the hidden cost of wal-mart

I’ve mentioned it here before, but Wal-Mart sucks. Here, in case you didn’t believe me, is an article from a Connecticut newspaper on how you and I are subsidizing their “everyday low prices” by covering the healthcare of their employees:

Here is the richest retail company in the world, and we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing their coverage,” said House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, a Meriden Democrat. “I think people aren’t aware of the extent that we’re subsidizing the biggest, richest, most powerful companies. Wal-Mart shoppers need to know there’s an extra cost of doing business.”

But a Congressional report last year found that Wal-Mart had increased the health-benefit waiting period for full-time workers. In 2002, the waiting period jumped from 90 days to six months. By comparison, the report found, the average waiting period for employers the size of Wal-Mart was 1.3 months.

The report also found that Wal-Mart changed the definition of part-time in 2002, raising it to 34 hours or fewer a week, up from 28 hours or fewer – a stricter definition than many companies.

Part-time workers must wait two years to apply for health coverage and they cannot add a spouse or children…

The 1,028 Wal-Mart employees in the HUSKY program represent 11.3 percent of the retailer’s 9,082 state workers.

Under the HUSKY program, children do not have long waiting periods to join the program. For families under the poverty level, the program provides free health care for parents and children. At higher income limits, which depend on the size of the family, the HUSKY B program offers co-payments of $5 for a medical office visit, $3 for a generic prescription and $6 for a brand-name prescription.

A single parent with two children must be earning less than $15,671 annually to qualify for free health care for the children and the parent.

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  1. mike
    Posted March 6, 2005 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    You cares. If you want better health care then don’t work there. No one is forcing anyone to work there. I suppose the solution is for the government to step in and tell wal-mart what exactly they can do? Give me a break. If you wanted to rag on wal-mart the least you could do is bring up their abuse (with the help of local commissioners) of emminent domain or the fact that 18% of their merchandise comes from china. At least you would have a point to dispute. As far as how they pay their employees or what perks they give them, leave it up to the companies. If you want the government to run the private sector then you can join the other facsists…oh wait, I thought Bush was a facsist…now you are on his side? In the mean time please stop shopping around for bargains for anything you buy and start supporting the working man. It’s the least you hypocritical anti-capitalists could do. Or you could move to canada where I hear they have boat-towing hybrid cars that can fit three kids in the back seat with room to spare and free health care and a free national defense compliments of the ever gracious god fearing american taxpayer.

  2. Ken
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Mike, you are misguided. The article is about how money is being taken away from your three kids and the tank of your SUV. It is then used to pay the insurance that Wal-Mart is dragging it’s feet on providing because they know exactly what the loop holes are to provide you the cheapest toilet paper on the planet.

  3. brett
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “Give me a break.”

    Mike, John Stossel called. He wants his catch phrase back.

    I think you’re making the situation of employment choice a little simplistic, though, considering that in many cases the wal-marts are very geographically isolated, and tend to eliminate competitors, thus forcing the neigboring citizenry to work (and shop) there.

    As for fascism, it was my understanding that at least in the case of nazi germany the corporations were nearly running the government, and not the other way around. Just because Hitler called it ‘National SOcialism’ didn’t mean it was truly socialistic, and he obviously hated the communists. “Fascism” is more a term related to governing method than economic system.

    I agree with you that the issue of their imported stock is a serious one, and I’ve actually read much higher figures than even the 18% you quoted. However, there is such an all-you-can-eat buffet of ethical faults committed by wal-mart that it’s probably better to focus on one issue at a time, rather than trying to include everything from women’s rights to sweat shop labor to the destruction of small town businesses in a single breathless rant.

  4. Tony Buttons
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    It’s been reporter here and elsewhere in the past that human resources people at Walmart routinely provide their empolyees with information on how to use governement programs (like food stamps) to make ends meet. There is an unspoken understanding that one cannot support a family on the average Walmart wage. It is not a “living wage.” Full-time Walmart workers often live below the poverty level. It would not be sustainable without this infusion of taxpayer dollars. So, as they lobby against a higher minimum wage in the US, we foot the bill. And, in the process, we enable this behemoth to keep growing, leaving decimated businesses in its wake.

