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STORE WARS: When Wal-Mart Comes To Town


Talkback Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

John Haley
I grew up in a small town that faced many of the same fears that Ashland faced in the fight over Walmart. For years our town council rejected applications for chain stores to come to town in the fear that it would kill local businesses. As a result, those businesses went to other towns, the closest of which is 45 miles away. The end result? The business that they were afraid would close due to big business got shut down ANYWAY because they could not offer what the people wanted. People regularly drive 45 miles and often times up to 120 miles away to the largest nearest city to find the products they want.

You can't put the blame on big business for shutting down local businesses when often times it is the people in those towns who are shutting down the businesses by their choice of where to shop. To take a political term...they are voting with their wallets and their feet..and the vote is that big business is what they want in many cases.

But you have to keep in mind the demographics of the particular situation. In Ashlands case they did have another Walmart 10 minutes away. I don't feel that is too far to go for what Walmart offers and it might still allow the local retailers to keep their downtown area intact. In other areas where a store is further away the desire for a store might be stronger because there is no other place that offers the products and the value that a chain store can offer. My point is that you can't lump Walmart or KMart or any other large chain as an evil corporation just because they are successful. As many others have said...if they are so bad, why are they the number one retailer in the world? There has to be a demand for their products or that could not happen.

As far as the products that walmart sells being shoddy or being made in sweat shops, etc.... That's bunk. Most of the products that Walmart sells are the exact same items you will find in the local store by the same manufacturer. Are some of the products faulty? Sure..all manufacturers have bad products and Walmart gets a number of those just like any other retailer.

Don't be so blinded by the hatred of big business that you fail to realize that big stores do provide a service to the communities they reside in.

Response from the filmmaker:

Your point is very well taken. In making STORE WARS, my intention has been not to villify the discount retailers, but to encourage viewers to reflect on the values that we as Americans hold most dear. My impression, from doing research in towns across the country in the process of making this film, that many people feel that they find themselves in a bind. Most people would like access to a side variety of products, as well as of businesses. But it seems that in order to have the convenience and low prices of the Big Box stores, we lost something else that is important, which is a quality of life and a character of the community. Can both values be honor?

Some towns have adopted Smart Growth ordinances. For example, in Santa Cruz, Ca, the town has passed ordinances that guarantee a balanced mix of commerce -- balance of small, mid-size and large stores, balance of locally-owned and chain-owned businesses.

The other bind is the result of our fierce faith in the importance of local control. But, in fact, it's this local control of each municipality that leads to loss of control. It enables the chains to simply move a couple of miles up the road and set up the store in the next town, still devastating the economy of the first town. A different model is used in Europe, where the economic planning is done on a regional basis. This kind of cooperation will allow some discount retail stores in an area, within convenient driving for everyone in the region, but still allowing local stores to flourish, so that you can still drop in on the local store for the daily basic needs.

The fault is not of the chain stores for exploiting what the system allows. But it's the system that we all as citizens have created. It may be time to re-think what would best serve all of our interests.

Bob Kryger
I have heard of such issues concerning WalMart before. I am very happy to see the issue dealt with in a serious manner. I'd also love to see more facts on the issue, and a follow up on the condition of business and economics in Ashland in the coming years.

I am generally opposed to such big box stores, but wonder if there are situations where they are appropriate. It seems that only an economic analysis of the area would be telling.

What I felt was more moving was the action of the town council in the face of such obvious opposition. What were the real numbers on the issue? What percentage of the population petitioned against the Walmart? How badly did the incumbant town council loose? What was their rational for flying in the face of public opinion, which they were supposed to represent. I wonder if their political careers have been forever effected? Emotionally, I was saddened to see that our system does not seem to work as I believe it was intended.

Response from the filmmaker:

I have responded before as to my understaning to the motivation of the town council vote. In the local elections, the outgoing mayor, who supported Wal-Mart, finished fifth in a field of six candidates.

As for more data, pls check the website. A Television program is not the best medium for providing economic data.

Regarding doing a follow-up program, which a number of people have requested, I suggest you direct this request to PBS. If they'd commission it, I'd be glad to make it.

Mark Wilson
I like to think of myself as a small town guy. My family doctor was the first doctor in my hometown, and he really cared about his patients. He retired eight years ago, and now I am still searching for a similar relationship. I'm sad and wistful about it at times, but things change and then you deal with them.

One thing I do not approve of is the use of children in protests. Those kids don't understand all the facets of serious adult issues and as a result they are being used.

As for the employees (I won't try to kid anyone that they are associates) who want to unionize, there is a simple solution if they don't approve of Wal-Mart's labor practices: DON'T WORK THERE. This is America, nobody is forcing you to take a job that you don't like.

Terry Tichenor
Yes Wal-mart does do the monopoly thing to small towns. On the show the young man representing Wal-mart. Was driving around in his car, And was saying I95 would be right next door. So I really doesn't matter if the town's folk shopped there or not. Wal-mart put signs on the interstate for it's stores. And if you buy a Rand- McNally road map at Wal-mart. In the back it has every Wal-mart in the country by address. I've seen as many as 6 stores in one city, talk about over kill! Now let's talk about wages. Most of the associates make minimun wage. And the insurance that they have. Most people cannot afford it. And promotions, yes you can move up. But only to Department manager. If you want to train as an Assistant Store manager you have to move. Walmart doesn't allow a person to be trained in their hometown. So I ask if Wal-mart can give 3 million in new roads to Ashland. Why can't they give their associates a higher wage?
Owensboro, KY

walmart runs a deceptive business all around. It starts with the inaccurate and false facts they provide to get established in a community. Next comes their "down home- made in the US" marketing that is obviously not true. (Other stores sell good manufactured overseas, but they do not employ a "made in US" campaign.) Finally, they have become so big they strong arm suppliers to cut their profits or be cut out of walmart distribution chain. It's just an unhealthy business atmosphere all around and I can't understand why people shop there.

I hope there is a follow up on how Ashland survives.

