Wal-Mart is not only the world's largest company; it is also the largest company in the history of the world. Though 70 percent of Americans now live within a 15-minute drive of a Wal-Mart store, we have not even begun to understand the true power of the company and the many ways it is shaping American life. We know about the lawsuits and the labor protests, but what we don't know is how profoundly the "Wal-Mart effect" is shaping our lives.
Fast Company senior editor Fishman, whose revelatory cover story on Wal-Mart generated the strongest reader response in the history of the magazine, takes us on an unprecedented behind-the-scenes investigative expedition deep inside the many worlds of Wal-Mart. Fishman penetrated the secrecy of Wal-Mart headquarters, interviewing 25 high-level ex-executives. He journeyed into the world of a host of Wal-Mart's suppliers to uncover how the company strong-arms even the most established brands. And he journeyed to the ports and factories, the fields and forests where Wal-Mart's power is warping the very structure of the world's market for goods.
Wal-Mart is not just a retailer anymore, Fishman argues. It has become a kind of economic ecosystem, and anyone who wants to understand the forces shaping our world today must understand the company's hidden reach.
©2006 Charles Fishman; (P)2006 Tantor Media Inc.
"In the end, Fishman sees Wal-Mart as neither good nor evil, but simply a fact of modern life that can barely be comprehended, let alone controlled." (Publishers Weekly)
"He brings to light the serious repercussions that are occurring as consumers and suppliers have become locked in an addiction to massive sales of cheaper and cheaper goods." (Booklist)
It's hard to say I "loved" anything about the book, but it certainly reinforced my dedication to boycotting Wal-mart at any cost. I'm more convinced than ever that Wal-mart is as culpable as Wall Street for the state of our economy.
What I didn't realize before was how Wal-mart tramples (and sometimes bankrupts) suppliers in their pursuit of "Always Low Prices"; the suppliers (and their employees) bear the brunt of the ever-lowering prices, NOT Wal-mart. I hold Wal-mart responsible in large part for the loss of American jobs to China (and elsewhere), and the transition from REAL American jobs to Wal-mart jobs. I credit Wal-mart for the fact that almost EVERY product (excepting the most exclusive brands) on the market now is junk, designed to be replaced every few years. Standards overall have declined to the lowest common denominator because that's the only way other stores can even begin to compete with Wal-mart. It used to be that appliances would last decades; now you have to buy a Sub-Zero refrigerator or a Viking stove if you want an appliance that will last more than a few years! (The story about Levi-Strauss is one good case in point.) I used to think it ridiculous to buy extended warranties because I was sure large-ticket items I bought would last forever; now they seem a waste of money because you can practically replace these items when they break down in a few years. Thus, I hold Wal-mart responsible for further separating the Haves from the Have-Nots.
My favorite illustration of this "anti-democratization" concerns lawn mowers: A Wal-mart shopper might avoid buying a Snapper mower because of its cost, but he ends up replacing the Wal-mart- purchased mower every couple of years because they're cheap enough to be considered "disposable". So the old mowers end up in a landfill, while the "expensive" Snapper starts season after season, and ends up being the "bargain" over time. So the person able to afford a Snapper ends up spending less in the long run, just as the wealthiest people pay the least for credit and (perhaps) the lowest taxes! Wal-mart is Robin Hood in reverse, helping the wealthy get wealthier on the backs of the poorest. (This theory of anti-democratization is my own extrapolation: if it offends you, don't blame Charles Fishman!)
I remember many years ago when Wal-mart first came to my town in Georgia, they picketed outside Publix because Publix sold items not made in America. Today what percentage of Wal-mart merchandise is made in the USA? Sam Walton must be rolling in his grave...
My great fear, now that Wal-mart is plunging deeply into the organic market, is that organic producers will be forced into the same race to the bottom that so many other markets have. One day the ONLY people to enjoy natural health will be those who live on what they can grow themselves, or wealthy enough to buy their food from "boutique" farms and ranches. Since it's daunting to think how anyone can produce EVERY food they need, and store or preserve it from season to season, once again it will be just those wealthiest who will have access to abundant natural health. Thanks again, Wal-mart!
