I've always found that it isn't very hard to find people willing to express anti-WalMart sentiment these days. I've heard complaints about their hiring practices, complaints about their putting Mom-and-Pop stores out of business, complaints about how unpleasant the chaotic store organization methods make it to shop there. This time, the NY Times relates a different set of complaints, from residents of the Ultra-Orthodox enclave of Monsey, against the plans to open a new location:
When residents talk about traffic, they are fearful for the safety of families walking to synagogue on Saturdays. When they fret about merchandise, they wonder if frowned-upon items like bikinis and lingerie will be on display for everyone to see. And when they imagine the outsiders who would shop at the store, they worry that their presence could transform the town’s pious, sheltered atmosphere.It seems that WalMart is doing everything they can to appease the community:
“The reason a lot of us came to live in Monsey is because we wanted to raise our families in a safe place, away from the influences of the outside world,” said Yossi Weinberger, 30, a father of four who works at a local travel agency. “I’m not sure it will be easy to do it if we have such a gigantic piece of the outside world move to our town.”
Elsewhere, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has often acquiesced to public pressure and made adjustments. It has hired local architects to meld stores into particular landscapes, painting a store in desert sandstone in Arizona and building an outlet in Long Beach, Calif., with an Art Deco look. In Middlefield, Ohio, home to one of the nation’s largest Amish communities, Wal-Mart placed hitching posts for horse-drawn buggies in a store’s parking lot and stocked shelves with barley soup and non-electric refrigerators.But I have to wonder whether this opposition really makes sense. I understand that the members of this community chose to live here because they can live a more insular existence, but they do live in America. The march or consumerism has been going on and on, everywhere you look. And as hard fought as it has been in certain locales, it shows no indication of slowing down. It certainly can be sad to see so-called Big Box stores taking over and putting smaller stores out of business (to wit: Seen a small, owner-operated bookstore lately? If so, take a picture - it's one of an endangered species). That said, there are certainly pros that come with the cons of these large chain stores, such as longer hours, broader product range and far more liberal return policies. In addition, regarding the arguments that a WalMart will somehow expose members of this community to a facet of life they are trying to avoid, I find that hard to fathom. The store is taking over an abandoned lot, and people - as always - have a choice as to whether they will patronize WalMart or not. It certainly doesn't seem to be an issue for the hundreds of Chasidim one can see in the Monticello WalMart on a given summer night.
Here, Wal-Mart has already agreed to conceal magazine covers that may be deemed offensive, such as the ones picturing celebrities in provocative outfits, “something that’s new for us,” Mr. Serghini said.