5-Word 365 #133 – Walmart: The High Cost Of Low Price

So besides the fact that we got The Avengers a week early, here’s the second reason why I’m glad I don’t live in America. Although you guys do have better pizza.

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price

Walmart is rich and evil*

This 2005 film from Robert Greenwald (director of  Steal This Movie, Outfoxed, Xanadu) (yes, that Xanadu) seeks to expose the pattern of abusive and negligent behaviour perpetrated by Walmart and its executives* against the community, the environment, even its own staff – sorry, its own “associates”.

The movie starts with a series of interviews with various members of the Hunter family who have owned a hardware store in Middlefield, Ohio for 43 years. We get to see their apprehension at the imminent opening of a Walmart Supercentre, then cut forward a few months and H&H Hardware is closed down; their purpose-built premises empty and echoing. This is used as a capsule example of what has been happening in every town Walmart shows up to across the US, and it is certainly an effective way to open what is basically an anti-Walmart tirade.

Probably the largest section of the film looks at the way Walmart treats its employees*. In interviews with both former and (anonymous) current employees – sorry, “associates” – a range of practices such as institutionalised discrimination against women and minorities, low pay, deliberate understaffing, unpaid overtime, prohibitively expensive medical insurance and vehement union-busting are brought to light. My personal favourite is the way Walmart advises its workers to sign up for Medicaid if they can’t afford the company insurance*, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars while Walmart has a $447 billion revenue.

…out of the 825 Walmart workers in Connecticut. The other guy still lives in his mother’s basement*.

The film doesn’t rely on a presenter or big-name narrator, but allows the interviewees to speak for themselves alongside archive news clips and some hilarious excerpts of the behemoth’s then-CEO Lee Scott speaking at a variety of corporate events, chosen to juxtapose against the point being made by the film. This movie really does cover a lot of ground, but I suppose Walmart has so many nefarious practices* that it would have been difficult to prioritise just one or two. On the downside, the film doesn’t look at each point with as much depth as it could, but on the other hand the fact that it moves so fast does keep things engaging for the viewer – especially one who isn’t already invested in Walmart’s evil plan to take over the world and subjugate humanity to the will of His Infernal Majesty*.

At 99 minutes, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price rattles by at a fair clip and is equal parts horrifying and depressing, but never less than engrossing*.

*Allegedly

6 comments

  1. Bubbawheat · May 13, 2012

    The one thing that makes me wary about these kind of documentaries is that Wal-Mart is such an insanely large organization that it’s easy to find such horror stories. I imagine it would be just as easy to create a glowing representation of Wal-Mart based on just as many true facts. The reality is that it depends a lot on the individual stores and it’s actually somewhere in the middle, with tons of stores doing great things, tons of stores doing bad things, and tons of stores doing not much of anything special.

    • Ryan McNeely · May 13, 2012

      You’re absolutely right. There are enough good things that Walmart put out their own rebuttal film in the same year, which I wouldn’t mind seeing if I can get a hold of it. Also, Food Inc painted them in a favourable light for their organic produce policies.

  2. todayiwatchedamovie · May 13, 2012

    My friend and I wrote a theme song for this blog post…six years in advance.
    [audio src="http://www.songfight.org/music/terror_in_tiny_town/lessthanthree_titt.mp3" /]

  3. fernandorafael · May 14, 2012

    Very funny review of a documentary dealing with a certainly unfunny subject.

  4. Pingback: 5-Word 365 #152 – Xanadu | 5-Word Movie Reviews

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