So there I was, last week, at my local sports equipment store. It is a chain store near my house that I go to on a regular basis, although I don’t need much of what they sell there. I don’t golf, my bad knees forced me off of the running circuit years ago, and I am far too old to need football pads, or baseball cleats. I go to this particular store for one thing only – fishing tackle. And they stock lots of it, or at least they did. That is why I was so surprised when I stopped by the other day to replenish my supply of 2 ounce pyramid sinkers, and found their once packed shelves were nearly empty…devoid of tackle.
Frustrated, I hailed a young store employee to find out what was going on with the fishing tackle.
“We’re not stocking ‘fishing stuff’ any more,” he said, sounding almost happy about it. Then he waved his hand at the few rods that were still standing in their vertical holders, and the nearly empty racks where lures and spoons and hooks were once displayed, and the empty shelves that once held a multitude of tackle boxes, bait bubblers and sand flea rakes.
“Why would you get rid of the fishing tackle?” I asked.
He shot me one of those, isn’t-it-obvious looks, and then he replied. “We need more room for the Lacrosse gear.”
“Lacrosse gear,” I snorted, “you’re kidding me. This is South Florida – sport fishing capital of the world. The Fishing Hall of Fame is a few miles down the road. And you’re clearing out the fishing equipment to make room for Lacrosse gear? Where are we supposed to go now for rods and tackle?”
“Try Wal-Mart,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away, “they have about everything we have.”
“Wal-Mart,” I said. “I never shop at…,” but the young sales associate was long gone.
Of course I was about to ask him why a seemingly bright young man like himself, would possibly direct a customer to Wal-Mart. Didn’t he realize that as goes the fishing gear, so go the propane stoves, tents, and overpriced sneakers? The golf clubs, weight sets and treadmills will soon follow. In another year he’ll be directing disillusioned young lacrosse players to the Wal-Mart Super Store two miles up the highway, and shortly after that he may find himself filling out an employment application at aforementioned store…doesn’t he know that!
Wal-Mart, with roughly 2,200,000 employees (2011 figures), is the number one private employer in not only the United States, but the entire world. And frankly, I could care less if they had ten million workers, as long as they made some halfhearted attempt to pay them better. Their anti-worker message is articulated clearly in the recent events going on up in our nation’s capital. Scheduled to open six new stores in D.C., Wal-Mart axed plans to open three of them based upon the D.C. City Council’s elevation of the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour for so called ‘big box’ stores. Big box stores being defined as those stores with floor space in excess of 75,000 square feet and annual revenues of over 1 billion dollars.
Since by some estimates, each Wal-Mart worker displaces 1.4 local workers it only seems right to me that they pay their workers a livable wage, whether $12.50 per hour is a livable wage in the D.C. metro area is debatable.
In vast areas of the United States, especially in the rural areas of the Midwest, Rocky Mountain West and South, the appearance of a Wal-Mart Super Center is viewed with the same tepid enthusiasm that accompanies news that a new prison is coming to town. It may not be exactly the industry that they want, but at least it will bring jobs. At least their young people will have somewhere to go to earn a paycheck…you know those young people, the ones that for a multitude of reasons are unable to pack up and leave for greener pastures as a good Republican friend of mine suggested to me recently.
And bring jobs it shall, and they shall be derived from the displaced workers that once owned and staffed local businesses.
Or so this seems to me.