Thursday, March 29, 2007

Go away, Wally.

What on earth is going on? Have you ever in your entire life heard an advertisement for WAL-MART on the radio? I just did. I was relieved yesterday when Wal-Mart finally gave up on trying to get a store in NYC. So why are they wasting money by advertising on our airwaves?

For what it's worth, when I moved here I was happy to see that there was a K-Mart only a few blocks away from me. In Manhattan. I remember thinking, "Sweet! Now I'll be right near all the things I need to buy." I reveled in the ease of access to places like Best Buy and Home Depot, the giant superstores that would surely save me from having to trek miles up and down the island or to the outer boroughs to find what I needed.

It wasn't long, though, until these things started to seem out of place in Manhattan, as illustrated in this very scientific diagram that I found at Indexed.

New York is one of the few places in the world where you can still find stores that exist solely on focused, specific inventory (e.g. stores that only sell light bulbs). When Wal-Mart moves to town, they not only destroy those stores but they rob us of part of the charm that makes NYC so uniquely wonderful. Frankly, as much as I love Dallas, I do not want NYC to become Dallas. Most people here rage against the suburbanization and gentrification of NYC. Sites like WalMart-Free NYC and Reclaim Democracy are trying to spread the word about the problems surrounding corporate invasions.

(On a side note: When tourists come to the city and frequent places like TGIFridays or the Applebee's in Times Square, they're not only getting ripped off by doubled prices, but they're missing out on the city that gave birth to places like S'mac, a restaurant that primarily sells Mac-N-Cheese.)

Sure, there are bigger battles to fight, but I will do my part here: I will walk past the K-Mart. I will buy the things I need from the bodega or even at a K-Mart (or, more likely, a Target) that is not in NYC. I can't stand the thought of the Evil Empire taking over my city, and I'd rather pay a slightly higher price now than to see this city transformed forever into something common and ordinary.

(I will, however, continue to visit Starbucks on an all-too-frequent basis.)


ester said...

Yay!! You're such a hero, TLC.

split ends said...

So... what's A?

TLC said...

"A" is so bad that it can't even be spoken or written or your computer will implode.

testamintsrule said...

if i come visit you can we get mac and cheese?

i'd like that a lot.

TLC said...


I'd be happy to S'mac you.


Lindsay said...

dude? i'm sure we have talked about this... but, i have this problem EVERYWHERE... it's getting really sad, when i travel the only thing that changes is the geography. all the stores and restaurants are the same from boise to boca raton. it makes me feel kind of ashamed that america is turning into a big, shallow, plastic country of chain-businesses. i think we should start a campaign like Austin, TX has: KEEP AMERICA WEIRD! (or at least: RECLAIM WEIRD AMERICA!) dude, i'd want that on a bumper sticker!

palomita said...

Seriously? A food place that specializes in Mac-N-Cheese?! Heaven. On. Earth.

TLC said...

Yes, Palomita, it's true! And there are even great places like Pong. One ping pong table. One bleacher. One tiny room. $3 for 20 minutes. Love it.

I've gotten some emails about the WalMart thing, so I want to address it a little further. Yes, WalMart sells my book (I had nothing to do with that, by the way). Yes, I will probably shop there in the future, but only out of necessity: in many towns, they've killed competition.

Does it belong in Manhattan? No. They gave up because, in their own words, "It's too hard to make money here." They pay their workers poverty-level wages, they devour small business, destroy the character of towns and cities, and they have corrupt financial practices.

Does WalMart help poor people? Depends on how you look at it. There's a guy on the street who sells $5 bottles of lotion that he has shoplifted from Victoria's Secret. I don't buy them from him. The WalMart parallel is obvious. They are cheating the government, cheating their workers, and making a mockery of capitalism in the meantime. I love a free market economy, but I'm not going to pay $5 for a stolen bottle of lotion, and I'd rather not pay WalMart for anything when they're stealing (both literally and figuratively) from everyone in their path.

chipg said...

agree with you on this one. Sam Walton would be sad to see what's become of his company. Out of principle I never go and encourage my friends to do same. Most think I'm some sort of nut as a result.

Visited NYC in August to take my daughter for her 16th birthday (from Dallas, your apparent proto-Wal-Mart market) and we ate at a Cuban hole in the wall on (give or take) 46th for breakfast one day that was terrific and a cheaper breakfast than McDonald's here. A couple of times we hit the Red Flame Cafe next to our hotel and I felt like we'd zoomed back to 1956 or into a Zippy the Pinhead comic. Hit Ciao on Bleecker for lunch one afternoon and had the best $10 lunch special I've had anywhere. We tried not to hit any chains, but she did want to do the Hard Rock our first night there and we had to hit Starbucks periodically. We went by the Rice Pudding place one afternoon but could not convince my daughter to try it. We did hit both Apple stores (Soho and near Central Park) and met friends from NJ at Redeemer the day Tim Keller came back from a sabbatical or something. Great worship time, great message, made me glad that NYC has Redeemer to tell of the Redeemer.

Anyway, loved NYC and would hate to see it Wal-Martified. Though I don't think I'd want to live there. For one thing, I'd gain about 200 pounds eating all the great food.

dennis said...

Well, TLC, my apologies; you know I don't want to disagree, but as a once-in-a-while walmart shopper I have to say that Walmart proves that Capitalism is a great demonstration of a free market economy. The workers minimum at Wal-mart is $7.50 an hour, which is 50 cents more than the workers at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, which I never hear anyone speak against. John Edwards did a booksigning at a B+N next to a Walmart and even commented on the Walmart wages. I'm sure the stocker at B+N felt silly knowing they get paid better than he does.

I have to say that I also agree with most of what all of you have said- I love competition and variety, especially in the food department, and there will always be a niche for those with unique things to sell, but department stores (Wal-mart, K-Mart, Target, Best-Buy, S-mart, etc.) offer more than just convenience: they offer those on a tight budget a way to stretch just a little more so that they can make it to that next paycheck. Most people don't feel that pinch, even when they say that they do, but I can tell you that if you ask regular customers, they will tell you that though the smaller stores may have more interesting choices, those on a real budget can't afford to shop those stores anyway, so they would have that patronage in either case. As to the Evil Empire mythology, I don't buy it. I don't even shop there.

TLC said...

Dr. D! Beautiful to hear from you... sad I missed you before you went all international on us again!

I enjoy your perspectives. Only thing though, is that $7.50 is by no means a "living wage" in NYC. That's poverty. A living wage in NYC, according to standards set a year ago, is $12 per hour. And I heard recently (don't have a source to quote though -- sorry) that anything less than $50k annually is considered poverty level in NYC. The $9,000 take home that WalMart workers would receive would be a far cry beneath that. Not that other places are doing much better, as you pointed out, but I never said I was a big fan of B&N either. :) I go there... I just don't shop there.