fabric's not cheap, either -- assuming you even have a fabric store that isn't WalMart.

If you're poor because you're unemployed, you may well have the time. If you're poor because you're living somewhere where a minimum wage worker needs to juggle two jobs to make ends meet, it might not be cost-effective to invest that much time in making your own.

#139 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Julia, #38: If you're poor because you're living somewhere where a minimum wage worker needs to juggle two jobs to make ends meet

Which, at this point, is anywhere in the US. I thought I had a link to the government report showing that someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage can no longer afford a 1-bedroom apartment at prevailing rates anywhere in the country, but I can't seem to find it now. I know I posted it here sometime in the past year or so.

And you also won't find anywhere in the US that you can get a minimum-wage job for 40 hours a week, because that would make you full-time and hence eligible for health insurance and other legally-mandated benefits.

#140 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 11:34 AM:

I try to avoid WalMart whenever possible, and I appreciate Los Angeles for making it the least convenient option. But sometimes I shop there. For one thing, area Targets seem deeply uninterested in carrying wearable clothing for a size 20 woman (and please let us not get into the morality of fat here - genetics and lack of thyroid testing is responsible, not crappy food or my own particular immorality). WM also carries "plus size" socks, which actually fit size 9 feet after the first wash. While I am now fortunate enough to be able to pay more for the odd clothing staple, I find quality has been de-coupled from price for several years now. I looked at $60 t-shirts at Nordstrom that were still sweatshop produced. I've checked various on-line sources for US and union made clothes, but the only items they provide for a woman of my size are men's clothing.

I won't buy any food other than snack food there, but I have a plethora of grocery stores to choose from. And I am aware that the $10 I might save on various technical goods is just a guarantee that the item will fall apart faster than any other.

Do I think WM is evil? I sure do. But I don't think customers who shop there are.

#141 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 01:39 PM:

My family shops at Wal-Mart because we have to squeeze every feasible penny out of the budget and that's how you do it on my island. We are lucky to live in a compact small town whose four major grocery stores (Alaska Commercial, a no-membership Costco outlet, Safeway, and Wal-Mart) are within a 5-mile radius of our house, so that I can keep a grocery spreadsheet and route us from store to store to get the best deals. Sometimes that means going to Wal-Mart.

#142 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 01:43 PM:

"hit up the fabric store and sew your own"

If years of ideologically motivated attempts to sew have taught me anything it's that the day I need to rely on my own sewing to get something to wear, I'll cut three holes in a potato sack and wear it. It will look cooler and fit better than anything I can sew by myself.

IME, unless you are good at it, DIY won't save money. And if you want to become good at it, you better have time and money to put into it. Learning to become a seamstress takes two years, and does not get paid well.

Naomi #129: See -- this is my issue with the Sam Vimes theory. Sometimes I've gritted my teeth and sprung for the $50 boots and found that they fall apart every bit as fast as the $10 boots. So then I'm out five times as much money AND I still have wet feet.

There are some items where I'd gladly spend five times what the cheapest functional variant costs if it would only last five times as long, but *there are none*. You can spend an obscene amount of money and you'll only get prettier crap.

#143 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 01:56 PM:

Black Friday recap: The local Wal-Mart shares a huge parking lot with the State Troopers and the DMV, which has part of it marked for parking tests. The whole thing was full yesterday morning. I didn't go in until dinnertime. There were still enormous TVs in boxes lining the main aisles and I didn't even try to get into the stockroom. Stuff had been shoved in front of my shelves to make room and souvenirs weren't marked down anyway, but people had reached around the blockages and bought huge amounts of Alaska Wildberry Chocolates, etc., for a non-cruise-ship day. I guess they were buying for off-island relatives. So on balance, Black Friday was good for me; I got to write a very big order.

#144 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 01:59 PM:

inge @ 142: "There are some items where I'd gladly spend five times what the cheapest functional variant costs if it would only last five times as long, but *there are none*. You can spend an obscene amount of money and you'll only get prettier crap."

That is a pretty fundamental informational asymmetry, isn't it? How long a product is going to last you is always a speculative, uncertain thing whereas the price confronts the potential buyer with great certainty.

I've noticed that companies often abuse this lag: after decades of producing products that last decades, and having built a reputation as durable manufacturers, they transition to cheaply-made fall-apart goods at the same prices with the same label. Customers continue to buy, willing to pay the extra for the presumed long life only to find that it has become illusory.

#145 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 02:37 PM:

This Thanksgiving one of the things I've been grateful for is that my life situation makes it possible for me to entirely avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. I keep a good thought for those who have no choice (or for whom the other choices are even worse), and hope to live to see the day when the monster will fall.

As for Black Friday...my family-by-choice Thanksgiving is always in either New Jersey or New England (the latter with most activities centered around Boston, though the actual meal could be at the farmhouse in New Hampshire that some friends of mine own. In New Jersey, like this year, Friday is Gaming Day, when people go over to my friends' house (a block away from here) and play all manner of different games all day and evening and into the night. In New England, we go to the FAT Chain Reaction at MIT. Black Friday specials don't tend to make the cut.

Rick York 18: Hi Rick. How's your brother Mark doing?

#146 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Y'know, Xopher, that's the first thing I thought when I saw that name at tor.com earlier this week.

#147 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 03:11 PM:

The next time Making Light decides to hold a "Pile On Summer Storms Day", do you suppose I could get a memo in advance, so I'll know what to expect and either have time to put on my asbestos underwear or just stick to bad punning for 24 hours?

Abi, #120: Well, I apologize; I should have just asked instead of suggesting answers. Though I do note that both ignorant and evil make your list. Are you sure that's really that much better?

#136: But when it [my method of avoiding Wal-mart by simply not going there] turns into an assertion that it works for you and thus should work for everyone (regardless of their circumstances), or that people who don't share your values and your ways of expressing those values are unfortunate, ignorant or wrong, well, you lose me.

Abi, the above two snippets read as, "I'm sorry I insulted you so badly; here, let me see if I can do it better this time." Are you sure that was really your intention? Also, don't bother claiming to be "impressed"; I'm not here to impress anyone. And your sarcasm is showing.

At this point I am really at a loss to figure out where you - and others - are getting these things you are accusing me of. I called Wal-mart evil, yes, because it IS. I did not, however, call Wal-mart shoppers evil. I do feel, however, that if you are in a position where you have many stores to choose from including more than one that offers one-stop shopping, and you know that one of them is actively working to suppress other businesses, treats its employees like crap, and lowballs its suppliers, and yet you choose to shop there despite having other equally affordable alternatives, then yes, you either are making a conscious choice to support their agenda, or you just don't care. If it isn't important to care about how Wal-mart does business, then why are any of us even *having* this conversation? Why did Teresa suggest that Wal-mart be boycotted - whether on Black Friday or at any other time - if it is unimportant?

I am almost getting the impression that readers here are merely scanning my comments looking for things to criticize me about, rather than actually reading what I wrote and considering the context in which it was written. If that's all you're going to do, you may as well skip my comments altogether, henceforth.

For example, nobody seems to get that I have never suggested that anyone drag several childen through multiple stores every week. The majority of people, especially poor people, don't go shopping for non-grocery items on a weekly basis, and grocery shopping only requires ONE store, so why do you feel it is somehow better for our hypothetical time-challenged, possibly low-income family to do their grocery shopping at WM than to do it at someplace like Aldi, if groceries are all they are buying that day? And then if some week the kids need shoes or school clothes, make that the day for Target or some such instead. Incidentally, the Target stores around here, and some of the Kmarts as well, also carry a full line of groceries, and at damn good prices. Admittedly, I don't know whether that's a local phenomenon or something chain-wide; others reading may wish to suppy additional data points. That might be enlightening, though probably not as much fun as taking a few more pot-shots at me would be. Use your own judgment.

