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STORE WARS: When Wal-Mart Comes To Town
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6/30/01
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha
Two points really struck me when watching "Store Wars." The first is fundamental to Ashland and other small towns. The second concerns the city council's decision and the members' rationale.

(1) The key fight of Ashlanders against WalMart (or the Pink Flamingoes) was, I think, to preserve the character and integrity of their small town. Wal Marts are the same everywhere. If you add a Wal Mart to your town, you are just like every other town.

(2) In a representative government, the majority entrusts their power to elected officials. Representative government, to function effectively, must balance preferences expressed by the people and the "policy expertise" of representatives. Communication is of clear importance. When the people do not communicate their preferences to elected officials, the elected have no choice but to act on their own, and vote for the interest of the people. In addition, there are times when the elected have to make decisions irrespective of what the people may think they want. An example is national security where the people simply do not have the information or the expertise to decide most appropriately. However, when the people do speak on an issue of reality low expertise, it behooves representatives to listen.

Now let me reflect on the decision by the Ashland City Council. Council members may have made a balanced decision. They discussed progress and its importance and the necessity for economic security. The other side made its case as well. They feared losing their means of life, their choice of lifestyle, and the happiness they associate with it. With such conflicting preferences, how does one decide which side should prevail? Communication. When the people express themselves clearly, absent a clearly immoral and unlawful will, the people's preferences should prevail in representative government. Communication was clear in this instance: the people did not want it! Of course, if the issue required such expertise neccessary to ignore this communication, the representative has the duty to vote with his or her preferences, in the better interst of the people. The Walmart decision was not a decision that required much expertise. The City Council, therefore, side-stepped, ignored, and even abused its repres

Conflicting facts on both sides does not give one side superior moral authority in this case. However, the people at least were trying to preserve the character and integrity of their town. One council member was only concerned with having money to build new roads; another with jobs.

I suppose Wal Mart has a point, though. Sure, if you build one, they will come, but they may take more important and unique with them.



6/30/01
Eldon McGill
I believe Ashland's Mayor was obviously looking out for his own pocket book. If Walmart treats him like it does it's contractors he will never see the money. Please do a follow up on Ashland.



6/30/01
Terri
It all boils down to one thing. Wal-Mart would not be the corporate giant they are today if everyone would stay out of their stores, and keep their money local. My family stopped shopping there five years ago. We shop only with independents. The quality of the products and services provided from a small business owner is what saves us money in the long run.



6/30/01
Corey Aker
Within the last several years, sociologists have been intrigued by the "McDonaldization" of America in which Americans are moving to a service-centered nation. I would argue that a more important issue is arising: the "Walmartization" of America. As this website displays, Walmart is the major force in retail (as well as any other thing that makes money for that matter). When this occures, smaller businesses are driven out of business leaving only Walmart. When this happens, people who wanted Walmart for the variety it provides are losing in the end because Walmart dictates what they are able to buy. Without a Walmart, people are able to shop at several different stores and see several different items that they can then choose from. Without this selection, people can only choose from what Walmart decides to bring in to their store.

Walmart also portrays itself as a great place to work. Speaking as a former employee, I can attest to the fact that Walmart is not a great place to work, in fact it is one of the worst places a person can work. The wages are well below the poverty line and their idea of a full-time worker is someone who puts in 28 hours. When I quit after a year and a half, I was making $6.23 per hour and that was after two above average raises. My hours averaged right around 17 hours per week, but many times dipped as low as ten hours per week. In fact, one of my paychecks was below $100 and I didn't even miss any days. People cannot live on this, and they also cannot afford to move on to another job because everything they make goes to the bills that pile up. Management acts as if they are heartbroken at the fact that they are cutting people's hours, but in actuality have little idea as to the real impact of their hour cutting policy. People get behind in rent, with utility bills, and don't have enough money to co

There are people that I worked with who actually liked their job, however. They had a title to go along with their attitude: MANAGER. At the store meetings, the managers would stand up and tell us how sales are doing, as if it had anything to do with us. I firmly believe they do this to make the workers believe they are a real part of something big and that they are the ones making the difference. This does rope some people in, believe it or not. This is a form of "Walmart brainwashing" that basically hides people's actual situation from them by causing them to believe they are a big part of the Walmart family. In fact, management could care less about each employee, which is clearly indicated by the number of people they have to hire each year to replace the ones who quit. People seldom quit a job they like.

The pointlessness of working for Walmart is what ultimately drove me to quitting. Every day begins the same mind-numbing eternity of yesterday. Managers come by and actually believe they need to tell you what needs to be done as if you are a little child. Eventually, workers realize that all a Walmart does is limit people's shopping options, as well as their employment options. As other stores in a community close down, people are left with two alternatives: move somewhere with real opportunity or work at Walmart. Sadly, both end up happening.



6/29/01
Ann
Don't get me wrong, I like shopping at Wal-Mart and Home Depot and all those other big chains. My problem is when they saturate the area and the country. You loose the unique characteristics of a town because every town across America has the same exact stores. Where's the fun of traveling to other parts of the country if I'm just going to find all the same stores and restaurants that are in my hometown?



6/28/01
Sam
To the Pink Flamingos:

You have done a very good job in organizing and presenting the opposition to Wal-Mart's attempt to colonize your town. I think you can be even more successful in boycotting the evil empire. Can I make a suggestion though? Please stop calling yourselves pink flamingos. The name is too distracting from the message. Your marketing tactics really need some revision. I think a lot more people would come out to support you if they weren't turned off by such a flamboyant label. Your cause is just, but the personality of the organization should not be presented in a way that interferes with the cause and the message. You are trying to connect with the people who are on the fence, or afraid to come forward, not preach to the converted. I really feel strongly that using a name like pink flamingos is off message, and will put off potential members. My hunch is that there are many on your side, many more than you know, but who are hiding in the background because the pink flamingos name is alienating. It may seem like all is lost, but that is not at all the case. there were millions of people across the country who saw store wars. -the point about the lack of diversity of opinion in the lame duck town was well taken. if there was one african-american he seemed to be only parroting the status quo. I'm disappointed with the former mayor's comment that the impact on Ashlund brought by Wal-Mart is yet to be seen. There already has been a major impact on Ashlund. Just another example of how out of touch the former mayor was and remains.



6/28/01
Steven Slaughter
Thank you very much for your wonderful documentary. After watching it and reading some of the posts here, I don't know quite where to chime in. We as a nation have become increasingly short-sighted in our purchasing decisions. I am currently reading "Fast Food Nation" and it parallels beautifully -- or should I say, chillingly -- with Store Wars. We consume cheap, bad-for-us food in massive quantities, we allow our children to be pedelled to directly in their schools (the average Amercian consumes 600 cans of soda per year!)...WE are ultimately responsible. We are the ones consuming all of this crap because it is cheap and convenient, without the slightest thought for how it will affect us down the road. Wallmart and McDonalds and all of these huge corps. know this and cater to it. It is in their nature to want to sell us more and more stuff. It is our job to stop accepting their sales pitch.

Of course I cheer whenever a town like Ashland stands up and fights for their town. Retail stores do not have the RIGHT, in the name of democracy and free enterprise, to go and do whatever they want wherever they choose. But WE are the ones responsible for their success or failure. Their argument is sadly true. Many Americans complain about these stores, about sprawl, about junk food, but the truth is that we then give up and let the cheap prices and convenience determine our purchasing decisions. They know this. They see our hypocrisy when we don't. They know that most of us will abandon our principles -- if we ever had them -- and go there when we see a great sale. They also know that PBS viewers are not their primary demographic, so I doubt they worry about this program's impact. Most people who are willing to consciously pay more by boycotting such stores are not their main audience in the first place. (I wonder what sort of demographic you'd arrive at if you did a survey in a Wallmart store.)

