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Why are Washington D.C. Politicians “Furious” at Walmart?

Channel 4 NBC Washington reports that local politicians are “furious” at Walmart.

What did the retail giant do this time? Are they overcharging customers?

No, that’s not the accusation. In fact, Walmart is only able to charge customers prices that they voluntarily agree to pay. If they try to charge people more for their products their potential customers will simply go to a rival store or do without. If fact, the retail chain recently announced the closure of 269 stores all over the world. In those locations they were unable to attract enough customers to justify the stores’ existence.

To make an odd but relevant observation: I’ve never heard a politician campaign to save a retail store by requiring customers to shop there and pay prices that are higher than they want to pay. It is assumed that customers have the right to shop around and find bargains.

Which brings us to the reason DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declared to the media that she was “blood mad” over a Walmart decision. In addition to closing all those stores, the company decided to cancel plans to open two stores in DC.

But the City’s rulers—or “leaders,” as the media likes to flatteringly call them—should be furious with themselves. It is their fault those stores are not going to be opened.

You won’t figure this out from the NBC story, but the Washington Post lets the cat out of the bag, quoting City Council member Jack Evans. According to Evans, Walmart told him the basis for their decision: a proposed ballot measure, if successful, will raise the minimum wage from $11.50 an hour to $15 an hour.

He also said a proposal for legislation requiring D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, and another effort to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers were compounding costs and concerns for the retailer.

“They were saying, ‘How are we going to run the three stores we have, let alone build two more?’” Evans said.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Walmart is forced to close one or more of their other stores in the next year.

The bottom line is that customers want lower prices. We can tell this by their behavior. They gravitate towards the cheapest possible produce. They may be fooled by politicians into thinking thy can get something for nothing and say at the polls that they want to be paid more, but their purchasing tells a different story.

And if they want lower prices then they are voting for Walmart to pay employees only enough to motivate them to take the jobs they offer.

If it is wrong to prohibit customers from bargain hunting then it is just as wrong to prohibit businesses from bargain hunting for employees.

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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