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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10 from votes
Release: 4 November 2005 (USA) /

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Genre: Documentary
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Synopsis: This documentary takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight Goliath. From a family business owner in the Midwest to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents bring the intensely personal stories of an assault on families and American values. Written by Brave New Films

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Critic Reviews

I had a generally low opinion of WalMart before, and Brave New Films' documentary only made them seem worse, but I still have questions. WM is well known for persistent, and often illegal, anti-union activity, which is reported in this film. WM is also known for beating down prices, which is not reported. I didn't know that WM has high turnover, or that many stores are purposefully under-staffed.

The sad stories of the losing competitors do not sway me. Mom and Pop operations of all kinds have been giving way to big box operations for many decades. Olive Garden killed my favorite local Italian restaurant, Lowe's is killing my favorite local hardware store and a planned Home Depot will finish the job. That is just competition in the developed world.

What annoyed me were the subsidies and tax breaks that WalMart manages to get from localities. In one case a WM is shown skipping across the town line, abandoning the subsidized big box stores, just before their sales taxes kick in. But more annoying was a lack of perspective: How many big chains and franchises get subsidies? If many do, that would be the logical counter-argument, so I'd like to have gotten the information.

I was also annoyed that WM employees were on public assistance of some kind, but again: How common is this in retail? Do KMart employees get a lot of public assistance? Or not? Apparently there is a lot of crime in WM parking lots. Is there less crime in Walgreen lots, or more? Brave New Films doesn't say. WM sells products from Chinese sweatshops. Hey, even I know they aren't the only ones. WalMart's habit of stockpiling lawn products in the parking lot often leads to toxic runoff, but they aren't the only ones that do that, either.

I still think that WalMart is a very bad employer, and now I know how much of a drain they are on the local economy, but I think Brave New Films failed to demonstrate whether WalMart is all that much worse than the other businesses on the strip, or simply the biggest of a bad lot. Either way, that would be good to know.

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