So what can we do? We can personally do what we can. We can try to influence our friends. We can get involved when one of these stores wants to move into our backyard -- when, not if. We can try to educate our children about these matters and try to instill in them a greater depth of vision about what is and is not valuable, giving them a degree of sales-resisitance. And we can consciously support local stores. I work for myself, and I spend many afternoons working at the local coffeeshop. I love Starbucks coffee, but the truth is, I've needed to stop going there to support my local coffee shop, primarily because THEY represent the kind of neighborhood I want to live in. I live in a northside Chicago neighborhood, rapidly on an upswing. The irony is that Starbucks, the Gap, etc. moving in will turn this unique neighborhood with its unique history and character into a bland, generic place just like hundreds of other neighboorhoods around the country. Like Wallmart, these stores strip hot neighborhoods and to

Ultimately, we do have the power...the tragedy is just that so many Americans are willing to trade the very things we value and love about our small towns, city neighborhoods, etc. to the lowest bidder. And we believe their claims that all of this is for our own good, that convenience and low prices are the highest virtue. Surely we are better than this...aren't we?



6/28/01
Marc Karasek
I just finished watching the last 20 minutes or so of the documentary. What surprises me more than anything is that there was a WMT 10 minutes away. Have we grown so lazy, that we can not drive 10 minutes to spend our cash.

On another note, it shocked me that they started the town council meeting with prayer, and then voted to bring one of the biggest supporters of persecution into their town. I speak of WMT support of the Chinese Government, through their purchasing. It saddens me that someone who professes a faith in God only so far as it does not affect the bottom line...



6/27/01
Grover
Great show, thank God for PBS!

While the Store Wars program delved into a typical struggle of a small town fighting giant corporate interests, and the numerous viewer responses commented on this issue, or similar incidences that they have experinced, I think the larger, more basic issues were generally overlooked. One issue that I believe that needs to be seriously addressed is this pro-growth sickness that a sizable portion of our population is afflicted with. It seems to be almost a religious, fundamentalist value to them, perversely associated with christian ideals. Where have these people attained these ideas? Have they been hammered into their heads by government and corporate leaders over the years, or by our pro-natalist, self-serving religions who seem continually to equate God, wealth, and power as equal values? Why do so many right-wing fundamentalists, as well as others, embrace growth and profits with such religious fervor? It's almost as if these people were still living in Victorian Britain and conquering the world for



6/27/01
Mary Leffler
Thanks again to all of our supporters around the country; the response has been magnificent, albeit sad.

It was reported in our local paper this week that although ground has not yet been broken for the coming Wal-Mart, employees at 3 different existing Ashland merchants have been solicited by Wal-Mart to jump ship (they were solicited while the owner was out of the building-they were given a card with names and numbers to call). Deplorable! Here is the paper's address:

http://www.herald-progress.com/

P.S. I'm rather tired of hearing the continued perpetuation of the mis-characterizations of our group by some of the then council persons/planning commissioners. It was never true. We are ordinary people of all socio-economic groups (including unemployed). The pink flamingos are not elite; We are not, and never have been, affluent business owners. Don't buy that nonsense verbalized by some in the film.....it ain't so! The elite, in fact were the wealthy land-owners in the bunch that were in all liklihood concerned about their property rights more than the good of the community. I intellectually appreciate their concern but resent the bold face misrepresentations that occured in the process.

The Ashland Hanover Citizens for Responsible Growth is a non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization of citizens whose purpose is to advocate for and encourage good planning, zoning, and development practices in our community. Thanks again to PBS for airing this documentary and to all our supporters around the globe. http://www.acservices. com/javanut/smartgrowth.htm

If you are in a battle with corporate mercenaries or greedy politicians, don't give up! Try to have fun along the way...makes it easier to sustain. Peace,

Mary Leffler

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead



6/27/01
Patrick Walden
I'm certainly not a law expert on the subject of monopolies, but in my opinion Wal-Mart tendencies point in that direction. Issues such as opening stores within ten miles of each other and saturating the market are clearly done for the purpose of squeezing out competition. And the practice of trying to monopolize every aspect of the consumer from gas to pet food to groceries, etc is not in the public's best interest. What will we face if Wal-Mart gains the majority of all consumer product sales? Low prices that just got lower? I seriously doubt it; most likely we will be faced with raising prices, less choice in products, and Wal-Mart's forced censorship. Wal-Mart will be telling the consumer what soda to drink, what fishing rod to buy and even what to read. All in the name of corporate profit. As Wal-Mart continues its colonization across the globe, will it someday become too powerful for even the mighty United States Government and it's courts to stop them? In the name of free choice and fair com



6/27/01
Ruthie
We just watched the show on SD PTV. Very interesting. I don't know what position I would take if WalMart came to Elk Point, SD. Would like to know the long term effect...ie:how many of the Ashland small businesses are still in business? Will there be a "follow up" film?



6/27/01
Rich
Not all of the members of the town council that voted for Walmart were 'white males'. One was a black man who favored the Walmart from the beginning.



6/27/01
Anonymous
I will start by telling you that I am a Wal-Mart associate (management). I started with the company in 1995 as a zoning associate on the closing shift and through hard work moved up in the company. I watched your program and the one sidedness of it brought me directly to your website. In watching the program and reading through the postings here I am appalled by the untruthful information here being presented as fact. It would be interesting to see how many of the people who opposed the store going in to Ashland will be shopping there 6 months after it opens. I respect the right of people to have differing opinions, that's part of what makes our country great. However, how valid is your opinion if you have to lie to try and make people see things your way? Yes, Wal-Mart is concerned about profit, how many retail establishments aren't? Isn't that why most businesses exist? I would also like to add that after seeing where my membership money goes, I will seriously consider whether or not I will continue to su



6/26/01
Zack
Thanks for the insightful documentary! Documentary is my favorite form of media, and PBS is such a relief when compared with the Big 3 TV networks. I wonder when Wal-Mart will buy NBC and show their own propaganda films about how great they are!

I think it's very interesting how people don't understand that an item purchased at a low price is not the best deal overall. Many cheap products don't last long at all...they break easily, they are made from poor quality materials, and they might be of poor design to begin with.

Wal-Mart's plan to build 400 more stores in 2001 is appalling to me. This situation is not at all about one town. It's about the loss of our choice for diverse culture. I wonder what the most popular items sold are Wal-Mart are....corn chips? generic cola? chewing gum? Cheap, crummy, beer?

Is this the lifestyle people really want? One really terrible thing is that cheaper food products are often junk food....the reason so many Americans are obese. Obesity in America is an epidemic.

I can't believe that people are so ignorant about how their consumer behavior influences the kind of society we make. I was dying for the documentary to mention any information about the fact that many products sold at Wal-Marts are made in China where a certain portion of products are made with slave labor. When people in the U.S. buy products made in other countries with slave labor they are contributing to the enslavement. Wal-Mart sells many products made in China. If you don't believe me, look at all the shoes sold in Wal-Mart and look at the manufacturer label. Almost all will read 'Made in China'. The other issue of course is economic empowerment which comes from manufacturing, not from selling products manufactured in other countries. If we want the U.S. to remain economically strong, we have to have a viable manufacturing sector. We can't rely upon other countries to make our important products. In my opinion many of the cheap, mass-produced products made imported from other countries are of poor quality. China has other human rights issues besides slave labor. If anyone of you are a fan of the Dalai Lama, you should know that China has been crushing Tibet since about 1950. Over one million Tibetans have lost their lives since the occupation of Tibet by the communist Red army. In June of 2001 a Tibetan woman was arrested by Chinese police for watching a video about the Dalai Lama and sentenced to 6 years in prison. If you haven't heard about these things please understand that economics and politics are related. Consumers are often completely unaware of the impact of their purchasing decisions. I am not going to shop at Wal-Mart because I understand that they are not at all socially aware, and don't care about anything except making profits at the expense of society.

I was appalled with the pettiness, immaturity, and vindictiveness of the Ashlund lame duck city council. Was it a coincidence that they are all white males? Why weren't there more females on the town council? The funny thing was in the documentary the white males who were pro-Wal-Mart couldn't explain why, they would only mumble something about 'progress' or 'economics' . These words are just empty buzz words. There was no reason to pass the amendment. There's a Wal-Mart 8 miles away from Ashlund...that's not close enough? But that's Wal-Mart's strategy, it's kind of like colonizing every little town in sight. I hope the citizens of Ashlund boycott Wal-Mart and shut them down. I'm definitely boycotting them.

'In the 1950s, Sam Walton unsuccessfully fought in U.S. federal court to pay employees less than the federal minimum wage. Almost half a century later, almost half of Wal-Mart's 885,000 U.S. employees earn so little that they qualify for federal assistance under the food-stamp program, according to a May 2000 report by the New York-based National Labor Committee titled Made in China: The Role of U.S. Companies in Denying Human and Worker Rights. Pelletier says Wal-Mart's Canadian employees all earn more than minimum wage, but he will not disclose the company's average hourly wage "for competitive reasons". Fawkes, on the other hand, says he has spoken with many Wal-Mart employees in Greater Vancouver who earn barely more than minimum wage and do not qualify for company benefits because they work 28 hours or less a week. (Wal-Mart classifies 28 hours a week as "full-time", but Pelletier claims that most full-time employees work 35 hours.) The disparity between the earnings of Wal-Mart workers and the wealth '
www.maquilasolidarity.org/campaigns/wal-mart/monsterinabox3.htm

You might also find this interesting. The Wal-Mart litigation project. www.wal-martlitigation.com



6/26/01
Jon
I wonder if the former Ashlund council members who voted to allow Wal-Mart into their town will wind up working there. Do you think anyone of them own Wal-Mart stock?

I bet the Ashlund Wal-Mart doesn't succeed. The thing is having more stores suits their overall corporate goals because their strategy is to buy in the hugest volume so they can sell at low prices. So having more stores even if some lose money still helps their overall profits. Plus, then they get a tax write-off for the stores that lose money!! What about the psychological impact on the children who grow up in towns that have no small businesses? How will the children learn any sense of entreprenurial spirit, or integrity of business practices? How will they ever appreciate quality products if they have never seen any?

I can't believe McDonald's is in some Wal-Marts. That junk food full of saturared fat and sugar and simple carbohydrates will be the death of us all. In fact, the lead ing killer of Americans is heart disease which is closely associated with a high animal fat diet and high blood sugar. French fries and a coke every day will almost guarantee a heart attack someday. Hey, it's called a 'Happy Meal'!!!! Thank you for shopping at Crap-Mart and here's your free Heart Attack in a box!!!



6/26/01
John
these issues cross international borders: what kind of world do you want?
Bad Neighbor
Wal-Mart dropped from Domini Socially Responsible Investing Index Fund (6/01)

Wal-Mart has been removed from the Domini 400 Social Index citing research by the National Labor Committee documenting that-

* Wal-Mart's "Kathie Lee" goods were made by 13 year olds in Honduras, forced to work 13 hours a day under armed guard;

* Wal-Mart goods were made by workers in China held under conditions of indentured servitude, beaten and paid 3 cents an hour;

* Wal-Mart Canada purchased clothing from factories operated as joint ventures with brutal military and drug lords, where workers were paid 7 cents an hour and would be tortured if they tried to defend their most basic rights;

* Attempts by shareholders including the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to work with Wal-Mart to clean up its contractors' factories in Central America by opening those plants to independent verification by local, respected human rights and religious organizations have been rejected by Wal-Mart.

Given Wal-Mart's lack of responsiveness on these issues, Domini felt it had no other option but to drop Wal-Mart from its socially responsible index fund. This makes Wal-Mart only the second company to be removed from the index fund for disregard for human and worker rights and payment of fair wages.

Find out more at the National Labor Committee website www.nlcnet.org



6/26/01
Bob Heywood
When big box stores come to town, the small retails can't survive in the long run. What they must do is close quickly and not bleed to death. At the first sign of a big box coming to town, leases must not be renewed or buildings must be put up for sale. Then, start the going out of business sale immediately. The best prices can be had before the big box opens. Once it opens, liquidation prices must be extremely low. The only tactic is to close before the big box opens. Go to any small town with a big box that has been there for more than a year or two. Do you see many of the small stores still open? Most likely not. Get out early!



6/26/01
Jennifer Tuder
Wal-mart, with it's unethical, parasitic approach to retailing, is slowly but surely killing small town America. You can see the results in my hometown, Keokuk, Iowa. We no longer have any fabric stores, or bookstores outside of Wal-Mart. Local clothing, houseware, and hardware retailers are struggling and will soon go under. My town is dying and it's due, in no small part, to Wal-mart. No one can compete with their low prices and the citizens of my town don't seem to realize what's happening. Thank you, PBS, for broadcasting this show. I hope that you will continue to watch and comment on Wal-Mart's activities. I, for one, am interested in Ashland's future. Will it go the way of my hometown? I sincerely hope not. But I am afraid that the people of Ashland have only decreasing local businesses, jobs, and quality of life in their future.



6/25/01
lee brotherton
Citizens in Olivette, MO defeated a monsterous 80 acre development after a long and protracted struggle and I was proud to see our town on the list of those that have rejected Wal Mart/big box development, but you missed a nearby town here in St. Louis County. Citizens in Rock Hill, MO (a few miles from Olivette) began in January to aggressively organize against a Wal Mart anchored big box development. By the April municipal elections the citizens elected three new city council members securing a majority against the development at which point all prospective developers withdrew. They can be beaten but it takes lots of hard, hard work and you have to be willing to play agressively and expect to be villified. Otherwise you may end up like the good folks in Ashland, VA having done what any decent person would think it takes to stop such a development but still losing out and having their town permanently altered by the suburban sameness Wal Mart and their competitors represent.



6/25/01
Rich
Mayor Herbert did the best he could to determine what would benefit the town most. He had to weigh the economic growth of the town versus the social impact of having the new store. Tom knows Ashland well and did not take the decision lightly. If you watch at the beginning of the documentary, you can see that Tom is leaning against having the Wal-mart come to town ("why build one here when there's one eight miles down the road") After doing research into the situation, he determined that it was in the best interest of the town to accept Wal-mart's proposal.

Another interesting thing I observed in this documentary was the one-sided reporting done in favor of the anti-Walmart people. The main thing that struck me was these affluent small business owners trying to portray themselves as the 'little guy'. The actual 'little guy' are the poor people of Ashland who have to pay too much for the goods they buy at these local businesses. Are the local business people worried about the town's atmosphere, or (more probably) having to lower their prices when the new Walmart comes to town? Obviously, the spectre of Walmart- induced competition was on their minds because they kept talking about 'going out of business' if Wal mart came to town. In addition to this lack of sincerity (if not deception), was the obnoxious, loud, and threatening tone the anti-Walmart people used to get their message accross. The presumption (repeated over and over) that this small, vocal group represented the 'will of the people' of Ashland was never challenged.



6/25/01
Richard Forrester
I have just finished watching "Store Wars". I was searching the channels and came across this program at 5:00PM EST on WNIT. I found this program to be Socialist propaganda. Not only not factual; but to an extent, staged and/or orchestrated for the purpose of of furthering the Socialist agenda. We have a Walmart and I make purchases there; but not all. I am certainly not a supporter of Walmart; but an adversary of the Socialist agenda.



