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How WalMart Makes You Pay for Its (Lack of) Policing

One of the oft-used tricks of our modern system of socialism for the rich is to have the government pick up costs that should properly be borne by private concerns. A common ruse is to have the operator of a new plant or large facility set up a bidding war between prospective locations, pitting them against each other to win the jobs that it will supposedly generate. The fallacy of this approach, from the perspective of the community, is that the tax gimmies often wind up being so large as to fully offset the gains from the expected increase in jobs. And that’s before you get to the fact that many of these newbies to the local economy aren’t additive, but partly or in the case of WalMart, almost fully displace established local businesses. Those existing players not only often offered high wages than the new entrants, but they also had reason to keep the interest of the community in mind (for instance, they might donate equipment to a local charity).

And the most aggressive national players shift other costs onto taxpayers. WalMart and fast food chains pay below a living wage, forcing workers to rely on government assistance like food stamps and Medicaid.

Bloomberg, in an in-depth report, describes yet another way that WalMart makes local communities pay for the privilege of having it drive local retailers out of business: by refusing to police its stores properly. The result is a safety risk to its shoppers, since the incidence of petty crimes like shoplifting and violent crimes (which do take place in WalMart stores) are highly correlated. And even though the Bentonville giant is well aware of its crime problem, and says it is in the process of tackling it, experts say the company is moving at an unduly slow pace so as to lessen the impact on profits.

The article is very much worth reading in full. Some highlights:

There’s nothing inevitable about the level of crime at Walmart. It’s the direct, if unintended, result of corporate policy. Beginning as far back as 2000, when former CEO Lee Scott took over, an aggressive cost-cutting crusade led many stores to deteriorate. The famed greeters were removed, taking away a deterrent to theft at the porous entrances and exits. Self-checkout scanners replaced many cashiers. Walmart added stores faster than it hired employees. The company has one worker for every 524 square feet of retail space, a 19 percent increase in space per employee from a decade ago.

In terms of profit, all this has worked: Sales per employee in the U.S. have grown 23 percent in the past decade, to $236,804. For criminals, however, the cutbacks were like sending out a message that no one at Walmart cared, no one was watching, and no one was likely to catch you.

Fixing the problem comes down to money. When McMillon became CEO, he established an ambitious program to fix up long-neglected stores, starting with making them cleaner and stocking them better. Then, in early 2015, came a push to crack down on shoplifting. Experts say that should have additional public safety benefits: Less petty crime typically means less violent crime.

Police departments inevitably compare their local Walmarts with Target stores. Target, Walmart’s largest competitor, is a different kind of retail business, with mostly smaller stores that tend to be located in somewhat more affluent neighborhoods. But there are other reasons Targets have less crime. Unlike most Walmarts, they’re not open 24 hours a day. Nor do they allow people to camp overnight in their parking lots, as Walmarts do. Like Walmart, Target relies heavily on video surveillance, but it employs sophisticated software that can alert the store security office when shoppers spend too much time in front of merchandise or linger for long periods outside after closing time. The biggest difference, police say, is simply that Targets have more staff visible in stores.

And here is why WalMart can adopt such a cavalier attitude: it can out-lawyer most parties that try to make it responsible for the consequences of its lax attitude towards security:

According to laws in every state in the U.S., Walmart has a duty to protect its customers from violent crime while they’re on store property. Under an area of the law known as premise liability, victims and their lawyers have argued in hundreds of lawsuits that Walmart failed to provide enough security. To prevail, plaintiffs must prove that a violent crime was reasonably foreseeable based on a history of violent crimes at a particular Walmart. “They’re not easy cases,” says Memphis attorney Bruce Kramer, who has sued Walmart multiple times on behalf of clients who were the victims of violent crimes occurring on company property. “Proving what the duty is and the foreseeability issue is always difficult. You have a certain mindset of jurors who say, ‘Why are you holding the business responsible for the acts of this criminal?’ ”