Also, when have I said anything about making grocery shopping a "political action"? This isn't about politics at all; it's about making informed choices in such a way that you take others into account besides yourself. That principle applies to everyone from captains of industry to parents and children, and to everything from not engaging in deceptive advertising or unfair business pracices to not driving 50 mph through a school zone because you are in a hurry to get to the mall. You seem to be of the opinion that it's somehow okay to consistently place one's own personal convenience ahead of all other concerns, and I don't happen to agree with that. (It's how we get things like runaway pollution, multi-car pileups on the freeway because someone was texting behind the wheel, people getting crushed in department store brawls, etc.) If this makes me a bad person in your eyes, so be it.

I've not made any assumptions about anyone else's priorities for time management and information consumption, nor have I said that I want everyone out there to be just like me. What I have said, however, is that if you have a little information - and it's pretty hard to avoid having that much- you might well want to dig a bit deeper. And if you have enough information, you might want to let that influence your decisions. You do realize that in writing this post, my primary audience is people who do look for information as a fairly regular part of their daily lives, don't you? I mean, this is Making Light. We're hardly a bunch who can't be bothered to look things up.

And you know what? Since you asked, I'll tell you: I do buy Fair Trade products when possible, which lately means whenever I can both find and afford them. I also buy local when I can, and in fact when I know a company is unethical, I do try to avoid them and their products. Am I aware of everything? No, I'm sure I miss something here and there. I am only human, I'm not looking to impress anyone; I just want to be as responsible a consumer as I can be. I don't recall either claiming to be perfect or requiring it of others. But ought we to let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

Shorter Heresiarch, the last paragraph of #132: "I don't even understand the conversation, but it sure is fun throwing rotten tomatoes at people."

Renatus, 137: What do health and mobility issues have to do with it? In many places, Wal-mart is not the only one-stop shopping opportunity, and it's certainly not the only one that offers help for those with mobility issues. Obviously, if you happen to live in a place where Wal-mart is the only one-stop in town and you really, really need a one-stop, then none of what I've been saying applies. But we really need to all stop pretending that the majority of Wal-marts are in places where they are the only game in town, because they aren't. Not yet, anyway, and I sincerely hope we never reach the point where Wal-mart has successfully cornered the market in every community they touch. The best way to prevent that is to avoid shopping at Wal-mart if you can. Why is that such an awful thing for me to say?

And this brings me to my next question: why are we all pretending that I'm talking about something I'm not? I've been addressing primarily the issues of people in non-isolated areas; people in cities both large and small, in suburbs, and in other fortunate areas that have more than just Wal-mart as a shopping option. These people are every bit as real as the ones who live in East Anywhere for whom Wal-mart is the only store for fifty miles around. My remarks are not aimed at the citizens of East Anywhere, they are aimed at people who live in my community, and in others like it. There are a lot of us, and we do have choices. We really should make them as responsibly as we can. The fact that we have choices says absolutely nothing about the character of those who do not, nor have I personally said anything about their character. I don't know how much clearer I can make that.

I've said my piece. Clearly, since I've only been hanging around here for a couple of years, I haven't yet been taught whatever secret handshake it is that enables some here to give voice to their opinions without being repeatedly raked over the coals for having done so, but if it's that important to some of you to keep on flaming me, I suppose there isn't much I can do about it.

#148 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 04:07 PM:

I'm taking a contrary view to several people here. Maybe we're reading the posts differently. Personally, I think Summer Storms has a point - a good one. Some people shop at W*lMart because they have no choice - low income and absence of other choices due to time/money/transport/combination of these. She hasn't said a thing against such people. However, she pointed out (@84) that (some) people on very limited budgets, can and do avoid it: that being on a low budget does not have to necessarily mean shopping in W*lmart.

abi @ 86 says: "People make decisions based on a vast range of factors; most of them are doing the best they can with the information and resources available to them. To presume otherwise reveals a limitation in your understanding of the situation, not theirs."

Yes, there are many people in that situation. There are also many people who can't be bothered to do other than the easiest option; can't be bothered to use the information available to them; can't be bothered to make changes in their routine so as to make use of alternatives even if doing so would actually save them money and maybe also time; and who sneer at and denigrate anyone who does differently.

Summer Storms makes the point @106 that some people are well aware that W*lmart is not a Good Thing, have realistic alternatives (and she makes it clear that those who don't have realistic alternatives are in a different situation) and still choose to shop there. What's so awful about that point?

Personal info.: I'm not on a terribly low income. I have been through periods of low income, but not the "can I afford ramen noddles or soup and still pay the bus fare?" sort of low income. I do have friends who have been in that position during their lives. I buy a reasonable amount of Fair Trade but not everything - I'm trying to increase that. I'm decreasing my use of the supermarket five minutes' walk away in favour of the ones 10 minutes cycle ride away, because the close one has a less good reputation for animal welfare. But I still shop there - I'm not perfect by any means. But I'm aware of my choices and the impact of those choices, and trying to improve.

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 04:19 PM:

Summer Storms @ 147... put on my asbestos underwear or just stick to bad punning for 24 hours?

Speaking of the latter... I was recently told that Tanith Lee will sometime commit terrible puns in her stories.

#150 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:07 PM:

Serge, that makes me want to read more of her work. I've not read all that much of hers yet... time to change that!

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:23 PM:

Summer Storms @ 150...

Be warned that, based on the example I was provided, they're atrocious.
("Takes one to know one.")
I heard that.

#152 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:27 PM:

It's "Pile On Summer Storms Day"? Why wasn't I told? I thought it was merely Friedrich Engels' birthday. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Seriously, I think Summer has gotten a bit of a bum rap, and I hope she doesn't go away in disgust. I think she was far from the only person whose rhetoric was veering a little too far in the direction of the proscriptive, but she got singled out because her excesses (mild excesses, really) were clear and unhedged. I am myself (this will not be news to my friends) sometimes prone to be more bossy and judgemental than the situation calls for; I'm reminded of the many times over the years that Teresa has said to me "Do you suppose you could try forming a sentence that isn't in the imperative?"

I do understand (and share) Abi's desire that we all try to remember that we rarely know enough about other peoples' situations to be able to conclusively determine how much they ought to do about this or that large injustice. (I like the way Xopher balanced the issue in the first paragraph of his comment #145.) And I think that while Summer may have inadvertantly trodden on a few of our sensitivities about being judged by strangers, she also made some worthwhile points and deserves a more generous reading.

All that said, I do find it notable that we wind up squabbling ferociously over who's doing what on an individual level, and who deserves to be reproved for not doing enough, et cetera. It makes me weary, the same way it makes me weary to watch people turning the challenge of global climate change into nothing more than another arena in which to stage dramas of individual bourgeois virtue. If we manage to ameliorate climate change and survive as a civilization, it is not going to be because enough of us were heroically austere and self-disciplined; it's going to be because we figure out how to restructure our technical and social arrangements in ways that cause less damage to the planet. Similarly, while I myself won't shop at Wal-mart, I think the solutions to the problems posed by Wal-mart are more macroscopic than microscopic, and meanwhile I'm inclined to tolerate people who do patronize the outfit, even if at that moment they look to me like folks who "ought to know better."

#153 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:43 PM:

Yes a thousand times to Patrick's last paragraph.

Summer, I hope you don't think I was piling on you. I think a lot of us might be bringing the baggage from a million other similar arguments where we've felt shamed by some personage or another. This happens anytime Peta goes and does something dumb, and then half the blogosphere is like "I'm going to go eat a whole pig raw! Vegetarians suck!" even when they mean no such thing. Defensiveness is remarkably easy to come by on teh interwebs.

I work for a company that supplies product to WalMart, and I see how skewed the whole business is to their needs. Now WalMart's talking about taking less of this particular stuff in general, and the company's going nuts to figure out who will fill in. The idiots who made the decisions to cater to WalMart rather than a couple of other emerging (r)etailers are not the ones worried about their jobs.

