Thursday, March 6, 2014

An old book review about Walmart...

I'm posting this old review here because I'm not a Walmart fan and I don't want to see this review go into oblivion…


Hey America! Up against the Wal with your hands up and wallets open!

 Jul 15, 2003 (Updated Jun 3, 2013)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:Lots of valid points about a rabid retail giant's potential world domination!

    Cons:Quinn does get a little hysterical at times!

    The Bottom Line:Bill Quinn soils Wal-Mart's squeaky clean image with the cold, hard truth.

    I hate Wal-Mart. Oh sure, there was a time when I didn't mind a trip to the place. Heck, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia, sitting in the dark, twiddling my thumbs, I even used to fantasize about going there. I'd think to myself, "Boy, what I wouldn't give to go to a Wal-Mart right now." Those days are over. There are many things to hate about Wal-Mart as Bill Quinn so eloquently points out in his book, How Wal*Mart is DESTROYING AMERICA (and the world) And What You Can Do About It (2000).

    I'll start with the actual shopping experience itself. From the moment I walk in the door and am greeted by the greeter by the shopping carts to the point at which I hand over my credit card, I feel sensory overload. Why? Because the old style of Wal-Mart no longer exists. Nowadays, it's no longer enough for Wal-Mart to be a simple discount store. It's got to do it all... As Quinn points out, the old style of Wal-Mart, that is, the simple discount store that would actually close for a few hours at night and didn't sell groceries or offer banking services or hairstylists, is becoming obsolete.

    The Wal-Mart Supercenter behemoth, one of which opens every two days in this country or overseas (according to Quinn's book), covers huge plots of land. One store can be as large as several football fields! Who knows how many trees are destroyed in the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter? And what of those distinctive empty gray boxes that are left behind every time Wal-Mart decides to close up shop and move or expand? I can think of at least three towns I've lived in where there are empty "regular sized" Wal-Marts waiting to be leased. Before the gray boxes, there were the brown ones and I've seen a few of those sitting empty, too. But enough about that from me... Quinn covers Wal-Mart's many environmental assaults quite adeptly and with the appropriate amount of outrage. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like Bill Quinn has tackled just about every dirty deed that Wal-Mart could have possibly committed, and if he missed one in this, the second edition of the book, you can be sure that if there's another printing, he'll include Wal-Mart's further misdeeds in that one.

    As I was reading this book, I found myself chuckling. You see, Bill Quinn is a self-proclaimed "feisty old Texas grandpa" of eighty-eight years of age (in 2000). But his writing is truly full of the energy and ire of a much younger man. I had visions of Granny Clampitt from "The Beverly Hillbillies" as I read headings likeWAL MART? TRUSTWORTHY? THE HELL THEY ARE! This book is chock full of writing of a similar style. Bill Quinn is certainly no shrinking violet!

    Anyway, Quinn seems to have really done his homework on proving why Wal-Mart is an evil company. He won't get any argument from me. The reason why I picked up this book is because of some online research I had been doing about Wal-Mart's appalling treatment of its employees. Quinn includes a little more information about that issue. At the beginning of the third chapter, "TWO WAYS WAL-MART IS OH SO GREEDY" (he presents it in all caps), Quinn writes about an interview he had with a former Wal-Mart manager who quit after a fifteen year career. The manager shared with Quinn how much pressure he was under to open bigger and better stores, which usually meant "forced promotions" (take the promotion or be fired) and moving to new towns. The moves would not be paid for by the company-- instead, he would ask store personnel to "volunteer" to do him a favor by coming to his house and helping him pack, off the clock of course. He was always moved to his next assignment in a Wal-Mart truck. Then at the new assignment, he would ask for "volunteers" to help him unpack, again off the clock. The manager said that even though he had done a great job and was constantly promoted, he never made more than $35,000 annually, and that was with bonuses. When he was paid mileage, he was only paid 11 cents a mile. His wife, by contrast, worked for a company that paid her 22 cents a mile. There's more information about employee injustice on the net, but always from low level employees-- not as much from managers. This was an interesting perspective to read.

    Quinn also covers the ferocious nature of Wal-Mart's lawyers. He wrote that when cornered in court, they will never settle. Instead, they will appeal and appeal, tying up the legal system for years if need be in order to avoid paying damages.

    One of the things I thought was great about Quinn's book was that he dispelled many of the myths that people have come to believe about Wal-Mart. The main one is that Wal-Mart brings jobs to communities. Quinn provides evidence that this is not true. In fact, since Wal-Mart drives other businesses to close, Wal-Mart actually causes communities to lose jobs. Those people who do work at Wal-Mart end up working part-time for almost no benefits and near poverty wages. Then, when Wal-Mart has had enough of a community, it picks up and moves away-- often after a community has paid for the improvements (stop lights and roads) and allowed tax breaks to allow the Wal-Mart to move there in the first place! And of course, it leaves its huge, distinctive, empty building behind that may prove hard to lease to another business (which may not want to appear to be a former Wal-Mart store). Also, a lot of people are under the impression that Wal-Mart offers the lowest prices. But that's not always true. Do some comparison shopping and you'll find that Wal-Mart's prices are based on what other stores are charging. If there's a Target or K-Mart in your town, chances are you'll be paying less than you would if there was just a Wal-Mart there. And did you know that it's against store policy for customers to jot down prices in the store? People have been accosted at Wal-Mart by employees for recording prices in order to compare them at other stores.

    Quinn includes a section at the end of the book that advises readers what they can to do stop Wal-Mart from opening stores in their communities, or if they are business owners, what they can do to compete with Wal-Mart so that they don't get run out of business. He also includes links to websites and book recommendations so that the reader can learn more about how Wal-Mart operates. Of course, the information is bound to be slanted, but if you bothered to finish Bill Quinn's book, you're probably interested in learning more about the evils of Wal-Mart. His hatred of the discount chain is pervasive and unmistakable, and that might be the book's one major weakness. Sometimes the man sounds just a teensy bit hysterical! He does his very best to dump a load of manure on Wal-Mart's squeaky clean family values image. I think he does a great job, but he pursues the mission with excessive zeal. Still, the book is a quick, easy read, and very informative and entertaining.

    Every American should read this book, no matter how they feel about Wal-Mart, and I'm no fool. I know that a lot of people do love Wal-Mart. Love it or hate it, it's probably here to stay. However, I do think that Wal-Mart and businesses like it do represent a threat to our culture. As the daughter of small business owners, I may be more acutely aware of what damage the Wal-Mart phenomenon may do to life in these United States. Pretty soon, every store in every state will look exactly the same. It will be hard to find a place to shop that offers any unique products or architecture. Window shopping will become a hobby of the past, simply because we want the convenience of one stop shopping and to pay the least amount possible. I'm not saying that big stores don't have their place, or even that Wal-Mart is the only company guilty of greed. But it certainly seems to be the most visible one nowadays.

    Purchase How Walmart Is Destroying America (And the World): And What You Can Do about It

    2 comments:

    1. I would give the book to my dad except that he's already tiresome enough in terms of his obsession with Sam Walton's evil empire, and I'd hate to pour additional fuel on THAT fire.

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      1. I wonder if Bill Quinn is still among the living. If so, he'd be over 100 today. It was a good book… very well written and brought up points that I hadn't even considered back in 2003. Seems like Walmart is chilling out a bit nowadays, but ten years ago it really did seem like an evil empire.

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