Thursday, February 03, 2011

Walmart Comes to NYC: "To Serve Man"

The Walmart rally and hearing was held today and the turnout was really impressive-as NY1 reports: "Some local leaders gathered on the steps of City Hall this afternoon to blast Wal-Mart and condemn its plan to come to New York ahead of a City Council hearing examining the issue. Today's hearing will examine Wal-Mart's potential impact on the city. Executives from the big box store declined an invitation to attend. Opponents, however, will be at the hearing in full force. Earlier today, hundreds of them attended a rally against the retailers arrival in the city, saying."

In fact, we have never seen the steps at city hall so full of folks-and scores were left outside when the gates were closed. Walmart FreeNYC coordinator, Stephanie Yazgi deserves all of the kudos for her incredible effort. And a shout out to all of the little guys-the attendance of the small business community was truly the best we have ever seen-with supermarket, bodegas, green grocers and general merchandise retailers all out in force to show their solidarity and concern.

The NY Times weighs in-and highlights the Walmonster's shucking and ducking: "But while there was no shortage of opponents, there was no one to direct their anger at. Wal-Mart was a no-show, which was something company officials had made clear weeks ago when the hearing was first scheduled. That did not stop about 300 people, including elected officials, unions members and small-business representatives, from gathering on the steps of City Hall in cold weather to say they did not want even a single Wal-Mart store to open in the city."

Speaker Quinn let Big Wally have it: "No matter what Wal-Mart propaganda says,” the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, said, “they are not a company that is good for New York City. “  And Public Advocate de Blasio-stealing our line-called Walmart a, "Trojan Horse."

For its part, the Walmonster is stealing a page out of the Bloomberg playbook-bypassing democratic debate and using its vast resources to communicate in an unfiltered manner with New Yorkers: "Our decision not to attend today’s hearing has nothing to do with our willingness to answer questions or our belief that our stores would be good for New York City,” a Wal-Mart spokesman, Steven Restivo, said, “and everything to do with the hypothetical nature of the proceedings and the fact that it ignores the hundreds of similarly sized stores that exist in the city today.”

Which brings us to an important point-the Walmonster isn't like any other retailer in the world-a fact that was brought out by Stacy Mitchell in the hearing (a point reiterated by the speaker as well). It's impact is the equivalent of three or four of its competitors combined-and therefore its economic and environmental impact is exponentially greater than any other big box store.

As Quinn told the hearing this afternoon: "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called Walmart a “small business killer” at the rally. At the afternoon hearing, she said she was “deeply disappointed” that Walmart decided to skip the proceedings. She dismissed the retailer's claim that it was not participating because the Council refused to focus on national retailers that already exist in the city."

We'll have more on the hearing tomorrow, but we can't resist relaying the great analogy that CM Mark Weprin made about all of the supposed benefits that Big Wally would bring to NYC. Weprin recalled the old Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man," where aliens called Kanamits, come to earth promising all kinds of goodies-actually delivering on some of these promises. The kicker-and what convinces the earthlings of the aliens' good intentions-comes when a cryptographer deciphers one of the alien texts: "The aliens even morph deserts into big, blooming fields. Trust in the Kanamits seems to be justified when Patty, one of a staff of US government cryptographers led by Mr. Chambers, cracks the title of a Kanamits book the spokesman left behind at the UN. Its title, she reveals, is To Serve Man."

Convinced of their good intentions, the trusting earthlings embark on spaceships to the Kanamits' planet, realizing, only too late, that To Serve Man is actually a cookbook. Or, in other words, Weprin serves us with a colorful version of why Walmart's benefits-its jobs and low prices-come at too high a cost; and will end up devouring NYC and its neighborhoods.