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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
It’s not a good thing (07/18/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Bigger is badder! Well, in some cases that's true. I've recently read that McDonalds opens up 2,800 restaurants a year. One out of every five meals in the U.S. is fast food. Out with brown bag lunches, an apple a day, and meditation.

"Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company." So states Charles Fishman, in a December "Fast Company" magazine article I'd saved, entitled "The Wal-Mart You Don't Know." "Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year." The thriving chain "wields its power for just one purpose," Fishman writes, "to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers."

It will take another column to zero in on the reasons that the cost of such price scalping has had a devastating outcome for Wal-Mart's 21,000 suppliers. The article issues both praise and pulverization. Some have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas. Consumers have been shortchanged and manipulated. We Americans are shopping ourselves out of jobs.

"We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world - yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions," relates a Wal-Mart thread supplier Steve Dobbins.

Oh, oh! The Wal-Mart article precipitated a heated argument between me and my daughter Kelly and daughter-in-law Tracy. As I enthusiastically shared my views and Fishman's research, ranting about how I loathe huge, spacious stores, and stressing the virtues of shopping locally, did I ever get an earful!

Both girls, with small children and careers, stressed the timesaving convenience of everything "under one roof" and the savings of buying in bulk. I did understand that, and I think the older we are the future outcome of today's actions seems more immediate. They have child rearing (and their sanity) to focus on now. Global interactions are merely stuff of dry, daily news reports.

We've gone from dime stores to dollar stores, from a box of Cracker Jacks to collections of Barbie and Bratz dolls for begging children. (Lucky they have only two hands.) I recall that, years back, we were not capable of giving into the little ones because the money went just so far, and there existed few credit card bailouts to fall back on.

I had not pressed the issue with the girls, about the most pertinent reason that I cringe when I walk through busy glass doors to an endless sea of aisles and long checkout lines. A stammering, inner voice moans "where are the wheelchairs?" Even though arthritis sufferers haven't got time for the pain, it looms its ugly head wherever we go. I rest my case.

Panic attack! Shuffling past things upon things, I try to spot what I came in for. Okay, I give up - where will I find camper toilet paper and pig's ears for Buckshot (our four-legged granddog)? The kid I asked didn't work there. Another didn't have a clue, as he searched for someone who might know. Oh well, I couldn't keep up to him anyway.

"Job loyalty" is a misnomer in this era of "the world owes me a living even if I don't work hard to earn it." Climbing the corporate ladder to success, an unprincipled rookie bypasses a few rungs to promote himself. A big company employer lets a longtime worker go because he can hire someone else to fill the position for a greatly reduced salary.

Reliable Baby Boomers are often replaced by immaculately dressed and attractive prospects, as these new kids on the block burst out of the academic chute. Smooth talkers, with cocky ambitions and dollar signs in their brains, their goals seldom soar beyond "how can I make big bucks in the least amount of hours?" "How many paid vacation and sick days do I get?"

Cracker Jacks no longer come with their petty plastic trinkets...McDonalds now serves salads...green catsup didn't go over. It's a good thing (once in a while). 


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