6/25/01
melanie
I watched this documentary with great interest. Approximately2 years ago the small suburb of St. Louis, MO in which I live entered into a battle over Wal-Mart. Watching the PBS show was eerie. So many things were nearly identical in our struggle but other things were very different. I can only conclude the backstabbing and ugly fighting that went on in Ashland were omitted from this documentary. Our one year+ fight got very nasty. As one of the leaders of the anti-Wal-mart movement my family was the victim of a forgery that used racial slurs, attempted to destroy long term friendships and falsely attributed statements and motives to my husband and me. Our battle also involved tax increment financing that made the Wal-mart deal more controversial. In addition, the shopping development was also slated to take out a middle class neigbhorhood of 80 homes.

However, the most significant difference was the outcome. The citizens of my community prevailed-- after much hard work and a court case--to bring the issue to the ballot where it was defeated. Though the fight took its toll, our group proved that sometimes (and only rarely!) the little guy wins.



6/25/01
Marc Perrone
I was born in small town America and I have seen first hand what has happened when WalMart decided to come to town. Same old story we will bring jobs but, they did not tell us our friends would lose theirs when WMT put them out of business. They said they will bring variety but, they did not say they would bring quality. They said they would add to the tax base but, they did not say they wanted tax breaks and the employees would be footing the tax bill. They say good jobs would be provided but, they did not say the vast majority is part time. They say they provide health insurance but, you have to pay for most of the premium. (Most people cannot afford it in fact 65% to 75% are not covered by any plan) but, they provide it.

In every story there is a different view depending on whose ox is being gored. WalMart shut down my home town. They ran my friends and neighbors out of business. They then closed their store after they sucked all the marrow out of the town and moved 15 miles away. Now you cannot even buy a pair of socks or underwear in town. It is clear people must make a choice about what they want but, when it comes to the largest corporation in the world, do people really have a choice?

George W. Bush knows where the power is after all he made his last campaign stop in the home town of WalMart. I think that says it all.



6/22/01
Melody
I accidently stumbled across this show last night and became mesmerized - and appalled - by what I saw. This excellent show reveals a perfect example of what's wrong with America and why we are adding to the corruption of the whole planet. It deserves an EMMY Award. Americans used to be Citizens - now we are simply Consumers. Through Madison Avenue brainwashing convincing us that we need multiple products to conform to the proper image and the corporate slavery imposed by working for wages as "at-will" employees, we have been sculpted to be overworked while forever feeling dissatisfied. Money talks, we laughingly say. The truth is - Money Rules. Greed has become a virtue. As the Citizens (not consumers!) of Ashland found out, to question the profit motive is perceived as hysterical and ignorant. Those who represent big money are the ones who people recognize as powerful and intelligent - obviously doing something right...just look at their success! We must never give in to this corporate "false god" just to receive their "crumbs". They are there for us only to their advantage and only if we remain Consumers. We must continue to be leaders, educate ourselves to be articulate and saavy on the issues, and NEVER GIVE UP. We are Citizens, not just consumers !



6/22/01
Tony Lobello
Alan Jackson said it all with his song little man. Walmart just cares about the money. If I lived in the town i would drive the 8 miles. In my town we are getting another jewel, even though there is one less than five miles away. Go Figure. And God Bless the Little man.



6/22/01
careywestbrook
okay i am on the positive side of wal mart. first of all ...all of the people that are saying wal mart workers only get 28 hours a week at 5.25 an hour are crazy. i work for wal mart.#1266 baton rouge la.

i make 10.50 an hour and have only been there for two years. they treat us good. i never get ripped up as some people say. i am not in management.just a produce worker. i have a great boss. great store manager. and also one more thing my wife also works there. 1 year and she makes 8.00 an hour. starting pay at our store is 7.00 an hour with a raise in 90 days.

we also get merit raises based on our performance. out perform ..dont be lazy!! and you can move up the ladder fast. we are not out to put everybody out of business. one person mentioned winn dixie. that is the worst company on the planet. i worked for them and so did my wife. they suck!! THEY only give you 28 hours a week and pay 5.00 hour. the same with albertsons,kroger,jitney jungle freds,k mart and on and on.

so everyone please stop knocking wal mart. they pay my bills. pay for my house, car and everthing else i have.and last week i worked 56 hours not 28.as i have been doing all year. there is a local grocey store where i live. they charge2.19 for a loaf of bread. we charge 76 cents. DO THE MATH.

i wish there was a wal mart in this small town. but there is not and i have to drive 30 miles to work everyday. one way.



6/22/01
Rebecca
I used to live in Ashland and I would give anything to go back!! It is a nice town and you feel very loved there.

My thoughts on this is that Wal-mart needs to come to Ashland. Now... I did not see the show but I would almost bet anything that it did not show the hole picture. Kids need jobs that are near them, that are not the same jobs that their grandmothers were doing when they were living there. We as teenagers need to see other stores that are trying to make it to.

The people that have been going to the mom and pop grocry stores will not stop going there just because Wal-mart has come. Wal- mart is just trying to do its job... grow and make money. That is what most people expect out of it!! There was a mom and pop store called dukes and they just ripped that down to put up a big gas store there. There is the SAME store not 8 miles away in the air park and people are complaning about a wal-mart that sells more than what these mom and pop stores are selling!!

I know that i am just a 17 year old that most peopple say " Well, what does she know", but the fact is, is that I know alot for my age. Now I may not act like it all the time but I do know what I am talking about. If people would just open their arms and try new things they might find that life does not have to be a fight all the time!!



6/22/01
Wayne Campbell
Our cities are far too willing to give up their individuality, seemingly on the premise that democracy and free enterprise are about the right to buy more stuff.

Debates about controversial development proposals far too often focus on the developers' "right" to build anything they want, and seldom on the right of the citizens to control their own economic destiny. When citizens don't want big box retail, why does it always seem to be shoved down their throats?

One issue was skipped over in this film. It sounded like WalMart needed a zoning variance in order to build this store. That's how much well-intended planning goes wrong: Communities don't stick by their plans. How often does a developer buy land and use it for the intended (zoned) purpose? Not often. More typically they buy farmland and then use political influence and slick marketing to get permission to use it for some other purpose - planning and zoning laws be damned.



6/22/01
R T Mullen
PBS has once again shown why it plays such a necessary role in American society. 'Store Wars' took the time to develop a story important to small town Americans so citizens can make their own decisions.

After reviewing the documentary and reading the comments on the site, I do not blame Wal-Mart for their practices. They are a corporation operating in autonomy, trying to make profits. They answer to their shareholders and are making business decisions based upon those mandates. I do think there are communities where Wal-Mart has played and advantageous role, and others where it has destroyed small town businesses. I do think that people are fooling themselves if they think that these are high paying jobs - they are most assuredly not. At least see Wal-Mart for what it is - the champion of low-cost retail operators: nothing more, nothing less.

However, I did find the actions of the Ashland town council reprehensible. Apparently they forgot they were elected (and subsequently dismissed) to represent the wishes of the town. Plus, several of the town planning commission and council members (Bobbie Parker, the most notable) absolutely held the citizens in contempt. I find it laughable that he does not think the Pink Flamingos don't know what they are doing. In retrospect, Mr. Parker does not seem to know what he is doing or who he was appointed to represent. Also, the town councilman (an attorney) who was pro-Wal-Mart throughout the broadcast, I hope he was subsequently bounced out of office. And Mayor Herbert looked like a sheepish stooge when he rammed the vote down the throats of its citizens.

What surprises me is the unwillingness of the town leaders to recognize that we are only talking about a retail store - this is not a college or university looking to move into Ashland; nor a manufacturing facility, a hospital, or a research facility. This is just a low paying retail store. If you are going to put it all on the line, at least do so for something noble and not for a big box selling cheap clothes from China. The citizens don't want it, so do not allow Wal-Mart to build. And to think, Mr. Herbert risked his and his family's reputation for an overblown retail store. I bet he enjoys walking down Main Street now.