Walmart’s lawyers typically argue that the company couldn’t have foreseen the crime in question and that it took reasonable steps to keep customers safe. It tries at every opportunity to keep its crime database secret. Even in litigation, when it must produce company records under court seal, its lawyers have wrangled for months or even years to limit access to its records, arguing the information is proprietary. “Nothing compares to the way Walmart litigates cases,” says attorney Christopher Marlowe. He fought Walmart for several years over a lawsuit he filed in 2010 on behalf of a woman who was abducted outside a store in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., and repeatedly raped. Marlowe said in a court filing that he learned only in 2013 of the database, which documented “precisely the sort of incidents” he sought for more than two years. Walmart’s lawyer, he said, “led everyone to believe that crime data retrieval was a great mystery—a query of inconceivable proportions.” Walmart denied liability in the case. The company eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

And what would it cost to lower crime rates? One way would be to hire more people. Burt Flickinger from retailing consultant Strategic Resource Group estimates that hiring 250,000 more part-time workers, which would bring the employee to square foot to 2006 levels, would make the stores feel sufficiently better supervised so as to reduce crime by 50%. The tab would be roughly $3.25 billion, which amounts to one-fourth of WalMart’s 2015 net income. Another option, likely to be even more effective, would be to copy the tried and true formula of hiring private uniformed security guards. 12 hours a day of coverage in the biggest stores, where most crimes occur, would cost a cool half billion. Flickinger argues that these investments would pay for themselves, that cleaner, safer stores would be higher productivity in sales terms.

But what would seem to be normal self interest isn’t how WalMart operates. The company has long been so fixated on lowering costs that loosening its purse strings is anathema. But while litigation hasn’t proven to be effective, bad press is a different matter. The story describes how Beach Grove, Indiana, already had its police force overburdened by WalMart demands. In short sequence, a woman was killed and her grandson badly hurt by a fleeing shoplifter, and a video on YouTube from the same story showed “a furious fistfight that turned into a profane wrestling match in the shampoo aisle.” (In another sign of WalMart’s legal clout, the Bloomberg story linked to the clip, which has been removed). The mayor went public with his complaints on local and social media. WalMart execs sought a meeting and made earnest noises about doing better. But those noises were not met with action:

But in the weeks following the meeting, Walmart dragged its heels. [Mayor Dennis] Buckley went public again, this time appearing on national cable news. “Walmart Beech Grove is draining our police resources,” he told Fox Business Network. “It’s the string of terrible events that have been occurring down there over the past two months that have led me to instruct our police chief to declare the Walmart a public nuisance.”

That meant the threat of a $2,500 fine for every call to the police. Walmart now pays for off-duty police to man the store, and the pressure on the local police has eased. A year later, Buckley is pleased, but it still irks him that he had to go to such measures to get Walmart to act. “Cities really need to put their thumb down and get them to the table,” he says. “It’s taken a long time, but they can really be good partners if they want to be.”

Obviously, Buckley is putting a charitable spin on WalMart finally behaving only as a result of ratcheting up the pressure. But his example is a microcosm of the relationship between government and Corporate America these days. It wan’t all that long ago that companies backed down if they were called into what my Jewish attorney called a “Come to Jesus” meeting by government officials. Big businesses now are so used to ignoring or only minimally complying with rules that they need to see steel, and maybe even feel the bite of the sword, before they shape up. But the flip side is that the rise of populist candidates like Sanders and Trump shows that many citizens have lost respect for what passes for the leaders of this country. That means officials who stand up to negligent and abusive companies are more likely to get public support than in the past. Hopefully, that over time will embolden more of them to follow Mayor Buckley’s playbook and go the extra distance to force corporate miscreants to shape up.

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  1. Pespi

    The mark of power in the state, going back to feudal times, is who’s exempt from taxes. As long as these corporations don’t pay taxes, they’ll always have extra money to buy local, state, and federal politicians to enforce their will.

    We should agitate for them to simply pay their fair share and reject all of their buzzwords and rhetoric about job creation. Every job created is surplus value stolen, the person to thank is the person working the job making less than they produce in value. I won’t pay for their externalities. I won’t have them shoved onto me.

    Also: go shoplift at wal mart, take as much as you can carry, bring a flatbed truck or two. The walton family doesn’t care, they’re busy buying sports teams and setting up charter schools.

