Why We Love To Hate Walmart

Mar 29 2014, 12:57pm CDT | by

Walmart is a Rorschach test of American viewpoints. Just mention its name and prepare for polarization — people love to hate Walmart.

At 780,000 pageviews and counting, “Walmart Just Revealed How Poor U.S. Shoppers Are” really struck a nerve. And based on the growing number of comments, readers have let their own opinions color their comprehension.

There was no mention in the post about the wages paid at Walmart stores, although a good many chose to believe otherwise. There was no mention of political donations made by the company, and no mention of unions or labor leaders. There were no other retailers mentioned by name, although the inevitable comparisons were made by readers.

People see that they want to see.

Some will read my blog posts about Walmart and conclude they are paid advertisements. That I’m a shill for the company, hired to put it in a positive light. This is untrue, read my bio, follow me on Twitter.

Some will say I’m bashing the company. Also, not true.

Some will read them as a call to action, to rally around issues such as raising the minimum wage, increasing employee benefits or more sourcing of U.S. made products. Feel free, causes, positions and choices should be informed.

Some will see it as support for Obamacare, others as another reason to blame Obamacare for, well, everything.

People see what they want to see — left, right, pro and con — all in the same words.

Many fail to understand that low-prices on goods and services come with a different kind of cost. How many can, or are willing to, pay more for their grocery basket each week?

One commenter wrote that she was confused after reading “Walmart Just Revealed How Poor U.S. Shoppers Are.” What was she supposed to feel? She wasn’t supposed to feel anything, but hopefully she will think more and learn something. It was not intended to change a point of view, but to inform it.

We look for information that confirms our beliefs, it’s human nature. We don’t like when facts get in the way. We don’t want to know that a company we’re supposed to hate has done good things, or that a store we like pays the same low wages as Walmart.

When someone points out that Costco and Walmart don’t have the same business model and wage comparisons are not equal, it’s very unpopular. It challenges the notion that a large retailer can be a “better” employer and therefore all retailers can adopt the same practices. The fact that Costco charges — and makes most of its profit from — a membership fee while Walmart does not, gets lost. Or that buying in bulk costs less per unit of measure, but more upfront and prohibits those on tight weekly budgets from shopping at warehouse clubs.

Costco shoppers are lucky, they can afford to back up their convictions with actions.

One reader noted that Walmart is what we made it, a place to get everything we need at a very low price. To remake Walmart, and modern retail, we need to see with eyes not clouded with preconceived notions.

We love to hate Walmart. If we can’t blame them, we might have to shoulder some of that blame ourselves.

Follow me on Twitter @lfheller

Source: Forbes Business


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