April 01, 2010

Our Local Economy and Walmart

If we go by what economists tell us and for that matter politicians, the present recession began in December of 2007. 

We saw massive lay-offs and business closures in 2008 and 2009 in our community.  In the past few weeks there have been three jobs advertised in the newspaper.  Just three jobs and those are for truckers.  So if you can't drive a truck, you're out of luck. 

When I am around a group of people, the topic usually goes to the state of the economy and the lack of jobs.  I pay attention to these discussions since I lost my job last summer in part due to the economy. It doesn't look like we will be coming out of this recession anytime soon, and I believe it will take a few years to recover and even then, our life will never be the same.  We will be living by different rules - save up and then buy; have a nice sum in savings for a rainy day.  Basically we have been slapped on the wrist for living beyond our means and we need to go back to good old fashioned money values.  Of course, these have always been good rules to live by.

I noticed that Walmart has been doing a lot of advertising about lowering the prices on their groceries beginning April 1st.  This intrigued me.  Why now?  I had heard last fall that Walmart was doing pretty well as people were doing a lot of their shopping there in order to stretch their dollar.  In our community Walmart is the most expensive place to buy your groceries.  People go there anyway as they have not priced the other grocery stores or have been lulled into the feeling that Walmart is always cheaper. 

I have noticed some changes in our local Walmart over the past month.  Namely, the main aisles are mostly free of any displays and I don't seem to see as many employees as I am walking through the store during the day.

About the only thing I buy at Walmart is toiletries (if they are on sale) and pet food.  But last week I stopped by the fabric department to buy some fabric to make some skirts and tops for the summer.  The lady that waited on me has worked in that department for a long time.  I made a comment about the t.v. ad I had seen advertising that Walmart is lowering its prices on groceries.  She leaned into me and quietly said "they have laid off quite a few people and families are hurting."  She went on to tell me that many department heads are now doubling up and covering two departments because of these layoffs.

One could surmise that the way Walmart is going to save the consumer money on groceries is to cut expenses - namely laying off employees.  So it made sense my not seeing as many displays and  employees in the store when I shop during the day.  Time will tell but it is usually standard that the employees are the first expense to be cut.  Wages take up a big chunk of any business' bottom line. 

A couple of years ago I read the book "Nickel and Dimed" about living on minimum wage in America.  The book was written before 2007 and it opened my eyes to the working poor.  The author went under cover and worked several minimum wage jobs around the country and tried to live alone on what she earned.  There was one chapter on working at Walmart. 

I will never blog that we should all boycott Walmart, as I will still shop there for the toiletries, pet food and now fabric.  It's a catch 22 - if people stop shopping Walmart in our area, there will be more lay offs. If you continue to shop Walmart, then you are in a small way supporting Walmart's way of doing business.  It's hard to know what to do. 

The economy is becoming old news to many people.  They are tired of hearing about it. I have found this true of families that have not been affected by unemployment.  When your needs are being met and life is going on as usual, it is easy to forget about those that aren't so well off. 

Every night the national news always has a story about the economy.  We should not become numb to this news or complacent.  Times are still very hard in our area, which means those of us that have incomes need to step up more and make donations to our local food pantries and charities to help others out.  We should never forget that those of us that have the means, are obligated to help those that are without.

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