    1. Dave

      Ha! Not only Walmart. It is every patriotic American’s duty to steal from job destroying corporations whenever and however they can. Morals do not apply to corporations.

      George W. Bush created the ultimate verbal template: “They are either with us or they are against us.”

      Thanks to Yves Smith and this site, I have over the last five years come to realize that economics are a fifth force in the nature of man. Living in an affluent area within the Bay Area allows one to take a short drive out of the bubble and observe the periodic table of human economics.

      There are no Mallwarts near us. Traveling to them is an eye opener. On the other hand, the local shops within the ever expanding local bubble within the Bay Area bubble are staffed by lovely older ladies who helpfully assist the Tech Bros first wives in their purchases of designer dog food and other necessities.

      You can see it in the eyes of the staff, “why am I working here?”
      “what the hell happened?

      Self-checkout lines? “Build your own bankruptcy” for the Middle Class.

    2. Russell

      Your paragraph says it as well as any other likely to follow. Rome as a Republic ceased to exist when they lost control of their military forces, then taxed the citizens in the thick of it so much to pay for Rome mob Entertainments, that barbarians were welcomed as a relief.
      That is not to mention the gifts of land arranged by murder or purchase so to reward retired soldiers. IN-Q-TEL is the CIA Venture Capital Company most similar to my bit so far known. I would sure set a reporter on it if I was in a major or minor editorial position.
      If you have ever worked for a Front business you have an idea of what it means. People just don’t act right. There are criminal insiders impossible to get out of the way until they go so far as to really threaten lives, or after people have even died. It is lax.
      If only we can save our Post Office, & see Post Office Service Banking real in my lifetime left, I keep thinking. But now the “Globalization” advantages already held by the corporations is to be Codified even more with the abhorrent TPP.
      It is going to take real understanding of what to do to counter the beating of working people all over the Globe now.
      At least there is a instant telephone translation option that the International Union’s Business Agents can use. I call for Petroski Financial Engineers to speak up in opposition to the Meyer Lansky Financial Engineers with their smiling hands walking next to the president because We Have No Treasury Department, it is stolen by Goldman Sachs.

  2. vlade

    This is actually a nice reminder of how someone like America gets to be authoritarian country w/o anyone noticing (right away).

    The hallmark of an authoritarian country for me is not a single authority up top, but the fact that (a well defined) part of the country can ignore the existing laws, and that you can end up in a jail for demanding that the law is upheld. While the second is not so widespread (to my knowledge) in US as it was under communism, Russia and is starting to be in China, my feeling is that it’s not that far (see Occupy).

  3. ambrit

    Also keep an eye on Wal Marts pricing games. Less publicly ‘visible’ products are often priced above what other local stores charge for “regular” prices on an item. I occasionally joke with an older woman who was an assistant manager at Wal Mart several years ago. Now she just does her six hours and goes home. “I was offered the management track, which would have put me on salary. Salary here means fifty and sixty hour weeks, extra headaches and the ‘home office’ to worry about. I nearly burned out as an assistant manager. I saw how much more stress being a manager entailed. No thanks I said. Benton didn’t seem to care.”
    I watch the faces of the employees. I now see very few smiling visages. Wal Mart is now such a depressing place that management should give out ‘happy pills’ at the door.

  4. dk

    Here in Albuquerque, NM, three Walmarts changed their usual 24-hour operations last year, closing from 12am to 6am.
    Unconfirmed/unreported rumor had it that the city was considering levying policing costs against Walmart, similar to the action in Beach Grove, Indiana.

    Here is a report from 2006, by, with some crime figures from that period:

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Its not often commented on, but by far the biggest public subsidy ‘big box’ retailers like Walmart get is through road infrastructure spending. They wait until high quality roads and bypasses are put in around a town, then buy land at key junctions (or places they can put in cheap junctions) to take advantage of the bigger catchments created by the public investment. These then generate much more traffic than anticipated when the roads were built, so creating public demand for yet another new road or widening of existing road, all at public expense. If major roads were tolled, they would never have Walmarts or malls build on them.