For the town council to think the Wal-Mart is going to sufficiently improve the lives of its citizens is presumptuous, short-sighted, and dangerous. To summarize Mr. Parker, I found the town leaders (by title only) to be the most disturbing part of the story.



6/22/01
Shari
I was quite impressed with the documentary; I think it is even-handed and gives both points of view and builds tension for the final vote. I must say, as an optimist, I was unprepared for that final vote--I really thought that the lame-ducks would honor their civic responsibility and allow the newly-voted-in to make the call. I am appalled that Ashland was betrayed by its leaders: clearly, the mayor and fellow council-member who went fact-finding to the neighboring town did not weigh the facts they were given nor make them public; equally troubling is that one member would introduce a motion to table the vote for the next administration but when the motion was not seconded would vote in favor of allowing Wal-Mart into the community. However, most revealing is that the defeated mayor would betray the town by endorsing Wal-Mart, particularly after learning of the effects of the "Wal-Marting" of the neighboring town. The council vote shows clearly the lack of careful evaluation of the issue--orr, at the v



6/22/01
Doug Knoop
While in High School and College I was employed at a number of 'Big Box' stores. The K, WM, Sam's, Best Buy?, I know that the last 3 are all owned by WM. It was my experience at these establishments that we were underpaid, untrusted, and generally treated like sheep. If you disagreed with management you were out, I was fired twice for speaking up. This treatment leads to one thing I havent really seen on this discussion. Crime. Most of the people I worked with were involved in theft of both merchandise and cash. Especially at WM. This was mainly done by those employees who appeared to be the 'model' of the WM drones. Housewives and older people. I think this is due to not only disatisfaction with the crappy job but also with all the lies and indoctrination. Sure they offer benefits to 'full time' employees, but you have to pay for them and, while working your 30 hours a week at slightly above min. wage, its really a stretch.

Also, by expanding the meaning of 'full time' Wal-Mart et al. have succeeded in lowering the national unemployment numbers while dramatically increasing the number of working poor.

Now that I am an 'official adult' with a job etc. I no longer will shop at ANY of the large national chain discount stores. I am much happier going to the diminishing small businesses to find those goods and services I need. Usually the price is higher than at Wal-Mart but I always get a higher quality product with better service. It is my opinion that buying a pair of shoes for $20 that will last 3 months is stupid when I can spend $100 for a pair that last 10 years. Everything that I acquired from the big stores I worked at has now disintegrated or wore out. Yes they offer a lower price, but for inferior goods with terrible customer service.

I don't see WM as being viable 10 years from now, they are expanding too fast and not paying heed to the disenting voices gathering around them.



6/22/01
Caroline
I noticed that an earlier posting mentioned that in Germany, Walmart has been forced to stop selling items below cost. I would like to read more about how this was done - is there a website that could be consulted?

As a European living in the US I'd like to comment that there are many things I really like about this country, but the big box stores are not included on that list! I don't relish the sight of the enormous parking lots, encroaching on open space which is one of the wonderful things about the American West. As to their supposed employee benefits and cheap prices, I think the facts (as documented on this website) speak for themselves.

It's heartening to see that so many people here feel as I do, but depressing to see the undemocratic behaviour of the city council in Ashland. I wish everybody who is involved in the (nationwide) struggle against Walmart's takeover the best of luck.

Response from the filmmaker:

I've found info about Wal-Mart activities in Europe at the usual news sources. Below are examples from the news agencies Rueters and AP that tell the first part of the story: first, Wal-Mart denies, than the German authorities investigate. As you already know, Wal-Mart was subsequently found guilty of predatory pricing and forced to raise prices on certain items. I'm sure you can find many more details in the business and German press, and on the sites of Wal-Mart's German competitors, Metro AG, Aldi, Lidl, Norma and Plus.

Tuesday June 27,2000 Wal-Mart denies selling below-cost in German stores

BONN, June 27 (Reuters) - The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT - news) on Tuesday denied it was selling some groceries at a loss in its German stores in a bid to undercut rivals after the country's cartel office opened a probe into its pricing.

The cartel office said it was investigating Wal-Mart after receiving a complaint that the U.S. company was breaching German competition rules by selling a range of groceries below cost. It did not disclose who had lodged the complaint.

Wal-Mart, which sells 80 own-brand products at bargain prices in its "Smart Price" offer in German stores, said it had provided the cartel office with a list of its wholesale and retail prices.

The authority said it had also initiated an investigation into pricing at rival supermarket chains Aldi, Lidl, Plus and Norma but had not received any complaints against these stores.

The Bonn-based competition authority did not provide any further details about the investigations. The probes are taking place against a backdrop of what German tabloid Bild Zeitung on Tuesday called a "supermarket price war."

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc, with annual sales of around $139 billion, recently acquired two retail groups in Germany and the Asda supermarket chain in Britain.

Wednesday August 2,2000

Germany Studies Retail Discounting

BONN, Germany (AP) -- Under investigation for offering prices possibly too low to be legal, U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and four German competitors could learn this month whether they are breaking Germany's discount laws.

Chief regulator Ulf Boege said in this week's Focus Money magazine that the probe would be wrapped up soon, possibly this month. The magazine released an advance copy of the interview Wednesday.

Wal-Mart has triggered several nationwide price wars since launching its deep discounts. The latest round, begun this spring, drew scrutiny from the Federal Cartel Office, which is looking into whether Wal-Mart and its competitors are breaking German law by selling below cost.

Boege said the investigation has nothing to do with protecting Germany's well-entrenched mom-and-pop stores.

"We only want to ensure that competitors don't use their bigger market power to take advantage of smaller rivals," Boege said.




6/22/01
Gilmour Tuttle
I watched this program last night and must confess that I was irritated by the biased presentation of the facts at hand.

The crux of the issue was choice. Clearly, a group of people wanted to restrict the choices of their neighbors. That is, why did some local residents not want to give the option to citizens of shopping at a Wal-Mart? What did this group stand to gain by restricting that option, or to put it another way, what did they stand to lose if that choice was granted? Would there have been a net gain or net loss of utility for Ashland as a whole if that choice were denied?

My own point of view is different to the filmmaker's and I accept that. But Econ 101 will show that societies allocate resources to their most efficient uses in the long run. Were I presenting the facts, I would have focused on whether or not Wal-Mart would in fact be an efficient use of resources for Ashland as a whole, and also if its construction would have created external costs and benefits to certain citizens.

This is a lot of economics for the noninitiated, but I believe it is the most dispassionate way to analyze the situation and would have given viewers the ability to make up their own minds. Focusing on the emotive and connotative denied viewers the ability to do so.



6/21/01
Connie Rodgers
What a wonderful documentry! It's sad that it was done so late in the Walmart game, as it might have helped other towns, other council members make a more informed decision. My hometown fought, and lost, and Walmart opened their doors here 1 month ago. It's a bit early in their game to say what damage they will do here. This coming Nov., it will be 10 years since I opened my pet store. Will I make 10 years? I don't know. I'm 62, and if I lose my store because of Walmart, I will also lose my home that houses myself, and 6 wonderful Standard Poodles. My newest slogan is, "Welcome to the United States of Walmart".

Yes,they can build, but we need not shop there! PLEASE run this documentry over, and over,and over. LADIES BEST WISHES TO YOU IN YOUR LAWSUIT AGAINST walmart.



6/21/01
Teresa
We have Walmart where I live. When they came to town we already had 2 discount retailers. Within 2 months one of those retailers closed. As time passed, more of our local "mom and pop" stores closed. After 5 or 6 years our other discount retailer closed. There went our choices. Now we drive 30 miles to another town in order to have a choice. My suggestion to you folks is to contact Dollar General in Goodlettsville, TN. DG works well in small communities and is not out to close down your local businesses.



