Sitting on the fence. Never really a good place to be, but sometimes you just get stuck there…
Here’s one of my ‘on the fence’ issues:
Being a business student that cares about the environment (hence the Corporate Environmental Management masters degree), it’s hard to completely dislike Wal-Mart.
On one side, their “best practices” have been shoved down my throat from every business class that I’ve ever taken; but on the other side, there’s something in me that just doesn’t allow me to walk into that store.
I get it; Sam Walton built a business model that works. As much as I cringe when I hear someone say they “bought it at Wal-Mart”, I understand the market forces that bring them there. It’s cheap. Their distribution practices are examples of perfection, their power of suppliers is matchless etc. So, although I complain, I’m sure that if I was to work in retail, I’d look to Wal-Mart for some best practices. But I still hate it.
The strangest thing though, I love the Superstore (Loblaws) (the new Joe line is actually fantastic). Maybe it’s because it’s Canadian, but even though it’s pretty much based on the same model, I have no qualms about walking in there. So what does that mean? If it reached the success level of Wal-Mart, would I hate it too? Which essentially means that I like Loblaws because it has failed to overtake the leader? (And it won’t – serious issues there right now…)
So there I am, perched on my fence.
I really had to ponder on this. Why do I hate Wal-Mart so much? Is it just a favourite past-time? Do I like being a part of the club that loves to hate Wal-Mart?
I think the biggest reason why I stay away from that store is that I hate what it stands for: mass consumerism mixed with suburbia (at least that’s how I think of it). I absolutely hate big box neighbourhoods and to me, Wal-Mart is the epitome of the big box. I prefer local neighbourhoods and smaller shops (or nice Superstores in small neighbourhoods;). I’ve also had a personal experience with how poorly they treat their staff. I was about to say that I don’t like the fact that they’ve driven prices down so low that their suppliers can’t do business, and that the prices just make us go ga-ga for more ‘stuff’ – but then again, I’m a bargain shopper everywhere else and I love getting something extremely cheap.
To make things more interesting, I just read an article in Canadian Technology and Business (insert to the Globe and Mail) and there was an article entitled: Wal-Mart Canada: Going Green.
- Canadian goals: 100% renewable energy, 0% global waste, and be a world leader in providing products that are good for the environment”…. Ummm seems like some pretty steep goals…
- Changed shipping containers from cardboard to plastic containers – last 60+ trips (hope that they can recycle them after)
- All Canadian stores moving to LED outside and lower wattage bulbs inside
- Moving into green products, forcing suppliers to think about their products’ impact
- One environmental pilot store in US – mixing oil from frying chickens in the stores with used car oil from their auto centres to heat the buildings
Ok, so as a soon to be Corporate Environmental Management student, why do I hate Wal-Mart again?
The company has an extreme amount of power in the retail industry and when they speak, their retailers listen. So right now, I can’t really complain. They’re pushing forward on green initiatives that really have some weight to make a change,
So will I shop at Wal-Mart? Occasionally perhaps, but essentially no. There’s an answer straight from the gut from a girl that’s sitting on the fence.