Consumers are responsible for consumerism

but isn’t that selective outrage itself a symptom of classism? people who don’t shop at Wal-Mart hate Wal-Mart. Which is it-- that they stopped shopping there after learning about practices, or that they never shopped there regularly to begin with? I think a lot fall into the second category. No doubt there are a lot in the first category too-- but I have a very hard time believing that specific political ideology led to a widespread boycott; I’m much, much, MUCH more inclined to believe it had a lot more to do with image and social networks, and people not wanting to be associated among their peer groups with a brand that has such an unfashionable image. Where you shop has a lot to do with personal identity, and shopping at Wal-Mart sends a certain message to others; class-conscious people (e.g. highly educated, well-to-do, liberal) simply don’t want that association. Further evidence that this notion has traction, is this amusing but rather cruel website, http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

Maybe Target doesn’t pay much better, but what do you know about their employment practices as such? Walmart has drawn criticism for much more than pay rates.

True Beware of Doug. Low wages was what I particularly had in mind.

Low wages or no, I’d still shop Target over Walmart if Target didn’t pull the kind of petty employee-control shit Walmart does.

Well that’s undoubtedly true for me as well in the sense that I do sometimes shop at Target and Walmart not at all. But I think Cagey has a point that to be completely consistent, at least on the subject of low wages, one would ideally not want to patronize either.

I stopped after learning about practices.

But you are right not to believe that specific political ideology led to a widespread boycott. There’s no widespread boycott. If there were, we wouldn’t have Walmart to kick around.

The peopleofwalmart web site is cruel. I get the joke, and sometimes think that way when I see people like the ones they feature, but regret my pettiness as I do. Reveling in it with a website dedicated to laughing at these folks is ugly. The same voice can’t decry Walmart’s employee practices and laugh at this without being hypocritical.

I speculate you are interpreting these two contrary threads to suggest the criticisms of Walmart are something else in masquerade, whereas these threads more typically represent different people. One imagines that the people taking these photographs were already shopping at Walmart, too.

I think Napier has already answered this question but I’ll say, no, I don’t think selective outrage need be classism–at least not in the sense you mean it (revulsion from working-class culture). As I tried to say above, companies like Apple and Target and Ikea do a very good job of marketing to middle-class consumers.

I think the average person who claims to have serious political objections to Walmart genuinely does so.

That’s fair; but I still haven’t gotten a good answer to why “serious political objections” espoused by someone would be limited largely to one company. Anyone whose beliefs are so strong as to stop shopping at a store like Wal-Mart for political reasons would surely have brain enough to think about whether other stores that are very similar to it might have the exact same issues, no? Especially when many of the controversial issues are fundamental to the nature of the type of store (mass merchandisers operating on small margins do not want to pay employees a lot, and they make ends meet by selling cheaply in extremely high volume); this stance is a function of business and economic conditions, not part of an overt political platform adopted by the companies. I realize that not everyone may know this, but surely it defies logic to me that the thought wouldn’t cross the minds of people who have that strong of an objection to Wal-Mart.

Well how many people do you actually know who have “serious political objections” to Walmart. The ones I know not only don’t shop at Walmart, they also do stuff like buy local and organic foods, shop at coops and farmer’s markets when they can, buy fair trade products as often as possible, buy hybrid cars, don’t use bottled water, etc. etc. Other companies they tend to dislike include Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Whole Foods as well as most insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Now maybe some of those people do give Target a pass without any real evidence that Target is a significantly better employer in terms of wages. Maybe in doing that they make too much of the differences. But what does that really mean at the end of the day? That some companies have a worse PR problem than others while others manage to get away with more.

That may not be a good answer but is I think a relevant one.

You are right, and I think singling out WalMart is easy because their behaviors are more visibly and famously mean than others. Plenty of businesses treat people worse, but not many of them are big enough to attract that much attention. It is also pretty painless to avoid shopping there. I have been struck over the years by how many people complain about them but still shop there, and it seemed so obvious to stop I kind of had to.

There are a great many ways we each could do better. I drive a pretty small car, partly to avoid wasting so much energy, but I haven’t been motivated enough to get around to the home improvements for the same purpose. When I find out about cruel farming methods I often change what I eat to avoid them - no veal, for example - but I actually think I should probably stop eating other clearly conscious and feeling animals and haven’t done it. Lots of contridictions and hypocracies, depending on how stringent we want to be.

WalMart, though, is a pretty easy target, pretty low hanging fruit in the garden of social responsibility.

I think that is nicely put Napier

This is a myth; Wal-Mart is going carbon-neutral, they have low waste distribution system of world class efficiency, they offer a centralized location for shopping… on paper, it would seem like “liberals” should love them. There are no companies anywhere near the size of Wal-Mart that are doing as much as them to be green. The question is: why aren’t people applauding their efforts and encouraging them? Encouragement would likely give similar companies and other big name corporations the incentives to do the same. Liberal hate of Wal-Mart seems to me to have everything to do with fear of corporations, and class issues that have nothing to do with actual practices. At the very least, there is absolute willful ignorance of any positive practices that Wal-Mart has instituted.

Rant:
I agree that we should all take steps towards limiting consumption, and to show I mean it, I do more than just about anyone I know towards this-- and not just the stupid, “obvious” (read: unquestioned) shit like buying organic (which isn’t all that green if you actually read up on it). I carry around my own silverware and cups everywhere I go to avoid using plastic or styrofoam, and have personally logged less than 50,000 miles on my car in 16 years. But I don’t blame Wal-Mart for consumption. That’s consumers’ faults. They want to pass the blame onto corporations rather than take responsibility for it themselves. And that’s exactly the wrong attitude to have, because that means nothing changes. Not shopping at Wal-Mart won’t change anything; Wal-Mart serves a demand and if they don’t do it, someone else will. Real change involves taking close looks at one’s own consumption behavior (instead of just smug, self-congratulatory BS like buying only organic fairtrade soy biodiesel). I’m really tired of people blindly clinging to brainless kneejerk ideologies and talking about them like they’re proud of how anti-corporate they are when the reality is they buy just as much shit as anyone else, but just from some other vendor. Most people’s “green” strategies are all talk and no substance, and the drivers of their beliefs, in my opinion, are unquestioned ideologies that have little to no basis in reality and deny the complex and often counterintuitive nature of the world and the economics that drive it.

I love the intellectual trashing of “consumerism”. I get it-we should all make our own homespun clothes, and eat tofu. To hell with that! The fact is, mass production and efficient distribution have meant a better life for most people. The intellectuals who decry the masses actually having things are all wet-take their trust funded lifestyle away, and watch them howl!
It’s a bit like Al Gore, who lives in his 12,000 sg. foot mansion, jets around the world, and has a carbon foot print the size of a town-while he lectures us about the evils of our lifestyle.
Yes, the American people waste a lot-but that is not Walmart’s fault.
So get out there, and start recycling-the planet depends on it!:smiley: