Walmart: Good or Evil

Wal-Mart operates as a distributor, and retailer of consumer goods. Wal-Mart’s history is one of innovation, leadership and success. It started with a single store in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962 and has grown to what is now the world’s largest – and arguably, the most emulated – retailer. Some researchers refer to Wal-Mart as the industry trendsetter. 1.4 million Employees worldwide, Wal-Mart’s workforce is now larger than that of GM, Ford, GE, and IBM combined.

Wal-Mart has enormously affected local communities and US economy. What role does Wal-Mart play in our society? Does Wal-Mart represent the American dream or is it just a monstrous capitalist empire? In order to examine the matter from a sociologist’s point of view one can use the structural functional theory and the social conflict theory.

According to the structural functional theory American society consists of interrelated social structures where each has a purpose of working together with other parts to bring social strength. One can simply say that Wal-Mart serves an interrelated force in American society and it has an inherited tendency to balance and equilibrium. Also Wal-Mart provides value to customers by offering collection of a wide variety of consumer goods in a single location, and selling those goods at the lowest prices.

One can argue that Wal-Mart is a step up for fast food, gas station, mini-mart, and most clerical jobs. It offers a job at a price (per hour) to a prospective employee that isn’t going to find any better local options. My experience in Wal-Mart is that they hire people that most other places don’t.

At least in the two I shop, a large percentage of the employees are 70 years old or so. I don’t see a problem with requiring some physical labor of employees, considering that as far as I can see no job in Wal-Mart allows sitting down. It doesn’t pay a “family wage,” but does pay enough to give teens some income and experience or provide a second income to a household.

Most people prefer to shop at Wal-Mart because (a) they have the best prices, (b) I can buy nearly everything I need in one location. In order to get more opinions I decided to ask a fellow shopper, “Is Wal-Mart good or bad for America?” One of them replied, “Yes I know Wal-Mart is evil, but at least it keeps me clothed.” Another said,” Well Wal-Mart is good for me, because it offers great prices, Wal-Mart is good for my town, because it attracts more businesses here, and Wal-Mart is good for my business because it bring more customers.

So since it is good for me, my town, or my business then it must be good for America. So one can see that Wal-Mart attract many business all around it. If your one of the business your one of the lucky ones. Also, Wal-Mart enables people to stretch their dollars farther. The presence of a local Wal-Mart actually is a benefit to most of these businesses, as Wal-Mart is a convenient, quick source for supplies and it offers consumers a wide range of goods at rock-bottom prices.

On the other hand, according to the Social Conflict theory American society doesn’t consists of interrelated parts. It is full of unequal divisions, and we are in constant completions for Power, Wealth and Prestige at the expense of others. As seen in the documentary shown during class, Frontline explores the relationship between U.S. job losses and the American consumer’s insatiable desire for bargains in “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” Through interviews with retail executives, product manufacturers, economists, and trade experts, correspondent Hedrick Smith examines the growing controversy over the Wal-Mart way of doing business and asks whether a single retail leader has changed the American economy. “Wal-Mart’s power and influence are awesome,” Smith says.

“By figuring out how to exploit two powerful forces that converged in the 1990s — the rise of information technology and the explosion of the global economy — Wal-Mart has dramatically changed the balance of power in the world of business. Retailers are now more powerful than manufacturers, and they are forcing the decision to move production offshore.” Wal-Mart destroys more jobs than it creates. With its low prices and huge collection of foreign good drives local businesses to the ground. Simply because they cant compete with Wal-Mart’s competitive prices. A new Wal-Mart destroys jobs by putting local merchants out of business.

The jobs Wal-Mart creates are fewer, lower-paying and mostly part-time. Also Wal-Mart has been contributing to the Chinese economy they have been knowingly hurting the American people by only offering low paying service sector jobs. If people were only consumers, buying things at lower prices would be just good. But people also are workers who need to earn a decent standard of living,” says economist Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute. “The dynamics that create lower prices at Wal-Mart and other places are also undercutting the ability of many, many workers to earn decent wages and benefits and have a stable life.”

This paper examined how to make sense of the unique combination of the good and the bad in the emergence of Wal-Mart as a retailing powerhouse: The Company arguably reduces consumer prices for a wide range of consumer products, but it also puts small merchants out of business. It offers many new jobs pays low entry-level wages with few or no benefits. It revives defunct buildings in economically disadvantaged areas, but it is said to impose heavy “social costs” on the communities it occupies.

So from this one can gather that when looking from micro level sociological point of view it seems that Wal-Mart is good for the communities. It brings to town low priced goods along with new jobs and new businesses. However, when looking at from macro level sociological point of view one can see that it is making small businesses suffer and driving American merchandise businesses down the hill.