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The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and HowIt's Transforming the American Economy Paperback – December 26, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fishman shops at Wal-Mart and has obvious affection for its price-cutting, hard-nosed ethos. He also understands that the story of Wal-Mart is really the story of the transformation of the American economy over the past 20 years. He's careful to present the consumer benefits of Wal-Mart's staggering growth and to place Wal-Mart in the larger context of globalization and the rise of mega-corporations. But he also presents the case against Wal-Mart in arresting detail, and his carefully balanced approach only makes the downside of Wal-Mart's market dominance more vivid. Through interviews with former Wal-Mart insiders and current suppliers, Fishman puts readers inside the company's penny-pinching mindset and shows how Wal-Mart's mania to reduce prices has driven suppliers into bankruptcy and sent factory jobs overseas. He surveys the research on Wal-Mart's effects on local retailers, details the environmental impact of its farm-raised salmon and exposes the abuse of workers in a supplier's Bangladesh factory. In Fishman's view, the "Wal-Mart effect" is double-edged: consumers benefit from lower prices, even if they don't shop at Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart has the power of life and death over its suppliers. Wal-Mart, he suggests, is too big to be subject to market forces or traditional rules. In the end, Fishman sees Wal-Mart as neither good nor evil, but simply a fact of modern life that can barely be comprehended, let alone controlled.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The "Wal-Mart effect" has become a common phrase in the vocabulary of economists and includes a broad range of effects, such as forcing local competitors out of business, driving down wages, and keeping inflation low and productivity high. On a global scale, Wal-Mart's relentless commitment to "everyday low prices" has had a massive impact on the trend toward importing from countries like China and the resultant loss of manufacturing jobs here. Because of its strict policy on secrecy, surprisingly little is known about the inside workings of the largest corporation ever in the U.S and now the world. Although much has been written before on the legendary story of Sam Walton, Fishman finally takes us inside the carefully guarded workings of the "Wal-Mart ecosystem," where management surrender their lives and families, working 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a near-holy quest toward the never-ending goal of lower prices. He brings to light the serious repercussions that are occurring as consumers and suppliers have become locked in an addiction to massive sales of cheaper and cheaper goods. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038788
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wal-Mart, one of the world's largest economies (it accounts for an astounding 2% of the U.S. gross domestic product, and in any given week, 100 million people--half the adult population in the U.S.--shop at Wal-Mart!), has taken it on the chin in recent years. John Dicker's _United States of Wal-Mart_, Bill Quinn's _How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America and the World_, and the recent film "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," are all examples of this trend. Each of them documents Wal-Mart's low wages and benefits, its take-no-prisoners competitiveness that slashes-and-burns local business and guts local main streets, and its willingess to buy sweat-shop goods.

In his _Wal-Mart Effect_, Fishman doesn't deny the pernicious practices of Wal-Mart. But the more interesting feature of his book is his analysis of the culture that Wal-Mart has created in the United States. In a word, Wal-Mart has trained the American consumer to expect and to demand low prices, and to immediately suspect that any commodity that has a higher price tag than its Wal-Mart equivalent must be a rip-off. The Wal-Mart ethos, in other words, has replaced traditional consumer concern for high quality with low cost as the primary criterion.

This replacement of quality with cheapness is troubling enough (think of the environmental effect of buying cheap crap that quickly winds up in a landfill). But Fishman goes on to show that the new culture of low costs means that Wal-Mart must relentlessly scurry to satisfy the customer demands that its practices have created. So Wal-Mart increasingly buys off-shore sweat shop products to keep down prices, and in the process is forcing more and more American wholesellers, already struggling to survive, to shut down their U.S.
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84 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After seeing a rather frightening documentary about the worst of Walmart's business practices, I decided to have a look at his book. I'm glad I did because I learned quite a few things that weren't exactly public fact, they might actually be company secrets.

Mostly, though, I got a glimpse into the ways Wal-Mart affects our economy, for good and ill, with their relentless search for low prices (which consumers seem to love, not realizing how this could weaken our economy), to the bully tactics used to force suppliers to offer the "lowest price", even in the wake of higher costs for raw materials and other factors that make price cuts near impossible, below a certain level.

The result? Wal-mart often buys from manufacturers who produce products overseas (they can often produce products for prices cheaper than American companies), lessening the benefit to the American companies and actually forcing many longtime name brands out of business. Gone are many of the familiar names we used to see on store shelves and others are hard-pressed to stay in business (Rubbermaid learned a hard lesson when it tried to buck the Walmart dictates and Walmart retaliated) or are forced to lessen the quality of what they offer.

Anyone who lives near Walmart (and who doesn't?) should read this book to get a real idea of how the company influences nearly every product you buy.

Why? Because the Walmart "formula" is one more and more companes are being forced to imitate. Yes, this may result in lower prices for many products but is the overall longterm effect good for us- and our economy? That is a major issue addressed in the book.

By the way, an excerpt from this book appeared in a national magazine and led to what that magazine called the most powerful response from its readers IN THE HISTORY OF THE MAGAZINE. So be prepared for the author to keep you glued to the pages.
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69 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on February 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book in search of solid reporting from within the company - afterall, the cover boasts that the author "penetrated Wal-Mart's wall of secrecy." Well, I am sorry to report that the author has done no such thing. Instead, what the reader gets is a rehash of some of what has already been written (if by him in many instances), with extended (and repetitive) stories on outside critics as well as some partners (suppliers) of the company in stories that are so long as to feel like filler. But he does not find any honest visionaries or even concerned doubters within the company to offer perspective, which I was hoping to find. Moreover (and far worse), there are huge gaps that the author entirely misses or indeed may have preferred to ignore.

Wal-Mart's business practices are well known: promising "everyday low prices" and convenience as its competitive advantages as a general merchandiser, the company relentlessly searches for cost-efficiencies in the form of squeezing suppliers, offering relatively low wages and little health care, and developing an unprecedented logistics operation that literally spans the globe with sweatshops in China, etc. That is about it and it explains the company's phenomenal expansion and the growth of its power.

Of course, the case of the critics is becoming equally well known: 1) workers need a "living wage" and better health coverage options; 2) suppliers need better treatment so that they do not ruin their brand when selling to WM; 3) local governments should not face so much pressure to grant tax breaks and other concessions to WM; 4) local businesses need some protection and nurturance to stay in business when WM comes to the community; 5) WM needs to learn to listen to the concerns of critics and act on them better.
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