1) I apologize for my fervor and the length of this review. I'm sorry if I sound like a communist.
2) I was really struck to learn how the earliest employees' purchases of Wal-mart stock made millionaires of those who held on to it, compared with current purchases of the stock, which don't even make good toilet paper.
3) I doubt that the Wal-mart race to the bottom which leaves the (organic, hormone-free, pastured, local and sustainable) "cream" for the wealthiest 2% can be reversed, thus restoring the world's health and economies, but boycotting Wal-mart makes me feel like one TINY drop in the bucket which I can easily provide! If a LOT of us did the same, who knows? When it comes to making purchases, our best votes are with our feet and wallets!
4) Please, read this book!
A very instructive, informative and entertaining look at Wal Mart's massive impact on the world. Alan Sklar is great as always and I flew through this book because it was lots of fun. Not life altering or anything, but definitely a cut above the average audiobook in terms of keeping my interest while teaching me about the world at the same time. Highly reccomended.
Yes. Very interesting about a business we all have at one time or another used.
The gentleman who pulled his products from Walmarts rather than lower the quality of his products.
That the executives at the corporate offices use sample lawn chairs as guest chairs.
Paints the picture of the behemoth Walmart bossing its partners around to constantly cut prices while it kills the job market in new locations it enters. The stat of a new Walmart creating a net of 30 new jobs after 5 years was astounding. Vendors being strong armed t cut prices or get cut off sounded like a mob boss mentality.
The book starts off very fair and balanced. But towards the end it seems the author just hates walmart (with good reason) and becomes less objective.
Alan Sklar is one of the best book narrators out there. I have listened to many of his books just for his narration.
Unlike most books and documentaries on WalMart I found this one very balanced. I especially liked hearing how some items. Most interesting was how much influence Wal Mart has on the production of salmon and other seafood. There was a lot of information that I had never though of before, like the fact that airlines before the 80's would not allow any fish on the planes (due to the worry of melting sea water corroding the equipment).
The narrator was very good and did an excellent job of capturing the mood and theme of each chapter. The only complaint was the afterward tacked on to the epilogue, read horribly by the writer of the book. This second narrator missed the mark with his part. The editing is sketchy which many sentences obviously chopped with awkward pauses and repeating sentences. Even with this flaw it doesnt take away from the book, which I found to be not too long and not too short. It was a pleasant surprise for me.
The author does exactly what he started out to do: Ignore the facts and slander WalMart with distortion and sleight of hand. This book will give more fuel to the Wal Mart haters because to them, like the author, facts are irrelevant. To be sure, Wal Mart has made mistakes in how it has treated its employees, sometimes violating labor laws. For that, they should be, and have been, fined and made to work within the confines of the law.But to be hated simply because of their size and perceived influence is just one more bit of evidence how progressives hate the rich and powerful. Unless of course your a rich and powerful liberal (see George Soros).To make this a 4 or 5 star book, the author could have simply reported on the facts without consistently adding negative commentary that really only revealed his pettiness. The author starts the book by revealing a story of a Wal Mart success. Wal Mart was the impetus for deodorant manufacturers ceasing to package their plastic and metal deodorant products inside cardboard boxes. By all accounts, it was a wonderful idea. Less weight when shipping, less waste in landfills, fewer forests cut down to make the boxes. But none of these positives can detract from the fact that the guy who sold the cardboard lost business. This is the theme throuought the book. No matter what positives Wal Mart contributes, the author is not even a glass half empty guy. No, the glass is dry!
Very entertaining, well written, and easy to listen to. Kept my interest throughout the entire book. The newly update afterward by the author was a delightlful surprise.
all this crap about buying cheap and having to assemble.. geez have NEVER purchased a BBQ grill that I didn't have to assemble so that example was CRAP!! amongst about most of the rest in this book. talk about making comparisons that weren't. so deceiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
a few other reviewers thought it was lopsided or poor on economic theory. But thought it was as fair as it could be with the information present. It was worth a listen.
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