  5. [steph]
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    To add to what everyone has said, I don’t recall Mark arguing in his post that the government should step in and tell Wal-Mart anything. He has simply posted some information on some of Wal-Mart’s practices on how they treat their employees. Since it is the general public, rather than goverment representatives who read this blog, I’d be more immediately inclined to think that Mark is suggesting that we, as consumers, choose not to support Wal-Mart, thus increasing the chances that it will be public opinion and its results in the free market that might influence Wal-Mart to stop treating their workers like shit.

  6. brett
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    “In the mean time please stop shopping around for bargains for anything you buy and start supporting the working man. It’s the least you hypocritical anti-capitalists could do.”

    Mike, I’m not sure what to make of that statement. Really.

    I *think* you’re saying that walmart has bargains, and that you would be supporting ‘the working man’ by shopping there, although you yourself pointed out that we are largely supporting the ‘working china-man’ (who, i might add, is a communist) by giving the store money.

    I also think it’s a ridiculous and often used argument to say that it makes sense to shop at walmart because their prices are cheaper. If you do shop around, you’ll find that they actually aren’t ‘always’ cheapest; it also seems like the point being made is that since we all need to buy tons of shit, we should shop where we get the best deal- I might argue that a lot of things people buy aren’t actually necessities, and if they want to save money they could start by evaluating the content of their purchases, and not just the price.

    I’m honestly not sure what to make of your ‘hypocritical anti-capitalists’ bit, though. Please explain.

  7. chris
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Jesus, thank you Brett. I kept reading that sentence over and over. Because frankly, I kind of missed Mike and was concerned for his well being…kind of like the Nazi Commandant in “The Pianist”.

    So, heeee’s back. And Ken is right on point to try to educate him reg their anti-capitalist business methods (eg-sign up for welfare folks cause ya ain’t getting any bennies from us). But why bother.

    Mike’s arguments are dissembling into little more than ramble. My personal favorite was when he tried to convince us that though he is essentially trying to destroy Mark’s project by pissing off everyone here and making us not log on…’he is Mark’s friend’. At this point I realized I was dealing with a deluded and irrational being. (yes Brett, it took me that long) And please no, “but we’re just trying to have an open forum bullshit” because you won’t see me reading, let alone posting on, Malkin’s sight.

    And Tony, you scamp, thank you for remembering my previous WalMart post. Truth or Dare…Who of us has shopped there? w/ elaboration please.

  8. brett
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I have been walmart-free for over 5 years now, with the single exception of the computer monitor i’m using right now.

    Basically, I had a large number of unsaved documents open on my computer when the previous monitor completely died, on a sunday night at 7 pm, and I desperately needed a solution. We drove to five different stores, all of which were closed, only to end up going to mr. walton’s establishment as a very, very last resort.

    Please forgive me. It was a mistake.

    I was also saddened to learn that the little bouncing smiley face doesn’t really fly around the store slashing prices.

    He seems to mainly lurk in the back stockrooms, observing employees and making sure they aren’t discussing unionizing.

  9. Teddy Glass
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I went with my grandfather once. It’s where he’d go every day after breakfast. He loved the place. I think he bought an electric razor. I was amazed at how precariously the stuff was stacked. I kept thinking that everything was going to come tumbling down on us. That was about seven or eight years ago.

  10. stella
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Finally! Something I can say with confidence – Never been there, AND never had a twinkie or a slushy, never will either.
    How communist does that make me?
    Anxiously awaiting my rating –

  11. chris
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Wow Stella, no slushie or twinkie…How??? I have never been to WalMart. I did have a desire to go once but it never came to be. Although, I know I’ve shopped worse but its nice to have a target, like the GOP and gay marriage.

  12. stella
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    We were not allowed Hostess as children, my mother said it was owned by ITT, and ITT was making bombs for Hanoi……I never knew if it was true, truth was rarely the issue with mom.
    Slushies- creepy looking, flourescent blue food, not gonna happen.
    Was Hostess owned by ITT? I do KNOW the grape boycotts were real……

  13. mark
    Posted March 7, 2005 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I bought cheap paint there on a few occasions when I lived in Atlanta. It was never a pleasant experience. And, I stopped going after I met Moe Tucker, the only member of the Velvet Underground to have worked at Wal-Mart to my knowledge, and got to hear her stories about how fucking terrible the company was. Out of respect for Moe, I’ve never been back…

  14. brett
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    i think i saw angus maclise working as a greeter once, actually.

  15. chris
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    OK, I give, who is “Angus Maclise”? I want to be a mommy like Stella’s mommy.

