August 13th, 2010
Friday’s Four Cents: Wally World
I’m not usually the guy that complains about progress and change… oh wait… maybe I am. Either way, I recently got wind of a new development that’s got my hackles up. No, it’s not a new technological marvel or another reality show, it’s even more devious: A Wal-Mart in my backyard. I can literally look out of my parking garage and see the land they are leveling for the new shopping center which plans to use Wal-Mart as its anchor.
It’s not really in the Heights, but it’s close enough that the neighborhood has taken up the cause and is maneuvering to keep the proposed development from taking place. The driving force behind the movement is a group called Responsible Urban Development for Houston, which is a community organization devoted to preserving the character, traditions, and appearance of the Heights and West End neighborhoods in Houston. You can check out their website with specific news about the Heights Wal-Mart as well.
Wal-Mart has a reputation for poor labor practices, tax avoidance schemes, and destroying small business. Those aren’t necessarily the type practices that I expect from the businesses in my community. It has also been pointed out that Wal-Mart jobs offer poverty level wages and limited health care benefits. Wal-Mart does not deliver the high-quality jobs that cities need to remain competitive in the 21st century. That’s not a good sign for any business looking to open it’s doors in any city, especially Houston.
On top of all the socioeconomic factors, the most obvious reason to fight the new development is the dreaded People of Wal-Mart. I don’t know where they come from or how they always manage to congregate at Wal-Mart, but it’s a well documented fact that there is a fashion vortex that is created inside the walls of every Wally Mart.
When I was in college, I lived near a Wal-Mart and I got to experience this phenomenon firsthand. I am not proud of it, but I’d shop there every so often after bartending for the night. It was convenient, open 24 hours a day and I could get any manner of things that a college kid might need.
Even with that convenience, if I could help it, I’d get my shopping done before going to work so I could go to my neighborhood HEB. Why, you ask? Because I was scared to death of the people I’d see walking the aisles! It’s like a whole different world. Seeing as I’d usually get off work late, it was usually stripper central and wow, would you be amazed at what passed for clothing! The best were the families that were doing their weekly grocery shopping, kids in tow, between 2 and 3 in the morning. Really? You don’t think the kids should be asleep?
Look, I pay a lot of money to live where I do and I like my neighborhood. To find out that they are planning on opening a Wal-Mart right behind my building is not a good sign for the neighborhood! I don’t want to come off as an elitist, but I can’t condone the business practices that Wal-Mart uses and I definitely can’t enjoy the fashion faux pas of their clientele.
If you shop at Wal-Mart, more power to you. I’m not judging, it’s just that in Houston, there are upwards of 10 Wal-Marts and personally, I think that’s more than enough. There’s no need for another one. Besides, we’ve already got a neighborhood one stop, the ever so fashionable Target (pronounced tar zhay) If you are interested in joining the fight against the Wal-Mart in the Heights, become a fan of this group on Facebook. Like Ol’ Sam said, “Walmart wants to go where it’s wanted.” Sorry, Sam, but that isn’t in my neighborhood.
[photos courtesy of http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/]