For such a small town, Pullman has a wide variety of options for that late night shopping trip (read: beer run). Off the top of my head, I can think of Safeway, Dissmore’s, Wal-Mart and ShopKo. Those in apartment land can even walk to the corner mart if they are desperate. Not to mention the options waiting a short drive away in Moscow.
One of those options, and perhaps the most popular, just celebrated its one-year anniversary in Pullman. It seems to be doing just fine on the outside, with droves of college students constantly milling about and a parking lot that is seldom easy to find a spot in. What is more impressive is the fact that the other, more local, options appear to be doing just as well.
Wal-Mart has caught a lot of flack in the past for running small, family-owned IGAs out of business. They also have had accusations of racism, sexism and other unethical hiring practices. Needless to say, Wal-Mart does not have a sparkling clean record. Despite all their efforts to put up a family-friendly front, Wal-Mart is a corporation, and a nasty one at that. Like most major corporations, they embody all the bad things about consumerism.
So why do people continue to shop there? It is simple really. Wal-Mart is cheaper than the alternatives. Let’s face it; a lot of college students are cheap. Most of them have to be cheap, and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes no sense to spend $100 on groceries when you could spend $50.
Wal-Mart is also convenient to a fault. While it may not make sense to buy your kid’s bike where you buy your tomatoes, it is easy. One-stop shopping is appealing in the eyes of many college students, who may be either too busy or too lazy to run a whole list of errands.
If there is one thing all people, not just college students, are good at doing, it is ignoring or not caring about something after about a week. While it is true that many (my parents fervently included) refuse to shop at Wal-Mart because of its negative aspects, many people would just as soon turn a blind eye. Again, it is not like there is anything wrong with that. Ignorance is bliss, and people have the right to be as aware as they choose to be. Besides, it could be argued that those who believe that Wal-Mart is the only agent of exploitation in the grocery industry are even more ignorant.
People have to realize that if they do not like a business, they have the power to vote against it simply by denying them their business. While the Occupy Wall Street protests may go nowhere, a “Don’t shop at Wal-Mart until they stop being so gosh-darned mean” protest would go a long way toward changing the company’s structure. Granted, that change would likely only be on the outside, but people still have the right to decide whether or not they go back at all.
In the meantime, those of us who shop at Wal-Mart will continue to reap the benefits. The small businesses that feel the pressure of competition will have to either adapt or perish. That is how business and evolution work and there is no changing it. The only thing consumers like you and I can do is to choose where we shop carefully.