Justin McElhaney
My name is Justin and I'm from MidWest City in Oklahoma and I wanted to give my input on the Walmart in Asland. I would be against the opening of Walmart there and the reason is this. I grew up in Norman home to a major college.Now when i was a kid grownig up we didn't have many big buisnesses, and now ten years later we have every major buissness now from 2 walmarts to Toys R Us, Ross clothing stores and Old navy. Now what the council does not understand is that they think that Ashland will still stay small which it will not from experience if walmart opens more people will come to ashland not only to move there but also more bigger buissnesses will also come they don't see that if one mojor buisness comes sooner or later they will all come and what will that do to smaller buisness in the community. The smaller buisnesses there will not be able to compete with the bigger poeople so sooner or later they will have to close I know because I've seen friends family buisnesses shut down bcause they couldn't comp

Walmart says that the jobs they create in a community are not a dead end. I wish they could give me a satisfactory answer as to what these Mcjobs are leading too. I have been to many walmarts and no one was as nice to me as the guy at the corner store that shut down because it couldn't compete.

throughout this documentary we witnessed walmart spreading falsehoods and half truths... the company line, if you will. it really angered me to witness that phone call and hear that walmart was misquoting <LIARS!!!> umass research. As for research why would walmart want to saturate an area and basically be its own competition. the only sensible conclusion is that walmart wants to come to your town, shut you down, and walk away with as much of your money as they can carry.

For everything that walmart COULD bring to a town they fail to do so to protect their bottom line, not the town that they have invaded.

I am currently watching the "Store Wars" program on my local PBS station.. I wish to say congrats to the people of Ashland ,VA for their courage in standing up against the larger corporations such as Wal-Mart. The town council will regret their decision to allow Wal-Mart into their community. How do I know this you may ask? I am an employee of Wal-Mart and I have seen the effects of their "participation" in the local community. All of the effects that the citizens presented to the council have come true here in the town I live in. My opinion goes beyond just another disgruntled employee..

Ask other people and Wal-Mart associates in communities around the country. The story from the Wal-Mart "corporate propoganda mill" ( asmost associates refer to the company) and real people who have been affected (good and/or negative) are completely different.

Think twice when inviting a Wal-Mart into your community.

Sherri Stewart
I would like to see this program but it seems the Arkansas PBS station is airing it at 1 a.m. on June 12th. Could the fact that Walmart's corporate headquarters is located in NW Arkansas have anything to do with the choice of time? I will be looking on the Directv to see if the Denver affiliate is showing it at a more reasonable time.

Win at all costs
Add to sprawl
Low Wages
Assembled in sweatshops
Replace Local Businesses
Turn out lights on soul of the community

Stephen McMaster
Living as I do in nearby Henrico County, I now have access to 6 Walmart/Sam's Stores within 30 minutes of my home, not including the Ashland store, possibly more. I had decided well before this excellent and moving documentary that I will not be treated like cattle for the opportunity to pay lower prices for substandard quality products. I have seen the withered shells of downtown Leesburg and Warrenton suffer as the result of the arrival of Walmart to those communities. Much of the charm and unique character of those towns has disappeared. In Warrenton's case, what was once a charming approach past a farm has been replaced by a megastore- how sad. It is a tragedy that an operation like Walmart can so cloud the issues at hand so as to actually dupe the council into believing this was in their best interest. On the other hand, even though I do not agree with Tom Herbert's decision, I admire his courage in doing what he truly felt was right. As a small town insurance agent, it could only cost him personally

I have not seen Store Wars, but the show may as well have been made about myself and a group of citizens who opposed a Wal-Mart Supercenter vehemently for a 2 year period and lost. As the founder of the No-mart Coalition I rallied neighbors to oppose the intrusion of Wal-Mart into our pristine, serene neighborhood (right next to a new middle school and golf course). Local officials had their minds already set on the tax base from a store of this size. Neighbors attended meeting after meeting, and actively wrote to David Glass, et al, but were completely ignored. I sit here as I type looking at the monstrosity that is set to open in a few weeks, and can cry for what Wal-Mart has done to my corner of the world. I would love to set back the clock, but it is impossible, and I am faced with living with this. Traffic is horrific already, and the people of my community and myself will become paralyzed from travel because of the greed of Wal-Mart. Sam Walton should not have peace for what the company he founded h

Don Coupe
Store Wars is a great civics lesson. The zoning controversy aside, it demonstrates very cleary that government operates on the principle of "one dollar, one vote."

David F. Nutter
My Goodness...Walmart, indeed. My father, during the 1940s, right after WWII, used to condemn the "giant sponges" on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, where cutting-edge people used to go to get variety, bargains and things the "downtown stores" either didn't carry or considered not what they wanted to merchandise. And there is still a lot of colonialism, maybe called "neighborhood voodoo" that automatically condemns large multi-layer department stores (like Walmart) of destroying this and that, stepping on neighborhood merchanisers, and destroying "the way it always has been." HMMM!

Well, folks, I don't like to destroy Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but I am going to go way out on a limb. THANK GOD FOR WALMART! LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!! My wife go to Walmart, and bingo, there it is.. whatever we can't find at other well-established places. Of course we live in western "Samberdu"-northern Orange County, California.

We're in our 60s and are NOT your typical geezers.

I rejoiced and said several HMs as the Brea Walmart was installed for our convenience. Yet, we live in the boonies of Chino Hills. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. We have coyotes in our garbage can and the latest of the greatest 13 miles away in Brea. Is that okay? I pray it is. Well, I suppose I have enraged enough of the participating colonialists. I love you anyway, and were it not for your opinions, as well, our airplane of life would be so unbalanced. Cheers and Yeeehawww!

In Friendship, Dave.

Alan T. Peto
Although the show briefly touched on the Union issue (the background sheet covered much more), the fact is that Wal-Mart is anti-union so much they're paranoid.

I'm a seven year employee of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and we're currently organizing a Union in over 16 Wal-Mart stores and 4 Sam's Clubs in Las Vegas. The company is so scared we have constant meetings, seen five anti-union videos so far and labor relations (now called 'people division') union busters here at all times.

For a company that can afford to give refunds of 200% on meat and produce and pay their executives hundreds of thousands of dollars and CEO millions, it's not supprising they don't want to share the profits with us.

We invite everyone to view our campaign at:

I currently live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina there are 3 Super Wal-Marts and a Sam's Club in the area. The economy can support them. We have a fairly large population and a good tourist economy. Like any other savvy shopper you have to compair prices between the local stores and Wal-Mart. They do not always have the lowest price and it takes time and is very incovient if you are in a hurry to prove and get that same price or less guarintee. For those of us who can not drive, it is a convient one stop shop for everyday items. In a large town or city situation it is no different than anyother chain store.

