Davids and the Giant

24 09 2010

In the biblical tale of David and Goliath, a young lad finds himself mano-a-mano with the 9-foot-tall Goliath. Goliath huffed and puffed insults at the tiny David, who fearlessly stood his ground. Goliath was girded head to toe in armor and armed to the hilt, whilst David stood there all but naked, save for his tunic.

With a might heave-ho, the unprepared but fearless David hurled a stone at Goliath, striking him on his unprotected forehead. The mighty giant fell to the ground and died. Good triumphed over evil; a one-man army of God had toppled a mighty Philistine.

In the retail world, Walmart is the mighty Goliath, while everyone else is a David. Periodically the Davids hurl their own stones, hoping to find a hole in Walmart’s armor. Allegations of vendor abuse. Child labor in Asia. Low wages. Lousy benefits. Putting Main Street out of business. In spite of these well-aimed projectiles, Walmart has been able to weather the storm without fighting back.

But this time the mighty Goliath has had enough. Weary of efforts to keep them out of certain areas on the grounds of environmental impact, size, etc., Walmart contends they are the victim of the Davids creating subterfuges by hiring external firms to launch anti-development campaigns. Walmart has filed a discovery motion in court following a recent article in the WSJ stating that several competitors (Safeway, Superval and Ahold) had funded many efforts across the country, all designed to keep Walmart from growing.

Which is another way of saying they really do not want competition.

So by waging war under the guise of environmental concerns, urban congestion, etc., these Davids are not fighting fairly. It’s not about whether the store parking lot will create too much runoff, or that toxic chemicals may leech into the adjacent ditch. It’s not about whether the store is too big.

No, it is all about preserving a bunch of inefficiently run businesses who cannot (or will not) compete. They can wave the flag of Mom and Pop all they want, for they are not concerned about saving your parents’ little store. No, they just want to save their own.

Now I will be the first to admit that I really do not like Walmart a whole lot, but I shop there anyway. I feel just a little bit dirty when I leave. They have a little bit of a lot, but not a whole lot of anything. That often frustrates the daylights out of me. And don’t get me started on product quality.

But if it is a commodity item that I can get elsewhere, but WM has it at a lower price, then I’m there. It is my job to maximize the use of my paycheck, and if I can do that at Walmart, then so be it.

And I do not appreciate weaker businesses who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, moving boulders in the way of someone else’s journey. Put up a real fight like the biblical David, and we can talk. But as long as veiled protectionism is in the play book, I’ll go out of my way to sidestep your boulders and shop elsewhere.

Because sometimes you just gotta take your lumps and learn how to compete the old fashioned way.

Dr “Always The Low Price” Gerlich



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