6/21/01
E. Wright
I will be watching KQED on June 21, 2001 to view "When Wal-Mart Comes to Town". I am proud of the fact that our town, South San Francisco, CA, showed Wal-Mart the door in 2000. Wal-Mart had quietly courted city administrators and council two years previously. Only weeks before the finalization of ground breaking plans the citizens and community let their City Council know that they were having no Wal-Mart in South San Francisco, CA. All I can say is watch the small sections of your local paper for announcements of council meetings and what they are planning to discuss or get on a city council agenda mailer. I'm so glad I saw that tiny public meeting notice in the paper and alerted the community; otherwise we'd have a Wal-Mart built on Highway 101 in South San Francisco, CA today. Some might say capitalism is great but government's responsiblity is to make sure that predatory practices of corporations don't destroy our communities and fabric of our society. When you don't have enough to eat, and not en



6/21/01
Brian Fraser
I watched with interest the PBS story on Wal Mart. I live in Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Wal Mart came to us via the selling of Woolco department stores to them approximately five years ago.

Since then, Wal Mart has captured the largest percentage of any discount retailer in Canada. I refuse to shop at Wal Mart, as they are the best example of corporate America gone bad.



6/21/01
Dr. R.D.B.(Ben)Laime
Your program about Wal-Mart moving into Ashland, Va. was a very good piece. I must say that most who oppose the Wal-Marts of the world moving in are merchants who have gouged their citizens over the years.

There is a book out on how to compete with Wal-Mart. I often suggest to the folks in Bentonville that they need to do a better job with their parking lots (plant trees, flowers,etc.). What Wal-Mart provides is generally quality products at affordable(whatever that means)prices. Local merhants who provide good service, quality products(more pricey in many instances) can still make it when a giant corporation moves in. I don't for a minute suggest that the folks from Bentonville are pure at heart, but they do provide, in many cases, a one-stop shopping service (saves on gas, agnst and more). The antis generally are lazy merchants who have gouged their folks for years.

By the way Bill Moyers latest has to be seen in all classrooms of this planet. PBS what would we do without you.

My best, Dr. Ben Laime in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Oh, a final thought--maybe if local merchants took a page from the Wal-Marts (no questions on exchanges if you have your receipt; a friendly greeter; employees who know where things are(they need to keep improving on this) and pay their folks more and give them more benefits(which local merchants generally don't do either). Cheers.



6/20/01
Kathy
I refuse to shop at Walmart! The small city where I am from (notice I no longer live there) was a victim of Walmart and the "low cost way of doing business."

First Walmart killed the Penneys, the Woolworths, Ben Franklin, and numerous other small businesses. Now Super-Walmart plans to kill the last three grocery stores.

Their stated plan is to "sell groceries below cost to drive the other people out of business" and then presumably when there is no more competition drive the prices up.

People have posted that they appreciate Walmart's low cost and how they need those low costs because they don't have jobs that pay good enough to pay higher prices. Work 28 hours a week at Walmart for low wages and you'll never be able to afford more! They have also posted that the it's the local businesses fault for charging too much. When you have sales and profits in excess of billions or millions of dollars you can afford to sell some things below cost to drive out your competition!

I appreciated your piece and only wish that our County Commissioners would have been far-sighted enough to see where the Walmart mess was taking the city. One big store where pretty much everyone has to shop and everyone has to work. If that is the American Dream then let me out of the nightmare! Oh I forgot - I had to leave because there isn't enough work - Walmart can only employ just so many people.

Thank you.



6/18/01
Miranda Hills
I truly believe that more stores should offer what Wal-mart offers. I do not want my son to be able to go into whatever store he wants to and look at or listen to vulgor music. I am sure that if a lot of parents had our way, there wouldn't be 2 versions of an album. The one with violence, sex, drugs, and race on the front would not only be banned from Wal-mart stores, but every deceint store in America. A point can be made easily without profanity. A song can be listened to without swearing. A view can be seen without nudity. Wal-mart is very highly looked upon for taking a stand for what too few people in America do nowadays. Deceincy. Deceincy. indeed



6/18/01
Ursula Edwards
I am so glad I watched that show! And yes, I did cry in the end. I wanted Ashland to fight, especially because there is another Wal-Mart only eight miles from their town. I would feel so blessed if I would be living in a community like that and would do what ever I could to stop them. Wal-Mart kills little towns and NOTHING will ever bring them back. Shame on you "yes" sayers! Lets find some other god we can pray to - not only the God of the Almighty Buck!



6/18/01
I only managed to catch by accident the last 30min of this broadcast and was rivited. PLEASE PBS run it again! I have DirecTv and would love to know when and where I can see it again - so I can call some folks and have them tune in... We've been part of a similar fight and like Ashland - Lost.

Now they are ready to open another one not to far away.... we are a small family buiness not "The Elite" as I heard the Flamingos refered to in other posts... just because we own businesses doesn't mean we don't understand the financial struggles of everyone else - if anything we understand them more - because if no one has $ then no one shops - if no one shops then our store doesn't make $ and if our store doesn't make $ then we don't make $.... the small business person in your local town is totally dependant on YOUR spending habits.... if you don't have $ - we don't have $!!!! Wal-Mart on the other hand has TONS of $ and can afford to loose $ to conquor a town - and they do it...

RUN IT AGAIN - AND AGAIN - AND AGAIN! PLEASE PBS!!!



6/18/01
Kaylo M. Brooks
I have been involved in a community group for two years that holds demonstrations at our local Wal-Mart. On a regular basis 25 to 50 people pass out liturature and talk with citizens about issues such as sprawl, low wages and Wal-Mart's use of sweatshops. I believe that we have raised awareness in our community and I appreciate that PBS is doing their part. After watching the PBS special our group felt the urge to do our part and we decided to do an impromtu peaceful leafleting at our local Wal-Mart. On our way to our vehicles after we had finished passing out information myself and another member of our group were arrested without explination and jailed over night. We are currently in the process of fighting the charges, but it makes me wonder whose side the local law enforcement are on. Here Wal-Mart is doing horrible things to people all over the world, not to mention their awful environmental record, and we are the ones who get arrested! But we will not be deterred from doing what is right, and f

Peace,
Kaylo Brooks, Brainerd MN.



6/18/01
Bernice Antonelli
I was deeply moved and could completely sympathize with the townspeople who protested Wal-Mart taking over their town. I currently live in Los Angeles, but lived in another small southern town called Greenwood, South Carolina close to 10 years (1990-1998). Your documentary depicted exactly what Wal-Mart did to Greenwood.

Wal-Mart was first located in a plaza along with another major chain hardware store called LOWES. There were other small stores in this plaza as well. Wal-Mart later decided to open a "Supercenter" and move near the highway, which they did. When this occurred, the poor plaza become nothing more than a "ghost" plaza with only a few survivors - one of them being LOWES.

Wal-Mart's Supercenter also affected the charming old brick buildings on Main Street boutique-type stores and family owned businesses.

Once Wal-Mart moved to the new area, the Supercenter had both a grocery store area within their walls, as well as the McDonald's Fast Food Chain inside.

The odd thing is not only did McDonald's have the fast food chain within the Supercenter, but they had an additional one located on the Wal-Mart parking lot ???

Winn-Dixie grocery chain had just finished renovating their store and updated many sections of the store to include a pharmacy. No sooner did they finish their renovations which made the store very attractive to shop at, Wal-Mart's Supercenter opened across the street!!

Wal-Mart does not belong in Small Town U.S.A. .... Is Wal-Mart becoming a Microsoft - to monopolize shopping so that we are forced into one-stop shopping??? This is so unfair.

I do patronize Wal-Mart - but I, too, like many citizens of Ashland explained, will drive the 8-15 miles to shop at a Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart belongs in Cities - not Towns. I'm surprised that Wal-Mart targets small towns such as Greenwood and Ashland instead of places that could use another Wal-Mart, such as Los Angeles County. They are very spread out and only a few within this county that has several million people - now if Wal-Mart wants to really make $$ - why don't they concentrate on heavy populated areas like this????

