Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price (2005)

DVD Cover (Disinformation)
Genres: Business, Culture & Society, Documentary, Social Issues
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Robert Greenwald Robert Greenwald
Lee Scott Lee Scott
Don Hunter Don Hunter
Jon Hunter Jon Hunter
Jeremy Hunter Jeremy Hunter
Matt Hunter Matt Hunter

5.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: February 02, 2006
Opening tonight's documentary is a look at H&H Hardware, a store located in Middlefield, Ohio. We receive a small history lesson on this store, going back to its creation as a small, one-room store nearly fifty years ago, and how the father-and-son team eventually turned it into a rather profitable store in this town. We see the customers coming in, we hear tales of the success that this man has created, and we find out how he is handing it down to his son so that he and his family can have a nice life without having to worry about financial issues. And then, we find out that Wal-Mart is moving into town. Just a few months later, H&H Hardware has closed its doors for the last time, and to make things even worse for the owners, the now-empty building will only sell for a fraction of what it cost to build thanks to the fact that real-estate agents fully realize just how many empty buildings will be in this town once Wal-Mart kills all of the competition.

That story sounds like an extreme case or something out of a fictional movie, but sadly, this story was true... and similar stories have happened across the country, time and time again, and will continue to happen as Wal-Mart infiltrates every small town in America. That issue, along with several other topics, are the basis for tonight's feature film. How can a company bring in billions of dollars of profit per year, while paying its full-time employees an average of four-thousand dollars below the national poverty level? Why would a behemoth company such as this pay its CEO over twenty-million dollars a year, while the store associates are forced to pay a quarter of their paychecks for a shitty insurance plan if they want to take their kids to the doctor? Why should a single mother who works full time at Wal-Mart have to choose between putting food on the table and getting medicine for her sick baby? All of these questions and more - ranging from sexism to racism, sweat-shops, anti-union practices, and crime rates caused by Wal-Mart - are covered in this ninety-five minute film.

Robert Greenwald has done a truly impressive feat with this film: he has made yours truly hate Wal-Mart even more than I did prior to popping this DVD in. You see, I actually worked at Wal-Mart for a couple of months (which was all I could tolerate before quitting), and I witnessed first-hand a lot of the issues that are presented here. If you think this film is exaggerating about the bullshit insurance policies, the sexism, the racism, and the total disregard for employees, I will tell you this: based on my experience working for them, there is no exaggeration to be found here. If you believe that the whole "empty town" story based on the fact that Wal-Mart kills local businesses upon entering a small town, I invite you to come check out the nearly-empty downtown area of my hometown which used to be a thriving chain of businesses. Yes, I am a wee bit bitter towards this company, but I can put that aside for an objective look at this release; the thing is, however, is that this documentary is damned good.

The issues are presented in much the same way each time throughout the running-time. We'll start things off with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott giving a talk to investors and stock-holders about the plans and motives behind the company (which is the only "participation" to be found from the higher-ups at Wal-Mart), which will then move into their commercials regarding the issues, and it finally moves in to facts and figures behind the topic at hand. For example, one topic begins with Scott talking to an audience about how the associates (their word for Wal-Mart employees ranging from cashiers to cart-pushers to shelf-stockers) are the most important part of the business and how they should be taken care of. This moves into a commercial that was aired nationally, which shows Wal-Mart employees smiling and talking about how great they have it. Finally, we get first-hand accounts of how things really were from both former and current Wal-Mart employees and more than enough facts and numbers regarding this topic to hammer the point home. And, if you think that the only interviews to be found here come from disgruntled cashiers and cart-pushers, think again; there's quite a few people discussing their first-hand experiences with the company who were formerly very high up in the global Wal-Mart management system. One man, who worked for the company for seventeen years, recounts his experiences talking to other members of management who would actually have meetings and training seminars on how to screw employees out of overtime benefits and how to drive small shops out of business. So, with that in mind, don't go in thinking that this is nothing more than former cashiers bitching about how they were treated; that's included here and there, but that's far from the extent of the film.

Is the film completely objective in its crucifixion of this company? Probably not. However, I believe that silence speaks more than any words ever could... not a single member of Wal-Mart management would have anything to do with this film and refused to offer any sort of rebuttal in their defense. In fact, if rumors are to be believed, the company actually had meetings regarding how to best defend themselves to the media and repair the embarrassment that this film would potentially cause them. Personally, I enjoyed every minute of both the feature film and the plentiful extras found on the disc, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in finding out how Wal-Mart goes about keeping their prices so low. Trust me, those low prices aren't a result of Wal-Mart's generosity, and this film does an excellent job of showing how people ranging from business-owners to taxpayers and even the shoppers themselves get screwed over in the long run thanks to those price-cuttings. 9/10.
Edd #1: Edd - added 02/05/2006, 07:02 AM
I'm from Ohio and i heard all about this situation and the making of the doc. Excellently done. Even if you LOVE Wal-Mart, you're still gonna get suspicious, and maybe even change your mind about them when you view this film.
Crispy #2: Crispy - added 02/05/2006, 11:12 AM
I'm currently a Wal-Mart associate. And just reading his quick run through of the issues talked about, I'm willing to bet I could name some personal experiences of my own to back quite a few of those up. Keep in mind, I've been there a total of 4 months.
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