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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who is to blame for the high cost of low price?
It has been a rich month for the corporate bashing documentary films, with the release of Enron - the Smartest Men in the Room, and now Wal-Mart - the High Cost of Low Price. The first deals with the collapse of a company now non-existence, the second with a corporation still very much in existence.

The documentary begins, and is structured, by an almost...
Published on 27 July 2006 by I. Curry

versus
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All the cons, none of the pros, but effective nonetheless
I had to watch this film because I am embarking on a big writing project on wal-mart. It is intended as a no-holds-barred indictment of the company, and at this it is utterly relentless and does not seek any sense of fair balance or acknowledge the full complexity of the issues.

The film is divided into the familiar themes of wal-mart critics, namely, the...
Published on 23 April 2011 by rob crawford


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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who is to blame for the high cost of low price?, 27 July 2006
By 
I. Curry "IDC" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
It has been a rich month for the corporate bashing documentary films, with the release of Enron - the Smartest Men in the Room, and now Wal-Mart - the High Cost of Low Price. The first deals with the collapse of a company now non-existence, the second with a corporation still very much in existence.

The documentary begins, and is structured, by an almost evangelical Wal-Mart AGM. This rally for the faithful sees the CEO Lee Scott detailing the successes of Wal-Mart, and answering the growing criticisms of the firm's business practices. The documentary then seeks to show the key criticisms of the firm by telling stories from communities across the United States, indeed across the world.

The first story is the Hunter family, a true ma and pa operation hailing from Middlefield, xxx. This is middle America, conservative, Bush voting and freedom loving. But importantly Wal-Mart hating. For the opening of a Wal-Mart in close proximity to the town centre saw the family business destroyed. Later on this story is repeated in the tears of the Esry family from Hamilton, Missouri, who lost their small grocery chain when Wal-Mart opened with subsidies from the city, county and state government.

Some of the claims are disturbing and upsetting. Chief amongst these are the criticisms of the employment practices of the corporation. In the US this involves keeping a majority of the staff on the unsustainably low wage of approximately $7 per hour. Overtime is routinely unwaged, and the benefits package is inadequate and unaffordable for most. Over to Loveland, Colorado where attempts to unionise a part of a giant Wal-Mart see the corporation react in typical, if massively disproportionate fashion. It sees the company dispatch union-busting executives from Arkansas, employ illegal surveillance and corporate pressure. The likeable and young Josh, thrown into fighting against the company, seems doomed to failure.

The corporation appears to be completely rife with discriminatory practices. 1,630,000 former and current woman employees are potentially affected by a class action being brought, with appallingly misogynistic practices sitting comfortably with the allegations of racism. One woman asks why she is not able to take up a management position, and she is told that she doesn't fit. She says that she is a woman and black, which one was it? The manager allegedly replied "well two out of two ain't bad."

In Pasadena, California the workers report that they are told to do more work for less wages. The testimony is bourn out in the number of class actions, in 31 states, by workers alleging they have been cheated out of overtime payments. If life is tough in the States, it is tragically grinding overseas. Stories from China, Bangladesh and Honduras demonstrate how, as Jon Stewart jokes, you get your Wal-Mart sweater for 32.

The film is a powerful demonstration of how a corporation can become dangerously powerful. It unites groups from around the world who have a common gripe against Wal-Mart. But it has to be noted that the film becomes a little overbearing. In the end it is a documentary that strains the premise a little too far. Examples include blaming the corporation for crimes on its premises, and the examples of environmental degradation. Whilst the company could clearly have done more on both these fronts, the film seeks to demonise and draw judgements a little too quickly.

That said it is clear that Wal-Mart has remarkable resources at its disposal. This film marks a small attempt to fight back for the small communities that are destroyed by the corporation. And it ends with the small communities succeeding at fighting back. And this is a happy ending, with the almost gospel hallelujahs at driving back Goliath.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Beyond Belief, 12 April 2007
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This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
As the title to this review states it is just beyond belief that a modern global business can behave like this and get away with it. Walmart a company that deliberately discriminates against its employees, underpays its employees, relies on the state to provide healthcare for its employees, recklessly causes environmental pollution and exploits foreign workers (who are in effect its employees) all in the name of profit. How are these actions rewarded? With paltry fines for pollution and huge state subsidies for development and expansion which effectively put the small shopkeeper out of business.