The film was excellent - I was also moved to tears by the results of the town meeting in Ashland.

Thank you for making such a moving film.

Sincerely,
Bunnie Antonelli



6/18/01
Maxine Jones
Walmart talks about employing lots of people. Has anyone done a studdy of the quality of that employnent. They have "policies" of employee rights that they claim to follow, but I understand that that they have a tendency to "chew people up and spit them out". When questions arise about employees, they don't follow these policies.

How do you replace the small-business personal touch when it comes to employees?



6/18/01
Doug
Guess what my Economics class will be watching this fall!!! I have been waiting for something like Store Wars to come along and open up discussion to several economic issues I touch on in my class. I glanced over the lesson plans PBS came up with and they look great. Obviously, relavant Economics videos that are also interesting are hard to come by. Thanks to al those who made this documentary possible. Like many others, I am waiting for an update in a few years on Ashland.



6/15/01
Emiy Stevens
I just watched STORE WARS which I found riveting, eye-opening and more than once horrifying. I can't decide if my favorite part was the now-former-mayor saying "passion and emotion got us the French Revolution" (uh, he left out government by the people) or the pro-development attorney on the city council saying "I wouldn't care if you had [everyone in town's] signatures on that petition..." Who do these "leaders" think elected them and for what purpose? It's sad comment on small town democracy. Of course, our current federal administration does the same thing, but I digress... THANK YOU Micha Peled, ITVS, CPB, PBS and everyone else who made this film possible. I hope the Pink Flamingos keep the faith.

Response from the filmmaker:

Thank for your comment and support. I think of my film as exploring not only Big Stores impact but also the process of small town democracy. We hope now to get the funds to do a tour of small towns where screenings will be followed by a local debate with the town elected officials, precisely so that such issues about the decision-making process can be raised. After all, democracy enables people get the kind of government they deserve.



6/15/01
carl engel
The Ashland story was great. I would like to see a piece on how Wal Mart by the year 2004 will control 60% of the grocery business in the U.S.A. Will there be any small business's left to compete or supply goods to other stores, or just mega producers?



6/15/01
Marnie
In November of last year, my small town (Yucaipa, CA) was able to block Wal'Mart from entering our community. We have several "Mom and Pop" shops and our business owners were able to convince our city council to put the issue on the ballot. Not only did we win (54% to 46%) but we were able to get off our city council the candidates whose campaigns were financed by Wal-Mart. When I watched Store Wars I cried. I feel for the residents of Ashland and I am sorry that they lost!!



6/15/01
Ball
I watched your program Store Wars, I work for a large discount store, belive me they don't pay you enough to live on. They are anti union, with the money these corporations are making they can afford unions. The reason why these companies can afford low prices, is because they don't pay there employees. The Store Manager prejects how much the store is going to make that particular week based on sales in the quater, what the store did the same week last year, and the ecomony is doing. If the manager see they aren't going to make "sales" that week, they cut the employee hours that week or the next week. I've seen other stories on Wal Mart, when they move in, they DO put other stores out of business, they close down small towns. If people want to see what happens when Wal Mart comes to town, they should go to a town simular to there town to see how well there town is doing. How many stores are boarded up, how many are going out of business, and how many are thriving?



6/15/01
Roger Erickson
Walmart is about economic imperialism, exploitation and the colonization of all parts of the world. Some people buy into the convenience the appearance of cheap goods, but these conveniences are built on the backs of the poor in sweatshops or prison labor and the environmental destruction caused by the overproduction of unnecessary goods.

Walmart is corrupting small towns and big towns and making the workers underpaid sheep.



6/13/01
Becky
The "Store Wars" program was very interesting, and I appreciated learning about Ashland's struggle with the Wal-Mart proposal. (We recently got a Super Wal-Mart in our area.) The issue understandably means a lot to many Ashland townspeople, pro or con. At the same time, I couldn't help wondering about something that admittedly may seem to be a little off the point: At the Ashland City Council meeting where the final vote was taken in favor of the Wal-Mart, was the meeting opened with a prayer? I wasn't quite sure what I heard and saw in the video excerpt. If it was a prayer, Ashland seems to have an additional problem on hand -- namely, a question of separation of church and state.



6/13/01
aragamuffin
I watched Store Wars - and thank PBS, the producers and directors that made it possible. As a member of a family that owns 2 small main street retail stores - on the edge of a town that recently went throught the Wal-Mart battle... I cried. The most frigtening thing to me is the caption at the end of the film stating Wal-marts plan to open 1 new store every day by the year 2004. Someday there will be no place else to work and no place else to buy... They will control prices on what get's purchased and they will control the wages earned. Too many town councils are enticed or bought off and Wal-Mart never seems to loose.... We've recently heard that another store is now in the works about 10min away... the best thing people can do is simply NOT SHOP there... the store opend by us a few years ago has performed FAR below $ expectations... rumors say it's loosing $.. we don't expect that it will close, but in towns where that has happend - people have been left with ghost towns - because by then the small b



6/13/01
Kimberly
I live in Small Town, America. I won't say where, I don't want WALMART to find us. The biggest store in town is Ben Franklin's. I bought a truck recently with a Buy American sticker on it and it got me thinking. My husband's job depends on people who buy American. I can find the same products made in Mexico, cheaper, but that would be cutting my own throat. I have been to WALMART a couple of times and have never seen a 'Made in the USA' sign anywhere. This documentary reconfirmed my desire to shop locally and buy American made products whenever I can.



6/13/01
david garner
i live in port angeles, washington. after wal-mart came to our little town we have seen most of the downtown dry up. at first wal-mart offered better prices. after awhile when the competition went out of business the prices at wal-mart went up. the downtown port angeles looks like a ghost town now. any shop which opens downtown never lasts for more than six months before it goes out of business. the k-mart store we had (which was terrible) lasted about one year after wal-mart and is now vacent. the j.c. penny store moved to another town and their building was changed to welfare services.

we used to have 3 music stores located in three different towns within this area. we are still the only amusement company for this area. when wal-mart came into town we submitted a proposal to supply them with their arcade services. it was a good account. we went out and bought a bunch of new equipment at great expense to us because we knew the returns would be good. we are local and do not let anything we own sit with an out of order sign for more than 18 hours. if it doesn't work we either fix or replace it. we have built up our business very sucessfully using that philosophy. a few months later we got a call to come and remove all of our equipment. this was at the same time the manager we had been dealing with was transfered somewhere else. they had some outfit from california who evidently had some kind of contract. since then we no longer have music stores. we could not compete. our business is still arcade, jukeboxes, pinballs and various other coin-op. the person who used to do all of our

i could go on but i think i made my point.....



6/13/01
Coding Cub
I must say, I remember "back in the day" when Sammy was still alive. Back then the stores seems nicer, cleaner, friendlier. I remember front greeters that you could hear in the other corner of the store. And they were very nice, sometimes TOO nice. But then Sammy died, and I hired on during my college years. I got to see two 'anti-union' videos. They were aweful! "Unions were needed years ago, but not anymore. Everyone here at Wal*Mart are one big happy family!" Noone seems to realize that families often fight. I am 100% pro-wally-union. I worked in one department for 2 years. We got a new dept. manager and she cut my hours because she thought I was not doing a "satisfactory" job. I moved to another dept. and the person she hired to replace me lasted two weeks before moving to another dept. Needless to say, wally doesn't believe in seniority. Wally worked well for me to get the money I needed for college, but I didn't stay any longer than needed.



6/13/01
Amanda Sims
Wal-Mart says,"If we ain't got it, you don't need it."



6/13/01
Karri
I am writing from a small town in Canada, where a Wal Mart will be opening soon. I would love to see regular follow ups on Ashland, VA. And to all of you who oppose the decision of the Council Members to vote on the issue, put yourselves in their shoes.....



