Have you ever believed something, believed it in that moral highground, privilege-showing kind of way? I have; that was me and Walmart.
Walmart, at least among white, educated, high earning professionals is a favorite company to hate. They treat their employees poorly, don't you know? They run small businesses out of town, don't you know? They pollute the earth, don't you know?
This is what I believed for most of my adult, high income earning life. My parents repeatedly told me that their prices really were cheaper and that Walmart provided an affordable shopping option for those on fixed or low incomes, including the very employees we felt we were defending and the elderly. I was unmoved. Didn't they realize that Walmart was part of the degradation of the social fabric of our country and a scourge to be eliminated?
And then we quit our jobs and proceeded to drive across the country in a van. There's nothing like perspective to knock someone off of their moral sandhill.
Here's what we now know:
- Prices ARE cheaper at Walmart. This is important for those on fixed incomes; i.e. Us. Mom and Dad, please take this as a formal apology for my hard headedness and insensitivity.
- Walmart is the one of the only places to safely and legally park our van for the night.
And you know what else? It isn't that Walmart just tolerates people in their parking lot; they actually welcome travelers. From their website:
And I believe they welcome us because they are smart. This is a value added service to offer their customers which is exactly what we have become because of their policy. We generally always need some sort of supply, even if it is just ice, and many of these purchases are made at Walmart the morning after our stay.
Walmart is not without it's very legitimate faults. But they are also not the devil. They are a company who is thriving in an environment where the norm is externalized cost and where rises in the cost of living have outpaced rises in minimum wage. They are responding to a system that puts profits above people and efficiency above social responsibility.
So we're coming out of the closet. The "We Don't Hate Walmart Anymore" closet. In the wise words of our generation: don't hate the player, hate the game.
Photo courtesy of Brave New Films