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Why Say No To Wal-Mart began

In 2000, I was working for a strong regional grocery chain as a department manager, making a very good salary, and very satisfied with the 5 years I had spent with the company. I had taken this job so seriously, that I had planned out my promotions and salaries, and how long I would work at those wages before retiring. I had no idea that a monster was about to eat the town and company, forcing it into bankruptcy and to layoff over half of their employees in less than 3 years.

In February, 2001, Wal-Mart began the construction of it’s new Supercenter. Sure, we always had a Wal-Mart, but it was the typical 80’s and 90’s style small store carrying a short line of food, decent selection of soft lines, electronics, household items, and hardware. I had not set foot inside a Supercenter in several years simply because I hated the size of the store in a nearby city, and it was nearly impossible to shop. The store opened in mid 2001, and our business was immediately cut in half. Needless to say, our staff was affected, but fortunately the store manager had the forsight to stop replacing departing employees, and just increase part time hours until the opening. We only had to drop a few employees to part time status, and they stayed with us until a full time position opened. This doesn’t mean that we did not cut jobs though… A year earlier, there were a total of 45 (including management) full time employees. After the Supercenter, there were less than 25. Our staff lost 20, the other grocery store in the area lost more than 30, and Wal-Mart hired 50. This sounds like a clean break, right? We can’t forget dozens of small businesses, 2 discount/dollar stores, 3 drugstores, and at least a dozen specialty stores that lost another 20-30 jobs combined. Then, factor in that Wal-Mart laid off nearly all of their initial hires for grand opening, and replaced them with part time employees, we are back up in the 70+ unemployed range.

This taught me two valuable lessons about life. First, never expect to have a job tomorrow. Second, Never trust a company like Wal-Mart to fulfill it’s responsibility to employees.

Within a year, if memory serves, Rite Aid Drugs, Bargain Town (local discount store), and at least 10 downtown shops were closed. Both grocery stores dropped their full time staff by nearly 50%, which Wal-Mart quickly hired then laid off for part time workers. If the 70+ number from this town holds true, and it is a small Wal-Mart by comparison to most Supercenters, this means for the 1050 Supercenters, there ahve been 73,500 workers who have lost their job not once, but twice, because of Wal-Mart. This number does not count the many small businesses which close due to Wal-Mart leaving their owners and employees jobless. My overall estimate for each Wal-Mart Supercenter is over 150 jobless within the first year. In a town of 7,000 residents, that’s 2.1% of the population, and closer to 5% of the actual workforce unemployed.

Never fear though, because Wal-Mart is here! We can save money now, and live on the breaking backs of underpaid workers. Certainly you have heard about Wal-Mart’s poor wages?

Case #1

Our Bakery Manager was demoted to a standard Cake Decorator with the downsize the year following the Supercenter’s opening. It was only a cut of a couple bucks an hour, but it was still a cut and hurt her pride badly. She made a point to be the best in town, and in her mind was getting a slap in the face by the company. She decided to apply at Wal-Mart. They were ecstatic about winning a competitor’s outstanding cake decorator, since most of their bakery business was disappointing, and made a salary offer to her for their bakery manager position. Her salary at our store was $10/hour as a cake decorator, $12/hour as bakery manager. They offered her $6.50/hour to be their bakery manager. After hearing that offer, she replied that she could not consider that large of a pay cut, and thanked the manager for his time. His response, to paraphrase her words: You can take it now, or wait until we put that store out of business in a couple years and then you will be lucky to get minimum wage.

Case #2

A second example was a senior citizen that worked part time as a service clerk for our store for 5 years. His hours were cut in half with the downsize, and he had to leave. Wal-Mart offered him more hours, at just a couple dollars less, so he made the move up the road to be a greeter at the Supercenter. Two weeks ago, I bumped into him in town and he told me he had to leave. 7 years ago, he started out making $5.65 per hour, and when he left he was making $7.10. 7 years was only worth $1.45/hour to Wal-Mart. The worst part was that at the age of 74, he was having serious problems with standing for 8 straight hours due to knee problems. His 30 years of teaching on his feet had finally caught up with him. He went to the Co-Manager, expecting him to honor a promise that was made when he was hired that if the workload was too much, his daily hours could be lowered. The manager’s response was, to paraphrase his words: If you can’t physically do the job anymore, we’ll just take you off the schedule and hire someone without the same issues who can. He asked if he could possibly have a stool to sit on from time to time to rest his knees, and was told that’s what breaks were for, and repeated the same “hire someone new” speech. Does that sound like discrimination?

Case #3

This one is about my ex-wife… Fortunately, there are 8 years separating that divorce, so it’s not a sore spot! Several years after we divorced, I saw her wearing a Wal-Mart vest. She told me she was now working there, making about $8/hour as a department manager… Odd, since I was making nearly $13/hour in a similar position at the time. She had a similar position with my company during our marraige and was paid nearly $11/hour, 4 years earlier.