But, in my home town of Rockingham, NC. it has caused several hometown businesses to close and a couple of chain stores. The only reason that a couple of the grocery stores have not closed is that is not a super Wal-Mart. It truely has not made that much differance in the job market in Rockingham. Uptown is no longer the center of commerce for the county. It has taken a long time for the local businesses to switch to selling things that Wal-Mart that does not have. Property taxes have gone up for the average homeowner that does live in that area.

Like any business there are problems with Wal-Mart. I do not approve of their music policy. It is ceinsorship. They should offer both versions of the tape or cd. If parents don't want their children listening to that type of music, then they should take the time to pay attention to what their children are buying.

There is one great problem with Wal-Mart. Most of the sales staff truely has very little knowlege about the products they sell(except for the pharmacy dept. staff, they have been truely helpful). If you are lucky someone in the sewing and craft department might know how to do something other than mesure cloth. Or someone in sporting goods will have some knowlege of what you need to fish or camp in the area.

Fascinating story....and just as interesting to read the comments. We all hate the big guy but millions of us shop there. They're big, ugly, not really very fast to use, but they draw us like moths to a flame.

Please make a follow-up story. The remote never moved during the whole show.

S Tackett
I watched your show tonight, and i am furious! How could a "lame duck" council have the gall to impose its will on a people who have made their wishes plain? Isn't that what city government is all about, representation of the populace in a format that can be used to make decisions and run day to day operations for the townspeople? I think the look and tone of Mr. Herbert in the last council meeting said it all, pure resentment at having NOT been reelected as mayor and also a childish pleasure at having gotten his revenge on the voters. if Ashland, VA wants to have any say in the matters of their town, then they are going to have to seek other council members, not the obvious "fat cat, old money" types displayed at the meetings.

One of the easiest things to do during a debate is to reduce your opponents to labels. One of the favorites during Ashland's Wal-Mart debate was 'elitist'. I should know. As an active member of the 'Flamingos', the word was used to label me. And on the debate on this website, the word is being flung around again. The implication is obvious''they're just a bunch of snotty, white, upper-class -have-it-alls'', and I'll agree that the visuals in Mr. Peled's documentary seem to support that. Of course, when you can use only one hour's worth of film to document a nearly two-year struggle, images get left out. I wish he could have fit in a shot of this single schoolteacher's modest rented duplex and ten-year old station wagon. Or the three room cottage of my neighbor Carroll and his wife Milly, the school crossing guard. Maybe he could have fit in a shot of the nice trailer that Wandra owns in the trailer park that will be Wal-Mart's new neighbor. We all opposed Wal-Mart, and plenty of the other people who did liv

Why did I get involved?? I've lived in a city. I grew up in the suburbs. I only really 'came home' when I moved to Ashland. Small towns are rare;Wal-Marts are a dime a dozen. By asking this town to deny the Wal-Mart rezoning, we weren't trying to deny this town much of anything. A ten-minute drive in several directions will get you anything you need to buy already. The unemployment rate in Ashland and surrounding Hanover County is practically nil. The tax revenues from Wal-Mart will be eaten up by town services required to support it. The local newspaper won't benefit because Wal-Mart does not advertise in small local papers.

I oppose Wal-Mart because of what I value. I believe that it is important that we step lightly upon this planet. Wal-Mart batters Her like a sledgehammer. I'm non-materialistic and value simplicity. I do not need to be able to choose from 200 toothpaste combinations. A character in a favorite novel says that her father 'needs a mountain to rest his eyes against'. I think it is valuable for people to have a small town to rest their eyes against. I hear again and again from friends and visitors that they feel refreshed after spending a few hours or a few days in Ashland. Sure we have a 'messy mile', but as far as messy miles go, it's currently well planted with mature trees, low signs, and stores of reasonable size. When's the last time you saw a well-camouflaged Wal-Mart??

If you were appalled by what you saw in the documentary, don't wait. Start now. It's hard now to believe that we were surprised when this landed at our front door, but we were. With their hopes of building a store a day in the near future, your front door is undoubtedly next. What do you do? Get educated. Buy a copy of the documentary. Wear it out. Get involved now in local elections. Build bridges with your planning staff members and elected officials now. Get yourself heard early and often. Don't wait until public hearings. The real wheeling and dealing starts much earlier and usually behind the scenes, not in front of them. Put ordinances in place now. And know that much of Ashland wishes you well.

Mary Leffler
Two more things:

In their economic impact study, Wal-Mart called the I-95 corridor "America's new Main St." How does that ring?

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone from around the country that has called or written to lend their support and sometimes their outrage. We are overwhelmed with the response. Even our critics (one of whom I ran into at the Strawberry Faire today) have commended us for our intelligence, courage, and perserverance. We, the Ashland-Hanover Citizens for Responsible Growth are very proud of the role we have in our small town. We are proud to be concerned citizens trying to help shape the direction of our growth. We will continue to strive to facilitate open dialogue with elected and appointed officials. We will continue to urge our leaders to plan for growth rather than to react to rezoing applications. We will continue to urge them to encourage the public to be a part of the visioning process (this is a hard road in local politics). We will continue to educate the public about smart and responsible growth issues and we will strive to include as many people as possible in the process. We want Ashl

I'm off to the coffee & tea; hope everyone that has supported us (and those that have disagreed but remained polite and civil) has a chance to come here sometime and listen to great music with us ; we have a very special and warm community. Flamingos love graceful growth!

I live in a central Wisconsin town of approximately 7,000 people and Walmart has been a godsend. Our downtown area has 2 pharmacies, a Hallmark store, one medium priced clothing store, two gift shops, herb store, hardware store, and book store ... most of which have come into business after Walmart's appearance at the edge of our town.

While many citizens and, in particular, shop keepers where concerned about Walmart's negative impact upon our town, I have to admit that Walmart has been a welcome addition, for many reasons. In order to purchase basics as school supplies, needle and thread, Halloween costumes, dishes, glassware, etc. people would need to travel 20 - 30 min. from town. Walmart has provided convenience without compromising local shopkeeps.

Walmart also employs people who were formally on medical assistance or welfare and allowed them to become part of the workforce. There are worker incentive programs, health benefits, and employment opportunities that had not been previously available to a certain socio-econonmic sector of our town population.

Walmart was built at the edge of town that is experiencing business growth and while there are traffic increases in the area, Walmart is not solely responsible for that traffic.

