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What do you value?
on August 23, 2010
I am writing the review because I just recommended this film to a friend and had to try to recall what it's about and why I found it compelling and valuable.
This film is a collage of perspectives, or puzzle pieces, that unite to explain the impact of globalization via transnational retail giant Wal-Mart. The main obstacle to putting these pieces together ourselves and understanding the affect of operations like Wal-mart on society is that our knowledge of them is limited: we know that Wal-mart offers products at prices that are among the lowest anywhere; what we do not know, and perhaps have not cared to know, is exactly how Wal-mart manages to do that.
Reviews that attack this film for its production values are off the mark. This film is not a slick production because its objective is to simply show us, like YouTube for example, what people are saying and doing and in this case what happens when lower price is chosen as the sole motive for purchase. We get a glimpse of what happens to producers and suppliers, to middle and small retailers, to Wal-mart employees and even to its customers and the environment.
I was amazed to learn for example of assaults in Wal-mart parking lots and their policy with regard to these incidents. Also, I do not know what it is like to work there and so hearing from actual employees was very insightful. It was also enlightening to hear from some of their competitors, particularly smaller mom and pop operations that had been around for a long time and who have been surprised and learned that competition is healthy, but only when it is able to exist.
Reviews that attack this film for not presenting a balanced perspective are also inaccurate. With the company constantly advertising and blowing its own horn with regard to the value of shopping there, is the impact of Wal-mart balanced? The combined wealth of the Walton family is near $80 billion, with Sam Walton's heirs all in the top 20 of the worlds wealthiest people while Walmart's wages and benefits also set standards but more at the other end of the spectrum. Most people seem to think that shopping there is a good idea but other than to save a few bucks over the short term, is it really?
The High Cost of Low Price refers to official Wal-mart policies, provides quotes, and perspectives of company officials when possible, and interviews with public officials who have had occasion to deal with them. In the end we learn that this corporation holds its cards very close, and that anyone who tries to find out what's going on in there is going to have a hard time finding anything out.
That's why this film is valuable. It's an eye opener, and a must for anyone who believes that driving prices lower can only be a good thing.