Incidentally, I did boycott Walmart yesterday, as I had plans to pick up a few clothing items after getting my hair done (hairdresser's near WalMart) and then was reminded about the whole crappy Black Friday stuff. If I can hold out on socks and tights, I can avoid contributing to their bottom line this season.

#154 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:50 PM:

Patrick, you're right of course; I too have a tendency sometimes to put things perhaps a bit more, er, strongly than they perhaps need to be. The fact that editing my comments prior to posting has been giving me fits lately - I've been forced to resurrect the old laptop I'd junked last year because my good one has a fried motherboard and I can't afford to replace it right now, and the slightest motion often causes this old relic to power down abruptly in mid-post due to a completely defunct battery - hasn't been helping matters any in terms of either my mood or being able to work on issues of subtlety. #147 took me three hours and four attempts, frex.

I will continue to try as hard as I can, however. My computer issues are no excuse for such unclear communication on my part that it upsets a large subset of the people with whom I am attempting discussion.

And no, I'm not going anywhere. Even big, squabbly families are still family, you know?

#155 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 05:52 PM:

And to Nerdycellist: I never saw you as part of the pile-on. It's all good.

#156 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 06:08 PM:

Summer Storms:

I'm sorry I got entangled in an argument with you particularly. As Patrick guessed, it happened that your comment was the latest and clearest in a set that was making a group of commenters on the thread feel judged and badly used. That's a particular area that pushes my buttons rather strongly.

It was not, however, my intention to mete that same treatment out in return. I'm sorry that I lost my temper and did so.

I would ask that you find some way to make peace with Renatus, who twice indicated real discomfort with your comments and was ignored. I think it would improve matters.

#157 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 06:11 PM:

Our WalMart experience was in New Orleans. It opened very close to where we took a house the week we moved there.

We write about WalMart and New Orleans in The Year Before the Flood. We shopped there. Why? Because it was the only game in town for just about anything. You had to drive out of New Orleans to even find a mall with all the national chains, whether regional, like Dillard's, or national, like Bed, Bath and Beyond.

New Orleans is the classic situation of this, or very high-priced boutiques, targeting a very narrow demographic and kind of merchandise -- none of which applied to me.

I didn't buy any clothing at all while lived in NO. Since we did return to NYC fairly frequently, when I bought clothing, I bought it here.

But when it came to household goods and appliances (for a stove or refrigerator, you had to drive to Metaire) WalMart or a very very expensive upscale -- boutique -- hardware store far away from our house was it. Yup, much of what we purchased at Walmart did fall apart either immediately or very soon ....

However, as Katrina tragically dramatized to the rest of the nation, a very large population of NO doesn't have a car. Walmart built on one of the few bus routes .... Who worked at WalMart -- all kinds of people, mostly of color, for whom there hadn't been a job.

So when our Tulane friends and colleagues could hardly believe we'd be so politically incorrect as to, gasp! go to WalMart and shop there, we thought they lived in a bubble -- and they did, their Whole Paycheck bubble, and the using of much gasoline to drive out of New Orleans to buy expensive stuff in the malls. We did get them to change their minds about it.

WalMart is still there, and it is still the only game in New Orleans, and by golly it isn't just poor people who shop there.

Love, C.

#158 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 06:57 PM:

Constance @ #157, "New Orleans is the classic situation of this, or very high-priced boutiques, targeting a very narrow demographic and kind of merchandise"

Welcome to Waikiki. Or Waikiki, meet New Orleans, given the chronology of their respective settling by outsiders.

Even Ala Moana Center has more of the high-end stores than it does the everyday kind.

#159 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Abi, Renatus, and everyone else who has been made uncomfortable by all of this:

Honestly, it was never my intention to make anyone feel like I was saying, "If I can do it [manage without shopping at WM], everyone can do it." One size does not fit all, and YMMV is always in effect, regardless of my or anyone else's experience, and for good reason. If anything I said gave the impression that I was attempting to dictate some sort of policy to people in general, I apologize for that, as that was certainly not what I had in mind.

To explain my part in this whole mess: I think that what I was reacting to was the feeling I got that I was being told, "well, it's impossible to get by without WM unless you have lots of money and/or or lots of time" and I was seeing that as a blanket one-size-fits-all statement from the other side of the argument. And, of course, the YMMV principle means that doesn't hold true for everyone either, which is what I was trying (perhaps badly) to convey. Somewhere along the way, I think we all wound up talking past and across each other, without anyone's necessarily grasping the full content of what the others were trying to say, and I'm no less culpable in that regard than anyone. So I'm sorry if I gave off the wrong impression, as it was never my intent to do that, nor for things to take the track that they did.

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 07:20 PM:

Patrick 152: (I like the way Xopher balanced the issue in the first paragraph of his comment #145.)

I took advantage of all the back-and-forthing on the issue for my first entry in the conversation.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 07:36 PM:

FWIW: my more-or-less loca W*lM*rt is in a shopping center with (from east to west, the stuff I know of) a major-chain supermarket, a major-chain drugstore, a major-chain sporting-goods store, a (regional, at least) clothing store, a major-chain craft/sewing store (the fabric quality has gotten noticeably worse in the last few years), the big W, a party-supply place, a carpet place, a major-chain electronics store, a major chain baby-and-children's store, and, out front, a lot of banks and food places, including the more-or-less-local In-n-Out.

Which means that I avoided that whole place yesterday.

#162 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 08:49 PM:

We avoided having to bite the bullet yesterday. we really needed cat litter and Wallyworld has the best price. With four cats and me unemployed, that is important.

However, Roh was off, we went out to Independence to treat ourselves to brunch at our favorite diner, The Big Biscuit. And since we were out there we decided to visit one of the two big freight salvage stores here in KC.

They had cat litter. For two bucks cheaper than Wallyworld. WOO HOO.

#163 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2009, 11:42 PM:

In the bike forums I used to frequent, it seemed like you could easily get into a testosterone match over who had the worst commute. Even if it's thirty miles in bad traffic, there's this idea that you could do it if only you weren't such a wuss.

It was very frustrating, because there are lots of people in the world who aren't healthy twenty-somethings, and "just try harder!" --or, "just try harder, or you suck!"--isn't going to work for everybody.

And I've seen that dynamic repeated time and time again among people who are committed to any cause--the idea that "just try harder" is what's important, when really, we need macroscopic solutions to make doing the right thing easier for people who can't, or won't, try harder.

(I didn't manage to become vegetarian until I went part-time at work, because there was nothing around but fast food and I was bad at organizing packing my lunches...)

#164 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:10 AM:

#139 Lee

The skew in international currency exchanges rates, regarding buying power on the local economy versus international products*, means that for someone in the USA the price of clothes made in China or Vietnam or Surinam or Vietnam, etc., is less that it would cost the person in sometimes even material, forget about the value of the person's labor time, trying to make the clothes. (I was in a JoAnn's on Saturday. There were soft synthetic fleece "throws" on sale for $2.99, down from normall sometime that was one of $6.99, $7.99, or $9.99. The fabric that the theows are made of, is something more like $9.99 a yard, maybe more, maybe less--and the throws are 50" X 60". 60" is the width of a bolt of the fabric. 50" = 1 2/3 yards. If wanting the fabric, for that day it was less expenive to buy a throw, than to buy one yard of the material off the bolt....

* A decade ago a coworker from India said the price of a CD in India, if converted to US currency, was a dollar.. that was when the price in the US w $9 or $10 for a legiit audio C.

Anyway, the exchange rates make Indian software people look inexpensize on the profit & loss balance book. The balance books don't look at employee and customer satisfaction as busiess metric generally, and don't care how much how irritited customers get at Raj from Bangalore accent prevents US caller from undertnding whatever Raj saying.

Rays is paying in rupees a ninth or so what an official exchanged dollar gets in rupee There's factor or nine or ten money valuation lag.... That in turn means that the goods from India, China, Malaysia, etc., are all more "economical" that Made in USAs product tend to be. The result is that minimum wage employees in the USA cant afford merchandise made in the USA....