I can appreciate the concerns that small towns consider when "invaded" by a Walmart, but not every town experiences negatives. I give a silent thank you each day I utilize Walmart!

Mary Leffler I have toyed and toyed with the idea of suggesting a simple boycott. Obviously many of the 100s of Ashland citizens that supported our efforts will continue to sponsor smaller businesses (and safer parking lots) instead, but could a simple "boycott is a legitimate option" campaign work? I don't think so. They openly stated that they (Wal-Mart) are building this store for the I-95 corridor not for Ashland. I don't think we could have any significant influence there. I wish we could.

Marc Becker
From what was presented in your piece, it appears that despite Walmart lying, despite their use of deep pockets full of cash to meet every oposition, and despite the zoning of the location being "correct", they still presented an option for Asland that most citizens did not want.

The question then becomed one of a communities right to self determination. Can those people who live in a town make rules and laws that restrict the right of outside developers and corporations to come in and "ruin" the town?

What was needed in Ashland was simply a referendum on the question. It appeared that with town council elections, that should effectively have happened, except for some misguided politicians who refused to understand that being voted out of office means the community no longer has confidence in your voice and your decisions, and thus you should not make any.

It is a massivly troubling situation, and ethics and morality of corporate America play an unduly large role in it.

George Spagna
As the current president of the Citizens for Responsible Growth (aka the "Flamingos") I'd like to respond to a couple of points I've seen posted.

First, a point not made clear in Micha's excellent documentary: our opposition was to rezoning a large parcel for the supercenter. We would not and could not oppose them building on a parcel already zoned for such - but they wanted to bulldoze 70 acres of trees, not just 50.

That the opposition was entirely local business owners - not so. We were school teachers, stay at home moms, carpenters, college professors (yeah, that's me), kids who grew up in and around Ashland, etc. And, the council member who said that only the rich folks in Ashland were opposed is far wealthier than anyone in our group.

That our former Mayor, Mr. Herbert did not know of the 81% opposed to WalMart is also not a surprise, but the numbers came from an exit poll at a primary election (mostly Republicans, by the way) and they were published in the local newspaper- at least that's where I saw them.

That the Flamingos were just about WalMart is also not the case. WalMart's proposal came to the Town coincident with a huge housing development proposal and a hotel proposal. The housing development was too large for the roads leading to it, and their proposed mechanisms to alleviate the traffic were deemed inadequate. We opposed it, the proposal was withdrawn. The hotel would have had its entrance on the interstate exit ramp - too close to the road for safety. When they refused to move the entrance, the Town Council denied their rezoning request. Of the issues before us when we formed, we're 2 for 3. We have continued and will continue to work for responsible growth in the Town and County.


Has anyone looked into the town council members or their friends owning the land that the Wal-Mart is buying?

I spilled off the screen mid-thought, so would like to reiterate that boycotting is an effective way to combat Walt-martization -- and it is a weapon that no one can take away from you. It's legal and it doesn't put you in the position of trusting City Hall to do the right thing. Boycotting is inconvenient and it's expensive (because it means you can't get the lowest prices), but everything in life is a trade-off, and the trade-off here is between short-term profits and long-term profits for the community.

Like most drones, I too shoped at Wal-Mart. Dragging my three product consuming children through the store pleading for various items that they didn't need. Me buying junk that I didn't need. Amazed at the cheaper prices and the ammount of trash they had to offer.

I knew that it was not a very asthetic environment and that trecking through the large isles were exhausting. I would make a wrong guess at where to find an item which would cost me a long hike to another part of the store.

I still joke about the morning I was shopping when a group of employees had gathered near the rear of the store where I was shopping and started to go into some loud Wal-Mart chant. It sounded remotley like some an uprising. It frightened my toddler so much that I decided leave the store. I commented to another shopper at the register that I thought they were ready to take over the world.

Then Wal-Mart decided to put up a store in a quiet residental area less than a mile from my home. I was shocked, I drove to work on this road, I took my kids to swim lessons and school. Their friends lived in the neighborhood's sourounding this

Not sure the DATE of the Ashland-Wal Mart thing, but it would be VERY INTERESTING if PBS would do a follow-up five years hence and see what has happened (to small, local businesses, citizens' attitudes, etc.)

Thank you for the documentary.

WalMart detroys the towns culture. It eliminates independent stores and creates only dead-end minimum wage jobs with no future. They brow-beat their employees, practicing what can only be called psychological torture.

They CAN be driven out by unionization.

After all other competiton is eliminated, WM then raises prices. They also charge what the maximum is for an area, not matching other WM stores prices, only LOCAL competitve stores.

They are the essence of uncontrolled predation!

Small towns are better off with slightly higher prices at indenendent shops. The retail clerks are better treated by the family owned/run stores.

Michael Horvath
Excellent piece, very informative. I never gave much thought to the Wal-Mart Superstore issue even though quite a few of these protests have occured in my own city. Although the protests here are more for aesthetic reasons rather than out of concern for economic effect it may have on the small retailer. The point is, I can't stand Wal-Mart and refuse to shop there. I guess that is why I never gave it much thought.

Kate Breimayer
Walmart... world's biggest pyramid scam. Walmart promises savings and a benefit to communities. I can save $3 on a shirt you can see my freckles through or buy a bookshelf made of particle board that isn't even strong enough to hold books, let alone move once assembled... Is that savings? Their food selection is dismal, their music is censored, the home decor stuff is about a month away from the thrift store, and they obliterate all other retailers so that if you do happen to prefer a desk made of wood, a piece of classic literature, or a print by a local artist, you will have to check an antique store. Jobs from family businesses are replaced with jobs 90% of the employees can't stand or afford to keep for more than a year, even with the employee discounts. Then when they have impressed their stockholders with their amazing skyrocketing growth they close the store, write off their losses, and build a brand new one 10 minutes down the road. What exactly is it that they give to the community? It's certainly

I just finished watching the presentation of Ashland, VA townsfolk and their fight to keep Wal-mart out. When a Wal-mart came to our town 10 years ago, my husband went to work for them. In the beginning he was excited about the way they rallied the employees each morning to be enthused to work at this "WONDERFUL COMPANY". As time went by moral became drab and enthusiasm waned. My husband became very hardened against Wal-mart because of the way they treated their employees. First of all the low wages. Secondly because employees were most of the time NOT given enough hours to obtain benefits. Today, even tho he has not worked for this company for 7 yrs, he is bitter because of their lack of compassion for their employees.

