Why We Should Stop Making Fun of Walmart Shoppers

walmartShould the progressive internet participate in the very acts of grotesquery that we hate seeing from conservative outlets? When we see libertarians and Republicans mocking poor people, we rip them new ones. And we should. Yet progressives and liberals constantly make and accept classist rhetoric against impoverished Walmart shoppers? That is the very essence of mocking poor people.

In a story about how Walmart was* selling – through a third party merc – a.. errr Nazi concentration camp motivational poster on their website, a supposedly progressive blogger couldn’t help but take pot-shots at Walmart customers.

Which Nazi slogan did Walmart choose to peddle alongside other items targeted to the low class, low IQ Walmart frequent shopper?…

That slogan means “God with us,” and would seem to appeal to the average gun-toting, Sarah Palin loving, right wing God fearing “Christian’ Walmart shopper.

First off, I wasn’t aware that the “average” Walmart shopper constituent toted guns. I know my parents shop there. Because it is the only place to shop for most of their needs. And while I try to avoid it like the plague, I’ve had to darken their doors several times. And here’s where I make my sad confessional: I’ve even gotten items from there. Again, no guns. Same with many of my neighbors who can’t really afford to not shop there. Lots of anti-gun liberals shop at Walmart, but they’re ashamed of saying so because, guess what, we’re so judgmental of anybody who associates with the company. And I’ve partaken in that judgmental attitude myself. The very workers that aren’t able to unionize there and make just over minimum wage are also shamed by the typical liberal commentary on the Evil Corporation.

And trust me when I say this: Walmart IS evil. Its domination is due to evil practices – like slave wages for both its domestic employees and employees of its vendors.

It uses tax breaks that the rest of us will never see to open up new stores. It then drives down its retail costs until the competition can’t keep up anymore and drops out, leaving Walmart with less and less competition for both jobs and sales. This is how it was able to monopolize the town my parents live in. This is why my parents shop there. Is it their fault there isn’t much of an option? Are they supposed to grow their own foods and slaughter their own meat, sew their own clothes?

Does shopping there make people “low IQ”? Certainly no less intelligent than anybody who makes that argument. But then that’d be making fun of people with less intelligence when the problem isn’t intelligence – it’s morality. Progressive bloggers who embarrass Walmart shoppers by calling them may be lacking in that department.

Even if there were other stores, usually the other options are other big box stores with similar tactics – like Target – but with heftier prices. We don’t all have an Aldi’s – which, by the way, is cheaper than Walmart in terms of prices and pays its workers living wages. But even still, when you’re poor you look at shopping like many other tasks, one that needs to be done easier and with as few steps as possible.

See, poverty is also psychological and there are very many things that the typical middle class or even lower income person cannot quite grasp. There are choices that are necessary for survival and there are other choices that seem odd to the typical viewer, but are still within the poor person’s rights. It’s important to understand that poor people do not have the same options that wealthier people do. And even given some of these same options, there is no monopoly for what a person or family should look like. We do good to keep this in mind when viewing the People of Walmart shaming pictures. The bodies of Walmart shoppers are not ours and they do not owe us anything. Many wear clothes that others consider too small or unflattering because it’s one of the few ways they can feel good about themselves.

To be sure, Walmart is a retailer. An evil and exploitative one, definitely. But we live in a capitalist society and if Walmart did not exist, someone else would have filled its evil, sinister vacuum. I think rather than blaming the people who work and shop there for the excessive nastiness that Walmart perpetuates on the people who work and shop there, we should blame the unchecked corporate capitalist system that perpetuates Walmart and their amoral and often immoral retailing practices.

Someone took advantage of Walmart’s selling policies and posted Nazi propaganda through them. Yes, hold Walmart accountable for not having safeguards. Sure, draw easy parallels between Walmart and fascism. They exist.

But don’t blame the “typical Walmart shopper”. That’s what fascists do.



*They took it down after complaints and an excuse. The Wonkette story off which the “progressive” article was based is here.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Sandy Greer

    Well, there you go, jasdye. Urging us to be better than we are.

    Seriously, it needs to be said. One thing Middle America holds against Liberals (especially those on the coasts) is Elitism. We smirk about Flyover States – and view with contempt the Walmart shopper.

    People don’t like folks looking down their noses at them. Elitism turns people away.

    Some places – All they’ve got is Walmart. 50 miles, or more. They’re glad to have it. As well they should be. People in cities don’t know that some places – You bring a cooler with you to get your groceries home. It’s that far.

    Nowadays we fly. But there was a time when the All-American Road Trip was King; part of American life. It’s too bad we lost that. Because there is nothing better to bring home to a person the richness and greatness of our country.

    People are just people, everywhere. Even in the Heartland. Maybe especially there.

    We ignore that at our peril, and to our detriment.

    • Kathy Watson

      Thank you jasdye for the article and Sandy for the comment. As someone who lives with little choice other than Walmart for shopping I really do appreciate when someone attempts to understand WHY I would shop there. Not only do I wish I could skip shopping at Walmart for all the reasons listed in this and other articles about the evils of that company, I also left my back in the stockroom of a Walmart. They screw over employees with crap wages but they really screw them over if they get hurt at work. I KNOW this. I have lived it. Here I am however, having no options. I can’t shop elsewhere as there is no where else to shop. The nearest Walmart is 19 miles away. The next closest is 38 miles. Any affordable store other than Walmart? Three hours or more drive each way. I cannot afford the gas to go to those towns so would have no chance of actually having shopping money when I got there.

  • Matthew Reece

    Walmart is the Ur-example of why the legal fiction known as a corporation should be abolished.

  • Kristine Emerson

    I worked as an in-store vendor in four Walmart stores for several Merchandising companies. You are correct about the vendor pay, even in America; they pay next to nothing, and at least half of them don’t reimburse mileage. I live in the sticks, so I was putting as many as 300 miles a week doing those jobs.

    While I was working those jobs, I learned more about Walmart than I ever wanted to know. They treat their employees like crap. They aren’t all that nice to the customers, either. I may step foot in it three or four times a year. I shop at the Dollar Store six miles from home for some things, Aldi’s for major pantry rebuilding, Kwik Trip for bananas, milk, eggs, butter, etc., and the local meat market where the meat is fresh and the prices lower.

  • AQ

    Thank you for posting this, jasdye. I consider myself fortunate to be able to (barely) afford to NOT shop at Wal-Mart, but I know quite a few people who are liberals like me and forced to shop there because of their personal circumstances.

    Shaming people who shop at Wal-Mart by immediately assuming that they’re booger-eating Theocons is pretty counterproductive AND it only serves to drive the TheoCon trope that liberals and progressives are elitist assholes.

  • FD Brian

    It’s my belief that Sam Walton would not approve of the way the company he founded is run today, the merchandise it sells and the general lack of moral high ground they exhibit.