5 Reasons Not to Shop at Wal-Mart
1. They censor music and other forms of expression. Wal-Mart refuses to sell any music that contains a parental advisory sticker or that the company deems inappropriate. Wal-Mart is the biggest music retailer in the United States, and for many people is the only local source for most music. As a result, artists and record companies are frequently forced to change lyrics, eliminate songs and/or change album art in order to reach large portions of their potential audience. Wal-Mart's censorship even prevents adults from purchasing music and cover art as the artist originally intended. There are similar reports of censorship regarding books, magazines, and videos.
2. They interfere with women's reproductive health care. Wal-Mart pharmacies refuse to sell the FDA-approved morning after pill known as Prevan. They have tried to appease critics by promising that their pharmacists will refer patients to other pharmacies where their emergency contraception prescriptions can be filled. But because emergency contraceptives should be taken as soon as possible, giving women the run-around may result in their obtaining the pills too late. Moreover, in some parts of the country, the Wal-Mart pharmacy may be the only pharmacy in the area.
3. They sell guns. Wal-Mart is afraid that the word "shit" is so harmful to children, that it refuses to sell music containing such lyrics (see No. 1 above). But they have no problems selling guns, despite the fact that guns kill over 5,000 children a year in the United States. In fact, they are so enthusiastic about guns, that they regret being unable to sell them over the Internet (from walmart.com: "Certain legal restrictions prevent us from selling firearms over the Internet. Among those restrictions, every state requires identification that proves that a person buying a firearm is of legal age. Unfortunately, we have no way of verifying that people who wish to purchase firearms are of legal age. . . . For firearms, please visit your local Wal-Mart store.") If it is so easy for them to verify age in their local stores for the purpose of selling guns, why won't they sell uncensored music to adults?
4. They have little regard for their adverse impact on communities. I don't fault the company just for being large and successful, but that success has been achieved in ways that have often degrade the communities in which they locate. If you like the diversity and local character of small bookstores and other retailers, if you want to maintain a healthy downtown or main street shopping area, and/or you don't like suburban sprawl, you probably don't want a Wal-Mart to come to your area.
5. They often treat their workers very poorly. There have been numerous reports of employees being treated badly, including discriminatory treatment, failures to take responsibility for on-the-job injuries, and other grievances. They have also gotten into trouble on several occasions for the widespread use of illegal foreign workers.
Of course Wal-Mart is free to sell or not sell whatever legal products it chooses, and they have the right to make business decisions that may not be the best for their workers or the communities in which they locate. But as consumers, we also have the right (and, I would argue, a responsibility) to refuse to support businesses that engage in harmful practices. Because Wal-Mart exercises a unique position as the dominant retailer in the United States, their practices can have a widespread impact on what products are produced and made available to the American consumer. And since Wal-Mart has chosen to use its dominant position an irresponsible and reactionary way, consumers that care about free speech, reproductive rights, the widespread availability of firearms, local diversity, the environment or the welfare of workers, should not spend their money at Wal-Mart.
22 July 2005