Every time I pass though the sliding glass doors of my local Wal-Mart I feel a twinge of guilt. I try to suppress it, but it continually gnaws at my insides.
In the end, the call of seductively low prices is often too much for me to resist. I am a bargain shopper to the core, and Wal-Mart usually has the lowest prices in town.
Who cares that Wal-Mart devastated the local business community when they set up roots in my small town years ago? A once vibrant downtown area has been transformed into a ghost town littered with closed and abandoned store fronts.
But I have my low prices.
And does it really matter that the cashier ringing up my purchases is probably struggling desperately to make ends meet? Wal-Mart workers earn 14 percent less than workers at other larger retailers.
According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
Many big-box employees, even those who work full-time, do not earn enough to meet basic living expenses. Many also lack health insurance as they are not eligible for or cannot afford the company plan. At Wal-Mart, for example, full-time employees must wait six months and part-timers one year to qualify, leaving almost 40 percent of the company’s workforce ineligible.
Of those who are eligible, about one-third do not enroll, in many cases because of the high out-of-pocket cost. Instead, large numbers of big-box employees rely on Medicaid, food stamps, and other public assistance programs to get by.
And because Wal-Mart is the dominant retailer in the world, it’s Wal-Mart who dictates prices to its suppliers. The low prices I so covet are possible largely because Wal-Mart squeezes its suppliers to the brink of death.
If Wal-Mart tells a supplier that it’s costs are too high, the supplier has few choices. It can cut corners and the wages of its own workers, or move its operations overseas. The Economic Policy Institute concludes that this Wal-Mart effect has cost the nation nearly 200,000 jobs.
It seems everywhere you look someone is paying for our addiction to low prices. And this perhaps explains why my conscience is starting to get the best of me, even if I am saving money.
BMWK, Do you feel guilty for shopping at Wal-Mart? Should you ever feel guilty for taking advantage of any resource that helps your family save money in a tight economy?