#165 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 06:43 AM:

I know it's supposed to be all impossible to get into the reasons someone else shops where they do and how they do, but I personally work at a place where all my co-workers shop at WalMart. They refuse to be convinced that they should shop elsewhere, then bitch at me and wonder why I'm not broke when they are, but they don't believe me if I tell them they should just stop buying crappy products at WalMart and maybe consider using a budget.

I've lived in a small town where the WalMart drove out everything else, and I've lived around poor people before (technically, I'm below the poverty line right now, but I'm not supporting anyone so...) and there are definitely cases where the constraints of time and money force someone to shop at WalMart, but the vast majority of people I've met shop at WalMart because they think it's a good idea.

I know it's harsh, but the people I work with shop at WalMart because they are lazy, shiftless, and stupid. I know them, and I've met tons of other people like them, and I have trouble believing that they aren't the majority.

#166 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 06:50 AM:

Micah, if that's what you see when you look at them, that's how you talk to them, then you're unlikely to get much deeper with them.

#167 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 07:38 AM:

Elise, I didn't say that I talk to them like that, and I didn't say that I'm trying to get deeper with them. It's not like I'm making some great effort to improve the situation of everyone that I know.

#168 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 07:47 AM:

Re: Aldi

Hmm. Aldi (and Lidl) kicked W@lm@rt's arse out of Germany a few years ago. Unlike in other countries, W didn't just waltz in with a new concept of discount prices and an extensive inventory. They found established discounters here, and couldn't compete.

However, neither Aldi nor Lidl are without problems. They dictate prices in many cases, and are making a number of suppliers sweat, in the same manner noted above by nerdycellist @153. The dairy industry is another case in point; dairy farmers here have been hit extremely hard by the discounters' price slashing*. My husband told me the price of milk nowadays is about the same as in his childhood, around 40 years ago. Modern agriculture, processing and transport methods would explain that to some extent, but the discounters play a definite role.

*Of course the price structure of dairy products depends on other factors as well.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 08:24 AM:

Well, Micah, have you considered that your superficial acquaintance with them (as well as your fairly negative views of them) might be influencing your ability to discern why they do the things they do? Including shop at Wal-Mart?

Depth of acquaintance is not just about improving the world and the people in it; it's also about understanding them as things stand at the moment.

#170 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 09:34 AM:

#169 abi

An acquaintance worke in the steel industry in Springfield, Massachusetts. His coworkers did not comprehend the idea of "Determine the length of steel cable on a spool by weighing a known length of cable to get the weight per foot or mass per meter, weighing an empty spool, winding cable on the spool, weighing the now filled with cable spool, subtract the weight of the empty cable, and dividing by the weight per foot or mass per meter...." They also did not comprehend that stamping two steel washer discs at a time from wider steel stock than a single disc at a time from narrower stock, was a more efficient process....

There are reasons why the US steel industry had problems competing in the world, *stupidity* was generally a very large part of it.

#171 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Perhaps W****rt can repair its damaged image with their own pushcart hero, someone who selflessly pushes a shopping cart through the slums to Greet the poorest of the poor, and Sell to them samples of the abundance of choice offered by The Other Dubya.

#172 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 09:57 AM:

Emily #163: And I've seen that dynamic repeated time and time again among people who are committed to any cause--the idea that "just try harder" is what's important, when really, we need macroscopic solutions to make doing the right thing easier for people who can't, or won't, try harder.

Yes, this. It's an easy trap to fall into, because for those who can do whatever it is by trying harder, it's a game they can win and look good doing it (while fighting on macroscopic level is an exercise in frustration that will try the patience of a saint), and for those who cannot it gives them a reason not to play (why fight for, say, better bike infrastructure when only a tiny number of healty twentysomethings who claim that they don't really need it will benefit from it?)

Individual action is important, but individual action needs facilitation: For an effective "vote with your purse", the people who do the voting need alternative places to put their money, and the lower the cost of those alternatives, in means of time and money, the more people will do it, and the better one's cause will look, and the more people will support it.

Which is why evil empires have no interest in having alternatives around.

Debbie #168: re: Aldi -- Aldi, Lidl and the others pretty much set the discounter prices. A grocery store that does not match their prices in their cheapest food segments is widely regarded as expensive and a bad place to shop. (Which is what destroyed WalMart in Germany -- they couldn't match without breaking the law.) Many of their suppliers are brands that just have cheap product lines for the discounters, but when it comes to milk and meat, there isn't really a way to make it on the cheap. So the damage goes down to the farmers whose profit, if there is any at all, is in government (EU) money. In the end it's taxes that pay for cheap milk.

Problem is, if you pay 78 cents a litre instead of 47, you still don't know if the difference goes to the farmer or to the grocery chain. There seems to be an attempt by the milk producer's association to establish a "fair trade milk" brand/cooperative. I hope it's taking off.

#173 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 10:05 AM:

I'm lucky enough to be able to buy milk and cheese directly from local producers due to this organization--it costs more ($5 per gallon) but it's higher quality and I know where the money's going.

#174 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 10:43 AM:

caffiene, #74: When your frying pan breaks and you only have $10 in your budget to spare, you buy the $10 frying pan. It doesn't matter if the $40 one would last longer because the $40 one was never in the running.

I'm sure most of us have experienced this at some point.

This is what I've always wondered: Are these really the only options? Or is the $10 frying pan company cutting corners? Could they produce a well-crafted frying pan--less impressive and feature-laden than the $40 pan, but not something that's going to fall apart anytime soon--without increasing the price very much, if the company took more pride in craftsmanship? (This isn't an entirely rhetorical question--I honestly don't know, although I'd like to think bad does not inherently drive out good.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, #152: All that said, I do find it notable that we wind up squabbling ferociously over who's doing what on an individual level, and who deserves to be reproved for not doing enough, et cetera.

There are a couple things that tend to be forgotten in these kinds of conversations:

1. No one knows everything.

Even if information is technically available to someone, that doesn't mean they will stumble on it, know it exists, be able to track it down, or have the attention to spare to assimilate it all.

It's just occurred to me that this relates to the way some people put all the responsibility for bad mortgages on the borrowers--they should have known they couldn't pay back those loans, right? But because we don't have the time or resources to know everything, we depend on trust. Until we experience or learn something that tells us differently, we trust our doctors to give us accurate information on our health (and, most of the time, they do), we trust our employers to pay us fairly (and, most of the time, they do), we trust mechanics to tell the truth about what needs to be done to our cars (and, most of the time, they do), and we trust bankers when they tell us we can pay back the loans we take out (and... well, it turns out I could trust mine, anyway). Logically, we should be able to trust them. After all, don't they want to get that money back?

And, until we learn differently--and, like I said, we're not necessarily going to find that information, or believe it if we do find it--we trust that the people who run the businesses we shop from aren't out to screw us, and that their policies will not, over the long term, tear down the communities in which they do business. After all, don't they want to keep making money there?

2. No one can do everything.

It would be great if we all reduced our carbon footprint, recycled, ate locally grown food and free-range meat, were active in politics, boycotted sleazy corporations, and worked for entirely ethical businesses. Most of us have the time and energy to do only a fraction of the things we should be doing. Some of us have times when it's all we can do to get up in the morning and go to work.

#175 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 12:30 PM:

Paula, #164: Your response doesn't seem to have anything to do with what I said. Are you sure you were responding to the right person?

Inge, #172: Thirded. This has come up before, cf. someone (Caroline?) who was reluctant to try bike commuting because some of the streets she'd have had to ride were dangerous for bike traffic, and was sanctimoniously told that "making a Real Commitment to being green means doing it even when it's inconvenient."

No. Making a Real Commitment to being green means working to make it more convenient for everyone, so that you don't just get the die-hards doing it. In my equally sanctimonious opinion.

