December 21, 2004

Always Low Wages, Sojourners Magazine/February 2004

Where would Jesus shop? As much as I hate spin off's of an already cheeky bumper sticker (WWJD?) This one is worth talking about. So many products from countries other than the US sit on Wal-Mart's shelves - but are they destroying the American economy?
Always Low Wages: "Always Low Wages"

I don't shop at Wal-Mart - only partly because of their business practices. Target is easier, closer and in the case of my neighborhood, cleaner and having the appearance of "safer". Don't even start raising your eyebrows and muttering things about racism - I don't want to hear about it. When I drive to Target I am driving away from Downtown and toward homes with lower insurance rates - the exact opposite is true when I drive from my home toward Wal-mart. Crime reports don't lie, and I don't care who commits the crime - judgmental or not, its just a fact. Anecdotally, there is more often a squad car or three in front of Wal-mart than there is in front of Target in the area I live and work - so that is partially where the feeling of "safety" comes from.

Anyway - Wal-mart employees apparently don't make enough money to shop at Wal-mart. My question then has two parts - 1) Where do they shop? and 2) Why don't they go get jobs at Target? The free market has to work in all cases not just some. If Wal-mart doesn't pay competitive wages, then how to they keep a steady workforce? Either something about the Wal-mart culture is not being reported, and there are other reasons people continue to work there, or as I have long suspected - there are just a lot of really stupid people in the world and Wal-mart capitalizes on that fact.

I am not stating that there are tons of jobs available, but lets face it, working at Wal-mart doesn’t really require a myriad of job-skills. They have employees whose sole purpose is to stand at the door and smile. If they are only paying those people $7.50 an hour – what is stopping those people from standing behind the counter at say, McDonald’s with their smile? Again, it doesn’t require a lot of training to add “Do you want fries with that?” to their repertoire and for another $2.00 an hour and the ability to actually shop at Wal-mart, I’d say its worth it. I’d tell them to shop at Target though. I think its safer.
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