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

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

by Charles Fishman


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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.g., Americans spend $36 million an hour at Wal-Mart stores, and in 2004 its growth alone was bigger than the total revenue of 469 of the Fortune 500), The Wal-Mart Effect is an intimate look at a business that is dramatically reshaping our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143038788
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/26/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 437,154
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Charles Fishman has been a senior editor at the Orlando Sentinel and the News & Observer and is now a senior editor at Fast Company. In 2005 he won the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for business journalism.

Table of Contents

The Wal-Mart EffectOne. Who Knew Shopping Was So Important?
Two. Sam Walton's Ten-Pound Bass
Three. Makin Bacon, A Wal-Mart Fairy Tale
Four. The Squeeze
Five. The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart
Six. What Do We Actually Know About Wal-Mart?
Seven. Salmon, Shirts, and the Meaning of Low Prices
Eight. The Power of Pennies
Nine. Wal-Mart and the Decent Society
Epilogue. Peoria, September 2005

Source Notes

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

The best Wal-Mart expose yet . . . as measured by depth and breadth of research, writing style, and evenhanded treatment. (The Denver Post)

Highly readable, incisive, precise, and even elegant. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The Wal-Mart Effect is an interesting look at how big corporations affect our planet in positive and negative ways. The strength . . . is in the stories about the lives that Wal-Mart has touched, set against the backdrop of an astounding array of data. (USA Today)

Insightful. (BusinessWeek)

The Wal-Mart Effect saunters through the influential economic ‘ecosystem’ that the discount chain represents with clarity, compelling nuance, and refreshing objectivity. (The Christian Science Monitor)

A must-read if one is even to begin understanding the global dominance of Wal-Mart. (The Washington Post)

