“I refuse to shop at Walmart because they underpay their workers.” This is often the common reaction when one thinks of Walmart. Not only that, but they have low labor standards, they have horrible environmental standards, they wipe out local businesses, etc. These are just a handful of reasons why some people refuse to shop at Walmart — that exploitative business. But do these reasons have any truth behind them?
After all, Walmart has been able to raise the living standards of many Americans because of the affordable goods they offer. In fact, low-income households are the greatest beneficiaries of Walmart’s low prices. It really isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be. For people struggling financially, Walmart may just be their best friend. In total, consumer savings in the U.S. alone are as high as $100 billion dollars a year and because people now have more money to spend on other things, they end up contributing to other businesses. For more evidence of evil exploitation, look no further back than Hurricane Katrina. They donated 20 million dollars and sent out 1,500 trucks of free stuff. Compare that to the response of big, inefficient government bureaucracies. The response at the federal, state, and local levels were slow and disorganized.
So what about their employees? Walmart’s exploiting the workforce, right? Not quite. An employee at Walmart is there because that was the best job he or she could get — none of them were forced to work there. Even so, many of its employees are students, retirees, and those looking for a second source of income. If Walmart somehow closes up shop tomorrow, these workers won’t be better off and may even end up working at places where the wages are lower and the benefits are a lot less. Go ahead, raise the minimum wage as many Walmart critics have suggested, but this is completely counterintuitive — it actually helps Walmart by raising the costs of its competitors and rivals. They’ve even lobbied for higher federal minimum wages in the past.
Finally, my personal favorite: Walmart’s abuse of environmental standards. People like to point out to me that all Walmart cares about are profits, but it’s precisely because of their interest in profits that drives them to give customers what they want. In this case, it’s greener services. Let’s face it, we’re moving into a more eco-conscious age, and businesses know that. By 2015, Walmart plans to cut 20 million metric tons of emissions.
On top of that, they’ve invested in building energy-efficient stores, utilizing energy-efficient trucks, promoting sustainable shopping practices, preserving wildlife habitat, committing to solar energy at 22 sites, creating environmental impact labels on their products and much more.
As one of the largest retailers, Walmart can act quickly to meet its customers wants and can set the standard in its industry, and it is. So next time you decide to criticize Walmart or any other business for its “greedy” or “exploitive” practices, think through what that really means.