    The most effective retail tax for public benefit would be a tax on parking spaces. It would be very cheap to implement and almost impossible for the retailers to avoid. It would disproportionately hit out of town malls and big box retailer relative to smaller retailers and those based within existing city and town centres, so going some way to balance up the subsidies the former receive from public road investments.

    1. Stephanie

      It seems to me that the biggest beneficiary of such a policy would be Amazon. Businesses (small as well as large) in my town are constantly fighting against mandatory parking-space minimums as it is; adding a tax to the pile would give them another excuse to create even smaller and more treacherously designed parking lots.

      This might be all to the good if it encouraged them not to build and/or encouraged consumers not to drive. However, it does nothing to encourage people to shop at local businesses. If Wal-Mart or the mall doesn’t exist, online shopping is the obvious alternative for people with discretionary income. People know about Amazon already, they know it carries virtually everything, they know they don’t want to drive all over town to half a dozen little stores that may not have what they need in stock. The latter problem is exacerbated by public transportation, for those who use it. In the car-free phases of my life, getting off the bus in the middle of a Minnesota January commute to pick up whatever on my way home didn’t even enter my mind. No way was I getting off that bus if I didn’t have to, and especially not if I wasn’t absolutely certain the store I was stopping at would have what I needed (with just-in-time inventory they frequently don’t). Online shopping was quicker and easier and it was WARM.*

      All that said, if your town/neighborhood is not and will not be a target for development, online shopping may be one of your very few options. In my neighborhood, Amazon recently installed a couple of those pick-up lockers in the local grocery stores. Since the only retail left here is pharmacies, BoostMobile stores or extremely specialized (we have three betta-fish sellers within walking distance of each other), it kinda makes sense. Despite an abundance of empty, formerly industrial space, the median income means I doubt that Wal-Mart will be moving in any time soon.

      *This last is something more bricks-and-mortars retailers need to keep in mind. The new trend in mall-style shopping of late seems to be to create fake downtowns or neighborhoods in which all the stores open into the street. For some reason developers think upper Midwestern shoppers want to walk in and out of the cold all winter. Yes, I am aware that’s how everyone shopped back in the day; back in the day everyone couldn’t order the exact same thing off a portable wonder gizmo in their pockets and have it delivered to their doors in 24 hours.

      1. reslez

        > For some reason developers think upper Midwestern shoppers want to walk in and out of the cold all winter.

        I see this over and over and from what I can tell it’s literally the result of clueless idiocy. When Rosedale mall (north of Minneapolis) built a new movie theatre a couple of years back they copied the design straight from California. The entire front of the structure was outside including the queue to purchase tickets. After waiting in line we asked the ticket attendant how the heck that was going to work when the snow fell and absolutely nobody wants to be outside. The employee shrugged and said her coworkers were all as puzzled as we were. The outlet malls are designed the same way.

        I think the idea is to prevent groups of teenagers from congregating and scaring away older shoppers, but the end result is no sales in winter.

  6. allan

    Slave money. Live bitter.

    Given the wide range of costs that WalMart-style capitalism imposes on society,
    at the local, state and federal levels, it seems like it’s time for a national WalMart Czar.
    And in the spirit of who better to watch the hen house than a fox,
    who better to appoint and task the czar than a president who is a former WalMart board member.

  7. Hana M

    “The annual bill that states and the federal government foot for working families making poverty-level wages is $153 billion. A single Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year in public assistance money. According to Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in many states Walmart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients. They are also the single biggest group of food stamp recipients.”

    Since 2012 the hours of many low wage workers have been “…capped at 29. That’s the threshold after which most companies with 50 or more employees are required to pay into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) fund on behalf of their workers.” Which, of course means that the only way they can get healthcare is Medicaid.