I have seen firsthand how Wal-Mart can bury a town. They create jobs, but not the kind of jobs that the majority of Americans need. They are capitalism gone horribly wrong. They milk a town for every last bit of pride it has, and converts it into the Wal-Mart mentality. And, usually about half of the town goes along mindless of the destruction building around them, as long as they save a few bucks on the backs of underpaid, overworked employees. I believe in survival of the fittest in business. This country was built on that mentality. But nowhere does that mean that the strong not only sets the standards, but forces the standard on the entire industry. Nearly every retail company failure in the last 5 years, and successive job losses, can be attributed to Wal-Mart’s expansion.

The next time you decide to shop at Wal-Mart instead of the local grocery store, or the other hardware store, remember you may be helping thousands lose their jobs. Every customer does count against Wal-Mart, and SayNOtoWalMart.com is here for that reason.

Thank you for reading, and look above for a link to find out about your own SayNOtoWalMart.com homepage!

Rants, comments, and snide remarks may be sent to admin@saynotowalmart.com or posted on this site.

How Wal-Mart destroyed the Pensacola Retail Economy

I fondly remember Sunday trips to the local TG&Y store with my grandparents as a child. AS I would wander aimlessly through the toys, I could always find just the right Matchbox car, or GI Joe figure to add to my collection, and my grandmother would stock up on potting soil, gardening tools, paper towels, and basic necessities for their home. As a child of a struggling single parent, being able to shop for a $1 toy would be the highlight of my week. I also remember the day we found out our TG&Y was closing their doors. I remember asking, “Where can I get my toys?”

As time went by, I did find a new store to get a toy at on Sundays, and as I became older, I grew into sporting goods, clothes, and magazines, which were also available at the new Sunday hot spot: Wal-Mart. On a very special day, we would go to K-Mart first to see if they had a particular magazine, since it was directly behind the Hardee’s where we ate breakfast. K-Mart was the ultimate store. They not only had magazines and baseball bats, but they also had a nifty fountain where I could occasionally get an Icee.

At the time, there were at least 5 different grocery stores in the Pensacola area: Food World, Winn Dixie, Delchamp’s, Albertson’s, and Sack-N-Save. There were 5 different drugstore companies: Revco, Eckerd, Harco, Pharmor, and KB Drugs. And last, there were 5 large retail discount stores: Zayre, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, 1 remaining TG&Y, and a brand new store called Target.

Today, there are two grocery stores: Winn Dixie and Publix, two drugstores: Walgreens and CVS, and 3 Discount retailers: Target, Wal-Mart, and K-Mart. What a difference 20 years makes. Over 50% of the commodity retail companies have closed their doors in Pensacola… but what caused it?

Thinking back, 20 years ago Wal-Mart opened their second store in Pensacola. Already dominating the north part of the city, they opened a second at the old… TG&Y location, which was left barren after a local grocer had failed to build a business there. Now, they had a base in the north and west sides of Pensacola, and were steadily growing their traffic in each. Before long, the last TG&Y closed, and this unknown company name Target bought Zayre, and relocated into their building next to the mall… far away from Wal-Mart. As Wal-Mart squeezed in on K-Mart’s west Pensacola business, and strangled them in North Pensacola just one mile away from K-Mart, Target saw the bad moon rising. This is where Target became smart, and the rest became desperate. Target stayed far away, while the rest tried to stay, and failed.

As far as the grocery stores, it took just 10 years to remove Albertson’s and Delchamp’s from the NW Florida landscape, Winn Dixie was forced to close several stores, and finally, after 20 years and some help from Publix, Food World is closing.

Drugstores were much different in the fact that they saw strength in unity, with KB, Revco, and Eckerd all merging (eventually bought by CVS) and Pharmor falling to the competition of the new Wal-Mart which opened in the center of the city very quickly.

A pure capitalist sees this as the strongest surviving the system. What this really amounts to is the beginning of a train wreck for the city of Pensacola. Today, there are 5 Wal-Mart Supercenters in Pensacola serving just 60,000 residents of the city, and 9 in the greater metro area to service 400,000 with an annual tourist peak of 700,000. Why has Wal-Mart gained such a stronghold in a city this small in comparison to the Atlanta Metro area, which only has 20 Wal-Mart Supercenters for 4.2 million residents?

As the economy slumped in the late 80’s, Wal-Mart and K-Mart capitalized on the spending crunch in Pensacola, as well as hundreds of other cities across the country, leaving Target alone with the higher end discount shoppers. Wal-Mart and K-Mart fought for the middle class business, but as Wal-Mart upgraded it’s product lines, K-Mart kept the same old non-branded merchandise. Who could forget Sound Design stereos, Lasonic TV’s, Rustler Jeans, and Avia Shoes from K-Mart? The answer is simple, anyone who bought Sony stereos, Panasonic TV’s, Faded Glory Jeans, and Adidas shoes from Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart won hands down in the early 90’s, leading K-Mart to bankruptcy within 10 years. All the while, Target kept trudging ahead with their higher end strategy, poised to be the sole true competitor for Wal-Mart in the 21st century.

Again, a pure capitalist would see this as the survival of the fittest in business, but the repercussions would eventually devastate the landscape of retail business in Pensacola.