By Jaci Schneider, Copy Editor
Much Ado About Something
Buying a box of cereal at Abilene’s new super Wal-mart while shopping for school supplies or a pair of jeans seems cheap and convenient, but many people don’t know that price and convenience come at a high cost to American consumers.
Wal-mart boasts of low prices, which benefit college students living on a tight budget, but Wal-mart could damage the U.S. economy and hurt its consumers in the long run.
Wal-mart doesn’t magically come by its low prices. Like any other business, the store makes a profit on its goods. According to a PBS Frontline report, in order to provide customers with low prices on those goods, it forces suppliers to lower their prices.
For example, Levi Strauss worked with Wal-mart to produce a cheaper line of jeans to sell at the store in 2003, according to Fast Company magazine. The partnership with Wal-mart boosted Levi’s profits, but weeks later, the company announced it would stop manufacturing clothes in the United States. It would instead import them from China and close its two factories in San Antonio-leaving 2,500 U.S. employees jobless.
Wal-mart supporters argue these laid-off workers can find employment at a newly built Wal-mart, but research indicates Wal-mart’s wages and benefits don’t compare with manufacturing jobs, especially at entry level.
According to the Wal-mart employee information on Walmart.com, part-time employees earn full healthcare after two years of employment, compared to companies such as Costco, which gives its employees full healthcare after six months. Costco also pays its workers, on average, 42 percent higher wages than Sam’s Club, a Wal-mart owned wholesale store, according to the New York Times.
A Wal-mart spokesperson, according to Frontline, admitted to the Los Angeles Times that a job at Wal-mart probably isn’t ideal for the sole provider of a family. Frontline also reported that in 2003, Wal-Mart stores in California paid hourly associates an average of $9.64 per hour, which was nearly $10 less than the average hourly wage California supermarket workers made.
According to walmartwatch.com, a Web-site dedicated to studying the impact of Wal-mart on society and the positive and negative effects the store has on communities, when Wal-mart workers don’t make enough money to live on, they receive food stamps, Medicaid and public housing. These cost more than $1.5 billion in federal tax dollars every year, or nearly $500,000 for every Wal-mart store.
By these estimates, the two Wal-marts in Abilene could cost taxpayers about $100,000 every year-consumers who benefit from Wal-mart’s great low prices.
So next time you go to Wal-mart to buy a pair of jeans, consider the long-term consequences of your purchase.
Think beyond the smiley face and seemingly low price.