Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price

by Christina Bryan

Introduction

Walmart is a corporation that can now be found all over the country, and thousands of people shop there everyday. However, not many people are aware of the heinous background that they attempt to keep hidden. This documentary provides several kinds of reasoning to prove this such as environmental, criminal, and financial issues. It goes into detail about the unfair treatment of their employees and the effect is has on small businesses. Overall, this documentary aims to inform the public of Walmart's corrupt ways so that change can be made.

Thesis: Although Walmart may seem like an exceptional place to shop at due to the low prices they provide, one should consider the harmful effects that this corporation has on several aspects of life.

Affected by Walmart: Small Businesses, Environment, Insurance Funds, Equal Pay, Criminal Activity, Working Conditions in Other Countries, etc.

Purpose: The purpose of this documentary is to deliver this information to the general public in order to show them the reality of the Walmart corporation. Many people buy from this store without knowing any background about it and this documentary provides several examples of how atrocious it can be. It shows why people should no longer purchase products from this company as well as persuades them to take action in the fight against this major corporation.

Audience: The audience of this film is nearly everyone. This includes the managers/owners of Walmart so that they realize that people are aware of their indecency and to urge them to change their ways. Their audience can also be the workers of the company to demonstrate how unfairly they are being treated and to advise them to help take action. Lastly, the audience is the general public, giving them several statistics and figures that show the horror of this corporation in order to persuade them to no longer buy their products.

Mode: The Expository Mode

Appeals

Ethos: This documentary uses this appeal by bringing in people who had actually worked at Walmart. They experienced the unfair treatment from this corporation first hand and share this information with the public. They share their personal story of what they had to go through when being a part of this business which makes them extremely credible. This can be seen when two women named Diane and Cathy discuss what it was like working for Walmart (15:35-16:32). They talk about how they always worked as long as the managers asked them to without being paid overtime. The managers claimed that they needed the help because they were understaffed but Cathy declares that they had a large amount of applications that they did not act on. Since these women were present when all of this went down, they provide a credible basis in which the audience can believe.

Logos: This appeal is very frequent in this documentary, as a way to show how severe of an issue Walmart has created and to give a new perspective on this corporation. The audience hears the facts that they present and it is hard to believe that they are actually true. This makes them think about what they are being told and helps them understand how big of a complication Walmart is. An example of this can be seen when they discuss how the amount of space from empty Walmarts could be used for classrooms to educate children instead (54:00-54:27). Education is an extremely important aspect of life that every child should receive. However, not everyone is lucky enough to gain this opportunity. No one really thinks about all of the empty space that result from abandoned Walmarts and they especially don't think about what more important uses could come from it. This documentary acknowledges the good that all of this wasted space could be used for and it makes the audience ponder on something that they probably haven't before.

Pathos: This is another appeal that is highly present throughout this documentary. It is used to evoke the audience's emotions in an effort to demonstrate how appalling of a corporation Walmart is. For example, there is an instance in which the narrator discusses how most Walmart workers cannot afford to take care of their families and how they must resort to alternatives such as WIC (17:48-18:22). This clip also features Diane who could not afford to take care of her family on the Walmart insurance plan. Walmart workers are unable to pay for their basic needs such as food as well as take care of their children and give them the medical care that they need. Showing the woman's children in this scene also creates an emotional appeal by causing the audience to see what real life kids must go through because Walmart isn't paying their workers enough. This causes the audience to feel sorry for these workers and helps them understand why action must be taken against Walmart.

