The Wal-Mart nation
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 by Ron Cruger
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        Something doesn’t add up. When Wal-Mart announces that they want to build a new store in an area, much of the citizenry becomes challenged, kindled and aroused. The complaints are that the new store will put “mom and pop” stores out of business. From the sidelines we also hear that the entrance of a Wal-Mart store in the community will cause undue traffic problems, public safety hazards and low wages. Listening to the opposition to Wal-Mart and reading the letters to the editors of local newspapers would have one believe that every soul in the community is dead set against the opening of a Wal-Mart store or the expansion of an existing one.
          Eventually, the new or enlarged Wal-Mart store emerges and many of these same citizens make up the hundreds of thousands who will shop at that same Wal-Mart store. The reason, I presume, that they will become converts to Wal-Mart shopping is their urge to save a few bucks of the family budget.
          There have to be a lot of these Wal-Mart haters that become converts to saving a dollar. I wonder if these protesters wear disguises when they show up at their Wal-Mart store to do their weekly shopping. As much as these citizens protest there must be an awful lot of them that wind up choosing to shop at their local Wal-Mart after their protesting days are over. After all, 180,000,000 people shop at Wal-Mart world-wide every week, 136,000,000 of them in the United States. Each week a third of the U.S. population visits a Wal-Mart store. These aren’t figures for a company that nobody likes to have in their neighborhood.
          Wal-Mart expects sales in 2008 to reach $378 billion. 1,900,000 people work at Wal-Mart stores world wide with 1,300,000 of them in the United States. Doesn’t sound to me like a company that a majority of people despise or shun to any great extent.
          Some of the dispute comes about because of the many goods that Wal-Mart sells are made in China, at least that’s what I’ve heard from a couple of neighbors and one friend.
          During a recent shopping trip, which started at our local Wal-Mart store I decided to check some identifying labels. I did not conduct a scientific survey, I just walked down some aisles randomly and checked labels. If there was one rack of merchandise from one country I moved to another rack. This was a random and desultory search. The results are not only surprising, but illuminating, even considering the type of survey.
          The first eight labels I chose indicated the merchandise was made in – Guatemala, Dominican Republic, India, China, Philippines, Honduras, Jordan and Swaziland. I found two items made in U.S.A. and then found merchandise that was made in the following countries of origin – Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Madagascar and Israel. In the Wal-Mart shoe department every pair of shoes I checked was made in China.
          “So,” you ask, “does Wal-Mart have an advantage by selling so many items made in other countries?”
          The following day I decided to do the same type of non-scientific survey at some other large retailers. The giant Target store up the street was my first stop. The first six items I found were manufactured in Mexico, Pakistan, Guatemala, China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Other countries of origin in Target were Jordan, Cambodia and El Salvador. Most shoes carried a “Made in China” label.
          A few miles north is the Penneys store in the fashion mall. A random check of labels indicated the following countries of manufacture – Bangladesh, Mexico, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, India and Canada.
          In the same mall is a Coldwater Creek shop. Surely, I thought, these would be American made clothes and many are, but the labels I quickly and randomly checked were from Thailand, China, Mongolia, Hong Kong, India, Guatemala and Macau.
          I noticed that many items for sale carrying the “Hannah Montana” label are made in Mexico.
          A check of our local Sears store found these “made in” labels – Cambodia, Vietnam, Madagascar, Malaysia, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Macao, Guatemala, Egypt and Mexico.
          A quick check at the Marshall’s store and I found labels from Vietnam, Bangladesh and China.
          In many stores almost every pair of shoes on display carries a “made in” China label.
          Two days later I was I was walking down the marble aisles of the highly respected and popular Bloomingdale’s store in the fashion mall.
          I checked three items – “made in” Peru, Italy and Romania. That was enough. Un-scientific survey is over.
          Wal-Mart claims that its customers, in 2008, will save $287 billion merely by shopping at Wal-Mart. That means that each Wal-Mart shopper will save $957 during the year or $2500 a year per family.
          Facts such as these present some of my friends and neighbors with a shopping dilemma. But I have a hunch they’ve solved their own dilemma .
          Last Tuesday I drove to Wal-Mart to pick up some toothpaste, Listerine, computer paper and Ritz Crackers. The short drive to Wal-Mart would save me two or three bucks.  
          As I pulled out of the parking lot I thought I saw my neighbor’s car. The lady who used to complain about all of America’s money going to China.
          It sure looked like her car – a silver Nissan.