Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rant: Rage against Walmart

This is a tough issue, and I don’t have a good answer. But I know where I stand on it.

Check out this article about this ridiculous pricing war among of the giant discounters on their on-line sale price for new bestseller-category books. I was alerted to this situation this afternoon by a good friend, known perhaps to some of you as “The Little Fluffy Cat,” and @littlefluffycat on Twitter. She was calling on the Twitterati to stand against this rapaciousness and douchebaggery and instead buy their copies of Stephen King’s new book Under the Dome from an independent bookseller instead of Walmart, Target or Amazon.

Yeah, I get it that it can be more expensive to buy stuff that way. I understand that many people (like me, for example) live in the hinterlands and there simply aren’t any other options if you want a brick-and-mortar store (but we do get the internet here). Well, part of the reason for that lack of options is that the big box operators are so huge that it’s nothing to them to literally lose several dollars per copy on a book just so that they can have the best price. An independent operator can’t afford to lose money like that. So they go out of business or never go into business in the first place. And for what? So Walmart can win?  Walmart and its ilk don’t give a fuck about offering the best price on a Stephen King novel. Walmart doesn’t make its money selling books at all. Walmart makes its money by being the only goddamned store in town for groceries, toiletries, paper products, automotive supplies, clothing, pharmaceuticals and everything else that people need to buy whether they want to or not. How do they get to be the only store in town? By suckering all of us into their stores for the “best price” (and poorest selection, and worst service, and shoddiest merchandise, but so what?). Every time one of these eyesores sets up shop, it’s like a nuke explosion: everything dies within a wide radius around it. This dumb price war among the store’s online operations is just another manifestation of it. What, do they want the whole world wide web to also turn into suburban commercial blight? Disgusting.

Perhaps this is one of those things that I am getting too exercised about. After all, what does it have to do with me? I can’t afford to buy new hardcover books anyway, even at the discounters’ prices. Part of the reason for that is that I lost everything I ever had financially, in part as a casualty of the big box economy, and I have yet to recover (those years I spent in business for myself are nothing but failure on my resume, in the estimation of most employers). But if I wanted Stephen King’s new book and had the money to spend on it, I’d try like hell to buy it from someone whose real business is selling books.

Because if the day comes that there are no dedicated booksellers left (online or in meatspace), and it’s all in the hands of the mega-retail monsters, then where will you get those special treasures, those beloved book that are not Stephen King or Dan Brown novels, those books that really matter to you after the bestseller lists are forgotten?

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thelittlefluffycat said...

*stands, clapping - sticks two fingers in mouth and whistles loudly*

Yes, exactly yes. :) Here's hoping that the indies DO get their stock off the loss-leader tables. Who better to profit? I plan to order mine from the first one who announces they have done so.

Laney Landry said...

I'll be doing the economy jumping trip to the library. Walmart gets enough out of me. Only buy off the $3 book table.

A said...


It's a great documentary that shows how outdated Wal-Mart's business model is. Paying employees crap wages and stomping out competition doesn't fly nowadays. People just need to stand up and say "no more, Walmart!"

*Applaud* for standing up and speaking out.

Pia Veleno said...

I avoid WalMart 99% of the time because of their crappy business practices. They torment the manufacturer's too; because they sell product at such high volumes, they can demand to set the price and the manufacturer eats the difference because selling at peanuts is better than not selling at all.

Christopher Fletcher said...

One of the more disappointing things to us when we moved to OKC was the lack of proper grocery stores. There a are low-end shit-holes and then there's...WALMART! Yeah, that's a full-on grocery store here, and, indeed, the main one. Where we came from, Walmart was a discount merch store like K-mart, not necessarily a grocery store, and a horror largely confined to the suburbs where we never really had to see it. Now we live in what passes for the urban center and the nearest grocery store to our home is Walmart. Fortunately, only slightly farther away is Super Cao Nguyen, the locally-owned Asian supermarket. If you were to take one of every single fresh produce and fresh meat item that Walmart has and line those up, and then do the same with every such item that Super Cao carries, Walmart's line would be at best half as long. What's more, Super Cao will be cheaper on nearly every price. And, when shopping there, you're not inside FUCKING WALMART. That says to me that alternative businesses CAN survive in the Walmart economy and that consumers need to make the decision to support them.

Anonymous said...

Municipalities can pass zoning laws to keep these stores out of their town so if doesn't kill existing mom&pop operations. I've worked for a local govt in the past and, honestly, most city govts are ran by pro-big business ppl who welcome the walmarts of the world. Occasionally a city will block a big box store from coming into the neighborhood, and even win. I think there was an instance of this in Plano. It's sad that we segregate ourselves, or have need to do so, but I guess this is a valid argument for finding a neighborhood where people have values similar to one's own. Which is to say, a lot of 'hoods in Chris' or my neck of the woods simply love the Walmarts of the world and there's not much to do but support the little guy operations when you can.

T.J. McIntyre said...

Besides, we don't really want these people ( http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ ) determining what we read, now do we? :)

Seriously, good post!


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