I watched this show and came away saddened by it.Not all progress is a positive seems from the get go that WALMART doesnt care about people at all this is only a tip of the iceberg in an ongoing disregard to the needs of people.the only needs they care about are the corporate greed persons at the top.other instances that most of the products are made in CHINA and we all know about the sweat shops ect.this is another way of saying we dont care as long as we make money anyway we can if it includes take more and more of old america with it...shame on WALMART

John Ryan
I was shocked and appalled at this story, especially the arrogance of Wal-Mart and their actions, Wal-Mart lawyer: "You don't know you'll need it, until it's here"

And Wal-Marts overall strategy: Build stores so close they eliminate competition, then they can close down some of their own stores. Case and point, that almost 400 vacant stores now exist.

But the most stunning information was Wal-Mart's strategy for opening a NEW store ONCE A DAY by 2004!

This is globalization / corporitization and pure greed/evil run amok. If government 'i.e. the people' can't stem this flow, we will all suffer, with the debasement and coarsening of our society because of the drive to get consumer's money by goliath entities.

Max Frisco
The sins of the lame duck City Council are unexcusable. The new Council has an opportunity to correct some of the wrongs.

Here are few ideas:
1. Traffic pattern zonings. All roads going either to or from the Walmart, but not both.

2. Maximum weight restrictions on roads to the Walmart, limiting the size of the trucks moving goods to the evil store.

3. Walmart has had problems with parking lot security in the past. Require an officer for each parking space over 50 parking spaces for all private parking lots. Example 70 parking spaces, 20 full time officers required.
Walmart can build the building, but if it becomes too expensive to operate, even Walmart will leave.

James Sandidge
Subj: I am sick of Wal-mart

Date: 1/20/01

I am sick of Walmart.

The store that the late Sam Walton built is not the American helper it seemed to be. Remember all those commercials showing the people whose jobs were saved because of contracts with Walmart? Well, look around next time you go in and see where all the products are being made. China is the leading producer of items in Walmart. American products are few and far between now.

I am sick of seeing little yellow smiley faces and hearing about so-called falling prices. The only thing that they are doing now is bleeding the life out of the America we know. Not only are they purchasing most of their products from the Chinese, but they are no longer carrying anything which isn't absolutely mainstream. Just try to get something slightly unusual at that place. They are changing the United States into a country where everyone is conformed to the image of the Walmart purchasing agent. If the item you want isn't sold in vast quantities, then it is yanked from the shelves never to be seen again. This wouldn't be an issue if they hadn't caused the demise of the stores which used to bring variety to our lives. There are no longer any TG&Y stores, Gibsons, Ben Franklins, and the local hardware store is a thing of the past in most places too. Don't forget the countless other businesses killed by Walmart. Gone are the Mom and Pop stores where you could count on finding what you needed and got it

Don't go to the auto service center looking for anything unusual either. If your car doesn't ride on one of the top 5 selling tires you will be looking other places for what you need. Oh, but you may be out of luck there too because they have ruined the local tire dealer also. Gone are most of the Western Auto's, Otasco's, and countless other businesses which used to be there with what you needed. Those were the places you could negotiate a deal. You weren't computer punched into little handheld devices. You weren't looked at with vacant stares if you drove an unusual make or an older model car. Almost gone are the days where you got to talk your purchase over with someone who had experience with the item you are purchasing. Now you get people who have "only been here for a couple of days" and don't know where anything in the store is or whether they carry that particular item or not. Only a few places remain, tenaciously holding on in the struggle for individualism and pride of workmanship. Walmart is def

I, for one, am shopping elsewhere when I can. The sad part is, there are fewer and fewer choices out there. Are we to be led as cattle? Not me. I will do my shopping at places which may charge a little more, but give me what I want. We need to leave our children with more heritage than that we made the Walton family the richest family in the world. Stand up for what is right and support your local businesses. Buy American made products when you can. Don't let your life be dictated by one store.

Brian Donnelly

I do believe you are missing a MAJOR point of the program. The constituents made it clear at the polls that IT WAS NOT YOUR (and council members) decision to make. IT WAS THEIRS! They made it by voting you out of office. WHY DIDN'T you HONOR the wishes of the voters and simply table the vote to the ELECTED governing body.


Dan Burkholder
I live in a major U.S. city, in the midwest, but I was raised in a small town very similar to the one featured in the program. I think the buisness tactics used by Wal-mart, and some other "box" type retailers, to saturate the various markets are disgusting. I do shop at large retail stores, but I don't shop at Wal-mart. The ones in my area are dirty, have unfriendy workers, don't usually have the best prices and their parking lots have a very high crime rate. I don't have a problem with big buisness, or capitalisim, but I do have a problem with companies that have little or no concern for the community that they operate in. There are many "big" companies in our area that make alot of money but also care about what goes on outside of their store. Wal-mart is a classic example of a company that operates on one principal and one only, make as much money as possible, no matter how or what it takes to do it! And they've been very successful at far. However, I believe that there will be a time soon when

I watched StoreWars tonight, & was very sad. I wish that the town council could have visited us, in Suffolk, VA or consulted in Chesapeake VA, where Walmart is moving 2 BLOCKS away.

Our local stores have closed up also, the economy is bad, theft is rappant at Walmart, and you don't go there after dark!

Walmart does NOT offer jobs like they say... They hire 50 people at minimum wage, at minimum hours, and no benefits, and these people are STUCK on Medicaid,& stuck at Walmart.No advancement,& no health insurance,except at taxpayers expense.This is instead of 25 fulltime people with benefits & room for advancement. I Know a few workers locally who have asked for more hours & benefits & have been denied both.

Lower prices::

They LURE you w/ lower prices, but watch the prices on a few of your favorite things, they will jump up soon. All it is is GOOD marketing & false advertising. I quit shopping there, I go out of my way to shop other places & drive 25 minutes to the mall. I use my local grocery & drugstores.

WATCH WALMART- the socio-economic standard of your community will suffer. I feel for Ashland, you will see the difference.

Kathleen Lewis
I am so sorry to hear of your loss to WalMart. In Glendale we battled a greedy developer that had WalMart as thier tenant. Although we live in a larger city, we have 200,000 people, they wanted to put a 220,000 sq ft. super store in a residential neighborhood. The nieghborhood organized and became Glendale Citizens for Responsible Development.

