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The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works - and How It's Transforming the American Economy

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  2,646 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
Wal-Mart isn’t just the world’s biggest company, it is probably the world’s most written-about. But no book until this one has managed to penetrate its wall of silence or go beyond the usual polemics to analyze its actual effects on its customers, workers, and suppliers. Drawing on unprecedented interviews with former Wal-Mart executives and a wealth of staggering data (e. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Mar 14, 2008 Pige rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who buys stuff
Having a family in the grocery business (and being a product of one of the most economically distraught states in the country-Michigan) of course likely aroused my interest in this book more than most. But, as the book so thoughtfully and throughly puts forward, Wal-Mart truly affects us all, whether we shop there or not. Now don't think that this book was simply one big stoning fest at Wal-Mart, it's not. The author covers the positive and the negative of this the largest company in the country ...more
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works, and How It's Transforming the American Economy
2006 Charles Fishman
352 pages

In only a little over fifty years, Wal-Mart has grown from a small five-and-dime store in rural Arkansas to an outright goliath, dominating the American, and increasingly, the global economy to an unprecedented degree. In The Wal-Mart Effect, Charles Fishman examines the secret of the corporation’s success, and explores how that success has altered
Feb 16, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I only got to disc 3 (of 6) before I gave up. There's just only so much hating of Wal*Mart that I can do in one week.

Actually, this book did help me see that Wal*Mart is not entirely evil. Suppliers don't necessarily like them b/c Sam Walton effectively stole the pants in the relationship. However, Wal*Mart's history is riddled with several examples of what happens to ethics when low prices become the ultimate goal: breaking the law. From sexual discrimination to large-scale employment of ill
Thomas Jr.
Oct 15, 2013 Thomas Jr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I know so much more about Wal-Mart now. This book goes out of its way to show both sides of the Wal-Mart story. But those sides tend to be Pro Wal-Mart city people and Anti Wal-Mart city people. The author describes Wal-Mart as a terrible shopping experience and the kind of place you only go to when you need to buy a product. This is very true if you live in a city with a lot to do. Not true in a small town.

I had the experience of living in a small town when a Super Wal-Mart moved i
Oct 25, 2007 james rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: consumers
Overall the book does a good job laying down the issues. It asks a lot of questions and tries to answer them. The writing is well organized, written in a way anyone can understand, and is very easy to read. All the sources are cited. Wal-Mart itself was of no help witing this book, and it is clear a lot of effort went into getting the interviews.

You're going to learn a lot about Wal-Mart reading this book. If you're in a hurry, much of the writing is anecdotal and you can skip over quite a bit.
Jan 05, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
If you haven't read this and think you know what it says already, read it. The situation is a whole lot bigger and more to ponder than I realized. He does a wonderful job. He doesn't just slam Walmart. He really looks respectfully at the company in terms of its founder and its work ethic and its philosophy and business practices. And then he looks thoroughly and in detail at the real effects those business practices have when the company's reach changes from small Arkansas store to global mega-c ...more
Jordan Lewis
Apr 13, 2015 Jordan Lewis rated it it was amazing
A fair take on Wal-Mart, and by extension the practices of many big businesses. What is Wal-Mart's responsibility outside of Everyday Low Prices? Where has it made a huge difference and where has it fallen short? Can Sam Walton's company clean up its image AND be the company that conquered rural America a couple of decades ago?
Jan 10, 2009 Christine rated it it was amazing
I found this throughly engaging. Loved reading it and I'm not much for non-fiction. It definitely is something to think about and I highly recommend it. Very accessible style of writing.
Jun 11, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book: Wal-Mart lovers, enthusiasts, conflicted shoppers and haters. I picked up this book because I hate Wal-Mart; I despise their business practices, the way they destroy small businesses and confuse the economy by creating a screen of bargains for the people, when it's the people who are ultimately getting robbed, that profits earned at my local supercenter Wal-Mart do not, after sales tax, stay in my community but go back to Bentonville, Arkansas and into the pockets ...more
Dec 01, 2015 TheFrugalNexus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: retail
his book willstand as a testament to the past glory of Wal-Mart's hegemonic retail power. While Wal-mart hasn't been relegated to the dust bin of retail history, the spectre of Sam Walton's mega business still haunts sleepy towns and recessed villages with the looming threat of roll-back prices.
But even if the headlines heralding the decline of Wal-Mart are to be trusted, the impact that Wal-Mart has had on the retail scene have been many, these impacts are the Wal-Mart effect.

This book peels ba
Jan 12, 2015 Aliya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bough the audiobook and this is a great book. It is great because it explores issues related to retailing and its impact on the US economy and upon the world at large. The way Fishman goes about exploring deep issues, makes them easy to understand for a layman. Anyone with a college degree or even a high school education and some gray matter in their head, can understand the various facets of what he terms "The Wal-Mart Effect."