Types of Evidence

This documentary contains many types of evidence in order to prove it's point. The kind of evidence that is dominant throughout this is the use of facts and statistics. An example of a fact that is displayed is, "Lee Scott earnings for 2005: $27,207,799, Average Wal-Mart hourly sales employee earnings: $13,861" (1:13:22). This provides concrete evidence that the effects of Walmart occurs in everyday life and it shows the severity of it. Since this documentary is mainly fact based, it is trying to get the audience to gain an understanding of how far the effects of Walmart extend and how unacceptable they are. This documentary also uses personal experiences in order to prove that this is a real issue that everyday people must face. It gives a firsthand account of these struggles and makes the argument extremely credible. This can be seen when the Chinese woman discusses her life in the Walmart factory. She describes how cruel they are treated and the insufficient amount that they are paid. This demonstrates the reality of this issue and gives undeniable evidence against Walmart. Occasionally, expert opinions are brought in. For example, the Catawba River Keeper took part in order to discuss the effect that the Walmart company had on their river. Many Walmarts left herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer on their premises which ended up in the river that was used for drinking water. There were certain chemicals in the contents that could cause health defects, especially in pregnant women. This river keeper knew a lot about the environment and what could potentially cause harm and therefore took a stand against this corporation. This shows that the Walmart corporation affects certain areas so much that professionals are beginning to get involved.

Visual Style

There are several kinds of visual tools that are used in this documentary. One of the main tools that is used are statistics that are written on the screen. This is used to get the audience to believe what the speaker is saying and emphasize the asperity of it. When someone sees something instead of just hearing it they are more likely to trust it and believe that it is real. One scene of this documentary showed small businesses being put into foreclosure by the entrance of Walmart with a song playing in the background that dealt with the American nation. This makes it seem like Walmart is attacking the whole country and we are all put at risk by the arrival of this huge corporation. This shows the destruction of our All-American values and the effects this corporation has on our country. This documentary also used actual security camera footage when describing the criminal activity that occurs in Walmart parking lots. This was done to show that they are not making any of this up. It is also used as an emotional appeal because the audience sees these real life things happening and feels concerned for the safety of others as well as themselves. Another major tool used in this documentary was the use of actual commercials. This was their main tool in refuting the opposing argument. The audience was able to directly see what Walmart was claiming in their commercials and then hear the speaker explain why those commercials were wrong. This causes the audience to gain distrust for Walmart and understand what Walmart wants us to see verses the reality. At the end of the documentary, the names of several cities overlapped and moved spontaneously. This overwhelms the audience and shows them how big of an issue this is. In this particular case, it was the names of cities that were able to gain success from protesting against Walmart. This showed how if we all get together and try to create change, it is possible to achieve great things and help bring Walmart down.

Strengths:

  • Uses real life people and their experiences
  • Uses lots of facts and figures
  • Successfully uses all three appeals
  • Directly addresses the counterargument

Weaknesses:

  • The source of the statistics is not known.
  • Most of the crimes that occur in the parking lots are non major crimes that can occur anywhere and are not necessarily the fault of the Walmart owners
  • Does not acknowledge anything positive about Walmart

Fallacies:

  • Appeal to authority: Because she was a Reverend, Altagracia Perez was automatically written off as credible. Although she had no professional background, people believed her because she was in a position of authority.

Counterargument

This documentary uses real life Walmart commercials to show the other side of the argument. They then refute that side with sufficient evidence to prove them wrong. This creates a way for the audience to compare what Walmart is saying to the reality of the situation. An example of this occurs when a commercial claims that the introduction of a Walmart helps small towns blossom. A statistic then appears on the screen showing that "Wal-Mart drives down $3 billion every year" (15:20). This method of counterargument directly addresses what people from Walmart have to say and then uses facts to back up why they are inaccurate. The main stance from Walmart is that they are not in the wrong; but that they pay their workers sufficiently and that the Walmart corporation improves the overall quality of life. This can easily be refuted by the technique that this documentary uses.

Conclusion

This documentary was successful in arguing why Walmart isn't as great of a corporation as it seems. It used all of the appeals in a way that drew the audience in and swayed them in a manner in which they ended up on the side that is against Walmart. They brought in real life commercials and personal stories that increased the reality of these effects. There were several visual tools within this documentary that aided to the overall purpose of displaying the disorder that Walmart creates. However, it did rely heavily on the bad side of Walmart while neglecting the good. Even though they didn't show the positive side of Walmart, they still refuted the opposite argument by discrediting exact words from the Walmart corporation. This documentary was successful in getting the audience to understand the harmful effects in order to help put an end to these ways so that a better future can be provided for everyone.