Another documentary in the vein of Who Killed The Electric Car? and Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room which just makes you despair.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch this., 22 May 2007
By 
Mr. J. Fraser (Kelso, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
There's nothing much I can add to Ian David Curry's excellent review below but I feel compelled to give my recommendations to this documentary. One of the previous reviewers said this was a one sided film. What is the other side? This film presents nothing but facts. For another opinion talk to the bosses at Walmart. One scene that I remember was a woman recalling being car jacked in the Walmart parking and threatened with her life. This is apparently a fairly common occurence in Walmart parking lots. This all happened with security cameras watching the whole thing. These cameras are not set up for the customers safety however, they are in place to watch out for any union reps who might appear. Get this. No police were called and no security appeared to help the lady.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When a corporation can afford not to count the human cost, 30 Oct 2009
By 
Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
I thought I had the lost the ability to be shocked by documentary film making like this. Yes, I am ware that Corporations are often ruthless in puruit of the bottom line. Yes, I know that power corrupts. Yes, I know that vested interests can be formidable.
But what his film shows is a corporate power that has the resources and the power to sin with impunity, and can afford not to care.
The film is similar stylistically to many of its genre, e.g. Michael Moore's output, except it has no central narrator. It relies on its interviewees (small business owners, representatives of government agencies, ex Wal Mart employees from all levels)and stock footage and of course editorialisation. Having no framing narrator works for and against the film. It adds to a feeling of authenticity, that is the subjects in the film can speak entirely for themselves without having critical points rammed home, but it can also make some segments feel overlong and meandering. This felt particularly the case in the early scenes before the subject matter had really taken hold, and in the occasional feeling of, here's yet another screwed over small business or disgruntled ex employee.
But on the whole the pros of this approach far outweigh the cons. The film is also restrained in its use of graphics and special effects; the stories told, the weight of the meaning, and some of the juxtaposiitons (CEO Lee Scott in triumphal AGM mode set agaginst testimonies from gutted individuals and communities)give all the punch we need.

Jaw dropping moments include: corpoate jets bring emergency intervention teams to smash union activity in associate stores; Wal Mart stores getting subsidised by local governments to open in towns and then, when the building is up, sodding off to just outside city limits (literally taking the money and running); all security cameras pointing in the stores and all securtiy guards patrolling in the stores where the money is, ignoring the expansive car parks that surround the store...in other words they build the car parks as well as the store, commission research which proves how they attract crime and then ignore said research (and the crime stats and stories from their car parks are horrifying), thereby knowingly abdicating corporate responsibility for something they have created - put bluntly in the film, the moment you leave the store, they don't care...; the oppression of workers in Wal Mart factories in China and elsewhere - all of this is stuff you may have thought you knew about, but not really, not on this scale and with such brazeness.
Then there is their ability to shrug off lawsuits for breaking employment law and environemntal laws and regulations, becasue they can afford to. Even without a strong ethos or values, a lot of companies do not oppress individuals or communities as much as they might like to because they are afraid of the consequences to their reputation or bottom line. The truly frightening aspect of Wal Mart is that they can buy off the consequences. The implications of this are shattering, and give this film its power.

The film ends with a strong message of hope. Individuals, communities and Churches come together to slay Goliath, and it is shown to work, in a roll call of towns that have stopped Wal Mart from coming to them. The involvement of the Churches show just how Biblical and ancient and timeless this battle in fact is. The freeing of those oppressed and enslaved by a super-rich elite.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All the cons, none of the pros, but effective nonetheless, 23 April 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
I had to watch this film because I am embarking on a big writing project on wal-mart. It is intended as a no-holds-barred indictment of the company, and at this it is utterly relentless and does not seek any sense of fair balance or acknowledge the full complexity of the issues.

The film is divided into the familiar themes of wal-mart critics, namely, the devastating effect that the company can have on businesses in the communities it enters, the alleged treatment of its "associates", its global sweatshop network, its political activities, and its apparent indifference to its impact, etc.

While there is a lot of truth in these allegations, I would have liked a more honest attempt at providing a more neutral perspective. People go to wal-mart because its business model (consistently cheap prices, huge scale economies, and an incredibly efficient supply/logistic chain) works - that is indisputable and should serve as a starting point for any understanding of what the company does and why.

That being said, the film will serve anti-wal-mart activists admirably: there is no question that there is a huge groundswell of criticism and protest against the company, and it better take heed.

The device used in the film is to show tapes of wal-mart CEO Lee Scott and/or wal-mart commercials - to show how wal-mart wishes to portray itself - and then to seek points of view that contradict these statements. This, in my opinion as a specialist in corporate social responsibility, is an extremely useful way for activists to get at the company. If it doesn't live up to its stated ideals, let the people know. While the film is lopsided in its portrayal, this rightly appears quite devastating. The viewer wonders if wal-mart is the standard oil or railroads, so reviled in the guilded age, for our era.

Furthermore, the film charges that Scott's statements are lies and a conscious sham, deviously engineered for appearences without any basis in reality. I do not know if I wd go that far, as corporations are massive organizations and there is a difference between local implementation and the real intentions of its top leadership. Nevertheless, former wal-mart managers attest to this accusation in the film, including a tearful one who claims he was fired for attempting to point our contradictions between the company's rhetoric and practices. Again, this can be a tool of activists to get the company to pay attention to critics, particularly through media campaigns.

However, when the film got into details that I knew about from previous reporting work (i.e. by my own witness), I tired of its bias and lack of nuance. For example, there is a section on how poorly Chinese workers are treated. In a word, they are by our standards, but many of them are so poor that they are thankful for the work, which allows unskilled girls to save dowwery payments, proletariat workers to create businesses in their home regions when they return, and to support elederly parents. Moreover, the companies that hire them are subcontractors of wal-mart and hence not under its direct control - that means that wal-mart must monitor them and then induce them to change their policies, which to put it mildly is easier said than done. As such, while they deserve better work environments, the questions of how to achieve that and what is realistic in an underdeveloped economy are very complex (though not undoable in my view, whatever measures are taken may never satisfy critics). None of this was addressed in the film, which merely portrayed the workers as angry by one couple's experience. Regretably, this made the rest of the film suspect to me, as I wondered what else was portrayed so one-sidedly.

One of the more interesting aspects of the film is a bit on grassroots campaigns to block the establishment of new wal-marts in certain communities, some of which were run by Republican conservatives. The company ignores this at its peril. It is the type of challenge that will eventually impact its bottom line, though I doubt activists could ever kill the company.

To sum up, I did not learn much from this film. wal-mart is controversial, and its policies have multiple levels of impacts - e.g. it can help employees, but it uses them as well. Any business does that. But it does offer a vivid portrayal of why activists want to attack the company, which I will certainly use in my work. These attacks will only increase, in my view, and rightly so. Witness, for example, a story I saw this morning in the newspapers: Maryland passed legistlation to force wal-mart to provide better health insurance coverage, with the specific intent of getting wal-mart employees off of the welfare rolls! That is extremely powerful stuff and may serve as a template for other states. As such, wal-mart critics are part of a political movement and not mere consumer or labor advocates.

I think that wal-mart is at a turning point. It can either listen to critics and begin to change policies that were designed for a particular place and time - when it was a mid-west company in rural southern areas, where its policies fit and were genuinely appreciated - and now has become a global superpower on a vastly different scale. Or it can adopt a bunker mentality, leavened by a purely public relations strategy, that is, dismissing its critics' arguments as unfair and attempting to address them solely by spin.

With these observations in mind, I would recommend this film - with caution.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not great, 25 Aug 2014
This could have been a lot shorter, the basic message was about the giants bad practices. The music playing over the talking made it difficult to hear some of the points.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting message, awful production., 11 April 2014
Production of this film left a lot to be desired. Struggled to hear most of the dialogue because the background music was foreground. Badly shakily shot, no structure or explanation to most of what was going on.
There was a lot of potential for exploration of a meaningful issue but perhaps not presented as well as it could be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 Aug 2014
This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
Great product, fast delivery and well packed. AAA+
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I can't hear what anyone is saying!, 27 May 2014
By 
K. Sunderland - See all my reviews
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Annoying background music all the way through that makes it difficult to hear and understand what anyone is saying. Most of the people talking have strong accents so subtitles would have been useful - or at least getting rid of the music!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 19 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] (DVD)
Good insight to their operations.
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Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD]
Wal*Mart - The High Cost Of Low Price [DVD] by Robert Greenwald (DVD - 2006)
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