Wal Mart Save Money Live Better … Not

Have you played the game Two Truths and a Lie?  Well Wal Mart just played us when they began using their slogan in late 2007: “Save money. Live better.”  It’s true that you save money shopping there, but there’s a truth and a lie in the 2nd half of the slogan.  It’s true that major Wal-Mart investors and the six members of the Walton family (heirs who have the same net worth as the bottom 1/3 of Americans) will continue to live better, but there are few beyond these people.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is an invaluable resource to understand why supporting independent businesses is important if we want to live better as citizens of a community.  There was a study reported back on January 2007 that examined 3,094 counties across the U.S. between 1977 – 2002, tracking the arrival of new Wal-Mart stores.

The study, conducted by Univ. of California economist David Neumark, found that opening a Wal-Mart store led to a net loss of 150 retail jobs on average, suggesting that a new Wal-Mart job replaces approximately 1.4 workers at other stores
(The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets)

Many independent retailers close down once a new Wal-Mart moves in their county.  This is like a bully in a playground not allowing any other kids to play around the area they claim.  Aside from  job loss there’s other downsides of opening a Wal-Mart in your community:

In addition to incurring new costs, cities that approve big-box development often experience a decline in property and sales tax revenue from existing neighborhood and downtown business districts, as well as older shopping centers. As these areas lose sales and experience vacancies, the value of property declines and with it, the property tax revenue. Sales tax revenue also falls. One study of 116 cities in California found that, in all but two cases, the presence of a big-box store did not correspond to increased sales tax revenue. (Bay Area Economic Forum, Supercenters and the Transformation of the Bay Area Grocery Industry: Issues, Trends, and Impacts, 2004, 74-81)

Unfortunately wherever you buy your home here in the Bay Area, there’s probably a big-box nearby.   Just the past year a new Target opened an exit away from where I live.  Less sales and property tax revenue from businesses means less money for public services like schools!  But let’s not forget how even a slight shift in your spending behavior will generate more funds for your local economy, paving the way for a brighter future.



3 thoughts on “Wal Mart Save Money Live Better … Not

  1. So what’s the alternative for folks who would love to buy from small, local businesses, but can’t afford it? If I’m head-of-household of a financially-struggling family and I’m trying to stretch every dollar, the big box discount stores are literal lifesavers for me personally, but are wreaking havoc on my local community. So what’s the answer?

    • Hi Julie,

      Excellent point! The price-cutting strategies these big-box stores implement makes it difficult not to shop there, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. You are not alone with this dilemma as I find myself grabbing my favorite soft-serve cone at McD, or stopping by Walmart to buy stuff for a camping trip.

      I’m currently unemployed and I’ve expressed that those who claim I “do not walk the talk” are cynical. Mari and I consciously made a point to emphasize “shift” in our advocacy because many do not have the luxury to ignore the unbeatable prices from chains and big-box stores.

      There are some instances I’ve read that cultivating a long-term relationship with a local retail or grocery store owner has actually yielded the same cost-saving benefits compared to shopping big-box. But this is of course takes time to establish. If you haven’t had a chance please read Mari’s post: https://shiftlocal.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/got-my-mind-on-my-money-my-money-on-my-mind/

      If you can set aside 10% of your monthly budget to get to know local independent owners and show your support for them, I’m sure you’ll start “feeling” the benefits.

      Thanks for the comment!


    • Hi Julie,

      I just wanted to add one more thing to what Marc said. Another way to save is by checking out the farmers markets. I find that they often have produce on sale towards later in the day (towards closing time) or you can often find a bargain when you purchase bags of the produce that they pre-package (for example, I bought a bag of 2lbs of mandarin oranges for $2 which I thought was a great deal since they tasted so amazing that I posted a picture of in one of the previous posts).

      Like Marc said, it’s impossible for those of us who are stretching every dollar so what I do is I check out the farmers’ market first, see if there’s something that is a great deal, sometimes the vendors who are familiar with me give me a little extra which is always nice. Whatever i can’t buy there (because of the cost), I end up purchasing at a grocery chain. As long as we’re shifting some of our spending, we’re making a difference. I hope that helps!


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