By Virgil Vaupel
Thanks For Listening 

The Good, The Bad, The Walmart


It distressed me greatly the other day when I heard on the news that Walmart intends to import a cheaper laundry detergent from Great Britain in an attempt to lessen the strong market share Tide has in the laundry detergent market in the U.S. and Canada. Their spokesperson said, “We intend to bring a less costly but comparable in cleaning power laundry detergent into our stores in the near future.”

I was ready to rail at Walmart for being un-American. For doing something that would eliminate some American jobs. Then I studied the labeling on two jugs of Tide Coldwater laundry detergent and found that one was manufactured in the U.S. and one in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seems Proctor and Gamble, Tide's parent company has a “North American Division” that covers Canada and the United States. Only products made in either of those two countries can be sold in North America as I understand it from P&G spokesman “Matthew” in a telephone conversation. He added, “We do not sell products in the U.S. that were manufactured in one of 80 countries worldwide in which we have manufacturing.”

Back in 1970-something I had coffee in a little cafe in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, while waiting to get a load of plastic pipe. At a large round table in the corner of this mom and pop cafe were several hog farmers in bib overalls discussing the price of pork bellies and such. They offered me a seat and as I sat they all introduced themselves to me and I to them. Friendly folks in Arkansas, you see.

When the intros got around to this feller sitting almost next to me he said, “I'm Sam … Sam Walton.” I said, sceptically, “Sure you are.” But the other folks verified that he was indeed THE Sam Walton, owner of Walmart We visited forth and back for a few minutes when I decided I'd like to compliment “Sam” on his claim that 85% of the merchandise in his stores proudly carried the Made In America label. He said, “Thanks for the kind words, and I am the first to see that America needs manufacturing and I will continue to buy Made In America products.”

Sam … What the blazes happened?

Today, 89% of the goods in a super Walmart have been “Proudly Made In Some Country Other Than America.” Now his family wants to “lessen the the hold P&G (Tide) has on the U.S. laundry detergent market” by importing a cheaper laundry detergent from England. Proctor and Gamble is a U.S. based company with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

For every Walmart super store, there are 25 small businesses that have gone belly up because of Walmart – 25 mom and pop stores whose owners now either work for Walmart, are retired or unemployed.

The Walmart defense is that they are saving the American consumer money by importing so many things we use daily. Clothing, jewelry, TV's and other electronics, shoes, sporting goods, automotive accessories, pet food, pharmaceutical supplies and, don't forget, corned beef hash!

I can't argue with that logic. But while lower prices are good, the trickle-down effect is hurting the U.S. economy and making China, et al, rich. Perhaps some of the folks who need lower prices are those Walmart has run out of business.

In my humble opinion, Walmart stores are in some ways a detriment to the U.S. economy. Look at it this way. In Montana during the late 1930s and up until around 1960 there were many smaller family operated farms and ranches throughout the state. Today, many of those small properties have been bought out by larger ranchers and farmers thus costing the state to lose population in its number one industry: agriculture and ranching. The ranches and farms are getting larger. The equipment it takes to operate these large places is getting larger. Where it took five hired hands to run a cow/calf operation with some hay ground it now takes one man, some good equipment, a willing wife and some kids.

I have to fault Walmart for eschewing U.S. manufacturing in favor of foreign manufacturing and it's even spilling over into the food industry. I find it difficult to buy food stuff made in countries that have questionable inspectors and inspecting criteria.

But back to the issue at hand. I would prefer to buy Tide laundry detergent over anything made in England even if the Brit's stuff is cheaper at the purchase point. I'm certainly not a wealthy person, but if I can do 52 washing loads for 20 bucks or so I'm a happy camper, and if one is vigilant one can even score Tide 100 fl oz at the super sale price of 10 bucks, which I did a few weeks back. And by doing so I'm doing my part in keeping some manufacturing jobs in the good ol' US of A.

That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening.


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