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sean mcdaniel

Okay, i don't fear wal-mart. and i don't like it, either. probably in the decade-plus the cranberry wal-mart store's been open, i bought two or three things there and didn't find the prices all that great and didn't think that whatever i bought there was all that wonderful. as far as the employees, they're typical for most big box retail places: bored, indifferent and waiting to win the powerball (yeah, that sounds arrogant, in know. but when you're 19 years old and realize that your career has peaked upon getting the night shift asst. video manager's position, you might feel a little screwed over by the world too.)

like the koreans, i hate the lack of display creativity. i go to walmart and feel as though i'm in a far too crowded and brightly lighted warehouse. it's not a pleasant shopping experience. so walmart didn't do its market research (or didn't think the results mattered if it did) and bombed in germany and the east. so what? that's the facts of life in business. maybe the company will readjust its thinking...or just stay out of those places where it's approach doesn't work.

but it's not a great victory for mankind.

now, i've always wondered this...how is IKEA really all that much different from wal-mart...aside from the number of stores? first, it's more of a warehouse than wal-mart...second, the stuff is basically a minor step ahead of most walmart merchandise in quality (okay, IKEA realized a few years back it needed to start offering higher end goods. but for the most part, it's cheap stuff...the kind of place you guy to furnish a dorm or first apartment...you won't find elsie hillman or jim roddey shopping at IKEA or Wal-Mart)...so why does IKEA get a pass? is it because the cars in it's parking lots are volvos and honda mini-vans instead of ford escorts and dodge ram charger pickups?

disclosure: my laptop sits on an IKEA desk, between two IKEA lamps, which are next to an IKEA three-tier document tray, while across the room an IKEA filing cabinet holds IKEA batteries (the worst), light bulbs and other supplies (not all from IKEA), with an IKEA lamp on top. i like IKEA.

my feeling is this...i'm more comfortable in IKEA...i like the "European" stylings of its merchandise (compared to Wal-mart's line of furniture for the finished basement or double wide trailer) ...and i'm willing to completely overlook the hypocrisy and pretension behind the idea that IKEA is so much better than Wal-Mart just because the people who shop there fit the profile of the type of demographic i want to be in...and because I can't afford big ticket items Perlora or Weiss House.

i honestly think that a lot of the railing about wal-mart, urban planning, subsidies and the like is a matter of the posters not being able to admit a certain amount of envy/bitterness over the fact that they are a lot closer to being wal-mart shoppers than they are neiman-marcus customers.

Sam M

I am no huge Walmart hater either. The desk I am working at today is from Walmart. So is my digital camera. Bought them both about three years ago.

But I am no great fan, either. I agree that the aisles are too crowded. I feel penned in.

I also get the sense that the logistics has suffered. Maybe that's just me. But it seems that a few years back they ALWAYS had stuff on the shelves. And all those items were in stock. Which was especially crucial when I lived out in the weeds. One day I found myself in need of some hiking shoes. I tried to go local at about 10 stores in three towns. And struck out at each and every place. So I went to Walmart. Bingo.

Now, had I had some time I likely would have ordered them at the local places. And paid a lot more. See, price wasn't the issue. It was availability.

But the last few times I have been there, I have found items on the shelf that were out of stock. A function of differences between different locations, or a sign of a larger problem. Who knows?

Either way, I will go there when I need to. And not when I can avoid it. Nothing political about it, really. Or at least I don't think so.

But I will tell you this. I can ask my undegrads to discuss anything you want. The war. Drugs. Music. Movies. Whatever. What are the two subjects that bring the most impassioned response? The things that polarize the class most?

Walmart.

And soccer.

Go figure.

Ed Heath

Well, my feelings about Walmart range from the practical to the economic. I am really annoyed by people who reflexively hate Walmart without good reason, because I feel there are a lot of positives about Walmart. It’s very existence forces other retailers to try harder, and isn’t that the heart of capitalism, for better or worse. And frankly Walmart probably helps a lot of poorer people stretch their money, even if some of them are Walmart employees. What I want to say to Walmart haters is that if Walmart pays their employees more, they have to raise their prices, and do we need just another Kmart?

