For anyone who’s been a longtime follower of the personal blog I’ve been writing since 2004, it’s no secret that I’m not exactly a Wal-Mart advocate. While reading a great ebook on how blogger and entrepreneur Corbett Barr built a successful online business in 18 months, much of which spent roadtripping around the US and living in Mexico, I was particularly struck by this passage which I believe sums up the larger issue with Wal-Mart and the actual effect it has on our society:
Let’s take Wal-Mart as an example (because they’re easy to pick on). WalMart employs something like 2,000,000 employees. The wealth that has been created by the Wal-Mart dynasty has placed four of the Walton family members among the top 10 richest Americans. We’re talking about a combined wealth approaching $100 billion dollars in the hands of just 4 people.
Now, imagine a world where Wal-Mart didn’t exist, and where no other retail giant took it’s place. Imagine if those two million employees worked for 200,000 small independent companies that sold everything from clothing to bikes to electronics to groceries and whatever else Wal-Mart sells. That would be an average of 10 people in each of those companies. Of those 200,000 small companies, let’s say each is owned by one person.
Let’s also imagine that the total wealth held by Wal-Mart family members and executives and shareholders (roughly $200 billion dollars) was distributed among those 200,000 owners and their families. That would equal one million dollars in wealth per owner.
It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever lived in a small town where Wal-Mart swooped in, residents were enticed by cheaper prices, and then surprised when the local small businesses in town disappeared and they all ended up working minimum wage at the only store left in town: Wal-Mart. Corbett’s way of putting it simply made me think about it in a more “everyone wins when not only one person wins” kind of way.