Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wal-Mart: Destroying the local economy in surprising ways.

While this is a relatively old story, since Wal-Mart is in the news again, it's worth revisitng it just to see how devastating Wal-Mart can be to a local economy:

“It has been great for us,” says Pierre from the comfortable confines of his huge RV, parked in the corner of the Wal-Mart lot in Renton. “We stay at Wal-Marts all the time. They are very convenient.”

Pierre and his wife, retired French Canadians from Quebec, are on an extended trip across the US. Besides their spacious home-on-wheels, they piggy-back a full-size SUV behind. The mammoth outfit which results requires a truck tractor with a powerful diesel engine to pull it all. Pierre admits they could afford to stay in pay-for-use parks, and sometimes do so, but, “because we are self-contained, this works out fine for us.” They can go a full week before needing to empty their waste tanks. Besides, they like Wal-Mart’s prices and are happy to spend their money there. “Why not, if we are right here anyway?”

If you read the entire article, the effect of this Wal-Mart-based RV culture starts to become obvious:

  • Local retailers will suffer since those travellers will clearly find it more convenient to shop at the Wal-Mart.
  • Local RV parks will suffer since they have to pay taxes based on their business, while potential customers will pass them by to stay overnight at the Wal-Mart instead.
  • Given that, according to the story, one woman has been living in a single Wal-Mart parking lot for two years, it's likely she's not paying anything like property tax.

Wal-Mart. Not exactly the definition of a good corporate citizen.


Deanna said...

I'm no Walmart fan, but I'd rather pillory them for things that ARE their fault - such as union-busting, locking in employees, paying women less, etc, etc.

It's not Wal-Mart's fault that a bunch of RVers like to park in their lots. If the Wal-Mart's weren't there, the cheap-ass RVers would just park in some other mall or super store lot.

Jeffrey Boser said...

Didn't Canada prevent Walmart from selling below-cost to ruin competition? A Canadian friend of mine said that it was one reason Walmart there was having to resort to legal trickery, in order to keep playing unfairly.

stellababy said...

I'm not sure if thats true, but I can tell you from being a low income person for the past 8 years, Wal-Mart here doesnt always have the best deals. I do shop there (out of location convenience rather than choice) but I find myself spending the bulk of my paycheques at other Canadian-owned discount stores who, generally speaking, have better quality and value for what leaves my meagre wallet.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what an impact Wal.Mart can have on a small town. I used to live in Flin Flon a number of years ago. When I returned there on business in January of this year the change was stunning. A new Wal-Mart sat on the edge of town. Flin Flon's main street had been reduced to a clutter of closed store-fronts, a couple of pool halls and a pawn shop. It looked like something out of the 30's.


Anonymous said...

Deanna - Wal-Mart actually encourages the RV crowd to use their parking lots for overnight parking.

Gazetteer said...

Don --

Maybe the oughtta bring Paddy Ginnell back to town.

(apologies for the snarkolepsy, couldn't resist)

Gazetteer said...

'they' darn it all, 'they'....

Dean said...

I'm not sure how complicit Wal-Mart is here, but I do know that those RVers who park there are some of the nastiest and cheapest $%&*s out there. THey can afford to buy and gas up $50k RVs that put some houses to shame, but they'd rather park for free in a parking lot than shell out a few $$ for a proper campground. To make matters worse, in cases where the local municipality has started enforcing overnight parking regulations, the RVers have organised boycotts of whole cities. And apparently it hurts, although I'd be wondering how beneficial they are if all they do is take up space in local parking lots. Says a lot about the homogeneity of everything these days...not only do people spend their days visiting towns with the same chains as they have at home, they sleep in identical parking lots night after night. What's the bloody point?