    Walmart has successfully prevented by union organizers her in NYC, in Queens, and Manhattan. They are now trying to infect Staten Island. My prediction is that they will succeed. And, because they will probably be welcomed I think its fine, oddly. I don’t know why I think its fine for the suburbs but not the city. I guess…if the people want it, is it OK?

  16. brett
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    “…if the people want it, is it OK?”

    theoretically, in a constitutional democracy, no. there must be safeguards to prevent against mob rule, which might lead to lynchings, riots, more walmarts, etc.

    and i think i digressed a little far with angus, as he was technically the drummer in mr. reed’s band *before* they were called the velvet underground, i’m pretty sure. He also died in the 1970’s, so i was thinking of him secretly still hanging around, ‘eddie and the cruisers-like’, forlornly offering shopping carts to people while wearing a button-encrusted blue vest.

  17. chris
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    eddie and the cruisers, thats funny, milk out my nose funny.

  18. mike
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    By supporting the working man I meant NOT shop at wal mart or anyplace else that has the lowest prices. Shop at places that jack up their prices to pay for the increased salaries they give thier workers. It wasn’t a brain teaser or anything. And we are not a democracy brett. The constitution is our safeguard against that….unless you get activist judges like kennedy saying things like ” the public has already reached a concensus” when handing down decisions against the death penalty for minors. I don’t like wal-mart for the reasons that I stated, however, I think the reason mark has brought up should not lead to government interference at all. If consumers want to protest the low pay and bad health care then I am all for it. I just don’t want the government making wal-mart change it’s policies..just let the market handle it. And chris, I am not trying to ruin mark’s project, I am merely stating my opinion and it differs from most of you – deal with it and debate the issue.

  19. JF
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 10:21 pm | Permalink


    Dont worry I was working on my budget in Quicken and quickly came to realize that we spend more at Wal-Mart than any other retailer or grocery store. Sam’s is second. So we definitely make up for Bretts abstinence.


  20. JF
    Posted March 8, 2005 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Believe it or not I agree with Mike on this one. If a company wants to change their waiting period requirements for health care that is their prerogative. If they want to change their definition of part time their choice. If they want to not hire smokers because they are a health risk and drive up their insurance costs good for them. The government should have no role in setting the wages that an employer will pay to an employee or how they determine their benefits or who they hire. Consumers have the right to shop at there location (ala Brett) based on what they believe. If Wal-Mart were to stop hiring white men, women because they get pregnant, smokers, alcoholics, felons, etc. that is there choice and it is my choice to continue to give them my business or not. The government needs to stay out of the private sector. Government is not what made/makes this country great it is the individuals that make this country great.

    My soap box for the day.

    From Mexico City…Hola

  21. mark
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    If I’ve got this right, Jerod, you’re suggesting that we should allow corporations to pursue openly discriminatory hiring practices, with the hope being that, if they did so, they’d find it hard to attract customers, suppliers and clients. Do I have that right?

    So, let’s say, for instance, that I move to Mike’s county in Georgia (one of the most racist in America according to some), open up a barber shop, and hang up a “jews and fags need not apply” sign on the door. Are you suggesting that that would be OK?

    And, if your argument is that people in that community wouldn’t support such an establishment, I think you might be wrong. I would contend that there are still places in America where such businesses would attract customers.

  22. dan from austin
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    I would add a friendly amendment to Mark’s point above…
    In many places consumers have NO other choice than Wal-mart. If you were the only retailer that sold affordable trash cans, where would people get there trash cans? So, If you were a retailer like Wal-mart and had no competition in a community, you could hang up your “jews and fags need not apply” sign and some folks would still shop there simply because there was no other option.
    The government doesn’t need to necessarily come up with new laws about Wal-mart, but public leaders need to recognize the costs of Wal-mart to their community and to society as a whole and add that into their “lower prices” calculations. This is especially true when government subsidies are involved in bringing Wal-mart to town.

  23. JF
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 8:25 am | Permalink


    I would hope that we live in a country where racists companies would pay the price in the cash register. Maybe I am just naive on that fact. My point was over the top but I do feel that the financial relationship between an employee and employer is a contract between them. Employers are running a business to make money. That is there decision. Minimum wage should be abolished and companies should be allowed to pay what the market would allow.

    I would hope this country has moved past discrimination and those that practice that are punnished by the consumer.

