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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 ·  3,227 ratings  ·  409 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 ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Boy Blue I don't have time to summarise each chapter but what I remember from this are a few key points. It is important to remember that around the time this…moreI don't have time to summarise each chapter but what I remember from this are a few key points. It is important to remember that around the time this was written Walmart was the largest company in the world by market cap. It was an unstoppable force.

- Walmart has such a huge buying power that it is very hard for their suppliers to not deal with them. They account for 50% + for a lot of their suppliers in total sales. However, many companies that choose to supply products through Walmart find themselves being slowly squeezed by an inexorable force, as Walmart starts chipping away at their margin to keep lowering the prices.
- We are all responsible for Walmart's prevalence and success. While we don't condone the way they treat their staff, workers, other businesses or the environment, we're in love with the low prices. So it's a difficult moral position for us, especially those who can't afford to shop anywhere else.
- Walmart dramatically changes the towns and cities where it has stores. He called this the suburbanisation of the local shopping experience.
- Part of this process involves destroying its competitors. To combat this many of it's competitors merge to try to fight Walmart (safety in numbers).
- While Walmart offers thousands of new jobs, they are at lower wages and eventually the town will suffer as all the diverse businesses are unable to compete. Basically they put constant downward pressure on wages across the country.
- Walmart also affects the environment and fabric of places far away from the United States, the salmon farming in South America, clothes manufacturing in Asia etc. It does audit these processes but in many cases the auditing is ineffective. In particular for manufacturing of clothes, the companies will be tipped off when Walmart is going to visit and therefore change their processes just for the visit.
- Walmart is great at cutting out unnecessary components of the shopping experience for example it was one of the first supermarkets to go to self-serve. Another example used is getting rid of the unnecessary packaging that deodorant used to come in. Here the author explains that Walmart's relentless search for efficiency and cost cutting can be a positive thing.
- Walmart has an unbelievable distribution and logistics network. It was more effective than the government during Hurricane Katrina.

The most important point he makes however is that Walmart is so powerful that it is beyond the market forces of capitalism. That is to say it is so big it is setting the rules of the market and therefore isn't influenced by them. This point is a bit tenuous, he also says that Walmart doesn't have to play fair because no one can make it.(less)

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Pige
Nov 12, 2007 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 ...more
Stephen
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
...more
Ryan
Feb 16, 2008 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
...more
A.C. Collins
May 22, 2012 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
Shelly
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow, I think everyone should read this book. I think the author does try to be balanced but in the end, I am convinced that Wal-mart is not a force for good in the world, the problems of labour violations, environmental impact and increases in poverty that follow a wal-mart just aren't worth it. Fishman is right that governments need to update their policies to deal with mega-corporations. Especially the release of data. I understand that there are privacy questions, but the size and effect of ...more
Thomas Umstattd Jr.
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
...more
Susan
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
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 ...more
Shane Schirmer
Very interesting read. The methods that Walmart uses to control markets are extremely interesting. I was fascinated to find out how they go about manipulating small manufacturers, and even large ones, for that matter, into giving them just what they want. From their advertising to how they stock their workforce, everything is calculated to the penny. While I wasn't blown away by the fact that Walmart would do these things, some of the methods used were fascinating to me.
Kimberly Laurel (The Trusty Bookmark)
Stopped listening to the audiobook for a time and could never find the motivation to restart.
Kayla
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this a couple of years and remember it was really interesting.
Toe
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Objective Summary