Meanwhile, I shop there myself. Sometimes I think I am in a race with my wife, to make sure we have food on the table before we blow the month’s paychecks on whatever project she has zeroed in on. Yow.

I think Walmart’s logistics have suffered recently, though I don’t why. As an aside, I don’t think I would buy hiking boots at Walmart except if I was really desperate. I would be nervous if I had a big hike coming up too. There is a good story about a marathon and new shoes …

The New York Times slant on the Korean and German pullouts is similar to Reason’s (if a little less acerbic). Walmart has proven nimble in many ways, but thought that American style bargains would sell overseas. Apparently at least in Germany part of it has to do with Walmart’s relationship with cars, according to the NYT. People prefer to do a lot of there food and consumables shopping by foot, and Walmart doesn’t do small centrally located stores. But the Times hinted Walmarts might show up again under different names and with new strategies (and why not?)

The IKEA question is interesting. I think Sean hit the nail on the head. Having blond wood stark IKEA in the house is for some educated liberals what wearing plain DKNY t-shirts is for wealthy teenage girls. I noticed IKEA has gone more mainstream, I guess they maxed out on furnishing NPR households (yeah, this is the same as my Whole Foods rant). Too bad, I think their latest computer desks are less practical then the old ones.

sean mcdaniel

ah...man, i just got back from whole foods...love those organic free range chickens. seriously. my desk is basic...large surface...two ample drawers on the left...does the job....

as for the undergrad debate about walmart...it's the mindless "i hate wal-mart globalization" school of thought...which proabably doesn't strike them as ironic as they wear their A&F baggies and sip a coffee from starbucks before they hit panera for lunch.

as for soccer...who cares!

once again. i just don't walmart...it's kind of like a library where the books are divided into two categories...fiction and non-fiction. it needs some organization for me. please, i want my shopping expectations to be beyond that smiley face. there's nothing sadder than seeing three generations of wal-mart workers (grandmother, mother, daughter) sitting outside a store drinking 48 oz sodas and smoking cigarettes on a lunch break. imagine being the youngest and seeing your future sitting across from you. and knowing the by time you reach grandma's age, you'll be making about $3.17 more an hour than she does now. oh happy day.

JoeP

Ikea and Wal Mart are worlds apart on a variety of levels. Ikea offers a variety of furnishings for a home, at reasonable prices. As far as I know the furniture etc, is their product, not discounted from other companies to undercut mom n' pop and the Target down the street.

While you are essentially in a warehouse at Ikea, the display portion of the store is "warm" and cozy so to speak - of course if you decide to purchase something, then you literally are in a warehouse to pick up the item.

One Ikea serves a large region and many regions are not even served yet (Pittsburgh was among the early U.S. stores). I would say that the furniture is a step or two above Wal Marts (with Target inbetween).

The Wal Mart issues are well known, so I don't feel compelled to restate them.

Sam M

Sean,

What makes the undergrad discussion so interesting to me is they are NOT all reflexive Walmart haters. Yes, some of them attack it viciously, but many do so on different grounds. Same as the defenders. It seems to be one of the issues that allows them to see issues like class and econimics in stark terms. There is just something about it that makes them feel "qualified" to comment. Strongly. Maybe it's simply the "experience" factor. They have been there. They "know" the issue.

I can't say for sure what it is, really, but it does spark a really interesting debate--one in which their views come across as extremely well thought. Who would have guessed it?

The soccer debate goes on at a different level. It comes down to nationalism versus elitism versus all sorts of other stuff, wih all sides claiming to be the underdog.

This whole soccer debate has been going on for some time. What makes it more interesting now is that we have a large population of young adults who have actually played. Some just love it. While others hate it. Either way, it's a lot harder to ignore now.

sean mcdaniel

Joe P:

my point was that IKEA is the Wal-Mart of the slightly more upper class, compared to the stereotypical Wal-Mart shopper.

as for the self-made goods, this is from the IKEA web site:

Purchasing
IKEA has 46 trading service offices in 32 countries. Being close to our 1,300 suppliers means we can develop long-term relationships with them, observe production and work with manufacturers on the shop floor to make improvements and reduce costs. Sometimes a design decision at this stage or a slight change to the process can make a difference in price that, when multiplied by millions of items, results in drastic savings.