    “Many of the arguments against raising the minimum wage focus on the possibility that doing so would put small businesses in the red. This is disingenuous indeed, since 20 mega-companies dominate the minimum-wage world. Walmart alone employs 1.4 million minimum-wage workers; Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) is in second place; and McDonald’s takes third. Overall, 60 percent of minimum-wage workers are employed by businesses not officially considered “small” by government standards…”

  8. alex morfesis

    but wait…that’s not all….sadly, if the free use of working class taxpayer subsidized police security was the only thing or biggest, it would not be so sad…but one glossed over and ignored issue by “investigative” journalists is the amusing concept of “self insurance” in respect to workers comp…I did not say “captive” insurance…”self insurance”…

    horrifically, not only are working citizens paying for government investigators acting like a private police force…chasing down taxpayers “neighbors”, the state then ignores the amusing actions taken by these bigco enterprises to deny claims and pocket the money through “claims” management…cause, that is not part of their training…like when all the investigation training for mortgage fraud was for the benefit of the banks…

    since investigating things like some robosigner in 2015 claiming to sign a mortgage assignment with a power of attorney from New Century on a 2006 loan pool…

    you know, the new century that died all those years ago…and the power of attorney documents, if they ever existed, died with the death of new century…

    details details…

    here is the florida database to see which company has what workers comp coverage…you will notice that the company that is the focus of this article…only “had” a few of their stores in the database…seems like the state does not “require” the “self insured” megabigco to actually disclose that information…type in any major enterprise and you will see nothing or seemingly they all went off line in 2009-2010…

    because small and medium business enterprises are just having such an easy time against megabigco that the economic advantage of allowing the “big guys” to not actually have to pay in properly and force the little companies to have to pay more…

    mind you “jeff” is the same political hack who did the whitewash of the pam bondi firing of Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson…where he put out a nice fat 800 (??) page report but if you read through it you realize he did not investigate anything, and just asked bondi to have her internal investigator regurgitate what they had said before…

    that “jeff” was the CEO of Barnett Bank did not in any which way shape or form have any impact whatsoever in his helping Bondi get rid of those two
    lawyers…Jeff would never let his past or his family or friends get him confused with what the term “fiduciary” means…and responsibility as a government official…

    that “jeff” was the Florida State Senate President when the legislature unconstitutionally stripped the Florida Court system of funding and replaced it with larger foreclosure filing fees so that the robosigner foreclosure bank law firms could attempt to blackmail the courts by “withholding” funding by not filing foreclosures every once in a while to let the “jurists” know who is in charge…

    nah….that would never happen in floriduh…

    but what is to be expected from here in floriduh…

    Jeff “mr CFO” couldn’t help find ten million bux to deal with a multi year backlog on processing rape kits in florida…you know…spending all that taxpayer money on a 70 billion dollar a year budget…there is no way to find that kind of money…

    oh yeah…that zika thingee…yeah, they could not find 10 million bux back a few months ago to put up a firewall defense in key west and miami either…

    Jeff is the same guy who hired a lawyer to be a receiver on a purported “emergency” proceeding on a purported “ponzi” scheme…

    the “receiver” lawyer appointed…oh…his dad was the FBI agent during ww2 in NY (#2 in charge) who did the deal with mob…you know, waterfront…lucky Luciano…etc…

    and that “receiver” lawyer had as his main attorney to “investigate” the ponzi scheme…

    drum roll please…

    the son of the guy from BNL in New York (assistant manager) who helped Saddam Hussein launder a few billion dollars through the BNL atlanta office in the 1980’s…

    but its all just a matter of “wild” and “unconnected” coincidence…just random really…

    and that person who behind the scenes made a phony report about a 50 thousand dollar “grand theft” to trigger the “ponzi” investigation is from a St Augustine politically connected family…

    oh wait…isnt the CFO of florida the son of former FBI agent John Stafford Atwater…who was…

    drum roll please…

    also from St Augustine…

    nah…its nothin…just a wild coincidence…floriduh is such a small state…

    sons of former FBI bigshots…nah…its easy for them to fall over each other…

    its easy for these things to “seem” like it could be something…

    just keep movin people…

    1. Torsten

      Believe me, alex, I don’t want to exonerate the hacks in Tallahassee, but WALMART STORES INC, Rogers, AZ does have a record at your link. (You have to search by Federal Employer ID.)