(Also, "inconvenient" is not a synonym for "life-threatening", as I said at the time.)

#176 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 12:41 PM:

#158 ::: Linkmeister

This is the condition of islands everywhere, in my experience. For example, the only place in the Caribbean you can get decent wine for a decent price is the French Caribbean, because, well, it's really France -- not a territory of France.

New Orleans is essentially an island -- an island AND a swamp both, with the exception of the area that is the Quarter, the original area of NO, which, shown to the Ibervilles by the local first peoples, is just that much higher and solid, so a city could be built there. Also, due to the curvature and the then extensive wetlands between the area and the Gulf, the winds of hurricanes do tend to sheer east or west and not hit that bit of land head on.

Love, C.

#177 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:45 PM:

abi @169:

I understand that my viewing some people I know as stupid and lazy implies that I don't understand their situation, but I have to disagree. I know them and their situations plenty well. Let me try to rephrase my initial comment, as well as some of the reasons I initially made it. (Also, I probably shouldn't have commented about work just after getting off a crappy shift.)

My impression of the tone of this thread as a whole has been that judging that the shoppers out there might not have good reasons for what they do is misguided. My experience, from all of my life so far, disagrees. The majority of people that I have known make purchases for little or no reason.

Now, because I see that behavior and label it as "stupid", my opinion is discounted, presumably because my position is rude. Is there a better way to describe the behavior that I see? People who are working poor, living paycheck-to-paycheck, having to borrow money to make rent on a regular basis, make no effort to budget their funds. The implication is that I should say, "They must have a reason for just buying things on impulse one week and then not paying their bills the next."

I disagree. Sometimes, behavior is stupid.

The shopping method that I have mostly seen throughout America has little to separate it from "Ooo, shiny, I'll buy it." If this weren't the case, the massive amounts of credit-card debt held throughout the nation wouldn't be such a problem.

The facts that I've observed are that people do not try to budget, and I think that is "stupid" and/or "lazy" behavior. Perhaps there is a better way to describe that behavior. I'd be glad to hear it and use it instead.

#178 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:46 PM:

abi-

Have you considered the possibility that there may also be some actual stupid people in the world and that your Pollyanna attitude prevents you from believing in them?

#179 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:56 PM:

177
You might consider that they've never learned how to budget. (It isn't inborn.) If their parents didn't do it, or never let them see it being done, they wouldn't have a clue.
Yes, there are books about financial management, but they tend to assume you already know about budgets and actually have money to spare.

(I also know people who understand budgets, but still haven't quite grasped that house brands are less expensive than big-name brands, and that snack foods are a frill when you have limited money.)

#180 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:59 PM:

Micah @ 177: "The facts that I've observed are that people do not try to budget, and I think that is "stupid" and/or "lazy" behavior. Perhaps there is a better way to describe that behavior. I'd be glad to hear it and use it instead."

You're treating budgeting as though it were a latent capacity of all humans, rather than a learned skill, dependent on a number of other learned skills. How easy would it be to budget if you were innumerate? What if you didn't know enough math to figure out if one gallon at $2.29 is a better deal than one quart at $1.10? What if you didn't know how to use a spreadsheet, didn't know how to determine monthly expenditures, how to balance income and outflow? These things don't depend on being hard-working or clever. They depend on knowing things, and knowledge is a privilege regularly denied to the poor.

#181 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:09 PM:

heresiarch @180: You're treating budgeting as though it were a latent capacity of all humans, rather than a learned skill, dependent on a number of other learned skills.

from P J Evans @179: You might consider that they've never learned how to budget. (It isn't inborn.)

I do not think that I am treating it like a latent skill or an inborn ability. Someone can be "stupid" due to poor education.

I was raised to know how to budget and that has helped me. Many people were not. In the financial realm, this makes them behave stupidly. Saying that they are stupid in a broad sense, based on that alone, is an overstatement, but it doesn't make the behavior not stupid.

#182 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:18 PM:

#180: Nobody goes around denying the knowledge of how to budget to people because they are poor. Even the worst public school in the poorest neighborhood will at least try to teach the basic math skills necessary to manage money. The failure of the student to actually bother learning what's being taught and putting it to use in adulthood may well be a factor in making and/or keeping a person poor, however.

A lot (note I did not say ALL) of people who are challenged at budgeting skills had all sorts of opportunities to learn them while growing up - even if not from their own parents - but didn't consider it important.

And yes, there are some people who for whatever reason just can't wrap their heads around math no matter how hard they try, but if anyone here seriously thinks that this accounts for EVERY person who can't or won't at least attempt to learn and use budgeting skills, I have a bridge for sale that you may be interested in.

#183 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:24 PM:

Micah:

No doubt there are stupid people, and people who had never had a chance to learn, people who are afraid of change, people who just don't give a damn, and people whose only joy in life is cheap stuff... It's difficult to discuss this on a blog or forum, because no one size fits all, everyone has their reasons, and no one else has to like those.

What makes me throw up my hands in despair is well-educated people who have money to spare, who would still buy Egyptian potatoes at the discounter instead of potatoes from the farmer next door who sells right in front of the discounter, who'd never consider spending more than 47 cents for a litre of milk if there was any way they could avoid it, because they feel that if they do not buy as cheap as they can get they are losing some kind of game.

I feel that there is a strong attitude that we have a god-given right to cheap stuff, and everyone not using that right is either a snob, gullible, a wastrel, or fails at math. (I can do "snob" very well.)

It all goes back to "looking out for number one", and either ignoring the damage they do, or feel powerless to not-do it.

Stupid? Dunno. Greedy? Deluded? Cynical? Possibly.
Dead annoying? You bet...

#184 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Ulrika @178:
Have you considered the possibility that there may also be some actual stupid people in the world and that your Pollyanna attitude prevents you from believing in them?

I am aware that there are actual stupid people in the world. But:

(a) I'm not sure I am sufficiently all-knowing that I can pick them out of the people whose behavior is rational from a perspective I don't have, and

(b) I strongly doubt that, assuming arguendo that I have identified the correct set of people, labeling them as such is at all productive.

Like Patrick, I'd be much more interested in finding ways that people could have better options than figuring out which ones to apply a given label to.

(And I don't know if you have the same associations, but my experience of the term "Polyanna attitude" is that it is a rude and belittling one. If yours is not, please note this for the future. If it is, drop the rudeness now; it's not productive.)

#185 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:29 PM:

@Micah: Someone can be "stupid" due to poor education.

I think the word that you're looking for is ignorant.

Stupidity is doing something wrong or disadvantageous despite having the necessary knowledge and skills to make the right choice. Ignorance is doing something wrong or disadvantageous because you lack the relevant skills and knowledge.

So Wall Street traders who had to move in with their parents after getting laid off because they didn't apply their professional acumen to their private finances are stupid, while your acquaintances who have never learned how to look at basic financial decisions in an informed way are ignorant.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but I think the distinction is rather critical. Ignorance is a curable disease, stupidity not so much.

#186 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:34 PM:

Micah @ 181: "Someone can be "stupid" due to poor education."

I think you will find that your definition of stupid is what most people call "ignorant." Most people, I think, define stupid as more of an innate quality: "1. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull."

I'm perfectly happy calling people who don't know how to budget ignorant. Surely they lack knowledge, surely they make poor decisions because of it. The question that remains is why they should suffer for something which has not been done by them but to them. If they are ignorant and make poor financial decisions, then whose fault is that?

#187 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:37 PM:

Micah, I think a major reason people are objecting is that, "This behavior is stupid," and, "This person is stupid," do not mean the same thing. Most people I know would agree that 'stupid' isn't something education can fix.

A recent Bitch PhD post included the bit, "You know what makes it really hard to learn how to manage your money? Never having any."

Quite a lot of the internet seems to be discussing poverty and the assumptions that go with it lately. I kind of want to put all the relevant posts and comment threads in a box and shake it until they fight or mate.