32 countries...funny, the site doesn't include their names.

and this from the hong kong trade development council web site:

"The Swedish company Ikea, which ranks first in sales of furniture globally, has moved its procurement centre from Singapore to China."

which would mean that IKEA makes its furniture in Sweden and then buys it through a mainland china office...interesting concept.

hey, i'd like to see reason take about IKEA's cheap "chinese crap" (and speaking of a lack of refinement, there's a pretty good expample (re: the counter culture country club thread).

so, tell me again how wal-mart and IKEA are different? aside from the number of locations and the customer base?

sean mcdaniel

i have a 35-year-old nephew who lives with his parents (retired doctor and wife) who is traveling across the country to photo document how wal-mart has destroyed small town america business districts...because he hates wal-mart intensely and irrationally. funny thing is, that around here, there never was a small town cranberry. the new walmart in emsworth might be a different story, but the tiny, tiny biz district in emsworth dried up in the 1970s, early on in the decade. I hope that bellevue is strong enough to survive the new WM location. Sewickley has no worries. the businesses there are more like those in a tourist town. the place is far different than when i grew up there in the late 60s and 70s.

and i'll tell you this...there's only one thing more boring than watching your own kid play soccer...watching someone else's kid stand in the backfield while the one fast kid with ballhandling skills monopolizes the action for 78 hours straight.

JoeP

Wal Mart sells damn near every type of product, and in doing so, targets many mom n' pop stores and other smaller retailers, in a variety of industries.... Ikea.... uh furniture and related accessories.

So Ikea may hurt some small furniture stores, those stores don't typically sell put it together furniture.

Ikea can't dominate like a Wal Mart can. Ikea can be dominate within its industry, but not retailing overall. Wal Mart has its hand in most everything. Tell me how that is similar?

sean mcdaniel

well, the similarity is that IKEA is yet another big box store...the difference is that it cleans up better...and appeals to a class of people who wouldn't be caught dead in wal-mart for something other than duct tape.

honestly, i think wal-mart invaded this area because the mom and pop shops that everyone loves were long gone before the evil empire ever left made a footprint locally. in a sense, everytime one of us shops at giant eagle (or whole foods), we're draining another drop of life's blood from the neighborhood corner grocer. what's that, your neighborhood hasn't had a corner grocer since when? well, go ahead, blame your parents for choosing price, quality, convenience and selection over keeping a locally owned smallbusiness open. and blame them for dooming you to a consumer life of little but big box options. while you're at it, blame them for everything else too.

all big box stores are created equal. and they're all in business for the same reason: to make money without regard to the detriment of any other business. if you don't believe that ask yourself these questions:

where did i buy my last TV?

where did i buy my last computer?

where do i buy most of my groceries?

where do i get my prescriptions filled?

where do i get my oil changed?

where did i buy my refrigerator?

where did i buy my last pair of pants?

Where did i buy my washer and dryer?

Where did i buy my CD and DVD players?

Where did i buy my watch?

where did i buy my last couch?

for most people, the answers are going to be Ed's TV and Radio Shop, Bill Service Station, Andy's Market, Sol's Fine Clothing or Sam's Appliance Store, Allen's Jewelry and Watches, Smith's Pharmacy. Probably, the more likely responses wil be giant eagle, eckard, best buy, jiffy lube, macy's, circuit city and IKEA...all big box stores, no matter how you look at it.

And as i said earlier, IKEA turns to china and 31 other unnamed countries to stock its stores, just as Wal-mart does.
.

Ed Heath

You got your computer at Bill's Service Station? Cool.
In ten years will the answer to all your questions be:
internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet internet Bill's Service Station (preordered bio-diesel using internet)?

sean mcdaniel

yeah, you get the point. everything's a big box these days...and in 10 years the internet will be the biggest box of them all. but right now, none of these wal-mart haters are probably doing much to support the mom and pop shops they are so lovingly defend. gotta go, my hard drive needs lubed.

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