You hear a lot about the need to support local businesses lately, but rarely do you hear about those unsung heroes of local business: Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is as local as it gets. No matter your locale, bam, there’s a Wal-Mart. Orem, Lindon, American Fork, Saratoga Springs, even the cross-eyed illiterates in my hometown of Payson have one (it’s right next to the corpse of the ill-fated Starbucks. Six months, it lasted). Wal-Mart is closer to my apartment than my parking lot is. How much more local do you want?
People argue that the goods inside aren’t local, and that therein lies the evil of the global Wal-Mart machine. But I disagree with that premise entirely. I don’t go to Wal-Mart to buy “goods”; I go there to buy “mediocres”. I know what I’m getting into. You don’t go to Wal-Mart to buy quality merchandise that will stand the test of time. You go to Wal-Mart to buy inferior products that look like the better ones so you can feel like you’ve gotten value for money. If globalization facilitates that illusion, that’s all the better for me.
If I want to buy local fresh food that tastes great, I go to the farmer’s market. If I don’t want to put up with the down-home country charm of farmers, and instead wish to purchase steroid-infused tomatoes at the self checkout, that’s my prerogative. I’m glad to have that option. Wal-Mart provides me the choice of completing my food shopping experience without running the risk of interaction with humans (or with actual food), and they should be commended for that.
But let’s say I do want to have a chat as I subsidize child slavery with my tennis shoe purchase. Who better to chat with than the Wal-Mart staff? I can see all the kids I dropped out of high school with, and reminisce about the days before our careers took over our lives.
Every city in America has this experience because of Wal-Mart. They have made the commitment to make local business their own, and spread it across the land. And if you don’t like them, remember, there’s always Sam’s Club instead.