Thursday, January 24, 2013
There are already plenty of other sites that have done an enormous amount of work to record the trouble that Wal-Mart has been in but most of them have limited resources and I believe they could use some help with their research and that by providing another one that I could do my part to contribute to this. Some of what some of these researchers have been doing is keeping track of some of the stories that tend to fall down the memory hole and people forget about them so that when time p[asses Wal-Mart manages to repair it’s image without actually addressing many of the problems they have had in the past. By logging some of this I may enable a better record to be kept of it.
Also I have compiled a list of some of the other sites that I have found it could help people to sort through the other researchers that have been reporting on Wal-Mart. It will also include periodical reviews of various subjects that I might go into greater details into including Wal-Marts researching into marketing to children and how this is interfering with their education and being used to suppress creative thinking; their potential antitrust violations; the use of planned obsolescence to increase sales; their impact on the environment; and methods to encourage change at Wal-Mart.
One of the most important misconceptions about Wal-Mart that is often even repeated by their critics is the claim that their prices are "low." For the most part this claim is usually false, at least when you consider the actual value of their products. There have been some exceptions, of course, especially when it comes to price wars that they have been involved in over the years when they have competition that they want to put out of business. When this happens the consumers often do get good prices, for a little while; but as soon as they succeed in wiping out the competition and developing a monopoly in many areas they no longer have the incentive to keep their prices and the consumers lose their temporary advantage; and pay a much higher price. This is often referred to as "predatory pricing" and it has been properly described as a corrupt business practice although whether it is considered illegal may depend on the political environment at the time and whether the companies involve have political connections. As far as I can tell this no longer happens very often any more if it continues to happen at all; now that the biggest corporations have consolidated into a small number of oligarchies they no longer seem to need to do this and it has led to virtual, if not literal, price fixing or gouging by the oligarchies. The lack of sincere competition also means they don't have to try to provide durable merchandise any more to compete since most of these oligarchies don't try very hard to make things last longer than necessary to keep customers from becoming outraged; although most of them aren't as bad as Wal-Mart.
It also often seems cheap in many cases compared to many of the other products on the market; but when taking a closer look at how long these products last it becomes clear that in many cases they have cut so many corners in the manufacturing sector that their products fall apart much quicker than they used to. Some of this can be understood just by considering how much money they have been spending on activities that have little or nothing to do with the production and sales of merchandise that benefits the public.
When they close down local manufacturing plants and replace them with factories half way around the world they lose the advantage of low shipping and distribution expenses. Then they go even further and cut the wages of their workers that are making their merchandise and reducing their safety conditions to save money. This is justified as necessary to stay competitive. The problem is that these expenses that are being cut are those that are related to the quality of their merchandise. Even if you're not concerned with the human rights abuses it should be clear that if these workers aren't living in a reasonably safe environment and getting fair compensation they will be less able or motivated to manufacture quality merchandise.
Which may be exactly what Wal-Mart wants. They may not want quality merchandise that lasts a long time because they can keep selling us more products if they fall apart much quicker.
Then they spend an enormous amount of money on research into marketing to children which often involves hiring child psychologists to research how to manipulate children at a young age. This has been researched and reported in several books on the subject including "Consuming Kids" by Susan Linn and others which I will go into more detail on a future post coming soon. This is the beginning of their activities on activities that have more to do with their political agenda and their objective of increasing profits by studying how to develop more deceptive and effective advertising and how to convince people they're getting their money's worth when they aren't and how to keep it secret (although most of this hasn't been kept completely secret at all). The more they spend on advertising, lobbying, campaign contributions and many other expenses including efforts to influence the education system the less they have available to put into the quality of their merchandise and these expenses have to be passed on to consumers or to some other source which may at times include government subsidies.
One way or another these expenses for activities that are against the best interest of the public are passed on to the public.
These practices aren't limited to Wal-Mart, of course and they wouldn't have happened if not for the corruption of the political system; but Wal-Mart is one of the biggest offender, if not the biggest; and it is easier to focus on this than to keep track of all the oligarchies at the same time. Other efforts can and have been made to keep track of other offenders as well elsewhere.
The bigger problem is that the effectiveness of ant-trust laws have been eliminated and on top of that trade secrecy laws have been implemented instead of disclosure laws that are designed to protect the public from fraud. Also false advertising laws are limited or nonexistent, at least when you consider how they're enforced, or more accurately not enforced. Under the current circumstances false advertising has been protected while the truth is routinely suppressed or downplayed due to trade secrecy laws or the fact that the commercial media has overwhelming control over the press so even when many of these scams are exposed they aren't widely reported so the majority can act on them when they address or choose their elected officials.
A sincere democratic system would enable the public to have access to the information they need to make important decisions.
That isn't the system we currently have; although many people pretend that we do.
The following are a sample of some of the news samples that have been presented about Wal-Mart including recent ones as well as some that are already starting to be forgotten.
Bangladesh garment manufacturing fire
Wal-Mart Mexican Bribery Case
Wal-Mart Worker Protests
Wal-Mart workers discrimination suit
Wal-Mart Vs. Starbucks: In 2006 Fred Jacobs argued that Starbucks did a much better job maintaining a good reputation than Wal-Mart and implied that this was a good business strategy. this seems reasonable, to a point; however I never thought Starbucks had a good reputation either. It seems to me that the more they spend on public relations the less they have to spend on the product or service they provide. This means that if the public recognizes this then public relation campaigns will be recognized as scams and they will stop working.
Starbucks may have done a better job convincing the public that they're more responsible citizens but this will only last until the public wises up to these scams.
The fact that Wal-Mart was in trouble seven years ago for many of the same reasons they're in trouble for now may make it seem hopeless to some. If they still haven't collapsed why should people expect them to change now? there is plenty of good reason; first of all they're in much more trouble now. Second of all since they're so large people shouldn't expect them to change over night. However there are signs that things are starting to turn around \and there might be much more change coming one way or another if people keep pushing for it.
Ironically Wal-Mart has been using some of the same methods that were used over a hundred years ago by many other companies. These were changed in the past when enough people stood up to them and they can be cahnged in the future again; only this time, if precautions are taken and election and education reform is included it could be set up so that the improvements will be much more difficult to over turn by powerful businesses.
Clarence Darrow made a great speech on the subject in 1909; the following are some excerpts; simply by substituting Wal-Mart for the oligarchies of the day it will seem a lot like the tactics that are taking place today.
The following are some additional web sites that have covered much more about efforts to expose and reform Wal-Mart:
Making Changeat Walmart
Organization United for Respect at Walmart
Green America Walmart alerts and campaign
The Writing on the Wal
Walmart Subsidy Watch
Walmart Employees Speak Out
Wal-Mart Watch Videos
Wal-Mart live growth chart (slow start but then…)
Watch the Growth of Walmart and Sam's Club