#188 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:37 PM:

Micah @181:

I tend to think of "stupid" as an inherent trait, like "tall". It's someone who lacks the capacity to learn. What you're talking about is something else: "uneducated".

One of the problems with conflating the two is that one is fixable and the other is not.

However, education isn't easy either. The greatest predictor of educational success in a kid is a household where education is valued; this breaks down into sub-categories as well. A family where math is valued will tend to produce kids who have a good grasp of math; one where the parents think literature is important will, on the whole, have literate children.

Teaching money management to kids from households where education and numeracy are not valued, where budgeting is not seen as a vital skill is a challenge. It's true that such kids should learn these skills, that they'll live much better lives if they do, but the fact of the matter is that the current methods of trying to teach this stuff don't work.

I don't know the answer*, but I think that simply saying that they're stupid is several steps in the wrong direction.

----
* OK, I know a few answers, but they're all expensive and time-intensive and not automatically reproducible on a wide scale. Big Brothers/Sisters, mentoring, adult education for people who have discovered the value of the things they missed in school...

#189 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:40 PM:

Chris, #185: Puts me in mind of Ron White's "You Can't Fix Stupid."

#190 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Micah #177: People who are working poor, living paycheck-to-paycheck, having to borrow money to make rent on a regular basis, make no effort to budget their funds.

Is there any reason why I shouldn't interpret this statement as anything other than hideously condescending?

#191 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:47 PM:

Earl, #190: Yes, there is. There is documented evidence of the existence of such people, which makes them factual, rather than someone who has just been arbitrarily labeled. If I say someone is tall, likes to sing, and spends a lot of money on books, is that an opinion or is it fact?

Describing people in the phrase you seem to take exception to is not condescending, as it stands.

#192 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:49 PM:

heresiarch: You're treating budgeting as though it were a latent capacity of all humans, rather than a learned skill, dependent on a number of other learned skills.

Not only that. Budgeting means "I'll put in effort to take control of my life". It works on the underlying assumption that control is yours to take, that you have power over what happens to you, that the future is predictable and can be planned for. But if you lived your whole life on the mercy of outside forces: parents, school boards, employers, landlords, bureaucrats, you name it, the lesson you learned all your life is that no amount of effort will give you control. The only certainty is that shit will happen and *somehow* you'll always come through -- better, if you take what you can get *now*, and waste no emotional energy on the future.

Of course, there's the snatch: It might not be *true* that control is impossible to attain. But without some belief that it is possible, you won't find out.

And this ties back into micro vs. macro again. Health insurance, unemployment insurance, social security, union jobs -- those spread out risks that can wipe out a person, allow for basic assmuptions about the future, and so empower people to take control of their lives. The less of a safety net there is, the more of a pipe dream self-determination becomes, and budgeting won't fix that.

#193 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:50 PM:

heresiarch @186, abi @188:

Ignorant might be a better term than stupid.

Whichever term is used, I don't think the majority case is that the people in question have good reasons for their shopping habits, which was the position I felt was being advanced throughout the thread. I'm not saying that ignorance is an easily-solved problem, I'm saying that it is, predominantly, the problem that exists, rather than just that people are in situations where they do not have options.

#194 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:52 PM:

Diatryma #187: Link does not work?

#195 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:53 PM:

Summer Storms @ 182: "Even the worst public school in the poorest neighborhood will at least try to teach the basic math skills necessary to manage money. The failure of the student to actually bother learning what's being taught and putting it to use in adulthood may well be a factor in making and/or keeping a person poor, however."

So the poor performance among lower income students in school is due to personal choice? Black students perform worse than white students because they're too damn lazy to learn what's being taught? That seems, well, just a tad problematic.

Of course the real problem with equating good budgeting with personal virtue is the debt trajectory of America as a whole over the past several decades. Debt among middle income families has risen steadily: is that because they all began to forget how to budget, simultaneously, across the whole country? Progressive brain damage in the budgetary cortex? It seems pretty hard to argue that social forces don't have just a wee bit of influence on individuals' financial decisions.

#196 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:55 PM:

inge @192:

It works on the underlying assumption that control is yours to take, that you have power over what happens to you, that the future is predictable and can be planned for. But if you lived your whole life on the mercy of outside forces: parents, school boards, employers, landlords, bureaucrats, you name it, the lesson you learned all your life is that no amount of effort will give you control. The only certainty is that shit will happen and *somehow* you'll always come through -- better, if you take what you can get *now*, and waste no emotional energy on the future.

This is a good observation.

#197 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:57 PM:

inge @194:

Here, this one does.

#198 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:59 PM:

I think perhaps I would have blearghed to a lesser extent over Micah's #177 if he had said "Some people who are working poor" instead of "People who are working poor" (a fallacy of hasty generalization).

#199 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:06 PM:

Micah @ 193: "Whichever term is used, I don't think the majority case is that the people in question have good reasons for their shopping habits, which was the position I felt was being advanced throughout the thread. I'm not saying that ignorance is an easily-solved problem, I'm saying that it is, predominantly, the problem that exists, rather than just that people are in situations where they do not have options."

Being ignorant is being in a situation where you do not have options.

The position that has been advanced throughout the thread is that the poor decisions being made by consumers are not occuring in a vaccuum. They are occuring in an environment which has evolved and has been engineered to force people towards those poor decisions. The position that has been advanced throughout this thread is that discussing the choices people are making in the language of personal virtue is deeply misleading because the problems are not the result of personal failure, but of systematic failure. Ragging on individuals for acting as the system encourages them to act, and valorizing those individuals who manage to resist only serves to distract from the only real way to fix things, which is to change the incentives of the system as a whole.

#200 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:15 PM:

Wesley Osam #174: Indeed attention is a limited resource! It's not just the time spent shopping, it's the effort and stress put into finding out prices, and remembering all that until it's shopping time. (Meanwhile the baby's screaming, you have to get the shopping done before you're due at your second job, etcetera ad nauseum.)

Micah #177: There is also a mindset of poverty -- when you know, or "know", that there won't be enough money to cover all the debts regardless, it doesn't seem worthwhile to put in the effort to save small money that will just get gobbled up by the big bills. For more in the same vein, I refer you to Scalzi on "Being Poor".

#201 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:22 PM:

#195: Ah, Heresiarch, once again putting words in other people's mouths.

I said nothing about black students or about race whatsoever. There are plenty of students of all backgrounds who don't bother to learn what is being taught because they find it boring, or because they think they'll never need to know it, or because they simply don't feel like it. It isn't a matter of race; it's a matter of being a kid and not thinking ahead, because kids are prone to that. But does the fact that they tend not to want to do that by nature really excuse them from any and all responsibility to do so anyway?

If you're a kid and you'd rather just tune out the teacher and not do your homework, and it isn't due to a learning disability or some other condition like ongoing trauma in your life, then exactly whose fault is it if you don't learn anything in school? At some point, individual responsibility does come into play. I'm all about safety nets, the responsibility of society for its members, etc. (anyone who's read my comments on a number of other issues that have been discussed on ML over the past couple of years and paid attention would know that) but none of that is a subsititute for personal responsibility on the part of the individual. The two go hand in hand. Society can give you opportunities (schools, teachers) and some help when you need it, but you also have to take some initiative to be an active partner and put forth the effort to do some of the work yourself. This may come as a surprise to you, but there are people who just choose not to do that despite the fact that there is no reason why they couldn't, and in those cases, the fault is ENTIRELY their own.

As for budgeting and personal virtue: I don't see it as any more of a "virtue" than sleeping when you're tired or eliminating bodily waste when the need arises. They're not values, they're simple necessities of biological life, and similarly, making at least a basic attempt to understand money and how to budget it is a simple necessity for anyone who lives in a society where money determines as many factors of daily living as it does in ours.

So maybe you think no one should ever be held responsible for anything. Fine; you're entitled to your opinion... but it doesn't square with the real world.

