Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Walmart--Show Me the $$

Do the economic benefits justify shopping at Walmart??

Certainly, there are lot$ of reasons to shop at Walmart. One stop shopping--assuming the shelves are properly stocked. Great exercise--by the time you have found everything on your list, you've certainly covered some serious terrain and toned your upper body maneuvering the cart through hairpin turns. Maybe all this shopping has you feeling a bit famished--stop into McD's or Subway for a lil' somethin' somethin'. And yes, you can save some sweet moula--even more than selling that new line of polymer cookware and food storage.

How much sweet moula? In 2004, Walmart shoppers spent $124 billion on groceries alone. Should that food have been purchased at other typical supermarkets, it would have cost $146 billion (roughly 15%--a conservative estimate). That's 22 B's. That's a lot of B's no matter how you slice it.

Let's say you are a family of 4 (except I can't think of one family of 4 who reads my blog!), with an annual income of $52K. If you spent $125/wk or $500/mo on groceries at Walmart, they'd end up saving $900/yr...or 7 weeks of free groceries. Who doesn't want free groceries for almost 2 months??

But here is the rub. What are we doing with that $900? Saving it? Putting it in an IRA? Sending an under-privileged neighbor to summer camp? Probably Not. We are probably spending it...and most likely while we are are Walmart.

We have a nearly untreatable virus...most of us do anyways. I do. We want more and we want it cheaper. I want a nicer car, a bigger TV, better coffee, more express lanes, and on and on. And I love getting it for the cheapest price around. It has been a slow growing virus, but it is one that has found its way into nearly every thread of American/Western life. Walmart is certainly not responsible for this, though it has played its part--Always Low Prices. "Buy it, why don't you? It's cheap. The cheapest anywhere. Trust me." And often we do. We buy more than we need. There's one example in the book about Vlasic pickles being sold at Walmart for $2.97 a gallon. A FREAKING gallon of pickles. Who, besides vendors at baseball games, needs to buy a gallon of pickles. Well, who cares. They are only a little more than the 1/2 gallon. It's a great deal. Then we eat half the gallon and throw the rest away. And sleep soundly.

We dream of more. And cheaper, please.

Some of my own conclusions @ this point...
· Paving money is not a good enough reason for me to shop at Walmart. When I admit that I probably don't really SAVE all of those saving and recognize the waste associated, it just doesn't make enough of a difference to shop there for the economic benefit.
· Plus, there are several other serious questions not yet addressed. Is Walmart FOR people? Is Walmart Pro Earth? Does Walmart diminish the creative and entrepeunerial spirit of small business owners? Do communities wither or thrive when Walmart comes to town? Let's keep asking questions, shall we?
· I will say here something that REALLY needs to be said. Some people must shop at Walmart. They NEED the $900/yr to survive and to try to make ends meet. For those that are "working the system" to survive, I champion you. I hope to have the kind of steadfastness you have to embody to make it.
· My call is for those, like me, that have a choice to communicate with our money--vote with our credit cards and check books. Let's ask ourselves if we are shopping responsibly and with strategic inentionality. Let's consider buying less and spending more...and somehow find a prophetic vaccine for the virus that has affected our culture. Let's concern ourselves less with spending thriftly. If you are going to shop, SHOP BOLDLY!

(since my last post, I've gotten some good questions I'll try to address soon, plus an interesting article my Dad sent me about Walmart initiatives that would be Creation-sensitive)


At 10:35 AM, Anonymous dl said...

