Monday, November 26, 2012

The True Cost of Shopping at WalMart

The weekend horror of more than 100 deaths at a factory in Bangladesh making garments for WalMart underscores the true cost of the goods purchased at the mammoth retailer and others like it.

Far removed from Main Street, USA, and for that matter, Main Street, Everywhere, factories in third world nations churn out everything from garments to laptops at breakneck speed to feed the lust and desire of consumers in western nations. At one point, not that long ago, goods made in these such factory nations were widely regarded as low quality and generally shunned by major retailers and consumers alike.

Times have changed.

In fact, so profound the changes that it is becoming akin to a miracle to find anything manufactured in Canada or United States anymore. Cheap labor costs, lax environmental regulations, and a certain worshipping of companies who bring desperately needed jobs to otherwise destitute areas have led to a proliferation of sweat shop-like workforces in Asian and Latin American countries.

It's easy to pick on WalMart. They are the world's largest retailer. But they are not without blame either. In their mandate to feed a frenzied appetite of low prices demanded by the likes of you and I, corporations such as WalMart look to those who have little of anything and impose rigorous self-serving policies in every attempt to meet the demand.

At the end of the day, you can purchase goods at lower prices, but the fair market cost of those goods are never taken into account. In far away lands, a wide swath of environmental disruption and upheaval is left, workers slave away in conditions we could easily liken to P.O.W. camps, and the almost complete erosion of manufacturing jobs in our home country has left its fair share of ghost towns in its wake.

Those one hundred plus lives lost in a Bangladesh factory were not the first for the country. Nor will they be the last, if history teaches us anything. Nobody is ever punished for such atrocities, and WalMart can issue press releases from the relative safety of their corporate headquarters thousands of miles away from the conditions in which they have a starring role.

Oh, and on a parting note, it is widely reported in mainstream media that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it would stand by the victims' families and offered $1,250 to each of the families of the dead.

Now you know the true cost.