      1. Alex morfesis

        Well I stand corrected in terms of them showing up in the database with various versions of the name…but if my point was not direct enuf…it was more about the smoke and mirrors behind the wizards curtain…and no one is counting employees or asking for eeoc-1 to match with claimed payments…most states require some payment into the common pool even for self insured workers comp…

        Fox guarding the hen house…

        Example…in tarpon there is a nice dusty waterfront bar restaurant called captain jacks…pays for 60 employees as reported…winn dixie, one of the larger grocery store chains was also claiming 60 employees last year…this year they claim 95…same store…no visible increase in warm bodies

  9. Katniss Everdeen

    I get where this story is coming from, and walmart should most certainly be expected to provide adequate security for its customers. As for the shoplifting, I couldn’t care less.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to hold walmart responsible for the bad behavior of the increasingly cash-strapped, desperate population it calls its customer base, at least at some of its stores.

    Walmart was once celebrated as a shining example of the low-priced, corporation-enabled abundance that globalized “free trade” would shower on the grateful american consumer. That it hasn’t quite worked out that way, reflects failures of more than just walmart’s.

    1. Felix_47

      In many communities Walmart is the the biggest target in town for plaintiff attorneys. Given the competition from Amazon I am surprised they are doing as well as they are. I wonder who is behind this piece.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Katniss — I’m with her! From the journos’ point of view, the immense appeal of this article lay in their editor letting them go completely over the top at the end, turning it into a dark dystopian novella:

      The dingy office, filled with jokes and light banter seconds before, falls silent. This little corner of the giant store has turned into a counseling center. As mascara and tears streak down her red cheeks, the woman apologizes for stealing. She talks about how she’s been an alcoholic for most of her 29 years, how her three kids live with their dad because she knows she can’t care for them. She says her current partner beat her two days ago because she took her kids to the pool and had “too much fun.” She’s going to counseling for her alcoholism. She was planning to go cook dinner for her children at their father’s house after she left Walmart.

      The woman with the phony gift cards and marijuana quietly tells her that she too was in an abusive relationship. They talk in murmurs. Ross writes the younger woman a summons to appear in court. It’s her first offense. She walks out with no shoes, because no one can find the ones she left in the shoe department. That’s all right, she says, “I can deal with it.” As she leaves, Ross worries her abuser is waiting for her in the parking lot.

      Later that day, after the sun has set and the air has cooled, the store grows quiet. In the parking lot, a private security SUV with a flashing yellow light on top sits near the exit. Driving the car is a small, elderly man whose tufts of gray hair are barely visible over the steering wheel. Private security jobs like this tend to go for $10 an hour in Tulsa. The “T” on the Walmart sign has burnt out. Stray cats scrounge around. In the far reaches of the lot, people hunker down in their campers, vans, and U-Hauls for the night. It’s nearly midnight in Tulsa, and for a few hours it looks like the local cops may get a break from Walmart.

      Shoeless alcoholic shoplifters with mascara-chained cheeks shuffling off into the night … lawzy, y’all … all that’s missing from this dire scene are packs of feral dogs, devouring the corpse of a deceased homeless person in the alley behind the store, as the hungry hobos in the campers wonder whether they can grab a hunk without getting bit.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        That was the “best” part of the article.

        The cop takes the purloined shoes back and sends her out barefoot with a summons for a failed “shoplift,” and back to the guy who beat her up.

        Great “police work,” Officer Walmart. What’s this world coming to when domestic assault victims can steal a pair of junky walmart shoes and get away with it?

        If any of this is even remotely real, or embellished for journalistic impact.

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        A Walmart in Fort Worth may have come up with a way to make shoplifting pay. The jails in Tarrant County can be filled with trainees to learn to become seamstresses — that covers the female shoplifters. Not sure what sort of useful skills the male shoplifters are trained for in their side of the jails. Also look for an attorney to try a criminal case sometime. A vast proportion of the defense attorneys specialize in defending DWI and shoplifting perps. The city benefits from out-of-state perps by taking the bail money and not worrying too much whether the offender comes back — good riddance! And to round things out Walmart can sue a shoplifter to recover their loses. Wins all around.

        1. Paid Minion

          Seamstresses? What a joke.

          They should train them to be mortgage brokers and Wall Street investment bankers.

          The good news is that they would never be arrested again, no matter how much they stole.

