Monday, October 15, 2012
Exile In Waltonville (Buy Local: Bring Community Back)
Life in Waltonville seems to be getting stressful these days...after all, when you're tagged as "The Merchant Of Death," it "rather casts a pall of gloom on the whole evening," as our friends in Monty Python would say.
That's before we get to the box office, where Wal-Mart has struggled to reverse profits that have hovered southward for much of the past three years. With the proles having less and less discretionary income to unload on cheap T-shirts, plastic flip-flops and fuzzy dice made in Bangladesh, it's hardly surprising that Wal-Mart reinstated layaways with a proverbial bang, after ditching the practice in 2006.
As if that news wasn't bad enough, those pesky wannabe unions are threatening to organize walkouts on Black Friday -- which falls on the day after Thanksgiving, and is considered the year's biggest money-spinner for retailers (at least, the ones that didn't expire when Walton & Co. gate-crashed their town). For all the gory details, read here: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/walmart-worker-protests-spread/story?id=17445295#.UHbYQJI08ed
What do these workers want? The same rights that Wal-Mart begrudgingly bestows to their peers around the world -- such as flexible schedules, higher wages, and some sort of say in how things run. Ironically, Chinese law requires Wal-Mart to recognize union membership -- how galling is that, its overlords must wonder, when we busted our asses to expand over there? -- a figure that rises to 40 percent in Argentina.
You can read the rest here: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/06/08/239411/walmart-unions-other-countries/?mobile=nc
In South Africa, Wal-Mart actually struck a deal with the government to finalize its acquisition of the local Massmart chain there -- including a promise to avoid layoffs, honor existing contracts, and use local suppliers whenever possible. It'll be interesting to see how the Black Friday campaign that's being promised by Our WalMart, and Making Change At Walmart, moves along. So what's the cure, exactly, other than taking up residence in Buenos Aires, or Beijing?
In our community, The Squawker and I have seen several boots-to-the-ground thrift shops and resale stores spring up. None of these places are particularly fancy, either. For example, one thrift store happens to inhabit the lower level of a bygone business whose owner made precious little progress rehabbing (hence, the exposed roof that tasted the wrecking ball, however briefly).
Then there's the boxlike resale shop that we visited a couple weeks ago -- ironically, located onlya mere parking lot-and-a-half away from Wal-Mart -- where we scored a discarded office chair for $3, and for me, a mint condition copy of the Replacements oral bio (All Over But The Shouting), which set me back only a buck. I'll have to check and see if those stacks of locally-pressed Christian music albums are remotely sellable, but that'll probably wait for another trip.
The point is, when you spend money at these places -- or any other locally-owned business, for that matter -- you know whom you're supporting, where your money's going, and (more critically) where it's likely to stay. Everything's within grabbing distance, sparing the experience of trudging across the antiseptic big box tundra...which feels (to yours truly) like touring an aircraft carrier. You can talk, hang out and rummage to your heart's content. Even if you don't buy a bloomin' thing, you'll probably feel better about where you burned up your time.
Obviously, not every local business carries whatever their big box brethren feel obliged to make you acquire by the truckload (der, how else will you score that everyday low price, eh?), but it's not hard to figure out what experience is more appealing...and worth supporting, as well, with your dollars and sense (pun intended: ba-boomp).
In our area, we're still amazed at hearing oldtimers' tales about the '50s and '60s...when our neighbor across the river could actually support four shoe stores in its long-faded downtown district! Surely, if we keep this habit up long enough, something's bound to get better, right? Whatever the Black Friday campaign accomplishes, "shop local" sounds a whole lot better than punching a plane ticket to Buenos Aires (too hot) or Beijing (too crowded, too frenzied, and too polluted). --The Reckoner