Chapter 1
The book begins with Fishman simplicizing (I just invente
Aug 14, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
As many of you know I am NOT a fan of Wal-Mart. I read this book to add fuel to my fire. As well as adding some logic behind my dislike of this megastore. My dislike of Wal-Mart came simply from trying to find a jar of sauerkraut. This was not the first time I couldn't find something in Wal-mart. But it ended up being the last time. As I was flung from employee to employee six times--I abandoned my shopping cart in the store and left. Rarely to return. I have not missed going to Wal-Mart. As a m ...more
Jean Poulos
Mar 03, 2015 Jean Poulos rated it really liked it
I must admit up front that I have never been in a Wal-Mart store and there is no Wal-Mart store anywhere near where I live. My second disclaimer is I absolutely hate to shop; I rush in and obtain the items I need and rush out of the store. Since the 1960 I have made it a mission of mine to buy products made in the United States even if I have to pay more or do without if I cannot find products made in the United State or Canada.

Fishman has done extensive research for this book. He has drawn on u
Mar 04, 2016 Mmiller400m rated it liked it
I started this book because our town is currently in the process of getting a Wal-Mart. There are plenty of opinions on whether this will be a good thing or not. I tend to quickly spout that currently I drive 40 minutes or further quite often to go to a Wal-Mart that is outside of not only our town but our entire county. That money is leaving the area that could stay.

I don't think Wal-Mart is evil. They are simply trying to make as much money as possible. The same as most any other for profit b
Sep 08, 2011 Kkraemer rated it it was amazing
This is a great book! I thought it would simply be the liberal rant about big box retailers and how they destroy the very essence of American life. While the book most certainly includes that perspective, it shows a complex set of circumstances and possibilities that I'd never considered. It notes, for example, that at one point, Wal Mart wanted to be able to offer a wider range of deodorants, but their shelves were full. They needed either more space or smaller deodorants. It occurred to someon ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Byron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-history
This is a thorough and well balanced account of the Walmart phenomenon. While the author is almost preachy at times in making the case for Walmart's shortcomings, he generally makes the distinction between evil intent and unfortunate outcomes. Although I have "known" since the early 70s when Walmart came to my small Arkansas home town that Walmart accelerated the death of many local small businesses, I did not fully appreciate how complicit Walmart has been in the move of American factors to for ...more
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to enjoy this book, but I forged ahead and was surprised. This is a fascinating and eye-opening "look behind the scenes." In the early chapters, you find yourself cheering for "the largest corporation in the history of the world" as they manage to drive down prices and increase efficiency. But gradually the layers are peeled back to expose the impact of those innovations - both on the lives of employees, American producers, and overseas farms and factories. The bottom line is tha ...more
Andy Oram
Jul 24, 2012 Andy Oram rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This is an important, deep, and subtle book, even though I know the facts have changed in the years since it was written. Fishman is critical of Wal-Mart overall--he believes regulation has to change to accommodate the accumulation of power by super-large companies such as Wal-Mart--but the book is not merely critical. If it were al critical, it could not address the crucial question of why so many people shop at Wal-Mart, an experience the author describes as frequently unpleasant. I thought th ...more
Sep 20, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Wal-Mart is a competitive culture that has gone unchecked.
The culture permits or encourages illegal practices.

For me the book makes the case that the negative practices outweigh the positive things Wal-Mart did. Also the positive practices seem to be in Wal-Mart's past.

Fishman describes it as neither good nor bad but a new practice that needs new policy.

