Monday, February 26, 2007

The Wal-Mart Effect (2)

"[Hanes] conluded, says Caldwell, 'people just had more underwear in their house than they really needed, or had had in the past.' The underwear was so cheap, and so irresistably displayed on those pallets, that people just bought it and took it home. That kind of consumption doesn't trouble Caldwell at all - his job was to sell underwear. It's always nice to have a fresh pair of athletic socks, of course, but consumption driven strictly by price and impulse - consumption that answers no need at all - well, that's curious. Wal-Mart was saving its customers money, and they were tucking the savings away in the underwear drawer." (pg 70)

"(Lingerie maker Frank) Garson says for the wages of a single U.S. factory worker, competitors could hire seventy people in indonesia." (pg 97)

"'No matter how hard they work, how fast they get it done, how much improved the quality is, it's never good enough with Wal-Mart. The idea of a 'satisfied customer' was, for them, an oxymoron. It just doesn't happen. It doesn't compute."
That's why Ford says, 'When you see the Wal-Mart smiley face, whistling and knocking down prices, somewhere there's a factory worker being kicked in the stomach.'" (pg 99)

"'They've lowered the price of the TVs to the point where they can't afford to pay $1 or $2 an hour they have to pay in Mexico.'" (pg 100)

"'People say, how can it be bad for things to come into the United States cheaply? How can it be bad to have bargains,' says Dobbins. 'But you can't buy anything if you're not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs." More than that, says Dobbins, the manufactured goods coming to the United States so cheaply are made under factory conditions that would not only not be tolerated in the United States, they likely wouldn't even be legal.'
'We want clean air, clean water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world,' says Dobbins. 'Yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions." (pg 103)

"'The cost structure of operating manufacturing plants in the United States is just enormously out of sync with what people want to pay. Dramatically.'" (pg 104)

"Eventually, there are no more efficiencies to be wrung out of the supply chain; there are no more pennies to be saved with smarter distribution or reduced pakaging or cheaper plastic. Eventually, the only way to lower costs is to manufacture products outside the United States, in countries with lower labor costs, fewer regulations, less overhead. This element of the Wal-Mart effect remains largely hidden from public view" (pg 106)

"In 2003, for the first time in modern U.S. history, the number of Americans working in retail, (14.9 million) was greater than the number of Americans working in factories (14.5 million). We have more people working in stores than we do making the merchandise to put in them." (pg 108)

"Consumer spending, however, accounts for two thirds of the U.S. economy." (pg 108)


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