      3. Carolinian

        There’s a Natalie Portman movie where the pregnant Portman is dumped by her boyfriend when she goes ino Walmart to buy shoes to replace the ones that fell out the rust hole in the bottom of their car. Walmart….all purpose stand in for dogpatch America.

    3. reslez

      > I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to hold walmart responsible for the bad behavior of the increasingly cash-strapped, desperate population it calls its customer base, at least at some of its stores.

      We can absolutely hold them responsible. They share the blame of helping to create “the cash-strapped, desperate population” by fighting unions at all their stores with fanatical zeal, pressuring politicians not to raise minimum wage, resisting any efforts by workers to improve conditions at their stores, destroying small businesses in entire towns, etc. etc. Are they “entirely” responsible, no, but they sure as heck merit a lot of the blame. And now the Waltons are busily crapifying public education so they can avoid educating the children of their workers.

      1. PQS

        If a local property owner lets his place deteriorate and/or collects junk all over the lawn, the community can absolutely make him pay to clean it up, up to and including liens and seizing property. If Walmart is letting their property get run down due to a wrongheaded focus on “the bottom line,” and not having enough people and security to staff the store, then why shouldn’t the community make them clean it up?

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      Hate to tell you, but shoplifting is as crime by statute, and therefore WalMart can shift the cost of contending it onto local cops. You are missing the point clearly made in the headline: YOU are paying for WalMart’s refusal to staff up and/or hire more security guards. And the lack of supervision in general also sets the conditions for violent crimes in the stores.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Hate to tell you, but “lack of supervision” is a pretty ugly construct. What is this, a store or a daycare center?

        As for the “crime by statute,” tell that to the “three Walmart employees in Florida [who] were charged with manslaughter after a shoplifter they chased and pinned down died of asphyxia.” or the ” local woman [who] had been killed and her grandson seriously injured in a car crash caused by a Walmart shoplifter fleeing police.”

        “I” am paying for “this” because, in this day and age, when hardly anyone can get through the day without committing a “crime,” our “law enforcement” has lost all perspective. This is the point I was trying to make in my reply to Haygood above.

        “Crimes” are what the cops say they are. They could just make walmart phone it in.

  10. Joe Kapoe

    This socialism for the rich will be harder and harder for companies to defend thanks to the kind of counterwight to main-stream media that NC and other sites across the web provide. Cash strapped municipalites have to pick up the tab for policing and other costs because of Wallmart’s negligence in being a responsible citizen everywhere it runs stores.

    I’ve just learned of another outrage in this category – – according to Senator Wyden, there is “an outrageous, unjust loophole in our tax code that allows private prison owners to run their businesses tax free. Taxpayers should not be padding the profits of private prisons getting rich off of the mass incarceration of mostly poor people.”

    This is the new Orwellian world we live in.

  11. Carla

    Citizens for Oakwood fought the good fight to keep Walmart from building on about 65 acres of a beautiful former golf course in South Euclid, Ohio. Our entirely volunteer effort collected enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot, and had donations totaling under $20,000 to publicize our “Vote No” message. Walmart and the developer spent $500,000 advertising their case.

    South Euclid is a working class inner ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, with a current population of about 22,000, down 7 percent since 2000. The mayor and city council promoted the Walmart development as a “job creator.”

    We lost… but it was close! Sorry to report that now, with their crime rates up and their police force stretched thin, some of the good people of South Euclid have told us that they regret voting “yes.” We have not heard of anyone regretting their “no” vote– only that we did not prevail.

    It takes only 5 years of benign neglect for nature to return a golf course to a vibrant natural environment. Oakwood, which with another approx. 75 acres in the contiguous community of Cleveland Heights comprised a total of 144 acres, could have been such a gorgeous park for people of the entire region to enjoy. (A private religious school has purchased the Cle. Hts. acreage, including the country club’s athletic facilities and club house.)

  12. Arizona Slim

    I haven’t been inside a Walmart store since 1996. Would much prefer to support local merchants and I encourage others to do the same.

    Localism for the win!