And with regard to middle-income debt, I blame a variety of factors beginning with the personal choices to throw budgeting out the window or to never bother with it in the first place and proceeding through a whole list of other things from forgetting that boom times are never permanent, to the bust that obviously followed, and the pervasiveness of advertising and other social and cultural inducements to materialism out of all proportion with financial resources, combined with runaway costs in things like healthcare and other necessities. It's a complex problem, but it still depends at least in part upon individual decisions and actions, the exception to that being extreme situations wherein a person was making every effort to live firmly within his or her means and then got blindsided by something external (injury, illness, job loss, other unforeseen disaster) that completely blew them out of the water.

#202 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:24 PM:

abi @ 188: "It's true that such kids should learn these skills, that they'll live much better lives if they do, but the fact of the matter is that the current methods of trying to teach this stuff don't work."

inge @ 192: "Budgeting means "I'll put in effort to take control of my life". It works on the underlying assumption that control is yours to take, that you have power over what happens to you, that the future is predictable and can be planned for."

There is, I think, a general assumption that maximizing one's financial benefit is synonymous with maximizing one's personal benefit. This is, above a certain lower limit, true. Having more money means being able to afford more things which means being able to more effectively maximize one's pleasure and comfort, to maximize the utility of your own life for you. Put away money so you can vacation in France. Pay for insurance so you're taken care of if you're sick.

For poor people this is not true. For many poor people being financially responsible (maximizing the financial utility of their life) means working sixty hour weeks, hunting for the best bargain, paying your bills on time, grabbing sleep when you can and never ever having an enjoyable moment of leisure. Rather than personal utility and financial utility going hand in hand, they confront each other as opposites. The choice is: enjoy my life OR work. And so when they choose not to work, they are making the same choice that middle class people make when they choose to work: they are maximizing the utility their lives have for them, not for others.

#203 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Earl, #198: Perhaps you, and others here, might be better served by omitting from your reading the "ALL" you are mentally inserting into other people's remarks when in fact the writer has not specified whether the group he or she is talking about constitutes the whole or a subset of the whole.

Just a thought.

#204 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:40 PM:

Summer Storms @201:

Watch yourself; you're getting angry again. You accuse heresiarch of putting words into your mouth, then say things like So maybe you think no one should ever be held responsible for anything.

The reality is that race is deeply entangled in American poverty and bad education. If heresiarch was citing black students as one demographic of students who tend to fail or be failed by schools, that's a fair point. Don't immediately leap to the idea she's calling you a racist.

The broader point is, if this thing is going wrong for so many people, is it all their individual fault? Or, if the system keeps producing bad results, should we find a different system? Could we set society up so that taking control of one's finances was a more achievable task for even its poorest and least intelligent members?

That might mean, to use your example, not expecting teenagers to think in the long term. Find some way to teach them budgeting that doesn't require that. Or it might mean finding ways to get them to care about the long term when they don't naturally do so. (That's the traditional role of parents in education, but if the parents are absent or not doing that, it's the kids that take the consequences. Not a good working-out of the ethos of personal responsibility.)

People will still drop the ball, of course. A society that allows people to succeed must also allow them to fail. But sometimes it seems like we're making achieving a peaceful, secure and moderate life into an heroic effort.

#205 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:42 PM:

heresiarch @199: The position that has been advanced throughout the thread is that the poor decisions being made by consumers are not occuring in a vaccuum. They are occuring in an environment which has evolved and has been engineered to force people towards those poor decisions. The position that has been advanced throughout this thread is that discussing the choices people are making in the language of personal virtue is deeply misleading because the problems are not the result of personal failure, but of systematic failure. Ragging on individuals for acting as the system encourages them to act, and valorizing those individuals who manage to resist only serves to distract from the only real way to fix things, which is to change the incentives of the system as a whole.

The environments that influence people that were discussed in this thread were not of education and experience, but of money and time, that shopping at WalMart was, for those people, the best decision.

Examples of this I caught in a quick skim through the thread:

abi @86: But not everyone is at the same balance between time and money. Indeed, some people have neither, and a big shop that carries a lot of things at low prices can save them both in the short run. And sometimes the short run is all they can work with.

caffeine @94: We could trade anecdata all day, but the point is that assuming other people are making decisions in a vacuum, or through the same lens as you, is alienating, condescending, and less likely to lead to an accurate, productive discussion.

abi @120: But we can play dueling anecdotes forever. What you apparently will not do is grasp that people who make other choices than you do may do so for good reasons.

The tone is that people have plenty of good reason for those shopping choices, and I disagree. Most people make their shopping decisions for little or no reason. Maybe the cause of that is ignorance, that they don't have the background to think out a good reason for shopping how they do. That's a different beast from what I saw being described in this thread.

#206 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:46 PM:

Micah @205:

But also me @86: People make decisions based on a vast range of factors; most of them are doing the best they can with the information and resources available to them.

So we've moved from resources (time and money) to information. That move was actually in response to your use of the word "stupid", and is back to trying to understand why people do the things they do rather than just writing them off.

#207 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:56 PM:

heresiarch @144: Oh, like Doc Martens? There's a reason besides thrift that I chase down gently-used older pairs on eBay, and won't buy if they're not Made In UK. Of course, Doc Martens now seems to have realized that people have caught on about the Chinese-made ones being shoddy, and for a premium they're offering "Heritage" ones, a limited style selection being made in the UK, and also a "Lifetime" option, which is even more expensive than the "Heritage" sort but they say they'll repair or replace any wear or damage forever. If I suddenly became unable to find UK Docs in my size on eBay, that's the deal I'd go for.

#208 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:01 PM:

Summer Storms #203: Just a thought.

Bingo!

#209 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:04 PM:

Abi, if I'm getting angry, it's because it wasn't the first time Heresiarch has done that to me in this particular thread.

Also, if I'm getting angry, it's because there seems to be an undercurrent here that says there is always an excuse for everything and anything, and that sort of flies in the face of everything I was taught growing up - by my parents, my teachers, and every other trusted source. It may also touch somewhat on my own tendency to make excuses for my own poor decisions in life even in cases where I really don't have one. I'm generally intelligent, I got a decent education (as far as it went) and I make dumb choices anyway. Magnify that by the millions of people who do the same thing, and some of what you're seeing may well be the product of just general impatience with the whole ridiculous mess. Especially these days.

On the other hand, I heartily agree that the hideously counterproductive system we have of promoting fiscal irresponsibility (or at least of strongly encouraging/enabling it) is a major factor in this occuring in the first place.

Getting kids and teens to think long-term has always been a problem, but granted it's even more of one now, with parents becoming less and less available or even able to teach their kids things that they ought to know in order to become functional and capable adults. The kids who are in those situations aren't the people I'm faulting, though. Again, the ones who have the opportunity to learn and just choose not to are the ones who annoy me, and I know or have known plenty of them.

There's a fine line between allowing for legitmate circumstances and telling people they don't need to take any responsibility, and at times it's damn near impossible to locate. I have enough trouble even locating it in my own personal life sometimes, and wind up feeling responsible for things that are out of my control, even though there's not a damn thing I can do about them, and in turn it sometimes makes it easier next time to just blow off something that I could take control of, because I'm tired. But I know that doing this is counterproductive, and so I have to just keep going and reminding myself that there will always be things I can affect and things that I cannot, and I have to keep looking for that line. When I read something that seems to indicate that personal responsibility isn't important, it makes me angry because I then wonder why in the hell I've been "wasting" all that time and mental energy when I could just sit back and let things happen as they will, you know? And it would be all too easy to do so, except that I know it would Not End Well.

And so I fight against that idea.

#210 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:05 PM:

Earl, I don't think that was justified. Summer's a regular arguing an unpopular point, not someone we want to chase off.

