In response to “Higher Expectations Week,” a blitz of events all across the country aimed at Wal-Mart’s business model, the over-built retailer issued the following press release, downplaying any significance to the largest scale organizing ever done against an American retailer: “More than 100 million Americans shop at Wal-Mart every week, and they’re tuning out groups like Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-Up Wal-Mart and their union benefactors. Working families haven’t heard a single idea from these groups — no solutions, no vision, just criticism. On the other hand, what they’re hearing from Wal-Mart are solutions to the challenges facing working families. In recent days, we’ve learned from Global Insights, one of the world’s most respected economic research, analysis and forecasting companies, that Wal-Mart saves the average American household more than $2,300 per year and created 210,000 jobs last year alone. We’ve announced environmental initiatives that will reduce greenhouse gases at our current facilities by 20% within seven years. And early indications are that our new health benefits will cover an additional 100,000 Wal-Mart associates and family members. Have the negative attacks of the “no idea critics” saved working families any hard-earned money? Have the negative attacks created a single job? Have the negative attacks reduced greenhouse gases? Have the negative attacks helped any families get health insurance? Without a single idea, the critics are just talking to the critics. And the American people aren’t taking them seriously. We at Wal-Mart pledge to continue talking with our associates, our customers and communities all across America about how we can offer solutions to the challenges we all face together.
Wal-Mart’s counterattack comes at a time when the company is spending an unprecedented amount of corporate money to try to “talk above” the increasing criticism confronting the company. The critics have grown so loud, that Wal-Mart has created its own website full of what it calls “Wal-Mart facts,” which are apparently different from other facts in circulation. Despite its claims that the public is “tuning out” criticism of Wal-Mart, the company’s own internal memo admits “we have thus far allowed our critics to frame the debate.” The company cites as an example of eroding public support, “only 22% of Americans find it very believable that Wal-Mart provides health insurance to 900,000 people.” Wal-Mart admits flatly, “Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families.” And does any American really think all those Wal-Mart trucks rumbling over our highways are lowering greenhouse gases? Wal-Mart finally agreed to join a federal initiative to lower exhaust emissions, but Wal-Mart stores, with their traffic jams, bring millions of extended car trips to our roadways, worsening the quality of our air. The best way to reduce greenhouse gases is to stop building more redundant superstores every five miles. As for economic impacts, Wal-Mart forgot to mention several studies released at the Global Insights “conference” that showed the downside of Wal-Mart’s voodoo economics. A study by Mississippi State University, for example, concluded that “Wal-Mart supercenters in Mississippi captured most of their food sales from existing food stores in the host county..(experiencing) average annual declines in sales from 10% after the first year to nearly 17% after 5 years.” Wal-Mart’s claim to have created 210,000 new jobs is a gross figure, that does not net out lost jobs elsewhere. “Wal-Mart Facts” are not like other facts. Wal-Mart Facts are owned by the company, and they are free to use them in the manner that best reflects their bottom line. In response to its critics, Wal-Mart has presented no solutions, no new ideas, just a “wal” of “facts” to hide behind.