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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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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.
The best Wal-Mart expose yet . . . as measured by depth and breadth of research, writing style, and evenhanded treatment. (The Denver Post)
Highly readable, incisive, precise, and even elegant. (San Francisco Chronicle)
The Wal-Mart Effect is an interesting look at how big corporations affect our planet in positive and negative ways. The strength . . . is in the stories about the lives that Wal-Mart has touched, set against the backdrop of an astounding array of data. (USA Today)
The Wal-Mart Effect saunters through the influential economic ecosystem that the discount chain represents with clarity, compelling nuance, and refreshing objectivity. (The Christian Science Monitor)
A must-read if one is even to begin understanding the global dominance of Wal-Mart. (The Washington Post)
Top customer reviews
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In some ways Wal-Mart the corporation can seem like an evil empire. They've had a lot of issues with treatment of employees over the years, made more difficult now that employees cannot supplement their income as they did before through stock purchases. The corporate brass won't even tell how many stores they have and where they're located. The level of secrecy once you get past the visible store personnel is surprising.
I learned the retailing economic system was fragile when several new vendors were followed through their experience selling to Wal-Mart. They were routinely forced to compete at the volume that Wal--Mart controlled in exchange for such price concessions that they could only make it on volume. The result was a change in the market perception. This is part of what they call the Wal-Mart effect.
Wal-Mart uses globalization to minimize expenses mainly though the great labor arbitrage. This really works out well if you're a shareholder. For others, it doesn't seem to work out in a sustainable way. Meanwhile, Americans get tons of items for real cheap, including many staples.
Many of the stories in this book are well-known by now (like the cheap packs of underwear), others not so much, while some were absolutely jaw-dropping. I don't think anyone who reads this book could still shop at Wal-Mart afterwards, unless they live in a town where Wal-Mart has killed all the competition. And that's what they've been doing in town after town, county after county, year after year now.
My husband and I swore off Wal-Mart many, many years ago, and after reading this book, I am even more convinced that we made the right decision. Everyone votes with their dollars, and we believe in supporting our local town and economy, even if it costs us a little more. Read this book, and see if you don't agree. Otherwise, imagine a world where every town eventually consists of a few blocks of huge superstores and nothing else. Sure, you can buy literally everything at those stores, but why would anyone want to?
My main complaint is that the writer at times speaks of some of what we might call the company's evils in a most dispassionate manner. At the time of reading, this feels like he is implicitly condones the actions of the companies and its suppliers (even though its clear the suppliers have little option in going along with WalMart).
Overall, I think the objectivity of the author plays a key part on the effectiveness of the book. His bias is in the pages, but they do not yell too loud. Anyone looking int the effect of late twentieth century capitalism on America would be well served to read this book.
Most recent customer reviews
'The Wal-Mart Effect' is, first, very well-written, with good formatting and a clear, coherent narrative.Read more