Recently, two things happened that changed my opinion of Walmart. If you plug "walmart" into Google you will probably find that the top 10 search results includes at lleast 3 sites that are critical of the retail giant. As the company has continued to grow over the last two decades many Americans, myself included, have had mixed feelings: Convenience versus impact on local stores. Low prices versus a shopping experience that is sometimes less than stellar.
I actually know some people who say they don't shop there. I know others who shop there but don't talk about it. I also know some people who will be critical of me for saying this, but here goes: "I shop at Walmart." Not all the time (the nearest one is 30 minutes from where I live). I like to do a fair amount of my shopping more locally. I stop in at Bob's Corner Store most days for milk and bread, cereal and maple syrup and such (Bob's is also where I get my mail--it's a post office and gas station as well as a store).
But from time to time I do make a trip to Walmart and recently two things have caused me to upgrade my opinion of the company. They might sound selfish, but here they are:
1. Walmart decided to carry a DVD that I played a part in creating, a feature-length documentary called Dare Not Walk Alone. Obviously Walmart carries hundreds of DVDs so what makes this decision exceptional? Well, for a start, Walmart is very selective about which documentaries it carries, so getting selected is a big vote in favor of the film (and a major accomplishment for our distributor, Indican Pictures).
Then there is the content of the film, whiich is not what you'd call a feel good movie. It documents just how much opposition there was in 1964 to racial equality. It shows young African Americans being beaten for trespassing on a "white beach." It shows a brave young Ambassador Andrew Young being attacked. And it shows the genius of the non-violent strategy in response. But it also shows young black kids today, in the same place that this campaign of non-violence was waged, kids who feel they have no place in society, except perhaps behind a mixing deck and a hip-hip microphone. I got involved with Dare Not Walk Alone because I felt it was an important film that all Americans should have a chance to see. Walmart's decision to carry the DVD bring that closer to happening.
2. The second reason that I've been warming up to Walmart is the $10 deal on 90 days worth of medication. Contrary to what one of my friends suggested when I told him about the movie being in Walmart--"You'll make millions!"--the deal is not structured like that. Even if this DVD became the best selling civil rights documentary in history it would not put a lot of money in my pocket; that was never the point. In other words, I need--like most Americans right now--to save whatever money I can, however I can.
Recently, thanks to a great new doctor who is intimately familiar with the Walmart prescription drug pricing chart, I was able to cut my monthly cost of medications from $320 to $40. There are some caveats. I had to opt for generics. I had to buy a three month supply at once. And right now I don't have a health insurance comany telling me how I have to spend my money. But to pay $120 once every three months verus $320 for just one month? That is a serious assist to our household budget, almost enough to heat our house each month.
So, there are my two reasons for re-thinking Walmart. Selfish? Maybe. But I'm not alone in needing to cut the cost of my health care or in needing to find the best way to get an America made product in front of a lot of eyeballs. And that product, "our" movie, epitomizes "small business." It was made on a very tight budget, by a director who waited tables to fund the project. It got no tax breaks or government handouts. It got no grants. It has no big-name backers. But it was aided at every turn by friends and family and supporters across the country who believed in it. I am thankful to them. And yes, I'm thankful to Walmart.