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The Cheap Seats

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The monster on the hill

The growing sense of dread that overcomes one just before they enter the ‘snake pit’ can be compared to the feeling when you have to walk through the sliding doors of the mega-conglomerate-super-store, A.K.A. Wal-Mart. It starts with circling the parking lot for a parking space that doesn’t require sweating in the trip from your car to the store, and leads to avoiding rogue shoppers and their overflowing carts. Oh, and should I mention, you always run in to someone you don’t want to see? With a conversation that goes something like, “Hey, Betty!”

“Oh… hey, John… I didn’t know see you there,” (even though you did).

“We went to high school together, Betty, remember?”

“Oh, that’s right… I forgot,” and now you’re stuck in a reminiscent conversation about the worst years of your life with the person you dislike the most. And it all happens at ‘the crappiest place on earth’, Wal-Mart.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against affordable items. I love it when I find something that costs less than I thought it would. The problem is that much of the products that hail from Wally World shelves cost less than you think they would, but they are still overpriced if quality is your calling (which for most of us, it is at least an added bonus).

But that is not even the point. The point is that if one was to really stop and look around at not just Wal-Mart, but all the chain super-stores, they would see not just a vaguely askew system, but a monster on a hill, casting a shadow over the lands below. Sure, it’s an age-old argument, but these stores really are at the root of a lot of economic issues (some bad and some good, but issues nonetheless).

Let’s just go down the list, shall we? For a start, it is a rare find if anything in these stores is made wholly and entirely in the USA. I guess it goes without saying that workers in third world countries are to be credited with production; however, it is most certainly not guaranteed the conditions that are endured day after day by these people are decent (you’ve all seen the 60 Minutes reports, I’m sure).

Hey, do some of you long-time residents remember Wal-Mart’s predecessor? Yeah, that vacant lot across the street that was once a bustling superdome just like Wal-Mart is today. We traded one for another, but what about all the other businesses that Wal-Marts all over the country (and world, even) have obliterated? Small town, old-time, local businesses are particularly prone to bankruptcy and closure when a Wal-Mart store comes to town. The sad fact of the matter is that since Wal-Mart offers literally everything at literally the lowest price in town, there is literally no competing with them… quite literally. They have the means to get low-priced goods from overseas in an unfair way as compared to the people who have been selling homemade goods and have to charge extra to make a profit. I have little doubt that you already knew this, I mean I’m in high school, myself, but did you know that mega chain stores are contributing to human effect on the environment? Yeah, since goods need to be shipped all over the country, Co2 emissions from diesel engines are being pumped out en masse everyday by just a single corporation’s shipping fleet.

Keeping your business in local operations, buying food from local growers (farmer’s markets?) and just smart shopping could all contribute to a better future. But of course, there are those of us who lead a modest lifestyle and find it difficult to support a family and get day-to-day needs from anywhere else. Well, how did you manage before Wal-Mart? I mean, just out of curiosity… Wal-Mart pulls prices up around them, but brings their own ‘low prices.’

Most of the above problems can be seen as necessary measures. When we have to settle as peasants under a system that got its status from being unjust it’s a pretty sad thought. What’s even sadder is that this system depends entirely on us, so why are we still just hanging about? Just like, “war is over, if you want it to be,” anything can be accomplished, if we want it bad enough. Thousands of towns and cities have boycotted the super-stores from entering their  communities, already, why not us?

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Author info

Hanna Hurt Hanna Hurt was a student at Clark Fork High School with an interest in film when she wrote for the River Journal. She is now a student at the University of Idaho

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