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Enough Is Enough.
When is the last time you went to the store and were pleased with your experience? America is starting to realize that service ain't what it used to be. Much of the problem lies in the fact that the retail industry has been almost completely taken over by corporate and "big-box" stores. In addition to the growing trend of these corporations hiring "sales associates" with minimal qualifications (and paying them next to nothing), they are killing small town businesses and destroying our landscape by building stores in the most destructive (but profitable) places possible.
The Worst Offender.
The prime example of this new aggressive, destructive commercialism is the largest retailer in the world: Wal*Mart. This king of the big-boxes has beaten down nearly all of its competition by selling merchandise at prices that are typically well below what anyone else is able to offer. How they are able to do this has been in question since they comany first began its growing boom in the 1960's. Unfair competition practices and price gouging have plagued the company's past. Wal*Mart has a history of taking a loss on items just so customers won't purchase them from the competition. When an entity has their buying power, it does not have to worry about losing a little bit of profit if it means killing your closest competitor (often a nearby local store) in the process.

In addition to wreaking havoc on local businesses, Wal*Mart is one of the world's largest contributors to the problem of urban sprawl. Their formula is consistent: build stores on the periphery of the city, where the land is cheap and highways are close. Sometimes they build in an existing shopping strip, sometimes they are the anchor store of a new one. But you'll never see a Wal*Mart downtown - at least not in a small town.

They build at the edge because they don't want to deal with the messiness of the city. They build at the edge because they want a flat plot of cheap, fresh farmland on which they can plop a brand new 50,000 square foot box (with ample parking, of course). They build at the edge because what they do is not for people. The store is a machine that manufactures desire, delivers profit and provides maintenence for another machine: consumerism.

However, the evil doesn't stop there. From their propaganda, one would get the impression that Wal*Mart is a fun, environmentally friendly, good for the community, racially diverse, well-paying and all around snappy place to work. That's not what employees keep saying. And that's not what Kathy Lee Gifford said when she found out that her exclusive line of clothing for Wal*Mart was being manufactured overseas by children. In addition, the company has a long standing practice of immediately firing any employee who is suspected of attempting to organize a labor union. Customer complaints of poor service, dangerous store conditions and poor treatment of minorities abound. The voluminous (however unsubstantiated) website Wal*Mart Sucks has much to say on these matters.

On his death bed, Sam Walton (Wal*Mart's founder) was more interested in hearing the day's sales figures than he was in spending time with his loved ones. If you believe that American (and World) culture can do better than reward this kind of corporate heritage, do not shop at Wal*Mart. It is an expression of the worst aspects of humanity: greed, anti-community, unfair labor practices, poor service and deception.

> For more on the story, check out the anti-Wal*Mart websites Wal*Mart Sucks and Sprawl Busters. The book, The Wal*Marting of America by Bob Ortega tells the whole story. Read it.

But Wait, There's More...
Wal*Mart may be the worst, but there are several other corporate retailers worth giving the cold shoulder:

CVS and Rite Aid Drugstores
Both of these companies have built a reputation for ruining neighborhood retail and killing local "mom & pop" drugstores. Sacrificing long term local merchant-customer relationships for a few pennies of savings on common items, these chains raze historic buidings and turn parks into parking lots with no thought to the consequences of their actions. They're looking at the five-year ROI... short-sighted jerks.

Call them the McDonald's of coffee (or the Wal*Mart of coffee, we don't care)... this company has commodified coffee house culture. It's the same old story: attacking one city at a time, they work to kill the local scene. They build right next to existing local java establishments and suck their customers away with cutting edge 1997 graphic design and Pottery-Barn-esque chairs. How could anyone resist something so fresh, warm and cozy? Well, Jeremy Dorosin could tell you how, at

This one doesn't even need explanation... except for this: they started this trend- a long time ago. They catalyzed the conversion of a ritualistic human activity (eating) into a boiled-down, mechanistic process.
George Ritzer's book, The McDonaldization of Society is a good primer on this subject. Also, check out

So, Now What?
It's time to fight back. Don't stand for this corporate takeover of our neighborhoods, our minds, our wallets... Complain. Demand more. Insist on better service. INSIST ON BEING TREATED LIKE A HUMAN. The article "Rage Against the Machine," in the April 1999 issue of Smart Money magazine features the aforementioned Starbucks detractor Jeremy Dorosin, and other tales of consumer rebellion. It's an excellent article- read it. In addition, Yahoo has an extensive listing of anti-corporate groups. Let's move... get inspired to take your own guerilla action.

And remember... your dollars are votes. What are you voting for?


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