Wal-Mart counterpoint: Wal-Mart’s low prices deserve consideration

By Heather Dexter 2007

Editor’s note: This article was written in response to an anti-Wal-Mart column in the Hi-Line earlier this year.

There’s been a lot of bad press regarding Wal-Marts recently. I think someone needed to look at both sides of the story and get the real facts about Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is actually not as bad as you might think. In 2004, $170 million was generously donated to support communities and local non-profit organizations. When Wal-Mart makes an effort to help local communities with money, they also make sure it stays there. Their philosophy is about giving back globally as well as locally.

With the war in Iraq, Wal-Mart donated 900,000 care packages filled with all kids of items for soldiers including stationary and calling cards. Large cash and merchandise donations were made to the Hurricane Relief Disaster Funds. This has helped people tremendously during their financial troubles following these natural disasters. The photo center at Wal-Mart has posted pictures of people misplaced by the hurricanes to be matched up with lost friends and loved ones.

If you’ve ever walked into the automatic doors at Wal-Mart, you’ve probably seen the Code Adam sticker. This system helps find missing children who’ve been separated from their parents. The missing children bulletin board shave also been a big help. Three out of every four children are recovered with the help of these posters. People don’t seem to want to accept that Wal-Mart just happens to be, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the most generous corporate company in America.

Other claims have been made saying that whenever a Wal-Mart building closes down, they don’t let anyone else start a business there and they just keep the land. This simply isn’t true. In fact, the Cedar Falls Hy-Vee grocery store is moving into the building whre Wal-Mart was previously located.

Full-time employees at Wal-Mart are provided with many great benefits. Some of them include medical and dental insurance, profit sharing, 401K plans, store discounts and life insurance. On average, full-time employees (store associates, cashiers, stockers, sales associates) earn about $8.23 per hour. If I were employed at Wal-Mart, I would think that those are great benefits for hard working Americans without a college degree.

In January 2006, Wal-Mart will be providing more than 1 million Americans with health benefits for as little as $11 per month, and 30 cents per child, along with minor to major amounts of dental insurance.

Recent lawsuits to Wal-Mart have been made saying that Wal-Mart discriminates against women. This wasn’t even a legitimate claim because they weren’t even women working at Wal-Mart. In fact, Wal-Mart does not believe in discrimination. It’s a great place for women to work (with women representing 60 percent of the people who work there, 40 percent of them being managers) and highly encourages minorities to apply.

Job training at Wal-Mart and making sure the employee’s there know what they’re dong is something that is very important to Wal-Mart’s reputation. On-the-job classroom and computer-based training along with mentoring is offered at stores. They only pay the employees for the minutes they work. Any manager who tolerates or allows employees to mess around and not do their jobs will be disciplined or fired. This action is immediately required to be reported to upper management.

Wal-Mart cares significantly about their employee’s education. They will reimburse workers or their spouses with up to $300 for books, classes and tests after they complete their GEDs. They provide scholarship programs to associates and their children to make sure they get a good education. The Corporate Intern Program (established in 1987) is a summer internship for college juniors and seniors where they can learn how a multimillion dollar business works.

Because Wal-Mart has thousands of stores across they country, they take up a lot of land, which means they should be worrying about the changing environment around them. In McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colo., Wal-Mart is experimenting with two energy conserving stores that are being built for tests to see if they can save energy, which will be applied all over the country if they’re successful. These stores will use 30 percent less energy and 30 percent less greenhouse gas.

There’s also a Wal-Mart environmental-friendly distribution truck, which will come out in 2007. It’s going to be more aerodynamic and save a significant amount of fuel.

Wal-Mart has also acquired a toy company to help reduce packaging materials on some of their items. They were able to use 230 less shipping containers and save 356 barrels of oil and 1,300 trees. They also recycle their plastic, which they get paid for, and that means they’re taking care of the environment and making money at the same time. I sure can’t complain about that.

Organic cotton is becoming a popular product in Wal-Mart’s clothes such as bed, bath and baby products. Using organic cotton has saved 500,000 pounds of harmful chemicals from being used on the cotton, and Wal-Mart has become the biggest single buyer of 100 percent organic cotton products.

Wal-Mart and other corporate companies can never be 100 percent sure that their products aren’t being made in sweatshops; however, they do spend millions of dollars a year in factory inspection programs to make sure there is no mistreatment of workers going on and no child labor taking place. If this does happen, Wal-Mart makes an effort to correct the problem. They also come back later and make sure the mistreatment of workers isn’t continuing. If it is, Wal-Mart stops doing business with them and cuts them off. Factory inspectors look for safety issues such as fire exit shortages and unfair employee wages. Legal age requirements for the workers are also checked.

In response to allegations against Wal-Mart, one must realize that negative cases arise in all big companies in our country. If one looks at the facts instead of one-sided political arguments, one would realize that Wal-Mart’s presence has been positive. It has saved consumers thousands of dollars as well as paid thousands of tax dollars to our community allowing for considerable growth.

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