#211 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:27 PM:

abi @206:

Ah, I guess I really should have done more than quickly skim and noted that at first. Still, I do not feel that was the tone of the conversation in the thread. Even that comment refers to "doing the best they can with the information and resources available", and I read that as meaning that they have some different set of information at their disposal, which isn't the case. Likewise, with resources, I instinctively read that to mean what they physically have at hand, meaning resources such as time, money, and transportation. If you meant that they are uneducated and as such lack the ability to make decisions that would benefit them more in that situation, I don't think that's what your comment conveyed.

I'm saying that people are ignorant and lazy and, as such, make poor decisions, and that's the primary reason that they shop as they do. No matter how many times I look through the thread, I see a direction away from there, in particular when it comes to saying that the decisions are poor ones, rather than just decisions that I, being in different circumstances, cannot understand.

Also:
Summer Storms @209: [...] there seems to be an undercurrent here that says there is always an excuse for everything and anything, and that sort of flies in the face of everything I was taught growing up [...]

Had I thought to write this, I would have, as well as the rest of her comment, but I'm not just gonna copy and paste the entire thing a few lines down on the same page.

#212 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:31 PM:

I haven't seen such a hypersensitive thread in ... I don't remember when. I'm seriously thinking of shutting it down so everyone can regrow their top two epidermal layers.

Speak now or hold your peace: is there anyone here who's going to wail in frustration at not getting to post the comment they've been drafting for the last 45 minutes? You have until a five o'clock (1700, Jim) to explain why I shouldn't shut it down for a day or two.

#213 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:37 PM:

And Ulrika @178? Yes, that possibility has occurred to me; but I also pray that my trespasses will be forgiven as I forgive those who trespass against me.

#214 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:38 PM:

abi, Diatryma: thanks for the link.

#215 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:44 PM:

Summer Storms @ 201: "I said nothing about black students or about race whatsoever."

Did I claim that you did? Indeed not: I was pointing out to you the implications of your argument which you had not considered. There is a strong correlation between growing up poor and being poor, and being in debt and bad at budgeting. If you look at it through the lens of personal responsibility, then the only explanation for that is that poor people are less responsible than wealthier people. If you do not acknowledge that social factors are present which reinforce poverty, then the only explanation is that they are all, en masse, making terrible decisions for no reason whatsoever. If you assume that knowledge is there for the taking, then the only possible account for people's failure to learn is their personal failure. Given the high correlation between poverty and race, the only possible explanation for their presence at the lower end of the income scale is an inherent quality about them. That is in reality the explanation often put forth to account for the disadvantageous position blacks and Latinos occupy: they are lazier, more shiftless, stupider than others.

"It isn't a matter of race; it's a matter of being a kid and not thinking ahead, because kids are prone to that."

Then what explains the ability of higher income kids to consistently plan for the future better than poor kids? Are they just smarter? Longer-visioned? Or are there structural forces at work, conditioning their individual drive to learn?

"This may come as a surprise to you, but there are people who just choose not to do that despite the fact that there is no reason why they couldn't, and in those cases, the fault is ENTIRELY their own."

Who's debating that? But we're not looking for an account of why Bob the inveterate fuckup failed: we're looking for an account of why nearly everyone in Bob's neighborhood fails time and again, when Alice's neighborhood churns out winners like clockwork. In explaining that, Bob's individual failings are irrelevant, nothing more than statistical noise. There are people who fail no matter what advantages they have, and others that overcome any obstacle. But they're both long tail ends of the bell curve, and it's the fat middle chunk of people who might or might not succeed, depending how things work out, that concerns us. When group X turns out 80% success, and group Y turns out 20%, the explanation is unlikely to be group Y just didn't try hard enough.

"So maybe you think no one should ever be held responsible for anything. Fine; you're entitled to your opinion."

Gee thanks! But that's not actually my opinion. My opinion is that if large numbers of people are making such bad decisions that it's causing problems for society as a whole, trying to find explanations in personal behavior is a) highly unlikely to account for why large groups of people happened to change their behavior en masse and b) utterly useless in figuring out how to SOLVE said problem. The thing about personal responsibility is that it's, you know, PERSONAL and hard to affect from the outside. Whereas all the social forces that are compelling the detrimental behavior can be changed by the actions of society as a whole.

#216 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:45 PM:

The problems perceived as consquences to the walmart model of shopping could be seen as walmart itself is a consequence of a toxic complex of social-advertising forces that have persuaded a nation that shopping is the number one god-given american entitlement RECREATION -- as well as a patriotic duty to keep the economy humming.

As long ago as about 1971 when I began to be conscious of economic forces (your first job can be a terrific learning opportunity), when I received the information that most of our national retail profit was was Christmas shopping, that stores generally operated at a deficit all year, until Christmas season took them out of the red and into the black, I was aghast. What kind of economy depended on ... Christmas shopping????? And ... applauded it?

Later, right prior to 9/11 huge billboards all around here insisted YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEND MONEY! Right post to 9/11 huge billboards insisted SPENDING MONEY WAS A SPIT IN THE EYE OF TERRORISM. What kind of national economic thinking is this?

Only the most wilfully ignorant, greedy, exploitive, non-ethical thinking possible.

Why people fall for this, I don't quite get, since I don't and didn't -- but I grew up in an odd counter kind of cultural bubble of suburban U.S.A. -- a small family working farm, where budgeting everything every day starting with time was fundamental to survival. This included very dramatic examples in many areas that you CANNOT TAKE OUT MORE THAN YOU HAVE IN.

At the same time the poor were having fewer and fewer alternative routes to survival, including the loss of hunting, fishing, gardening, both due to developers and pollution. Their education was under more and more stress.

Calling a kid unwilling to learn when he doesn't even have a surface on which to put a piece of paper to do homework, well, you just can't.

Love, C.

#217 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:51 PM:

heresiarch, #199: "The position that has been advanced throughout the thread is that the poor decisions being made by consumers are not occuring in a vaccuum. They are occuring in an environment which has evolved and has been engineered to force people towards those poor decisions. The position that has been advanced throughout this thread is that discussing the choices people are making in the language of personal virtue is deeply misleading because the problems are not the result of personal failure, but of systematic failure. Ragging on individuals for acting as the system encourages them to act, and valorizing those individuals who manage to resist only serves to distract from the only real way to fix things, which is to change the incentives of the system as a whole."

I agree with every word of this except for the suggestion that there's something wrong with "valorizing those individuals who manage to resist." It's good to praise people who manage to resist! The problem starts only when one individual's particular strength gets used as an excuse to hold in contempt other individuals who don't share that particular strength. We should not be in such a hurry to decide that the misfortunes of others are due to their personal failings. I think we often are in rather too much of a hurry, because if we were to own up to how much of success in life has to do with simple luck, we would have fewer grounds for the lavish regard in which we struggle to hold ourselves.

#218 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:53 PM:

I'd like to slip in under the deadline and apologize to both Micah and Summer for overreacting to some of the things that were said.

#219 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Very good, Earl.

Three minutes and counting.

#220 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:59 PM:

When large numbers of people are seeing advertising that says that they really ought to have a big-screen TV or a home-theater system or a home exercise machine, or remodeling their kitchen, or anything else that costs money, and those ads are also saying 'no interest for n months', I'm not surprised that people who should know better, and people who can't really afford the stuff, go for it anyway. (We all do this sometimes, I suspect. And regret it later.)
Circuit City, before it collapsed, was making most of its money from the interest payments on sales charges to its credit cards. ('Nothing down and 10 dollars a month' is not good - but you have to be financially literate to understand why it's a bad deal.)

There are people I commute with who spend a lot of money on 'optional' things (like a new car to replace one that's less than five years old or an expensive vacation or a home remodel with new furniture) at times where I'd go 'whoa' (in one case they know their company is in danger of folding; in another they have a new house and newborn children). I think that they're foolish, but they aren't interested in what I think.

#221 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 05:00 PM:

I'm not seeing any compelling pleas. This thread will be shut down for the next 24 hours so we can all regrow our skin and get our balance back.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.