Today Is My 10th Anniversary Of Not Shopping at Walmart
I don't miss it, and I'm richer for it
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I grew up in a pretty little granola town in Ontario, Canada.
For many years, the good folk of our town fought against those corporate invaders from Bentonville, Arkansas, in hopes of protecting our local businesses, consumers, the environment, and democracy.
My childhood mind is imprinted with images of signs and protestors all telling Walmart to shove off.
Walmart, of course, eventually shoved its way into town by lobby-bribing our city councilors and provincial legislators.
After all, this is the same company that rammed a superstore into the shadow of a millennia-old Mexican pyramid.
My city’s Walmart was installed at the northern edge of town, set way back off the road, behind the Woodlawn Cemetery.
Twenty years later, when Walmart opened a second store in a prime location right beside the mall, no one made a sound.
The corporate colonizers had taken control.
Walmart is horrible for society.
Or, as the kids say, it’s problematic.
And not problematic in the sense of offending a delicate teenager’s feelings.
We’re talking actual, major, global, systemic problems:
1. Walmart savages local economies
Walmart is so big that it runs a trade deficit with China, and that deficit is so big that over a five-year period, it drained an estimated 200,000 American jobs.
2. Walmart treats its employees like garbage
Honestly, the Walton family probably treats their dogs better.
(This is the same company, after all, that tried to turn a profit off its deceased employees by buying dead peasants insurance.)
But even the living ones are suffering:
70% of Walmart employees leave in the first year.
The company has engaged in all sorts of illegal union-busting actions.
They have more employees on food stamps than almost any company in history.
3. Walmart costs communities a boatload of tax dollars
Obviously, Walmart lobby-bribe politicians for all the tax breaks and shady benefits they can extract, just like every other major corporation, but Walmart’s incessant cost-cutting also means they shunt their security costs to local police forces, who have to respond to an absurd amount of calls.
In just four counties, police departments logged over 16,800 calls to Walmart locations in just one year.
In other words, taxpayers are not only funding Walmart employees’ breakfasts, lunches, and suppers, but we’re also paying the company’s security bill.
4. Walmart destroys local competition
Nevermind quality, service, humanity, or net planetary benefit, in the world of winner-take-all corporatism, whoever has the deepest pockets survives.
Much like John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, the Walton family’s Walmart practices predatory under-pricing to drive local businesses to bankruptcy.
In fact, it will often open two stores if it knows it can kill competition quicker, eventually abandoning one of the locations once they’re in control, thereafter making shoppers drive further for the things they want and need. (They’ve abandoned more than 25 million square feet of stores so far, some of which have been torn down at the taxpayer’s expense.)
5. Walmart enriches authoritarian regimes
We all know it.
The biggest big box store in America is one of the least American things in America.
Walmart estimates that over 70% of its suppliers are based in China.
Now, it’s starting to pivot to Modi’s India for cheap products made by exploited laborers with few environmental protections.
Walmart’s overseas law-arbitrage has led to hundreds of deaths, child slavery, the abuse of women, disability discrimination, and thousands of other human rights abuses.
Oh, and they also have at least $76 billion stashed away in 15 tax havens, doing everything in their power to avoid paying any of the costs of civilization while extracting as much profit as possible.
People over profits
Not to get too philosophical, but now that you’re aware of all these facts, consciously continuing to shop at Walmart is an immoral act.
That’s what happened to me.
I learned the truth.
After that, I couldn’t in good conscience continue to enrich them.
Walmart is, like all multinational corporations, a predator alien species that should not be kept alive any longer.
I say we kill it.
Because Walmart is deeply anti-human… and entirely stoppable.
The fix is frightfully simple
Just stop shopping at Walmart.
It’s really that straightforward.
Over a decade ago, I watched Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices and I decided to actually do something about it.
People spent more than half a trillion at Walmart last year, but the corrupt company didn’t get one dollar from me.
After all, I know how the game actually works:
Everyone (except minorities, prisoners, and whoever else Mitch McConnell doesn’t like) gets one vote every four years, to participate in the charade of democracy while corporations (they’re people, remember?) funnel billions in dark money to (s)elect the false dichotomy Repub-Dem candidates of their choosing.
Meantime, those of us who are actually awake don’t bother wasting any time at a ballot box and invest vote 20,000–50,000+ times per year with a voting currency that actually matters and makes a difference: With our dollars.
When Walmart’s the only option
I’m not saying it’s easy to stop shopping at Walmart if you’re legitimately poor.
Not cheap… poor.
After all, Walmart perfected the race-to-the-bottom, and desperate people in dire straights can barely afford to shop anywhere else.
But that’s the point, isn’t it?
The entire point of multinational corporations is to shatter local resilience and self-reliance, disconnecting people from land and place and generational skillsets, creating a system of utter corporate dependence.
From that perspective, almost no sacrifice is too great in order to re-gain communal sovereignty.
For all those of us who are a shade above destitute, we must start paying the price for those who genuinely can’t.
As commenter Russ Linton put it:
“We need to starve these megastore beasts as much as possible. Deprive them of profit, of workers, and reclaim our lives.”
It’s the only way we’ll all ever be able to become free.
Go local. Seriously, just make the choice and do it.
For the past ten years, I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is.
The first step was to become a horrible corporate citizen and just radically scale back my consumption. In addition to simply not shopping — I don’t own a phone and in the past three years I’ve only purchased five pairs of socks and one pair of jeans — my localization efforts include:
Only going to local restaurants 99% of the time. (There’s only one chain restaurant in my town, so this one is admittedly easy.) My favorite is a Mexican place run by my friend Laura.
Getting my grass-fed beef and lamb from Robert and his parents, who own a farm beside my wife’s office.
Walking to a local farm shop to buy organic vegetables and sourdough bread from Laluna and the other hippie-types who dig them from the ground.
Collecting organic milk from my doorstep every Monday morning from Gerwin. (Yes, we have a milkman; it’s extremely affordable and amazing.)
Popping in to see Katherine and her amazing team at our local corner shop for organic eggs.
Seeing Marie at the Tuesday market for honey and jam and apple juice.
(Full disclosure: I still haven’t kicked my Amazon habit, but I mostly buy my books used from third-party sellers located within a few hundred-mile radius.)
But as you can see, much of our shopping is human-scale and relational.
It’s not as “easy” as popping over for a giant shop at a Walmart, but it’s easier on the economy, the planet, and my community.
It’s also easier on the future.
Plus, it’s fun.
Money and time well-spent.
And it allows me to vote for the kind of world I actually want to live in.
You know… one without Walmarts.