The book describes how sprinklers are made. Last summer, I bought a sprinkler - and it broke on the third use. This summer I bought a sprink
Aug 17, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it
After an 18-year effort to keep Wal-Mart OUT of my community, it has now passed it's final hurdle(going before the State Supreme Court)and will be coming. I decided to educate myself about the company and read this book. I feel it is a fair portrayal, but I'll let anyone who reads it decide for themselves. A little about the author Charles Fishman: A Senior editor at "Fast Company". In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award, the highest award in business journalism, for which he w ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Mayda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Though some of the information in this book is dated, having been published in 2006, it is nevertheless a fascinating and informative look at Wal-Mart, megastore extraordinaire. Wal-Mart affects not only people who work and shop at Wal-Mart but also nearly everyone else who gets caught up in its maelstrom. This book may not change your mind – or your shopping habits – about Wal-Mart, but at least you will be better equipped and able to justify your decision and your feelings about the world’s le ...more
Liz De Coster
Apr 18, 2014 Liz De Coster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Evenhanded, informative, and clear even when describing complex economic relationships - Fishman does an excellent job of examining Wal-Mart from a number of angles and gives the reader space to draw their own conclusion(s). Obviously some of the information is dated, now, but other than the lack of discussion of ecommerce (aka, online shopping), the basics of his analysis still seem solid. I don't know that Fishman will persuade you to think other than you might already think going into the boo ...more
Tom Olson
Oct 06, 2013 Tom Olson rated it really liked it
An easy and enjoyable read that covered a good spectrum of companies that were economically or environmentally impacted by Wal-Mart. Personally I thought the book reads best in the earlier chapters; around chapter 6 it reads a little more negatively than the earlier chapters which were more opinion-less. Still it offers a good breadth of perspectives on the company, and a lot of neat stories that offer readers some perspective of the huge business, and even some introspection on american consume ...more
Anita Rudd
Jun 06, 2015 Anita Rudd rated it really liked it
This book was a page turner from the first paragraph. It gives a much history of Wal-Mart as it can since the company is very private with information about itself. What does this book tell you about Wal-Mart? Pretty much everything. The company's philosophy is keeping costs of doing business low and that encompasses every aspect of the business from salaries to how suppliers manages their costs to how other companies deal with them. This was a very eyeopening book.
Mark Tuminello
May 29, 2014 Mark Tuminello rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look behind the scenes of the largest corporation in the world. Wal-Mart had some positive effects, lowering prices and increasing efficiency. Those innovations had an impact on the lives of employees, American manufacturing, and overseas farms and factories. When they lower prices, it's their decision, made with or without consent of producers. What happens when there isn't any lower you can go? Can we operate there for long?
Aug 29, 2013 Lindsey rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It is hard to ignore the power that a company as huge as Walmart has and that is one if the things that this book covers in depth. I found the writing to be fairly balanced, showing both the good and bad, and learned many things that I never considered. The basic premise of the book is that all the good and bad things that Walmart does can be linked to one thing, they do exactly that they day that are going to do, "always the lowest prices, always." This read was well worth the time invested.
Feb 23, 2016 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While many people complain about Wal*Mart and its impact, I have always admired the ability of Sam Walton's company to represent the consumer and their interest.

The Wal-Mart Effect is balanced and discusses the the benefits and some of the costs associated with the largest retailer. I found this to be a compelling book and I admire Wal*Mart more now then before.
Elizabeth Stout
Oct 12, 2014 Elizabeth Stout rated it really liked it
I was surprised at how even handed this book treated Walmart. There are a lot of negatives associated with Walmart's business model but there are positives too that I wasn't aware of, including their influence on keeping inflation low and improving supply chains. Still not enough positives to change my mind about not shopping there though.
Sachin Raje
Jul 02, 2015 Sachin Raje rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating insights into the monster retailer. It is even more fascinating since it opened my eyes to the fact that "ordinary" people, who work there, can all be unified into the collective single idealogy of "low cost, everyday". How this has made regular people into collectively have the ability to make or break companies.
Feb 15, 2013 Miranda rated it really liked it
Wow. I just finished this book. It really laid down some new ways to think -- not just about Wal-Mart, but about all mega corporations. Fishman writes well -- gave many case studies and all sides of the Wal-Mart effect. I loved the afterword. Great book!
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As a reporter, Charles Fishman has tried to get inside organizations, both familiar and secret, and explain how they work.
In the course of reporting about water to write The Big Thirst, Fishman has stood at the bottom of a half-million-gallon sewage tank, sampled water directly from the springs in San Pellegrino, Italy, and Poland Spring, Maine, and carried water on his head for 3 km with a group
More about Charles Fishman...

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“Every time you see the Wal-Mart smiley face, whistling and knocking down the prices, somewhere there's a factory worker being kicked in the stomach. - Sherrie Ford” 0 likes
“Wal-Mart can't seem to grasp an essential fact: in 2006, the company has exactly the reputation it has earned. No, we don't give the company adequate credit for low prices. But the broken covenant Sam Walton had with how to treat store employees, the relentless pressure that hollows out companies and dilutes the quality of their products, the bullying of suppliers and communities, the corrosive secrecy, the way Wal-Mart has changed our own perception of price and quality, of value and durability--none of these is imaginary, or trivial, or easily changed with a fresh set of bullet points, an impassioned speech, and a website heavy with "Wal-Mart facts".

If Wal-Mart does in fact double the gas mileage of its truck fleet, and thereby double the gas mileage of every long-haul truck in America, that will be huge. It will change gas consumption in the United States in a single stroke. But it hasn't happened yet. And even if it does, it will not make Wal-Mart a good company or a good corporate partner or a good corporate citizen.”
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