Our City Council put stipulations on this property that would stop any big box. The developer filed a law suit that eventualy became a city wide referendum. We fought back with passion and with very little money,less than $8,000. We waged a war that we won. WalMart spent at least $200,000 in the fight and the developer at least $200,000.

Get involved, fight back and never let them tell you no. The public has power in numbers, organize and pound them. Go to your city hall and demand public documents.Get all voting records prioritse them and contact each voter.Use the media flood them with press releases, call them, show up at the studios get the attention your cause needs! Talk to every group that will listen, have community meetings. Go and speak at every City Council meeting. Get the truth out to everyone possible.

We beat the worlds largest retailer with passion heart and the truth. Developers are out of control in this country and we must mobilze to stop them from destroying our neighborhoods and towns. This is not just a WalMart issue many other giant retailers are wiping out the charm and beauty of our country.

America was built by small buisness and they deserve to survive in a fair market place. Small buisness is the life blood of the U.S.A. they are the backbone of this country. We will never completly stop giant retailers but we can control where they are built. Big Box ordinances should be in every community in the United States. WalMart may have the right to buisness but they do not have the right to destroy communities.

City officials are intrusted to protect the citizens and when they don't we must do the job ourselfs. When election time comes put the fear of God in them, vote them out. Next time you vote know your canidate, don't be sheep at the voting booth. The power is in our hands USE IT.

Chris Maager
When the personality, heritage and future of a town is put into question by the building of a superstore, you would hope that the people in that community would have a chance to vote on the issue and let the results guide the governmental body in its decision.

All sides of the issues would be presented to the people along with an unbiased report by local government showing the projected benefit to the community based on research from an outside source.

I do not think that to be an unreasonable wait for either the town, its people or the superstore.

I watched your program on when Wal-Mart comes to town and found it very upsetting but not for the reasons you might think. This program was very unbalanced and unfair to Wal-Mart. According to this program Wal-Mart has no good values at all. I can tell you as an associate of Wal-Mart for nearly 20 years it has prvided me and my family a very good living. I work in a Wal-Mart facility in a town of 3500 people and I still shop the local downtown merchants. Why didn't this program show how much money a local Wal-Mart gives to local charities or the local Children Hospital by means of the Childrens Miracle Network. As a past contributator to PBS you may NOT count on me for any further money until you air a program that is just as pro Wal-Mart as this one was against Wal-Mart

Teague Speckman
I am a downtown merchant in Lawrence, KS. We are one of the few viable downtown business districts left in small midwestern towns. Lawrence has been growing at an incredible clip, and is fast becoming a bedroom community for Kansas City to the east and Topeka (the KS state capitol) to the west.

In the 80s, a major political battle was fought, and ultimately won, against a cornfield mall. This saved the downtown business district, and I think that it also preserved Lawrence's vigorous civil life and community feeling. However, since I moved here in 1990, a large big-box complex has been developed in the extreme southwest corner of our town, near the bulk of new homes.

We have an independent optical dispensary (no doctor-- we make lenses and sell frames) As the chains moved in we survived, and have prospered, by tightening our focus on high end merchandise and over the top customer service. We lost customers when the largest local employer, Kansas University, offered VSP (vision services plan). However, this plan only pays for very cheap & easily broken glasses from China and Korea, countries where the factories are not up to modern western technological standards. We lost customers at first, but they are back now. I also do repair work for the optical shops at Target and Sears (VSP providers--both owned by Cole National) when the workers there break frames.

Corporate big-box stores just can't offer real service, and that is where we little folks have to excel. Also, maximize sales by selling higher quality goods, for more money. It makes your time pay, and ultimately the customer is more satisfied.

Roger Mullins
To me, Wal-Mart is the Sears and Roebuck of the new century -- everything one might need is collected in one convenient place. My small town got its first Wal-Mart over ten years ago and our location was recently upgraded to a Supercenter. It is the only place I shop -- by choice, I might add. You simply cannot beat the Wal-Mart prices. There are still some 'mom-and-pop' style stores around town, but their prices and selection pale miserably in comparison. While much can be said of the 'comfort' and such of the small-store atmosphere, with my expanded horizons I find much more comforting the idea that practically any place I may visit in our great country will have a Wal-Mart nearby. Hats off to Sam Walton for a job very, very well done and for reassuring everyone that the American dream is alive and well.

Gregg Collins
Why Will no one tell the truth about Walmart. They are not a discount store. Walmart has never been a discount store.

Most of the products in their store are available for less cost elsewhere. Afew months ago I purchased a meat hammer for $4.50 at True Value hardware store. The exact same item is $8.50 at the local Walmart.

Below is a short list of books written from an anti-Wal-mart perspective:





Chuck Mire
After watching your broadcast on "When Wal-Mart Comes To Town", I tossed and turned in bed that night while trying to think a similar analogy that was in the back of my mind. Finally it hit me: The movie "Indecent Proposal" with Mel Gibson. When a group of unsophisticated people are approached by persons or a group of people that are trained in marketing, advertising, psychological "hot button" pushing, etc., along with the financial backing of a huge corporation, they really don't stand a chance. Witness how we as a Nation dealt with the unsophisticated Indians as we carved up their lands and gave them glass beads in return! To the Indians, as well as the "small town folk" approached by Wal-Mart, the payoff seemed huge while in reality it hardly qualified as a mere pittance, especially if they consider what they have lost. Oh, To be a fly on the wall and listen while the Wal-Mart executives discussed their strategy and costs to their "petty cash" account.

Have you ever been inside one of these established Wal-Marts? Not the shiny newest one, but one that has been in place for quite some time. Because of their desire to capture each and every dollar, they have de-volved into quite dirty 24/7 enterprises. The quality of life for their employees doesn't really count. And please, please let us never have to work for a firm that forces you to "chant". The "ra-ra chant" was also a favorite tactic of Hitler: It keeps your subjects off balance and does not allow them to ever doubt their sacred (?) mission with "the firm" without any regard to what they may have given away in return for *only* money.

Jim Witte
As another message indicates, we are continuing to fight a Wal-Mart battle in Clemson. Your film was an inspiration, but also a signal of how hard our job is (by the way, our group, "Citizens for Responsible Growth in Clemson" bought a 1/4 page ad in the local paper to encourage residents to watch Storewars).

