Couple of weeks ago, one of my classmates answered, “Wal-Mart” as the answer to the professor’s question on what typical structure in an urbanscape would you blow up if you could. Wal-Mart, of course, couldn’t care less. But they have remarkable and single-handedly changed the face of retail in America. They offer deep discounts that even big-store retailers cannot match let alone small mom-n-pop stores in small town America. One might argue that Wal-Mart is the epitome of efficient business planning and corporate strategy. I just might agree considering their efficient supply chains often help make their prices competitive. But on the other hand, they also reflect the ugly side of globalization that protestors often like to rant about. Honestly, I am a pro-market policy person and firmly believe that more often than not, market corrects efficiency shortcomings. But at the same time, admit that market failures occur and there are enough examples of scrupulous and dishonest businessmen who use the skewed power balance to their financial gain.
Why the sudden interest in Walmart? Robert Greenwald, the acclaimed director of documentaries like Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War has released his new movie – Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Apart from other offenses that Wal-Mart is accused of in terms of human rights and employee discrimination, it has a serious impact on urban planning as well. A snippet from NY Times review by Anita Gates:
“The saddest part of this documentary is a series of shots of abandoned Main Streets, empty store after empty store, with Bruce Springsteen’s plaintive version of “This Land Is Your Land” as accompaniment. But vanquishing thousands of small businesses coast to coast is not Wal-Mart’s only crime, its critics say.”
I must see this documentary soon.