Movie changes some shoppers’ minds

by Kate paulman

Senior Heather Anderson went shopping. She drove down to Wal-Mart because it was “so much cheaper,” she said. “I mean, even pickles – they’re like a dollar more everywhere else.”

Anderson was shopping for whipped cream, among other things, and was pleased with the cost: she paid 77 cents for a tub of Wal-Mart whipped cream. Cool Whip cost 97 cents.

“See?” she said. “I just saved 20 cents.”

But, according to senior Susan Sandford, the actual price – of whipped cream or anything bought at Wal-Mart – is much, much higher.

“I understand that people can buy things for less, but it’s not that much less money,” Sandford said. “The cost of everything that Wal-Mart does doesn’t make up for the price.”

Sandford attended one of the two campus showings of “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” a documentary directed by Robert Greenwald, producer of “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.”

One showing was organized by the Progressive Action Collision and one was a Forum event set up by Professor of Management Ruth Weatherly.

The two-part Forum, “Dueling Documentaries,” featured the anti-Wal-Mart documentary on Tuesday, Nov. 30, and a CNBC news broadcast, “The Age of Wal-Mart,” on Monday, Nov. 29. The newscast was used because the pro-Wal-Mart documentary, “Why Wal-Mart Works and Why that Makes Some People Go Crazy,” was not readily available before the day of the screening.

“That was used as a substitute, under the circumstances,” Weatherly said. “It was a news broadcast and, ostensibly, because it was a news broadcast – particularly CNBC – portrays a balanced view.”

Tuesday night’s showing of “The High Cost” drew a larger audience than the CNBC broadcast.

“I would guess that, in this day and age, negativity does sell a little bit more,” said Mark Nemitz, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s Local 440. “But hopefully they came to hear the facts.”

According to Wal-Mart Spokesperson Christi Gallagher, the facts are not what students got.

“Absolutely not,” Gallagher said. “The majority of that information – we have no idea where that came from. We have facts and figures, available to the public, but that’s not what they used. It’s not based on fact.”

Gallagher said Greenwald “manipulated and distorted” information, and called the film propaganda. Labor unions, she said, are pushing the documentary out of desperation.

“They’re pulling out all the stops to criticize Wal-Mart in every way they can,” she said. “I think the whole film is based on smoke and mirrors.”

One of the false aspects of the movie, Gallagher said, is the statement that Wal-Mart treats overseas factory workers poorly.

“Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” claims workers in China assemble merchandise for 13-hour shifts and are paid less than $3 per day. The documentary also said these workers were told to lie to American inspectors who toured the factories.

“That’s the part that really got to me, how they treat the people in factories over there,” sophomore Tracy Robson said. “I’ve never thought about that part of it.”

Gallagher said the claims were inaccurate, saying Wal-Mart is a “responsible retailer.”

“In fact, in many countries, we set the standard on conditions and wages,” she said.

Nemitz couldn’t pick out one allegation in the documentary worse than the rest.

“There’s too many for me to pick out,” he said. “Discriminating against workers, whether it be for gender or race, or the healthcare issue, where they promote their workers to go on Medicaid or public assistance because they don’t want to pay enough or their insurance costs too much – those are the two things I think you should look at.”

Robson said she does as little shopping at Wal-Mart as possible.

“I hate it when I have to go Wal-Mart,” she said. “I just don’t going there. I try to get my stuff at Target when I’m on the south side. I would rather drive half an hour than go to Wal-Mart.”

Anderson sees things differently.

“Everyone’s got their reason for something,” she said. “I mean, what if they’d made a documentary on Target?”