Anyone interested in the details of our fight is encouraged to check out: . Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Finally, a public thanks to Al Norman who has provided us with valuable advice and encouragement over the past 18 months.
jim witte

PS--in a new development this week the Chief Administrative Law Judge for the State of South Carolina ordered Wal-Mart to stop illegal clearing it began on the proposed site. A hearing is scheduled for 6/18 to consider whether further sanctions should be imposed on Wal-Mart

Janet brought up a great point, go to the suppliers and ask them how hard or low they need to go to get products authorized. The problem with this is they won't tell, because it's all about volume selling! Most large chain stores are actually watching the bottom dollar so close that these chains will not bring in large amounts of volume and give you a fair price at the check out counter. The large suppliers know this and thats why they sell to Wal-Mart. A few years ago these chains would stockpile, but now most only carry a 7 to 10 day supply. Wal-Mart is the exact opposite and inturn, Wal-Mart has actually ruled how much allowances are given in all markets and it's hard to beat previous tonnage with this happening. Big companies to fight this problem are going to centralized buying (one location), but it won't work, because Wal-Mart started this "Bentonville" tactic and all the rest cannot control such a large elastic market. So, get a $15,000,000 loan open a grocery super store and hope to hell you ca

First off I AM an associate of Wal-Mart. I am a college student and started working there when I was in High School. I dread going to work everyday. People always complain that the customers are the ones who give you the hard time, but it is the associates who are the worst customers. Yeah I'll admit there are rude customers, but can you blame them. MOTTO "The customers' ALWAYS right." The only time I've seen a customer escorted out of the store is when they get cought stealing or they swear at a manager(swearing at associates is ok).

I have been threatened by a customer before and you still see them shopping there whenever they feel like it, mind you two of my managers know about it. The customers get away with anything they want to, management ALWAYS makes US look like the idiots who don't know what you are talking about. We are underpaid. You get a four or five percent yearly raise that is mandatory, which is on average $.25-$.35. You are not allowed to discuss your pay with others, or a coaching is the result. They give you a whole 10% discount that only applies to non-food and non-clearance items. When you do go to management to speak with them about an issue you have, nothing is ever done about it. Wal-Mart in general is out to bring the big bucks in to the corporates. If you are eligable to receive a bonus you get about $200-$300 which is taxed while your managers get about $ 60,000-$80,000 for their bonus when they don't deal with the customers unless they have to.

For more about how Wal-Mart really treats their associates visit


Then click on the picture of Anal-Mart. The entire website is obviousally against Wal-Mart.

The most effective way to fight Walmartization -- or anything else, for that matter -- is the old, old tactic of boycotting. I've only been to a Walmart once( when my mother-in-law asked me to take her) and I've never seen the inside of a Sam's Club. And I never expect to. At this moment there's a sign on the door of my bookshop that reads, "We Don't Buy GE Products". It's there because GE just fired (forget the niceties, downsizing is firing) nearly 1,000 people in Bloomington, IN and intends to phase its plant down to a skeleton crew, with the jobs going to Mexico. I'm in the process of moving, but if I were staying in this community I'd print up bumper stickers and t-shirts. Even my lonely little sign gets a lot of attention. People read it and nod -- and it is an annoying reminder of what is happening to this town. I've discovered that it's hard to find light bulbs made by anyone but GE here but I have a source and I'm sticking with it. It's legal and it doesn't put you in the position of

Mary Rehwald
Ashland, Wisconsin lost the Wal-Mart battle almost a decade ago. since Wal-mart came to town, our downtown drugstore and dimestore have closed, and people are talking about Penney's closing, our only remaining cornerstone store in the downtown. Thanks for the film - I will use it in an upcoming class.

Some of the issues are true of all stories: i.e., sweatshop labor seems to manufacture a large % of clothing these days - not just for Wal-Mart. I greatly appreciated your website for teachers with the links to Home Depot, Office Depot, and the other big box stores. In the book "The McDonaldization of America", which is part of the issue, it was pointed out that 75% of all retail now is franchises, and people support them because they provide more stability for store keepers. The only thing that can stem this is an organized political electorate, and Thomas Putnam's most recent book, "Bowling Alone" points out that our civic involvement has plummeted since the early 1970's. It's a very interesting book and perspective. Thanks again for the show.

Chris Oswald
Because of Wal-Mart's size and legal resources it will be very difficult and expensive for the new city leaders to block them on any kind of legal technicality. But maybe there are other possible strategies...

Could the municipality not levy a special property or sales tax - call it an infrastructure maintenance tax - on all retail businesses with greater than a specified floor size? They could not also impose storm water management taxes on all businesses with very large parking lots, etc.

These funds could then be used to support things like city infrastructure improvement and beautification programs. Grants could be provided to local businesses to, among other things, help repair and renovate their facilities. This would ultimately help small local businesses remain competitive and maintain the culture and balance of the invaded town.

If establishments like Wal-Mart continue to force themselves into our communities when not wanted, then maybe measures like these could be used to ensure that they indeed give something back or even make such expansion tactics less palatable. The problem with this strategy, though, is that it requires intelligent municipal leaders with backbone - and I haven't seen any lately!

David Barnes
I watched your program last night and came away with a very bleak view for the future of small towns in this country. It is a shame that citizens can not control their own destiny - whether through the indifference or compliance of town officials - Ashland was handed over to the forces that destroy small town charm and character in the name of "progress". Why would any town allow the construction of strip malls? The other small town mentioned, Tappahannock Va, also used to be a charming place to live and visit. Today Tappahannock displays the empty shells of abandoned strip malls on the road through town. Wal-Mart alone thrives.

John Hamilton
I watched the Store Wars program with great anticipation, hoping that Ashland, VA, was going to do the intelligent thing and send "Sprawl-Mart" packing. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, it was not to be. I reside in Spartanburg,SC, where last year an almost identical scenario played out as "the big blue monster" rolled into our town (we already have two) with re-zoning requests to build a new store less than a mile from a present location and adjacent to a residential area. Our city "leaders" exhibited the backbone of a jellyfish and succumbed to Wal-Mart's razzle dazzle, ignoring the plea's of the town's own citizenry. As in Asland, the decision fell upon public officials who were not knowledgeable enough to make an intelligent decision. My only hope is that Wal-Mart continues to grow at such a rate that they eventually consume themselves and become the victims of their own greed; let me live to see it!