Customer Reviews

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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 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
FrostyHarwood More than 1 year ago
Sure the prices may be cheap, but at what cost? Why is Wal-Mart able to offer such low prices? The Wal-Mart Effect gives you the opportunity to become an informed shopper. You can still choose the low prices but at least you will know how they got so low and who is paying the price!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Wal- Mart Effect By: Charles Fishman From the beginning of Wal ¿ Mart to present day, Charles Fishman will take you on a tour of Wal- marts growing effect on the economy. It¿s how Wal ¿ Mart effects the companies they buy from, their employees, and even you. This book has insider stories, as well as well researched graphs and studies to show the modern family what it really means to have low prices. This book was well written, full of information, and very insightful. 9 out of 10. Zach
Guest More than 1 year ago
Charles Fishman does a good job summarizing the 'effects' of the world's largest retailer - all the way down the value chain: end user prices, supplier costs, worker conditions at home and abroad, and social/environmental impacts. In the end, he proposes a solution to deal with such mega-corporations: a change in securities law that requires more transparency. A previous reviewer stated his concerns over increased governmental regulation -- likening it to 'wolves to handle your stray dog problem.' However, I tend to agree with the author that we do not have adequate rules to deal with the relatively new phenomena of mega-corporations -- ones that have attained monopsony control over the market. We have strict laws to deal with monopolies - situations where one 'seller' has significant control over the market. It is not unreasonable to propose greater oversight in situations where one 'buyer' has significant control, either.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Should be required reading for any business person, student or consumer. Our business environment is changing and it is not just happening in the electronic/computer arena.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was not an insight of the inner workings of Walmart, but a view of how Walmart has changed the world and how we do business. This book is enlightening to the global impact of business today -- the advantages, the consequences of the world economy and the importance of corporate responsibility and accountability.
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
An outstanding book, in my opinion. 'The Wal-Mart Effect' is, first, very well-written, with good formatting and a clear, coherent narrative. Furthermore, the author demonstrates a strong intellect that is tempered with humanity, perceptiveness, and transparency. Add to that a consistently fair and conservative faculty of judgment (and some witty humor, too), and the text was, for me, very easy to read -- smart but avoiding lofty, as to be accessible. Also, the book is comprehensively researched, being comprised predominantly of firsthand interviews and other original fieldwork on the author's part, rather than being sourced from less-substantial material; and, the content arrives from multiple perspectives and viewpoints, lending to a well-rounded account. Finally, 'Effect' delivers on its stated aim of demystifying Wal-Mart somewhat, by presenting a factual and meaningful overview of the corporation and its unprecedented global impact; I was also impressed with the author's conclusions and suggestions, which were, I thought, reasonable, logical, and well-argued. Thus, the book is, in my view, a success right from the outset, without even considering the finer points contained therein. And, indeed, it is ripe with such secondary substance, as to be far more than a business book -- or, really, even an academic one. Instead, 'Effect' is, in the end, something larger in scope, as to involve the lore of the world at large. That is to say, there is so much to learn from Wal-Mart's example, for so many of the subjects touched on in the text are as relevant and applicable on a human level as much as an economic or metaphorical one (and, likewise, as much individually as universally). So many lessons reside within Wal-Mart's history and behavior, and so many of them translate directly to us and our daily lives: in psychology and sociology, providing perspective on our actions, thoughts, and relationships (especially in regards to power and control); in the inseparability of all things, where the choices and actions of the part are never without bearing on the whole; in the deceptive nature of appearances, vividly illustrating how a bright, friendly exterior can conceal dark, negative motives; in the endlessly complicated reality of the world, where a seemingly good outcome can come at great expense, and for reasons not easily known or understood ("low prices aren't worth the cost"). Etcetera, etcetera. However, what I found most compelling about the book, and what made me rate it five stars, was the final chapter, in which we are treated to an interview with several individuals put out of work by the Wal-Mart Effect. This chapter is, for me, the book's capstone, for it takes the entire preceding discussion and condenses it into living terms, by providing a glimpse into the real-life, ground-level repercussions of the distant, impersonal forces referenced throughout the book. I can think of no more fitting conclusion, and it left me in an odd (yet appropriate) state of satisfaction, enlightenment, and unease. My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. Truly, I have benefited from your work. * * * Some notable quotes from 'The Wal-Mart Effect': "[...] there is a big difference between proving something and presuming something." -- p.141 "All those problems are manageable; it's just that managing them costs money, and if there is no reason to spend that money, no incentive, then no one does." -- p.178
DoranneLongPTMS More than 1 year ago
Wal-Mart affects our world, and how we think about world, whether we shop at Wal-Mart or not. Good examples are provided about Wall-Mart's effectiveness and efficiency. For example, deodorant no longer comes in its own cardboard box, which was immediately discarded upon opening; this is saving time, money, trees, shipping costs, and land fills. However, Wal-Mart can also negatively impact the world, and those of us living on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read for anyone that ever wanted to de-mystify the WalMart Empire. It is factual and unbiased. I leared a great deal about WalMart and the global impacts this retailer has on the world economy.
Miche11e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There isn't a Wal-Mart in my town. I occasionally shop in them other places, but mainly for low quality, low consequence things; t-shirts, shampoo, kitchen stuff. I had no idea that the prices there are as low as this book says they are.The book uses many examples to illustrate how Wal-mart has improved products and sales, eliminating waste. Wal-mart gives its vendors full access to its sales information in return for them cutting their margin and holding the inventory. The book shows how this may be good for the immediate customer, but bad in the long run for many small businesses and ultimately society as a whole.I'll never look at deodorant, pickles or salmon the same way again! Thanks Monica for this excellent book.
