Shoppers of the world unite! Wal-Mart wants to help you overthrow governments that try to limit your “shopping choices.” Wal-Mart, the community organizer, is putting its customers to the test. The latest organizing site: Patterson, California. There are four Wal-Mart discount stores within 20 miles of Patterson. This small community of roughly 19,200 people will get the area’s first Wal-Mart supercenter if the giant retailer has its way. The Gustine Press-Standard reported this week that Wal-Mart has applied to the city of Patterson to build a 158,000 s.f. supercenter right across the street from a SaveMart grocery store. According to the City Manager, the city is reviewing the application at this time. According to city officials, the supercenter proposal has already stirred up a controversy in the community. “You’ve got people on both sides, definitely, and it is probably a little more heated than normal,” the City manager told the Press-Standard. As part of its public relations campaign, Wal-Mart has launched a website to promote the proposed store. The company has been spending money organizing a “Customer Action Network” (CAN) in California and New England, to help grease the skids locally. At their website for Patterson, http://www.pattersoncan.com/ Wal-Mart says: “Wal-Mart is pleased to introduce plans to build a store in Patterson that will combine the same quality products available at a regular Wal-Mart store with a full line of grocery items, all at our signature Everyday Low Prices. With the support of the community, we can create 450 new jobs with health care benefits for as low as $8 a month, new sales tax revenue for local public services and financial support for Patterson charities. We hope that you’ll take the time to explore this website and its fact sheets to learn about the store’s architectural design, and energy efficient and environmentally friendly features — and so much more.” The site features a picture of what the ‘skin’ of the store would look like — a ‘village supercenter’ format that Wal-Mart has been favoring — which trys to look more like a traditional mall, with a variety of “small” storefronts. In reality, the fa??ade merely hides the big box behind the exterior. The box would be the size of three football fields. Wal-Mart says the design is “subject to the approval of the city of Patterson.” Wal-Mart describes its CAN initiative as “a program to keep customers informed about government issues that affect Wal-Mart and its ability to provide good value for your shopping dollar. When government tries to limit your shopping choices, or interfere in Wal-Mart’s ability to offer Everyday Low Prices, Customer Action Network members can help by expressing their opinion.” Wal-Mart tells shoppers that “as a member of the Customer Action Network, you CAN help us protect your right to good value for your hard-earned shopping dollar. By joining the Customer Action Network, you can exercise your right to participate in local and state government! When elected officials consider laws that affect Wal-Mart’s ability to offer you Everyday Low Prices and convenient shopping on general merchandise and groceries it’s important they hear from you! Elected officials need to know how important low prices and quality merchandise is to hardworking people everywhere.” Wal-Mart filed its plans with the city in late January, proposing a superstore that would be open 24/7, and would be the largest retail store in the history of Patterson. “We have continued to monitor Patterson for some time,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told The Irrigator newspaper. “We believe the population in the area would support it.” Under California law, this project will be required to produce an environmental impact report to lay out the project’s impact on traffic, wildlife, air quality, and other factors. The site now is an undeveloped open field. A company called Sperry Commercial LP owns the land, and has been talking with Wal-Mart since late 2007. At this point, Wal-Mart has not purchased the land. “It is a permitted use on that property, but is would be a planned development, which puts some other requirements on them,” the city manager told the Press-Standard. “As part of the EIR, they do an economic study which basically studies the impact it would have on other businesses. We want to look at all of that information. We want to make an informed decision which benefits the community,” the city staffer concluded. “It is going to be a difficult decision, whichever way they go.” It is hoped that local residents will make it a very long, and difficult decision to make.
The Wal-Mart superstore will be three times bigger than the Save Mart grocery store across the road, which is roughly 49,500 s.f. Just the grocery square footage of the Wal-Mart superstore is estimated to be 33,047 s.f. Wal-Mart immediately put up their CAN website after their application was announced. The Save Mart is likely to fold if this superstore is approved. The Irrigator newspaper ran a poll asking readers to indicate what they would like to see on the West Side of town. As of today, 161 readers (71%) said they wanted to see a Wal-Mart on the west side. Obviously the CAN email list has been activated to vote in the poll. The Wal-Mart Patterson site urges supporters to write letters to the editor in favor of the superstore, and to send emails to the Mayor and members of the Patterson City Council. Instead of selling cheap underwear and Chinese toys, Wal-Mart has had to spend time and money imitating grassroots organizing groups. It’s called mobilizing your base, and Wal-Mart has been forced to create these public relations campaigns to counter their opponents. Readers are urged to do the following three things to counter Wal-Mart’s CAN efforts: 1) write a letter to Patterson Mayor Becky Campo at: [email protected] opposing the Wal-Mart project. Email her a copy of this story; 2) go to the Irrigator newspaper website at: http://pattersonirrigator.com/component/option,com_poll/task,results/id,31/and vote “Neither” in the newspaper’s Wal-Mart poll; 3) email a letter to the editor of the Irrigator at: [email protected] They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Wal-Mart has learned from its consultants that if you want to get public support for your huge projects, you have to use the same tactics that anti-Wal-Mart groups have been using for years. Setting up websites, and encouraging customers to protect their “shopping choices” has become the new civil rights battle for Wal-Mart. It’s all part of helping the Walton billionaires ‘live better.’