@ Supply Chain Management


Why I will not shop at Walmart anymore?

And the caveat line should be – pending some tradeoff analysis. The fact of the matter is that I’ve made up my mind but I need some numbers behind my intuition even though I think that the numbers will also bear me out.

The surest question that I will be asked is – You shop at Walmart? Perhaps, @ SCM is now on the blacklist of many a reader. So let me give you the list of reasons that didn’t go into making this decision and those that did loom large.

1. I’m not doing this for the Mom and Pop stores. I am a big fan of small businesses but it is because, strategically speaking, they are nimble actors who can identify, supply and defend niches at first and then grow from there. In a sense, I like small businesses because they compete in different ways from large businesses and some small businesses go on to become big businesses because they’ve profited from insight, positioning and in most cases from a good dose of luck. Or to abstract it a layer further, I like small businesses because they have a good deal of pluck and a whole lot of spunk.

2. I’m not doing this because Walmart treats their employees "poorly". There is no doubt in my mind that I will not do the kind of jobs that Walmart employees do. Unless I have no choice but to do so. I do not think that it is beneath me. There is nothing more mind numbing than punching in the item SKU code whenever the reader cannot read it, deal with "some" customers (more of that later but I think you know that special subset of customers that I am talking about) but these guys do it day in and day out. What’s more that they don’t make a lot of money and they don’t get much (if any) by way of health care etc. I am more or less certain or perhaps I "believe" that in the long run (and that’s the shame of it – it is the long run and not the short run), employers who don’t value their employees are just not going to cut it.

3. I’m not doing this because Walmart imports stuff from China. Or India. Or Tahiti for all I care. Undeniably, there is an impact that such wholesale import of goods from every port in the world including Timbuktu (such as on the trade balance between nations for one and its attendant issues) creates in the importing country but if you think that a Ferrari F430 is worth buying and you can do so, I think that a china made floor lamp is worth having and would like to obtain it at the cheapest price. And besides, I need the light a whole lot more than you desire the thrill of the ride. And yes, I am quite aware that such choices affect American manufacturing (and that American manufacturers have to compete with an artificially pegged yuan and so on and so forth) but this land was once the Wild West. I get the distinct feeling that a lot of Americans think of this land right now as the Mild Rest – a significant something has been lost in that transition. The fact that Walmart imports a lot of stuff from China is the effect of that transition but not the cause. To locate the cause, you have to find, metaphorically speaking, the time when the saddle was traded for the armchair.

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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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August 2007