  24. Teddy Glass
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    A little anecdote I heard the other day from a relative: He walks into a wealthy man’s office and sees the prospectus of certain company on the his desk. After exchanging a few comments about the number of shares he owns, and how their stock is doing, my relative asks, “So, why did you invest?” The guy responded, “Their board’s all white.” As much as we’d like to think these things don’t happen in America, they do.

  25. Andy
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Is the original point of the article that we should stand up for the Wal-mart employees because they’re too ignorant or desperate to stand up for them selves? Isn’t that condescending? “We know what’s best for them.” If the employees don’t like the benefits then how about looking for other work. I’ve been to Wal-marts, most of the employees are very rude. That’s a good reason not to shop there, and that’s probable why most of them can’t get another job. I said most and not all. Some work there for the discount. Now go on and make some “SUV-tank” comment. It’s good debate.

  26. Tony Buttons
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right – fuckem if they aren’t smart enough or motivated enough to either leave or unionize, and fuck their families, especially the young ones who don’t even work, lazy fuckers. At this point I would say something about “survival of the fittest”, but I don’t believe in evolution. You get my point though.

  27. chris
    Posted March 9, 2005 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    “And chris, I am not trying to ruin mark’s project, I am merely stating my opinion and it differs from most of you – deal with it and debate the issue.”

    Again, why? Why are we doing this? Can this site be akin to a potluck supper? I think Mark is such a generous guy because he hasn’t just said basically, please leave…now.

    There’s this neighbor I have who’s father is a very famous American General (I cannot write the name because the son is a the type of unemployed trust fund can’t pass the bar idiot who sits in his house googling himself all day) who essentially engineered and orchestrated the Mai Lai massacre. This guy, is the kind of right wing yahoo who just can’t shut up, he’s like the block asshole. Anyway, as you can probably tell I live in the most liberal neighborhood east of the Mississippi and we just grin and do not bother debating him.

    eg-at a party (everyone loves his wife) I was talking to a woman wo said she moved to the neighborhood after retiring from the NEA, to which yahoo mooning over the pate across the room bounds over and booms, “The NEA? Well my guy Strom Thurmond is taking care of that pornographic welfare hellhole!”. The woman was horrified, I just had to tell her pay no mind to him he is our resident voice of dissonance, thank you for feeding him we keep forgetting to.

    My point? Maybe this is like Mike and JF? To be tolerated because we’re guests at someone’s party who invited them. We don’t try to argue w/ yahoo because we are all over 35 now, college is long over. So tolerate or don’t invite.

  28. suz
    Posted May 13, 2005 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I am a single mother of three. i must shop at walmart. If I shop elsewhere, then my left over $100.00 will only purchase half as much, which would require me to go on government assistance, labeling myself and my children forever.

    Thanks for looking out for the little people


  29. Posted May 13, 2005 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Suz, wait until WalMart has runs all the other business out of town and then they’ll raise their prices.

    Then you’ll really be screwed.

  30. suz
    Posted May 13, 2005 at 1:32 pm | Permalink


    least i’ll have a little time before going on welfare

  31. Teddy Glass
    Posted May 13, 2005 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Wal-Mart isn’t really that inexpensive. Take, for instance, this 20 item comparison with Target:

    Also, I can’t remember the source right now (it could have been reported in an episode of Frontline), but someone in the not too distant past has done a fairly comprehensive analysis of their pricing structure. The general model seems to lean pretty heavily on the lost leader promotion items (the things they demand from their suppliers), with the understanding that they’ll make their real margins on the other things further down the aisle. And, of course, as Steve says, the prices will rise as competition falls away.

  32. Posted May 13, 2005 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Steve and I had to go to a Walmart once because my mother bought us a gift card there for Christmas. Walmart is the only store left in her town of 10,000 (with the exception of Bob’s Gun and Tackle).

    I can’t figure out what people buy there. It’s all junky crap that will be in a landfill within the year.

  33. Posted May 13, 2005 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Ask Vlasic about loss-leaders. Of course they’re suing Walmart now.

    They have a cople loss-leaders, the rest of the stuff is just as expensive as it was at the mom and pop.

    Suz, you probably don’t need welfare, according to the Conservatives you’d instantly be a welfare queen gettting money you aren’t entiled to. Instead you’ll be able to get all the help you need from faith-based programs.

    Follow the money.

  34. mark
    Posted May 13, 2005 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Wal-Mart instructs its employees how to go on welfare, and its suppliers how to move their operations oversees. It’s an evil company. Period.

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