Eight Ways to Beat Wal-Mart
Support your friends and neighbors and local businesses.
Say NO to an SS Wal-Mart!
scripture: Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said it best in his
autobiography: "If some community, for whatever reason, doesn't
want us in there, we aren't interested in going in and creating
a fuss." Or, as one company VP stated, "We have so many
opportunities for building in communities that want Wal-Marts,
it would be foolish of us to pursue construction in communities
that don't want us." The greater the fuss raised by local
citizens, the more foolish Wal-Mart becomes.
Learn Wal-math: Walmathematicians only know how to
add. They never talk about the jobs they destroy, the vacant retail
space they create, or their impact on commercial property values.
In our town, the company agreed to pay for an impact study that
gave us enough data to kill three Wal-Marts. Dollars merely shifted
from cash registers on one side of town to Wal-Mart registers
on the other side of town. Except for one high school scholarship
per year, Wal-Mart gives very little back to the community.
Exploit their errors: Wal-Mart always makes plenty
of mistakes. In our community, the company tried to push its way
onto industrially zoned land. it needed a variance not only to
rezone land to commercial use but also to permit buildings larger
than 40,000 square feet. This was the hook we needed to trip the
company up. Rezoning required a Town Council vote (which Wal-Mart
won), but our town charter allowed voters to seek reconsideration
of the vote and, ultimately, a referendum. All we needed was the
opportunity to bring this to the public -- and we won.
Fight capital with capital: In our town (pop. 20,000)
Wal-Mart spent more than $30,000 trying to influence the outcome
of a general referendum. It even created a citizen group as a
front. But Greenfield residents raised $17,000 to stop the store
-- roughly half of it from local businesses. If Wal-Mart is willing
to spend liberally to get into your town, its competitors should
be willing to come forward with cash also.
Beat them at the grass roots: Wal-Mart can buy public
relations firms and telemarketers, but it can't find bodies willing
to leaflet at supermarkets, write dozens of letters to the editor,
organize a press conference, or make calls in the precincts. Local
coalitions can draw opinion makers from the business community
(department, hardware, and grocery stories; pharmacies; sporting
goods stores) and enlist environmentalists, political activists,
Get out your vote: Our largest expenditure was on a
local telemarketing company that polled 4,000 voters to identify
their leanings on Wal-Mart. Our volunteers then called those voters
leaning against the WAL two days before the election. On election
day, we had poll watchers at all nine precincts. If our voters
weren't at the polls by 5 p.m., we reminded them to get up from
the dinner table and stop the megastore.
Appeal to the heart as well as the head: One theme
the Wal-Mart culture has a hard time responding to is the loss
of small-town quality of life. Wal-Mart's impact on small-town
ethos is enormous. We had graphs and bar charts on job loss and
retail growth -- but we also communicated with people on an emotional
level. Wal-Mart became the WAL -- an unwanted shove into urbanization,
with all the negatives that threaten small-town folks.
Hire a professional: The greatest mistake most citizen
groups make is trying to fight the world's largest retailer with
a mimeo-machine mentality. Most communities have a political consultant
nearby, someone who can develop a media campaign and understand
how to get a floppy disk full of town voters with phone numbers.
Wal-Mart uses hired guns; so should anti-Wal-Mart forces.