One more point: The lady that the gentlemen talked to by phone on the Store Wars film who had had the facts of her studies on Wal-Mart's effect on communities misrepresented and published in error should sue Wal-Mart for distorting her report to suit their needs.

Fred Strawser
Wal-Mart's growth plans for Germany were certainly slowed and the company's practice of selling below cost to drive out small competitiors was stopped too.

PBS' Your Store Wars pice was quite good, hopefully small town America was watching and learning.

Tom Shay
From STORE WARS, I learned that Walmart has the lowest rate of charitable giving of all the discount retailers. This does not surprise me at all. The local Supercenter in Nashville used to allow various groups to solicit donations from Walmart customers. I was pressured to give money to a group which claimed to be a Vietnam Veterans' charity. Later I complained to the assistant store manager about the tactics of the solicitors, only to be told that this was Wal-Mart's way of showing their commitment to the community. After I complained further, the store manager told me that in fact, that charity was a scam and had been targeting area Wal-Marts. I checked with Wal-Mart's competitors and found that none allows solicitation to the extent that Wal-Mart does. Target Stores do not allow any solicitation at all, except for the Salvation Army at Christmastime. The practice of allowing community groups to solicit donations from customers is Wal-Mart's cheap way of demonstrating concern for the community--giving lit

Sean Pearce
I went to high school in Ashland, VA. The townspeople in the film spoke of the town's history and culture. There is no history and the only culture in Ashland is akin to Jerry Springer.

A Wal-Mart would create jobs and maybe even opportunities for people to make it out of Ashland. As for stigmatizing the company for being a giant corporation, this is America. No one has to apologize for being a capitalist.

TS Herbert
The story as presented failed to presnet two sides of the issue. It is interesting that before council voted it had a recommendation by the planning commission 4-1 in favor. The planning commission is a non political group most of whom had been appointed by preceding coucils. The chair gave a rational and reasoned reason as to why he voted in favor. And as to why it was good for Ashland.

The true judge will be the actual effect. Each community is different and will expierence differing effects but in Ashland I am sure I made the right decision for the community as a whole and not just those that protested walmart.

Barbara Nagy
I, for one, am upset that the Wal-Mar near my home is about to destroy more trees across the street so it can build a super-Wal-Mart store. My first question is, "Why"? There are 7 grocery stores within 1-2 miles of this particular Wal-Mart. I do not need a super Wal-Mart. I do need to see some trees along the highway, not wall to wall concrete. Companies are building with no thought to the environment, the neighborhoods, or even what the people living there want. It is more than time for a change. Sprawl is ugly. I feel that trees along a highway are more esthetic than parking lots. Compromise...leave a barrier of trees between the highway and the businesses (it's been done in places like Hilton Head). It can be done.

Reclamation of empty shopping centers needs to be addressed. Why build more unsightly buildings and leave the empty ones? Cheaper is a poor excuse. Give incentives for destroying, rebuilding an old shopping center/mall. Americans are so wasteful. Conservation is continuous! It is time to change the scene. Don't the people have the power? We need to use our power.

T S Herbert
I was there and wondering what is now being discussed and presented as fact as questionable!

81% opposed? I am wondering were that number came up. It was never mentioned during the time of the issue.

Although taxes revenue was not a deciding factor the issue that it will be lost is a joke. The issue about Police was discussed and a clear answer was given by the town chief of police and other localities. Roads, Walmart and the developer proffered roads that the town already had in the plans with no money to build. The towns traffic engineer clearly stated that Walmart was picking up its cost.. Given that the director choose not to include it does not change the facts.

Furthermore it is hard to get a real picture of the issue given that the film focused in the old downtown area. That area has since redeveloped into small speciality stores and shops. The place where Walmart is proposed is going next to an already established and larger shopping center. It is across the street and going to connect with another already established shopping center. It is going along Interstate 95 beside hotels and fast food restaurant. It is going in a clearly commercial area. Walmart is not a competitor of those small speciality stores like custom jewelry or a coffee shop. It will compete with the large chain stores located around in the shopping centers that it borders. The town has already seen the effects. One of the shopping centers has made major improvements to its facade.

As for my motivation. I found the Directors remark about being vindictive slanderous. He could not understand the other side of the story. He constantly fails to mention that the plaining commission staff and 3 of the other members voted in favor. As to why? In reviewing all of the facts the same considered by the planning commission and staff it was the appropriate thing to do.

Because the property was already planned to go commercial. Because the developer addressed all the issues regarding traffic. Given that the town traffic issues are going to increase with or without Walmart.

The film does not deal with all the issues that I was left to address. I believe in treating people and even large corporations in a fair manner and equitable manner.

Alan Levy
Perhaps, an additional title to this documentary might have been, "Town Civil-Wars", as an indicator of the amount of struggle and strife that the town of Ashland went through, where neigboor fought against neighboor. The references and similarities to the Civil War are undeniable.

While the story of the socio-economic effects of Wal-Mart are a very topical story in today's world, I must say I was utterly impressed and taken by the underlying story of how municipal politics works in a small town such as Ashland.

I have no doubt that the town council, and the mayor were unprepared and amazed at the amount of political action that the members of the community took in this issue. After all, most town council meetings, rarely have to have a closed-circuit telelvision broadcast for its meetings. I could not help myself getting the impression that the outgoing town council felt a little perturbed that citizens would dare organize themselves and make their opinions so loudly known to them. I thought the vote to approve a motion that the town citizens so overwhelmingly rejected, was an incredible sign of arrogance and municipal paternalism.

I must say, it utterly shocked me to see the outgoing town council not, understand the basic principles of representative government. If you don't represent the desires of your constituents, they will make it very clear to you, and they will replace you at the polls. Considering that Ashland is located in the middle of Virginia, birthplace of numerous Revolutionary heroes, you'd think that the elected officials would understand that, and not get their feathers ruffled because the town expressed it's dissaproval with what they voted on.

I was wondering why the filmakers asserted that the town has no legal way of challenging the approval of the Wal-Mart re-zoning plan. If Wal-Mart mis-represented it's application with innaccuracies and committed a fraud upon the town, then certainly, I would imagine the town would have legal standing to block the building of the super-store.

Overall, I must commend the filmmakers on a very compelling story.


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