Monday, April 11, 2011

Walmart adamantly anti-green

I was working night-shift a couple of weeks ago and got a craving for chili-mac for lunch (at 4am). We were out of chili, so I went to Walmart to get some. I rode my motorcycle, and had my motorcycle backpack with me, so I didn't need a plastic bag or anything, and figured I'd do my little bit to help keep some plastic out of a landfill. But the cashier didn't care. According to her, it is Walmart policy that they are not allowed to put items in anything other than the company plastic bags, or allow you to do it, and she refused to let me put the cans directly in my backpack. I could have argued and thrown a big fit about it. But, I didn't feel like it. Instead, I took the plastic bag that she handed me and dumped the chili into my backpack (inadvertently ripping the plastic bag in the process, but not really caring). I handed her the torn plastic bag back and politely asked her to throw it away for me. She wasn't happy about that, and that made me happier. She finished running my credit card and said that she supposed I'd have my receipt so I could just show them that. I said I supposed I could, and then proceeded to make sure that she got a good view of me wadding up the receipt and sticking it deep into my pocket before I zipped up the backpack to head out. She wasn't happy with that either.

What happened to "the customer is always right"? What gives the store the right to determine how I carry my purchases? For that matter, what gives them the right to search me on the way out in the first place (or in this case, to assume I'd stand for it if they did)? I'll tell you what; nothing. So don't stand for it. If the greeter at the door had asked to see anything, I would have told her no. Just as I tell the guy standing at Fry's that he can't see my receipt either. If he wants to know what I bought, he can go check with the cashier or the security cameras. I'm not wasting my time simply so they store can search my stuff.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'd like to point out that I am vehemently against Walmart (and all big-business for that matter). I don't like their practices against competitors and will gladly pay more at a mom-and-pop than go to Walmart. Of course, at the same time, I can afford to pay a few dollars more, and I realize that some people can't. So if you like Walmart, I don't have any problem with that. But I firmly believe that if you have any two businesses that in all other respects are equal, the one that is most evil will put the other one out of business. I believe that in 99% of cases, this is how the big business gets big. And the bigger the business gets, the more evil it normally becomes. It may be that a new business starts up and can actually get to a decent size simply because they don't have any competition. Either they are in a market that no one else has taken advantage of, or they have a new product that no one else is selling. But as the business gets bigger, they get more and more driven purely by profit, and less by people. They no longer have a single decision-making individual who deals directly with the customers. It's a lot easier for a corporate exec to mandate that the customers aren't allowed to use their own bags when they never have to actually tell that to a customer anyway. It's also harder for me to get seriously riled at a cashier when I know she can't make any decisions anyway. The best I can do is get her fired, and that's never going to solve anything.

And even as to the anti-competitive nature of all big business, I suppose I can't really blame them. If they aren't evil to begin with, and are content to hold what they have, their territory (be it an actual territory of land, or a virtual territory of a new product) will eventually be invaded by someone that is evil. That's the problem with most small businesses. There are plenty of small business owners that are perfectly content with their small business. They started a couple of stores, they are making enough money to live happy and still afford managers to run the business so that they have plenty of free time, and they're fine. But eventually a walmart will move in and take over their territory. The bigger business can do things that the small owner can't, and that aren't moral or ethical. For instance, the big business can afford to not only pay the current land owner for the new shopping center, but can pay off the zoning boards and the council and such with large "donations". So the only way to keep a business alive is to become evil, and to do it early. Because if you wait until walmart is already knocking on your door, it's too late. You won't have the firepower to compete.

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