6/13/01
Kimberly
Definately I would love to see a followup done on how Ashland maks out after Walmart comes. I also wanted to say that although I had sympathy for the pink flamingos, I believe they went about almost everything the wrong way. Involving the children, trying to strongarm other town residents, and trying to sway the town planners and council members in the way that they did, left me with the feeling that as the "upper-crust" of the town, they didn't seem to want to let the other people in the town have any say. I also hope that the elderly lady that has to go so far for her "ears" batteries gets a lifetime supply of them from Walmart, for her emotional support of the store. If Walmart would do more to support people in the community, like this lady, then they will do good for the town, rather than an injustice. I wish the town all the best.



6/12/01
Stacy Lenore Reed
To say that "Wal*Mart was the only retailer with enough vision and risk taking power to step in and put up a regional store for the area." is not only absurd but also flat our wrong... might i be so bold as to remind the reading public of the Montgomery Ward's of that era... ???

To also say that "They should be congratulated, not condemed." is laughable in the worst possible way. This reader states, "Now, over 50% of the entire state of Iowa's retail sales are from Wal*Mart. It they hadn't come in someone of equal power would have. They are bringing products that people want to buy and many have no other choice."

This is called a m-o-n-o-p-o-l-y. When a big business comes into a small town and mows down all the competition (which usually means those small businesses run by the local people, ie. your neighbor's livelihood and your neighbor's ticket out of p-o-v-e-r-t-y) then that is b-a-d.

The truth that is being overlooked here is that the majority of our U.S. economy is fueled by small businesses doing business... when one of these goes out of business another comes in to fill its place, without making huge hiccups in the local economies... when a Wal-Mart comes in however, it literally kills off all the competition... then, when it decides it's time to move on... what do you think is left??? exactly... Nothing. Just a bunch of out-of-work Wal-Mart clerks. When a Wal-Mart has come in and bulldozed your town's entire economic structure right out of existence, how hard do you think it is to rebuild? Exactly! That's why small towns all over America are now in this fight, because so many of them have lost the fight (or never knew they needed to fight) and are only now feeling the incredible pain.

The main issue in Ashland, which I personally believe was never adequately addressed by any of the interested groups or representatives, is this... there is already a WAL-MART only TEN minutes down the road. TEN minutes... TEN MINUTES!!! How hard is it to drive TEN minutes to get a load of cheap plastic furniture, disposable batteries and and pesticide-ridden GMO food???

Wal-Mart is cheap for a reason, because they sell "cheap" products. And small town people should be OFFENDED that they are seen as so poor and uneducated that they can't identify or afford quality products. We don't need to be treated like poor trash. And we don't need to be sold it either.

I personally haven't shopped in a Wal-Mart since the night Ashland council made that very poor decision. And I never will again. And since then my pocketbook and household hasn't suffered a bit. There are a lot of Ashlanders in this mindset. Wal-Mart Will get a lot of business, but it'll be people from out of town, driving through the town, sucking up the clean air and open roads in order to buy more and more disposable, cheap trash.

The former mayor is dead wrong to suggest that the majority of Ashland was somehow for this ridiculous project. He obviously can't count. That town hall was PACKED with anti-Wal-Mart citizens... and we were pouring out all over the lawn... They actually had to get an extra TV to put outside just so people on the anti-Wal-Mart side would know when it was their turn to come in and speak at the podium... It's also obvious that this "ex" mayor has No sense of environmental ethics whatsoever. After the meeting, when he spotted my Sierra Club button, he called me aside and personally asked why we enviros weren't thrilled to have a Wal-Mart so close because it would cut down on driving pollution. Where do they send these people to school? This is as prime an excuse for SOLs that I've ever heard.

The bottom line is this... if you need really cheap products that will NOT last, then Wal-Mart is THE place shop... but it really wouldn't have been hard to go only TEN MINUTES to satisfy that materialistic urge to splurge.



6/12/01
Larry
Small rural towns throughout the Midwest began declining in the '50's and '60's without any help from Wal*Mart. Wal*Mart wasn't even created when the towns began shriveling up. Technology allowed one modern farmer to achieve the same work as 5 workers on a farm in the '40's. This efficiency continued with the same velocity as the speed of the computer increased.

Hence, no large family of farm helpers needed and the farmer bought out his neighbor because he could farm twice as much land, alone - and this went on and on - even before Wal*Mart was a company.

The towns shrank, the schools consolidated, the kids moved to city jobs and naturally the stores closed down as well.

Wal*Mart was the only retailer with enough vision and risk taking power to step in and put up a regional store for the area.

Now, over 50% of the entire state of Iowa's retail sales are from Wal*Mart. It they hadn't come in someone of equal power would have. They should be congratulated, not condemed. They are bringing products that people want to buy and many have no other choice.



6/12/01
Bill Stapleton
I grew up in a small community like Ashland. I pity (not really) the lameduck members of the city council who imposed their wishes rather than letting the newly elected council decide the issue. The program did not make it clear, but I am assuming that a majority of the new council would have opposed the Wal-Mart plan. This new council obviously would have represented the majority of the town folk. Thus,if I was residing in Asland, I would be very reluctant to recommend that anyone do business with the "lameduck" council members.



6/12/01
lillian lopez
I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I have lived in Brooklyn all my life, I've seen what mega stores have done to our neighborhoods along with the 24 hour bodegas which continue to diminish our already rapidly changing so called quality of life, if it ever exsisted. I am against these mega stores popping up everywhere, I think the people who are with it are poeple who havn't been anywhere and find this exciting and new. It will soon wear off and K-Mart will remain, but your small town will never be the same.

I would have voted NO WAL MART.

My heart is with the Pink Flamingos, I pray you guys win !!!



6/12/01
Clinton Pittman
I'd like to know what happens in the future in Ashland. Can we follow the town as we followed the family in "The Farmer's Wife"?



6/12/01
Sherri Kivell
1) Civics lessons? Hmm. I have found it interesting that many people here have stated the town council should have voted as the majority of the people would have voted.

Is that a republic, democracy, pluralist government? Do they actually know?

2)If I were on the council I would have done, or paid for, more independent research than they did.

These positions of authority require of people much more than "listening" to the two sides. They require understanding of fact. One drive to a town that has a Wal-mart is not research.

And that is why the councilmen are there, is it not? I feel they were irresponsible in that matter.

Conclusion: Without that independent research, I don't know how I would have voted.

Note: I'm currently happily employed at a local Wal-mart, although I live in an urban environment.



6/12/01
Mary
Most of the comments from those that love Wal-Mart talk about their low prices. I think it is important to know when you choose to shop based on solely the lowest price...there are societal ramifications. What do you want this country to look like in 10 years? In 50 years? Our dollars speak. We have power in the choices we make. Let's make that power do some good in this world.

Wal-Mart has something called "pricing power". Because most of their goods are made in sweat shops in third world countries (over 84%) they cost next to nothing. Because they buy so much of it...they can sell it for less. Small merchants aren't ripping off the public; they have to pay much more for everything they get. Their profit margins are typically less than Wal-Marts. Wal-Mart also has something no other retailer in the world has...no risk. Because of their monopoly, they have the power to insist their distributers take back unsold merchandise (the distributors eat the loss if Wal-Mart Buyers make a mistake). It is unfair competition.

When you shop at places like Wal-Mart you support such practices. You tell them, with your dollars, that being a car-oriented consumer is the most important thing in the world.

I don't think it is. I think we should consume less. Maintain budgets by buying less but more thoughtfully. Buy from local merchants of high character. Buy from people with good labor practices. Buy from people that consider the environment. Support businesses with high ethics. Support businesses in historic districts that you want to see survive. Think before you buy. Price is not all that matters.

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