OMGZ!!!! The Walmarts is back!!1!

T.A. Barnhart

Ok, now I know why they PR folks from Walmart wanted to talk to me a few months ago. From the Oregonian:

The world's largest retailer announced Tuesday that it plans to build its second Portland store, this one on the city's northern edge. The 86,000-square-foot store would join a bevy of big-boxes on Hayden Meadows. The company said it has no schedule for a groundbreaking.

(Ryan Frank, the Oregonian reporter for this story, then goes on to say the site "seems to make sense". Oh noes! He's drinked the koolaidz!)

Walmart proposes new store in North Portland Back in late October, I met with Bill Wertz, the Walmart PR rep quoted in the Big O articles. He was trying to show me what a great corporation Walmart was, how much good they bring to their communities, etc. Now I understand that he was hoping to plant some positive pro-Walmart seeds in the liberal community — which is pretty much the whole of Portland — so that when they got around to announcing this new store and the expansion of the SE 82nd venue they might face less of a challenge than in the past.

Let's disappoint the man.

As I wrote in October, the real need is not to fight against Walmart but to fight for our communities. If we build neighborhoods that are livable, walkable and have the stores and other amenties we desire, we won't need the corporate boxes. Yes, they have lots of stuff and it's really cheap, but isn't that part of the reason America's economy is in the shitter? Too many people wanted too much of the cheap stuff, so the credit card companies obliged them. Savings, the safe way to buy most things, went to zero and debt went into the stratosphere. So when the housing bubble went pop, people were already in deep doo-doo with no resources left to cope with their mortgage problems.

Thanks, Walmart and Citicorp. Can we please haz more?

Walmart will be very busy soon explaining why their new store and the expansion on SE 82nd will be the best things to happen to the Rose City since Bill Walton played with two good ankles. A lot of what they say cannot be argued; they are making changes for the better (of course, their starting point was so low, improvements were pretty easy to come by). But this is also true: they are a massive corporation that is able to make massive profits only by cutting the up-front costs: low labor costs, low staffing costs, low benefits. I am simply and fundamentally opposed to the corporate enterprise. I believe they have caused far more harm than good, and their ability to avoid the costs of business that they dump on manufacturers, employees and communities is not an enterprise we want to consort with. We can do better than that in Portland. We do not have to one of those desperate cities that prostrate themselves before the benevolent corporation promising us wonderful economic benefits but, inevitably, dumping their costs of doing business back on the community.

Anyway, now I know why a high-level PR flak would want spend two hours talking with a pissant blogger. It didn't work then, it won't work now. Walmart is not evil; it's just not a good thing. Cheap crap made at low wages and sold at low wages while undermining local businesses is not a way to create quality communities. Many will want the cheap crap, but I hope Mayor Sam Adams and the City Council will resist. I know I will.

Because we can do better than that.

  • Ross Day (unverified)


    That logo you have is absolutely hilarious.

    Merry Christmas


  • Capitol Staffer (unverified)

    So "cheap" goods caused the credit crisis? Interesting take TA but I am not buying that at any store or from you. Sorry.

    I do love to see communities fight Wal-Mart as the devil and then complain that can't find a parking spot when the place opens. The dichotomy is priceless!!

  • Bill (unverified)

    Strange timing to pick that location. Lots of empty big box chains already on Hayden Island, but maybe making real company improvements still consists of improved marketing and store design instead of retrofitting into old houses. Pretty blatant political move if you ask me.

    I think you're right TA, we need to fight for our communities rather than fight against WalMart..

  • Mike M (unverified)

    Oh noes!

    TA probably typed this alert on his "Made in China" computer. Just say "no" to low cost Chinese made goods <sarcasm off="">

    Yes, I know some of the components may be made elsewhere.

    Hasn't Mayor Sam said he is against any Walmart on Harden Island?

  • galen (unverified)

    I think the logo is grand. Looking forward to reading the sequel. lol... though I do thinks it is a fight against walmart, if it were a very large marijuana processing facility using green power & zero emissions and not wanting tax breaks we would all be rolling the red carpet out and welcoming those new jobs :)I do think Wal-Mart will cost Portland in the long run though. I know the guys in Medford beat Wal-Mart by arguing infrastructure. They never had a snow balls chance in Ashland, even with the most conservative city council they would get a 5-0 vote so they never tried and just moved next door to Talent.

  • Aaron Cady (unverified)

    Well put, sir!

    One point I would add, for all the inevitable "you hate business" trolls. This is a very similar expansion to the one Ikea did a while back. You didn't hear a word on here, because progressives are not automatically anti-big corp. The difference is behavior, and Ikea is not Wal-Mart.

    I think it's time to codify "the Portland attitude". Kind of like cities that have passed "nuclear free-zone lege". The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart uses the difference in the civil courts' "preponderance of evidence" criterion, and the criminal courts' "beyond a reasonable doubt" criterion, to engage in legal extortion. Portland should enact laws which define what is over the top when it comes to cajoling suppliers. I am not repeating hippy dippy speculation. I have been in Bentonville and sat in the room when a Wal-Mart product manager has spoken with one of their suppliers.

    First, they are rude. The supplier typically waits for up to an hour in a windowless 8x5 room. The product manager enters, pulls up a chair, and launches into a set of bottom line requirements. The first point covered is the margin. The manager tells the supplier what the mark-up will be, shows market data indicating the price that will be 15% below the normal market low price, and works backwards to tell the supplier what they will charge Wal-Mart. If they don't take the offer directly, they are thanked, and shown the door in under 5 minutes. If they agree the meeting might take 15 minutes. Suppliers don't get a sec to tell Wal-Mart what they have to offer.

    Large accounts, that cannot simply be tossed aside are given more intensive management advice. The account of Rubbermaid is most typical. When they showed Wal-Mart that they simply could not make the figures, Wal-Mart demanded that they move production to China. Coming from a very deep, blue collar tradition in classic Ohio manufacturing country, they refused, which subsequently destroyed the company. Now that they're into petrol and food...just think about that a bit.

    Finally, a point for the cost conscious. The "lowest price guarantee" not a practical way of saving money. Their tack is based totally on foot traffic. They place a low quality, ultra cheap product (usually 15% below market low average) to advertise a product area and draw the consumer in. The consumer compares the item's price to what they figured they would have to spend. Then, the consumer looks around at other models, for better features. Those products, particularly high end ones, are usually about 5% MORE than the competition. They bank on the fact that the consumer is carrying the decoy 15% LOWER price in their head, and assumes that having xyz feature would be 15% more than the Wal-Mart price, at another store, because the low end model is that much more expensive. Not being the brightest bulbs in the pack, Wal-Mart shoppers fall for it consistently. If you're going to buy the ultra-cheap, fuck the morality, decoy, fine. Buy it. But if you move up to something even slightly better, you are not paying the lowest price.

    Other trivia:

  • projected sales are calculated using the area of the parking lot occupied (so, by definition, their "base" uses negligible mass transit)
  • new store locations are driven primarily by using a number of factors to create an average household IQ projection, which is covaried with home values to find the sweet spot, where people have money to spend, but aren't too smart (look at the new location that way).

    I'll confess, my observations are a decade old, but, since I asked to have them rebutted back in October and no one said a word, I'll assume they are still valid.

    BTW, are all these mega stores building in that area taken into account with Metro's bridge plans? Perhaps, Metro's encouragement is to make the bridge more critical? What's Rex4Metro have to say on this? Let's hope we don't hear what karlockformetro has to say.