Greg, I've been reading the Wal-mart blogs, very interesting. I'm a person who want it both ways. I want to save money (my 80 yo house is in need of repairs, know anything about that?), but I don't want to shop at Wal-mart. I've recently figured out how to buy my cake cheap and eat it too. I went to a MOPS class where a woman talked about Shopping on a Shoestring. It involves looking at sales in the weekend paper, buying only what is on sale, then having your dinners for the week revolve around the sales, not your mood. It also involves cutting coupons, tracking price points, shopping around looking for deals etc. It takes a lot more work, a couple hours for me on the weekend. I'm getting faster though. I now am saving roughly 30% on my grocery bill, eating really well, and never stepping foot in a Wal-Mart. The bigger question will come later for me, once my little "grocery" savings account has increased. Do I really need this money for my home improvements, or does someone else need this money for housing? Who should I be saving for? There is no doubt the roof needs to stop leaking...but what is the big picture here? I haven't figured that out yet. I guess that is what you are also trying to figure out, and the people reading this blog. Thanks for the discussion. dl

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous nate said...

This issue of saving money, but not really saving money makes me think of how it runs the same way with credit cards for many of us. We get a credit card to get the rewards points and free airline tickets or simple cash back at the end of the year. But then when we add up our spending, we realize (or don't realize) that we're spending more money because of how easy it is to pull out a credit card.
I'm with you. I like to save money. That's why I shop at Steve&Barry's where I get cool, authentic U of M clothing for 10 bucks

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This issue of saving money but not saving it is like when we use credit cards for the rewards points but then realize we're not saving jack because we spend more with our Visas.
I like to get my stuff cheap too. That's why I shop at Steve&Barry's where I get cool,authentic U of M clothing (like jackets and stuff) for 10 bucks.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger diane said...

About 6 months ago I adopted a new budget plan: The Envelope System. Every cent of my paycheck is neatly divided into envelopes. I do not use my Credit Card. Ever.
I allocate $140/mo on food. Last month I spent $100. I put the extra $40 into my savings (I currently need $450 to go to the Dentist and I don't have a Dentist Envelope!).

You wrote, "What are Americans doing with the $900 they save a year by shopping at Wal-Mart? Probably spending it at Wal-Mart." I'd like to raise my hand and say, "I'm NOT!"

Not only do I boycott Wal-Mart, but I shop at Sav-a-lot and Meijer and actually put my savings aside. My Food Envelope is not restricted to food: it includes all toiletries, laundry and kitchen needs. I feel that this is a huge accomplishment for me. I can actually track where my money goes and it allows me to live a more generous life (if I didn't have to go to the Dentist).

I'm going to the Dave Ramsey Seminar today...can't wait to tell ya'll about it.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Greg said...

dl: I want it both ways too. I want a place that is cheap...and cares about people, the community, and the earth. Ugh. I appreciate the questions you are wrestling with. I think we grow the most when we are asking difficult questions and "sitting" in the tension, paradox, unrest.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Greg said...

nate, my only problem with Steve And Barry's is that they sell BLACK and yellow Univ. of MI jackets.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Greg said...

diane, it will be intersting to hear what new tidbits you learn from the DR show today. I think a lot of what he says is helpful. At some points, though, I feel like his strategy breaks down...or leads to some results that make me scratch my head.

For instance. Never buy a new car. Buy used cars. Well, if EVERYONE followed that "kingdom principle" then where would our cars come from. He might reply, "well, there will always be blokes who buy new cars." But that means our economy and philosophy REQUIRES that some people live and breathe and remain in an unkingdomly way. Is that what we want? Is that what inviting people into the way of Jesus is about? Should we get lots of people IN, but leave some out there so we can benefit from their wayward living?

At 3:10 AM, Blogger webster said...

I have to say that I love to shop at my neighborhood WalMart Store. The economic and moral effects are not really my concern as much as trying to survive on a government budget. Half of my income is spent just for rent (I don't have to worry about roofs), but come to my blog Shop Smarter and see some of the other ways I save besides WalMart (They don't get all of my business).

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Greg said...

webster, thanks for weighing in. I hope you understand that I don't think everyone is to engage this issue in the same way. I also understand (and noted in the post) that some MUST shop for the least expensive way. Others of us, however, need to move the economic implications down a couple of notches, I think. We need to be asking a different set of questions beyond, "how can I save the most money?"

I'll check out your blog sometime, too.



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