Fishman’s 2006 book takes an objective look at Wal-Mart, the world’s largest company by revenue. He provides basic information about the company, discusses the good and bad of the “Wal-Mart effect,” and finally calls for one significant change. Fishman defines the “Wal-Mart effect” as “the ways both small and profound that Wal-Mart has changed business, work, the shape and well-being of communities, and everyday life in the United States and around the world.” Like most
...more
p
Oct 13, 2007 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.
...more
Jean
Feb 25, 2015 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
...more
Jordan Lewis
Sep 26, 2014 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?
Christine
Jan 10, 2009 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.
Jenny Lambert
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall, this book was okay. I could definitely tell that the author, Charles Fishman, put a tremendous amount of effort and time into his intensive research. From statistics to interviews to just simple facts about the stores he visited, Fishman had it all to make his writing the least-biased as possible. This book is very well-written from a journalistic perspective, and Fishman even made the book readable and easy to understand, even if the information was boring. However, I think he could ...more
C. Patrick G. Erker
Everybody in America is affected by Walmart. Most Americans have shopped in one of its stores. The vast majority of Americans live within a tight radius around one of its stores. And anyone who has participated in the consumer economy in the last 25 years has been directly or indirectly impacted by its heft in setting prices, supply chain norms, and expectations for what quality looks like at what price.
And yet there had been little scholarship on the organization and its effects on workers,
...more
Raphael
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book was really well written, being that it was more of a news article. This in depth look into the “The Walmart Effect” really allowed me as a reader to learn more about a company that I see and hear so much about. The way the journalist, Charles Fishman gave voice to the voiceless really helped solidify my perspective. It gave accounts of people negatively affected by this huge enterprise. The author did a really good job in creating a fine line between news and advertisement. If you’re ...more
Linda Andrews
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I recommend to anyone interested in the global economy. Although Fishman details many negative impacts of Walmart, he does cover the push for efficiencies in transportation and packaging of the Walmart effect, giving the book an unbiased feel. He sticks to the point of the impact Walmart has. In the end we all need to ask ourselves if we really want one company to have some so much influence on the market place, and are the low prices worth the trade offs.

The book is somewhat dated since it was
...more
Jane Dugger
This was a very interesting and thought-provoking read. I shop at Wal-Mart; I admit I like the low prices. As well, I worked at Wal-Mart as a cashier when I was teenager and they do not treat their employees well. However, so do a lot of companies that we all frequent but we don't seem to have such controversial feelings about them. This book won't change my buying habits. It did give me a lot of food for thought about Wal-Mart and the economy it controls. I would love to read an updated edition ...more
Shruti Dalal
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-learning
On 9th May 2018, $16 billion dollar merger of Walmart and Flipkart was finally announced officially, after being in rumours for a long time. During my stay in the USA, I visited and shopped from all possible sized Walmart; supercenter, warehouse in Phoenix, medium-sized on Southern and Rural, small sized on campus etc. I had made several observations during my visits and hence when the merger was announced, I was curious to know the actual power of Walmart and how it will/ can impact Indian ...more
Heidi Foster
This book provides insights into how the world has been and will continue to transform through the efforts of Walmart. Interestingly, it shares who shops there and it is not who you would expect. The world will never be the same, some things better and some things possibly worse - mostly changed. It was fascinating from an economic perspective.
Jessica
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
The problem with this book is that there isn't enough information to make a clear picture of Wal-mart. It doesn't really clarify a position on Wal-Mart or make any forceful arguments, being careful not to offend or go outside the evidence.
Chris Kiertz
The content in this book was super interesting and there was obviously a ton of research done to put this book together. I'd say the writing was a little dry and matter-of-fact and was tough to keep going at times. I also felt like I got the point 75% of the way through. Still learned a lot though!
Geoff Walling
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
They do a nice job of explaining how Wal-Mart got so powerful and what it is doing to us.
Andrea
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: casa
I read this in 2018 so most of the informations are somehow old, but I found the book well written and the theme it's really interesting.
TheFrugalNexus
Jul 25, 2015 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
...more
Craig Randall
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One interesting thing is unprecedented level of control they had/have over its suppliers. if you became a partner, at some level Wal-Mart would assume more control of your business than even you would ...and all with the “gee-whiz we’re from small town Arkansas” and “we’re for the consumer” aloofness.

Great book.
Caiden Tays
Mar 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for school, and it was so boring, I actually hated reading for a period of time due to this garbage. I forced myself to stay up late at night to read this, because this book actually helped me fall asleep. The examples that were used were so boring, and this book could honestly have been 10 pages, and I still would have hated it.
Aliya
Jan 09, 2015 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
...more
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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
“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” 2 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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