    1. nony mouse

      You are fortunate enough to live in a community which still has local merchants. There are so many places where this is not even an option. Combine those places with all of those suburban developments where it was never even intended to be an option, and you have over half the country (at least, even if a “pulled out of my ass” estimate) who couldn’t vote their conscience if they had the extra money to do so. Then add all of those who cannot afford to do so.
      Still glad the option is there for some, but this is a “closing the barn door after the horses have bolted” issue.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Arizona is home to the biggest, baddest, and hardest working “localist” organization in the country. That would be Local First Arizona.

        Here’s just one of its many promotions:

        Go, home team!

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I also favor localism. The problem in my locale isn’t just the Walmarts and other big box stores coming in. I talked to several retailers closing their doors because their rents were raised beyond what their sales could support. Some were dying because they were in the wrong business — video disk rentals — but others were doing well before they were shutdown by rent increases — a local hardware store in an almost empty local shopping center and a Hallmark store in the same shopping center.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Rent increases are a problem here in Tucson. Especially in and near our revitalized (and gentrifying) Downtown.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s what mall and office building and large hotels have. Have you missed the surveillance cameras and the security guards? They are bog standard in America.

      1. Carolinian

        My town has a Target and I’ve never seen private security there. One of our grocery stores had a guard for awhile after a couple of incidents but haven’t seen one there lately either. The only retail establishment around here that has what might be called a guard is Best Buy where they have always had a door checker looking out for all those expensive electronics.

        Malls are different since kids like to go there and carouse and the place is as much of a social gathering place in many locales.

        So I question the notion that all other large retail stores have security guards. In fact I don’t think that’s true.

        As for the lack of employees per square foot, Walmart stores are huge and probably double the size of the local Target. And as I said this morning in a comment in moderation Costco has announced that they are laying off many workers and therefore reducing their employee count. It’s a difficult time for retail no matter how much those Walmart heirs make in profits.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I don’t recall making this comment or the one below this. Reading them again — they don’t contribute anything to the threads and should be removed. Sorry.

      2. chuck

        Yes, I agree that cameras are everywhere. However, the only time I have ever been asked to show my receipt when walking out of a store was at a Walmart. (I don’t shop much, anecdotal, etc).

        The fundamental difference in my mind is that the camera passively helps provide the police evidence of wrong doing, while the employee asking to see my receipt is actively hindering my exit and could potentially become involved in an altercation.

  13. Anonymous

    I’m not sure how much private security will help. Most private security guards (unless they’re off-duty police officers) are trained not to get involved in problems, but just to “observe and report,” which means calling the police.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the one rare example of a security guard who didn’t do this, the former “Kickass Mall Cop” in Atlanta, Darien Long. He was an armed security guard for a flea market in a poor area of downtown Atlanta. He recorded all of his work with a GoPro camera on his vest, and became famous after a video surfaced of him tasing a woman who was hitting him in the head after being ordered to leave the property. He started a YouTube channel at and still uploads videos from his time at the mall. Eventually the city got tired of the videos making them look bad and arrested him on some bogus assault charges, which succeeded in silencing him for a short time (because he couldn’t work as a security guard with those charges pending), but the case was eventually dismissed, he returned to work at the mall for a short time, and then quit after they started playing games with his pay.

  14. flora

    “Walmart’s lawyers typically argue that the company couldn’t have foreseen the crime in question and that it took reasonable steps to keep customers safe. It tries at every opportunity to keep its crime database secret. Even in litigation, when it must produce company records under court seal, its lawyers have wrangled for months or even years to limit access to its records, arguing the information is proprietary. “Nothing compares to the way Walmart litigates cases,” says attorney Christopher Marlowe. ”

    I’m thinking tobacco companies’ litigated exactly that way. Starting decades ago, tobacco companies did their own research on health effects of tobacco use. Good research, too. They knew what the health effects were, had their own records and reports, and for decades denied access to their research, at times contending that “existing research showed no adverse effects caused by smoking”.

  15. ewmayer

    But, but … WalMart is “investing $250 billion in American manufacturing!”, according to the 3-hanky “pride and strength of American blue-collar workers” TV ad they’ve been running recently. I’d love to see the neolib-math behind that claim.

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