Maydacat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 leading retailer.
ElectricRay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating book about a fascinating phase of capitalist history, and is an interesting antidote both to the luvvie new-economy out-of-posterior-blowing efforts such as Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More and the Stage 1 Pol-Sci anti-capitalist dreck which usually passes for informed criticism of the corporate sector in these enlightened times. Whereas there may be some mileage in the contention that the internet has permanently pushed the threshold of viable business down the Long Tail - thereby creating a virtuous circle of more demand, more choice and more diversity of supply, here is a barnstorming tale of the organisation that seems single-handedly to scotch that argument. If there were much merit in Chris Anderson's general thesis, it would be hard to explain how, in such a transparently open and competitive market as the United States, one retailer - one *low margin* retailer - can have gone from a standing start to a 30% market share of almost any business it has cared to be in, in the last 30 years. For Wal-Mart is the very essence of the Fat Head, that part of the market which is supposed to be fraying and deteriorating before our very visual display units. There is some mileage in the Long Tail, to be sure - for every Wal-Mart, there's an online-retailer-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned - and the truth no doubt lies somewhere in the middle. What is fascinating is how Wal-Mart's position as a monopsony (a buy-side monopoly, in other words) has stressed the economy and traditional business models in hitherto unforeseen and unanticipated ways, but has not troubled the carefully framed anitrust laws. Fishman's account is balanced: he has a healthy respect for the brilliance of Wal-Mart's model, the unrelenting execution of its business plan, and the beneficial (and not always quantified) effects it has had on the US domestic economy in the last thirty or more years. But he is no proselyte: for every success story like Makin' Bacon's, a well-managed, successful company has been sent to the (er...) Wall by the monosponist's relentless quest for reduced margin, and Fishman covers these stories - together with some altogether unnerving information about the Wal-Mart effect on the global consumption (and husbandry) of Salmon - in unflinching detail. My hunch is that a true monopsony can't last as a natural state of equilibrium in a market so dynamic and competitive as America's, and Fishman's well developed argument is that, indeed, we may already be seeing the decline of the Walton empire, so perhaps the doomier passages of the book are overstated and in a decade we may wonder what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, for an incisive, economically literate, and well balanced book about the pros and cons of American style corporate capitalism (wildly superior to, for example, Joel Bakan's simple-minded The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power), this book comes well recommended.
tmannix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wal-Mart is the world's biggest retailer. By far. Add up the sales of the next 9 retailers and Wal-Mart is still bigger. Wow. It's also the world's largest private employer. 1.6 million employees. Wow. But Wal-Mart holds tight to its sales/financial/marketing information. They wouldn't even give an interview to the author--until after the book came out.Fishman looks at every aspect of "the Wal-Mart" effect starting with some very good things--forcing companies to reduce packaging, streamlining distribution, low prices (their raison d'etre). But Fishman contends that Wal-Mart has taken this "always low prices" so far that it has very broad detrimental effects: forcing companies to always lower their prices so that they skimp on quality and send jobs to overseas sweatshops, reshaping local shopping habits to close viable local businesses, creating low-wage jobs with miserly benefits and no future, creating environmental disasters with the volume of demand for some products, and on and on.But people love to shop at Wal-Mart! Even those who people who are "conflicted" about Wal-Mart go there more than once a week. Even if you don't shop there, Wal-Mart affects you: in the crappy quality on brand names that have Wal-Mart as their major customer. Wal-Mart says it's done nothing wrong. But just as the Industrial Revolution made the US take a look at its laws regarding monopolies, Fishman contends we need to take a look at how a busines this big, this influential affects us all. And do something about it.Great interviews with previous employees, some suppliers. Great anecdote about Atlantic salmon being farmed in Chile (yes, Chile is on the Pacific)and supplied to Wal-Mart (damn the environmental and human impacts).Non-fiction is sometimes ponderous but this book is not.
Miro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The communists tried to do this and failed. Walmart is a monopoly buyer working for the American poor, bringing them every day low prices with a giant planned system stretching around the world.The irony is that Walmart is American and they really take "working for the people" seriously rather than the communist's formula of empty words.This whole remarkable organization grew out of the work and ethos of Sam Walton that's clear to see in his excellent book "Made in America". Charles Fishman in my opinion takes too much time concentrating on the unintended negative consequences of this success without enough time on the success itself, although he does acknowledge it.Everyone wants a house and garage full of craftsman made quality objects but he knows as well as anyone that they're going to buy the cheapest that does the job.
michaeloliva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book does an excellent job of presenting both sides of the ongoing dispute between the Walmart supporters and detractors. There are some really important positive things provided by the world's largest retailer, but there is so much more that we should be concerned. This is the definitive reference to use.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of people love and shop at wally world.I am happy we live in a free country.I don't have to shop there
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A concise, reasonably balanced picture of the "good" and "challenges" of the Wal-Mart paradigm. Book ends a little more negatively than it started, but that seems to reflect the real-life trend of the company and the American relationship with it. Not a "Wal-Mart basher" book, but a book that quickly informs and should get folks thinking a bit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago