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Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses

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In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. In this deft and revealing book, Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement—and she shows how a growing number of communities and independe In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. In this deft and revealing book, Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement—and she shows how a growing number of communities and independent businesses are effectively fighting back. Mitchell traces the dramatic growth of mega-retailers—from big boxes like Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Costco, and Staples to chains like Starbucks, Olive Garden, and Old Navy—and the precipitous decline of independent businesses. Drawing on examples from virtually every state in the country, she unearths the extraordinary impact of these companies and the big-box mentality on everything from soaring gasoline consumption to rising poverty rates, failing family farms, and declining voting levels. Along the way, Mitchell exposes the shocking role government policy has played in the expansion of mega-retailers and builds a compelling case that communities composed of many small, locally owned businesses are healthier and more prosperous than those dominated by a few large chains. More than a critique, Big-Box Swindle provides an invigorating account of how some communities have successfully countered the spread of big boxes and rebuilt their local economies. Since 2000, groups of ordinary citizens have halted more than two hundred big-box development projects, and scores of towns and cities have adopted laws that favor small-scale, local business development and limit the proliferation of chains. From cutting-edge land-use policies to innovative cooperative small-business initiatives, Mitchell offers communities concrete strategies that can stave off mega-retailers and create a more prosperous and sustainable future.


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In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. In this deft and revealing book, Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement—and she shows how a growing number of communities and independe In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. In this deft and revealing book, Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement—and she shows how a growing number of communities and independent businesses are effectively fighting back. Mitchell traces the dramatic growth of mega-retailers—from big boxes like Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Costco, and Staples to chains like Starbucks, Olive Garden, and Old Navy—and the precipitous decline of independent businesses. Drawing on examples from virtually every state in the country, she unearths the extraordinary impact of these companies and the big-box mentality on everything from soaring gasoline consumption to rising poverty rates, failing family farms, and declining voting levels. Along the way, Mitchell exposes the shocking role government policy has played in the expansion of mega-retailers and builds a compelling case that communities composed of many small, locally owned businesses are healthier and more prosperous than those dominated by a few large chains. More than a critique, Big-Box Swindle provides an invigorating account of how some communities have successfully countered the spread of big boxes and rebuilt their local economies. Since 2000, groups of ordinary citizens have halted more than two hundred big-box development projects, and scores of towns and cities have adopted laws that favor small-scale, local business development and limit the proliferation of chains. From cutting-edge land-use policies to innovative cooperative small-business initiatives, Mitchell offers communities concrete strategies that can stave off mega-retailers and create a more prosperous and sustainable future.

30 review for Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Growing up in Selma, I was aware of two different 'cities': one was a coherent downtown core that consisted of attractive if decaying and inactive buildings; the other was a twelve-mile stretch of parking lots, boxes, and neon signs running north of the city proper. We went downtown for the library and courthouse; we went down Highland Avenue for everything else. Millions of towns across the United States, but especially in the Southeast, have a similar brokenness. They were broken by shining li Growing up in Selma, I was aware of two different 'cities': one was a coherent downtown core that consisted of attractive if decaying and inactive buildings; the other was a twelve-mile stretch of parking lots, boxes, and neon signs running north of the city proper. We went downtown for the library and courthouse; we went down Highland Avenue for everything else. Millions of towns across the United States, but especially in the Southeast, have a similar brokenness. They were broken by shining lights, promises of jobs and prosperity, and the lie that this kind of 'progress' is inevitable. Big-Box Swindle exposes the seeming triumph of corporate colonialism not as an inevitable result of market economics, but a product of tax and zoning policies pitted against widespread public apathy. In Swindle, Stacy Mitchell argues that accepting and promoting big-box development is economically self-defeating, and shares the stories of citizens who have taken action to push back. While unashamedly hostile toward the chain stores, it invites political interest from across the spectrum -- whether from progressives, who fear depressed wages, libertarians who object to the public's money being handed over to private corporations, and conservatives who see the big-box bulldozers as a threat to community life. Although the first chain stores appeared in the late 19th century, it wasn't until the federal government began taking a heavy interest in playing with development and transportation that they really took off. From the very beginning, big boxes were supported by big government -- and not just in expected ways. To be sure, when Uncle Sam built interstates out into the country and fixed mortgage practices so that loans inside cities were depressed, and loans outside the city proper encouraged, they benefited -- but that's been covered by all kinds of books, especially Suburban Nation. Another practice that Mitchell shares is that of the government allowing developers to write off forty years of building depreciation in only seven to ten years. This urged developers to throw up sites, and abandon them once the tax write-off was no longer available. (This is presumably one reason why Wal-Mart stores have a planned life cycle of sixteen years.) Developers enjoyed (and enjoy) a banquet of political favor: cities buy land for them and sell it to them on the cheap, or better yet seize it under eminent domain and turn it over to development; most states allow large companies to play tax games with subsidiaries and holding companies, the kind that mean annual tax bills under $300. And for all that help, these boxes are still propped up by public tax subsidies and infrastructure -- roads, power, and water -- that stress city budgets to the point of bankruptcy, especially when the chains move on and leave a vast parking lot whose wastewater still has to be corralled and treated. Why did cities do this to themselves? Mitchell argues that most of the reasons offered rarely stand up to scrutiny. The chains' prices aren't particularly lower than their competition, at least not after they've established themselves. At the outset prices are low, mostly to build a customer base. What is lower are wages, because these stores experience high employee turnover and have zero interest in investing in them. Because independent stores operate on a margin, even losing 10% of their business is enough to send them reeling into bankruptcy. What's worse, because the chains are part of a national network, they don't bother integrating themselves into the local economy. They're not buying products from local factories, using local ad agencies, law firms, and banks. Home Office handles that. They don't even provide jobs, so much as claim existing ones -- just as they claim the existing demand for their wares. People's communities become nothing more than dots on a map to be conquered by a national strategy: Wal-Mart, for instance, likes to saturate an area with stores and then close redundant ones once it has become the apex. Mitchell's concern isn't merely with the local economy and the private use of public money; she has a passionate interest in the communal welfare of people, of the ties that bind us to our neighbors and enrich our lives. Independently owned businesses and their employees are invested in the local community; their taxes support the services, and if their parking lot poisons the water, their owner's kids are drinking it. At times, she borders on the romantic, bringing to mind You've Got Mail: the small business owners love their customers and carefully choose what they might offer, and have long heartfelt conversations with everyone. The box stores leave you to read labels by yourself, and if you're not buying then get out already. Mitchell's overt hostility toward the chains means they can do nothing right: at one point, she scolds Wal-Mart for being discriminatory about its stock, choosing not to carry gangsta rap cds; several pages later she gripes against Blockbuster for not discriminating, and carrying dozens of copies of the latest Hollywood production regardless of its quality, while offering only a few copies of an independent film. Well, dear author, should they be picky about what they stock, or shouldn't they? Big Box Swindle offers a lot of room for thought, and I approached it with caution. I knew I would be predisposed to agree with the author on some points, being a locally-oriented person, but that same small-is-beautiful stance also made me wary what she might declare as the solution: federal legislation. They're the ones who helped create the problem, so my suspicion is that corporations will happily co-opt whatever legislation comes down the pike. Washington, D.C. is their city, not the people's. Happily, however, she doesn't. Oh, she mentions D.C. as a redoubt against the worst of corporate abuses, but the 'solutions' third of her book is almost wholly citizen-politics. There she recounts people organizing to protect their communities against outside colonization, either by changing zoning and tax laws to discourage big-box development, or by banding together in business cooperatives to compete with the boxes' economy of scale. The closest she comes to urging for national legislation is calling for the states to work together to close off certain tax loopholes. The focus on local activism means a true empowerment of local communities -- of people becoming the primary actors within their own lives, and not just content to let some bull-in-a-china-shop federal agency try to do it for them. Related: The Strong Towns organization, the founder of which (Chuck Marohn) has illustrated that low-density auto-oriented development, the home field of big boxes, is a tax sinkhole. http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/20... The Small-Mart Revolution, Michael Shuman http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot.... The Wal-Mart Effect, Chates Fishman http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot.... Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Ellen Shell http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alyson

    I'm not sure how anyone could shop at Walmart, or any big-box store, after reading this book. Once you peel back all of the stinky, rotten layers of how these corporations do business and how they destroy the fabric and identity of so many communities when they move into town, you realize how these stores really cost us all more in the long run, despite the seductive promise of low prices. Mitchell does an excellent job of systematically knocking down every argument in favor of big-box stores. N I'm not sure how anyone could shop at Walmart, or any big-box store, after reading this book. Once you peel back all of the stinky, rotten layers of how these corporations do business and how they destroy the fabric and identity of so many communities when they move into town, you realize how these stores really cost us all more in the long run, despite the seductive promise of low prices. Mitchell does an excellent job of systematically knocking down every argument in favor of big-box stores. No, they don't always have the lowest prices (although they spend a lot of money trying to convince you they do), and no, they don't bring much-promised tax revenue to communities once they move into town, and no, they don't create lots of fabulous new jobs. This was one of those books that had me constantly reading passages aloud to my husband so I could share my outrage with someone. Read this book, please, and tell your friends to read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl L.E.

    First, there is a lot of important information in here that we all should be aware of and concerned about. Second, after you read this you will find it difficult to step into another big box store without feeling like part of the problem. Third, read it anyway. I've been boycotting Walmart for decades. Ever since I woke up one day in the small rural Illinois town I'd been living in for the past few years and realized that every single piece of clothing I was wearing down to my bra and hair tie, a First, there is a lot of important information in here that we all should be aware of and concerned about. Second, after you read this you will find it difficult to step into another big box store without feeling like part of the problem. Third, read it anyway. I've been boycotting Walmart for decades. Ever since I woke up one day in the small rural Illinois town I'd been living in for the past few years and realized that every single piece of clothing I was wearing down to my bra and hair tie, all the food in my house, my curtains, picture frames, most of my music CDs, pens, pencils, paper, napkins, TP, towels, toiletries, etc. had been purchased at Walmart. That Illinois town had once had a vibrant downtown, three grocery stores, and a variety of other independently owned businesses but by the time I got there a few years after the Walmart had opened, all that was left was a floundering Kroger, an independent grocer, and a couple of downtown independent businesses. Now, twenty years later, the grocery stores are gone, the downtown is nearly vacant, and the only place to buy basically anything is at that Walmart supercenter, unless you want to drive nearly an hour to Peoria, where you won't find independents but you will find many more chains and big box stores. The thing is, I CAN boycott Walmart because now I live in a much more populated area with lots of options but people stuck in towns owned by Walmart are victims of whatever they decide to carry and whatever price they decide to sell at (and trust me, the prices do go up once the competition is gone) Still, the independent businesses are disappearing and with them, jobs. I don't just mean jobs from the stores that are closed but also jobs from the suppliers of those stores, jobs from the businesses and banks that supported those stores, jobs from the manufacturers that had to send their jobs overseas because they can't make products cheaply enough here for Walmart to stock them (that's right, Walmart doesn't want quality, American-made goods when they can get a cheaper version from China). With the jobs disappearing from the now vacant stores, communities have also lost tax revenue and community support for things like sports teams and summer programs. I could go on and on but this book lays it out very well, the damage that the big-box retailer does to our towns and communities. The author lays out many plans for combating these greedy behemoths but with hindsight (this book was written over a decade ago) it seems not all have been successful. I don't know that we can turn the tide, I suspect we're too far gone, but still, if there is hope, it might be within these pages. This book is still very relevant but could definitely use an update or at least a re-release with a new forward to address the changes that have taken place since the first publication. For example, many of the villains in this story have not survived (Borders and Circuit City come to mind), taken out by I assume the likes of Amazon and their own redundancy. And others that are floundering (such as Best Buy) due to alternative online sources for music and other forms of entertainment. On that note, while Walmart is featured prominently and is by far the biggest drain on an community unlucky enough to have one, there are multiple chains mentioned.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Glad I stumbled into this book (at an independent bookstore, naturally). The book is incredibly detailed, maybe too much for some people, but don't be surprised if she happens to mention a town you grew up in, or an area you're familiar with. I think she may have actually driven through every small town in America to see how they've handled big box stores. I say that because she actually quoted a person I knew from a small town in Maine. So really. She did her research. I spent most of the book g Glad I stumbled into this book (at an independent bookstore, naturally). The book is incredibly detailed, maybe too much for some people, but don't be surprised if she happens to mention a town you grew up in, or an area you're familiar with. I think she may have actually driven through every small town in America to see how they've handled big box stores. I say that because she actually quoted a person I knew from a small town in Maine. So really. She did her research. I spent most of the book getting more and more frustrated about the story we've bought into as a nation that big retailers are good for us, but the end of the book is about the actions people are taking to restore the power of independent businesses, and the good news is that most of that work can be done locally. Get to know local leaders, read your newspaper, and be aware of what's happening in your town. Some of this book is clearly outdated, given that Amazon receives only the occasional mention, but is now as dominating as Walmart. It is still highly relevant, though, particularly with how the pandemic has effected "essential" vs "non-essential" businesses. It's more critical than ever to make sure we have strong, robust communities able to support most of their needs internally.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Well researched, very redundant.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I try to get both sides of the story on issues and make up my mind based on the weight and validity of the arguments. For the opposing side to this book I looked at Penn & Teller's show Bullshit, and the episode they did on Walmart. Unfortunately Milt Friedman is dead so it is kind of hard to get a free market advocate that isn't over the top so they will have to do. In summary here's their arguments for Walmart. Walmart forces suppliers and competitors to be more efficient. That benefits Walmart I try to get both sides of the story on issues and make up my mind based on the weight and validity of the arguments. For the opposing side to this book I looked at Penn & Teller's show Bullshit, and the episode they did on Walmart. Unfortunately Milt Friedman is dead so it is kind of hard to get a free market advocate that isn't over the top so they will have to do. In summary here's their arguments for Walmart. Walmart forces suppliers and competitors to be more efficient. That benefits Walmart shoppers. Sweatshops are good because the people in other countries would have even worse jobs at subsistence farm labor if they didn't have the job in the factory. They had some small college professor supporting this theory, but even a supposed liberal economist, Paul Krugman has said this is true. Walmart saves over $2,000 a year for the people that shop there, who are mostly poorer, and really need the money. Walmart pays an average of $10.15 and hour which is much higher than the national minimum wage. Walmart tries to stop unions, but unions are just big greedy fat cats trying to line their own pockets by collecting more dues. There is criticism of attempts in Chicago to force Walmart to pay at least $10 an hour. The politicians are presented as self interested and not caring that it will eliminate jobs. An example is given where they talk to a woman who says she doesn't know what she would do without her job at Walmart, and she is glad to have the job. The fight against Walmart is lead by elitists that look down on people that shop at Walmart. If you don't like what Walmart is doing, build your own store and do it better than them. Stacy's book shoots down all these arguments with logic, facts and real stories from those impacted. I could detail where Penn is wrong, but I'll let you read the book and you can decide for yourself. I think having finished this book you will recognize the bullshit that Penn and Teller are pedaling on their show,and have the tools to prove them wrong with reason and facts. Penn is generally a libertarian, which is supposedly for the free markets. Nothing about Walmart is for the free market and fair competition. Honestly I think he should be ashamed of that episode. Of course he is just in it to make a buck and preach to those that agree with him without an honest presenting of the facts (much like Micheal Moore does for the left).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Every time a person mentions Amazon, Borders, or B&N, it makes me cringe. Running an independent bookstore in the 21st century is truly a labor of love. So this is not bedtime reading, it stirs me up too much to get a good night's sleep. Every time a person mentions Amazon, Borders, or B&N, it makes me cringe. Running an independent bookstore in the 21st century is truly a labor of love. So this is not bedtime reading, it stirs me up too much to get a good night's sleep.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lilac

    Got me not to shop at Target for about six months. I'm pretty good at avoiding other big boxes. Seriously upsetting and convincing, and well written Got me not to shop at Target for about six months. I'm pretty good at avoiding other big boxes. Seriously upsetting and convincing, and well written

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Stacy Mitchell doesn't mince words when she attacks big-box retailers for the damage they do, not just to the local communities where they locate, but to the entire U.S. economy. Not only have they driven small retailers out of business, but they have forced manufacturers to shift production overseas in order to meet their low-price demands. She backs her claims up with pretty solid numbers. She also ends the book on a hopeful note for local businesses with the development of "buy local" movemen Stacy Mitchell doesn't mince words when she attacks big-box retailers for the damage they do, not just to the local communities where they locate, but to the entire U.S. economy. Not only have they driven small retailers out of business, but they have forced manufacturers to shift production overseas in order to meet their low-price demands. She backs her claims up with pretty solid numbers. She also ends the book on a hopeful note for local businesses with the development of "buy local" movements in towns and cities across the country. Written in 2005 before online retailing became a major threat to chains and independents alike, she has nothing to say about how to survive that. It is likely that some strategies for survival of local business in the battle against chains will be of use in the battle with e-tailers. We'll see.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Good information, but the info is dated now. I'm betting Amazon is beating everyone now and Kmart and Sears are all but dead. I didn't finish the book, but I am going to look for local alternatives to some of my usual stops. Good information, but the info is dated now. I'm betting Amazon is beating everyone now and Kmart and Sears are all but dead. I didn't finish the book, but I am going to look for local alternatives to some of my usual stops.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Oh, the sweetness of telling others what to do. Mildly amusing, but repetitive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jes

    Very educational book. I highly recommend it for those interested in the retail industry and the economic impact of big box stores, or for anyone who shops at one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Occasionally anachronistic but still powerful argument by one of America's foremost advocates of locally-owned small businesses. Frequent mentions of Borders, Blockbuster, and K-Mart are jarring, but the arguments remain current in the age of Amazon. In six chapters she details the harms to America's communities done by large chain operations, and that the biggest arguments for their proliferation--lower costs to consumers, and job creation--are exaggerated if not outright false. She also discus Occasionally anachronistic but still powerful argument by one of America's foremost advocates of locally-owned small businesses. Frequent mentions of Borders, Blockbuster, and K-Mart are jarring, but the arguments remain current in the age of Amazon. In six chapters she details the harms to America's communities done by large chain operations, and that the biggest arguments for their proliferation--lower costs to consumers, and job creation--are exaggerated if not outright false. She also discusses how public policy often favors big-box stores, but concludes on hopeful notes: how communities have (sometimes) successfully fought back against chains, and how small businesses have banded together to make themselves stronger. Her evidence is thorough, yet her writing remains passionate, which is a difficult combination for any writer.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Book Calendar

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Big Box Swindle The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Business by Stacy Mitchell This book is a statement against big box retailers; Lowe's, Walmart, Costco, Barnes & Noble, and Toys R' Us are some of the businesses which are challenged. It also challenges Amazon, the online mega-retailer. The central thesis of this book is that big box stores do not serve the communities which they operate in: they lower wages, increase unemployment, increase urban blight, and give very Big Box Swindle The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Business by Stacy Mitchell This book is a statement against big box retailers; Lowe's, Walmart, Costco, Barnes & Noble, and Toys R' Us are some of the businesses which are challenged. It also challenges Amazon, the online mega-retailer. The central thesis of this book is that big box stores do not serve the communities which they operate in: they lower wages, increase unemployment, increase urban blight, and give very little back to the communities they are part of both in terms of charity and money. Mega retailers owe their allegiance to the stockholders which hold shares of their company, not the communities which they operate in. This often leads to behavior where in order to save money, the big box retailers use tactics which smaller independent businesses cannot support. They ask for development grants, tax breaks, and training programs from the government. Then after being in communities, they often abandon the buildings they are operating in to move to large facilities, pollute the environment, and break labor laws. The government tends to take the side of large corporations. Recently, there have been examples of using eminent domain to take peoples home to build shopping centers and mega malls. There is an assumption that because the mega retailer is cheaper, it is better for the community. It is the attitude of support the consumer saving money at all costs. I personally find mega malls very uncomfortable. They are impersonal, the clerks often know very little about the products they are selling, are underpaid, and have very little investment in the community. I can go to the local pharmacist and get good service and help with prescriptions. This does not happen at Walgreens. There are numerous examples of how much better service is in a small business in this book. It is very hard to be a prosumer, a person who sees his choices in what he consumes as being part of the outcome of what will be produced in a big box store setting. I see myself as part of the process of producing and consuming books at the same time. I make a lot of choices about how books are purchased and I consume a lot of them as well. I am lucky to live in a neighborhood with a fruit stand, several non-chain restaurants, and many small businesses. It keeps the character of the neighborhood intact. I do not like the massive unchecked growth I see in the big box stores. Walmart looks like a monopoly to me. I can see it being broken apart much like Standard Oil was broken apart. I also don't like the way big box stores have gained unfair advantages in controlling supply chains and distribution. It took a $46 million dollar settlement fought for by the American Bookseller Association to even out the discounts from distributors between Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores. I like the descriptions of how communities are resisting having their downtowns taken over by mega retailers. Some communities place size limits on commercial buildings, other communities limit the franchises in their neighborhoods, and still others are forming community stock corporations to open independent groceries and department stores where there were none before. In some instances small businesses are forming buyers cooperatives. Ace hardware is a buyers cooperative that allows independents to remain competitively priced with Lowe's or Home Depot. Also some towns are forming independent business alliances like the Austin Independent Business Alliance. This book demonstrates the struggle between big box retail stores and independent businesses. I am on the side of shopping locally for the most part. I do admit that I shop online as well. I think they did not do that great a job covering online shopping in this book. However, I support the idea of small business preserving the character of communities as well as the middle class. This book is very informative. Even if I don't agree with it completely, it is a very interesting book. There is an index and very extensively referenced notes. I wish the author had separated the books out from the notes and created a bibliography. It would have made the book much better. The author probably wouldn't have liked me using Amazon to show the book. But, in a way, I actually like Amazon a bit even if it is a mega-retailer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    It's been a part of my upbringing, having grown up on Cape Cod, the daughter of mainstream hippies, that larger retailers are to be avoided, but I never really thought about why that might be; it was as fundamental a truth as exercise being good for me and junk food being bad. So I was already convinced of the message of this book when I read it: that big-box retailers do more harm to local (and the American) economy than they help. This book contains many, many examples and illustrations of why It's been a part of my upbringing, having grown up on Cape Cod, the daughter of mainstream hippies, that larger retailers are to be avoided, but I never really thought about why that might be; it was as fundamental a truth as exercise being good for me and junk food being bad. So I was already convinced of the message of this book when I read it: that big-box retailers do more harm to local (and the American) economy than they help. This book contains many, many examples and illustrations of why big boxes are worse than local businesses, and give a lot of good reasons to pay the downtown parking fees just to shop local. The strongest part of the book, in my opinion, is the section where it discusses what to do about big box stores, other than simply "don't shop there." It was heartening to learn that there were initiatives, usually on a local level, that were working to give the economy back to the communities they're housed in. I learned of the tremendous red tape in my own hometown involved with chain stores setting up shop, and realized that was the other side of the coin that gave me reasons to move away. Overall, I wouldn't expect this book to create many converts to the anti-Wal-mart crowd; you'd already have to be wary of big boxes, and be receptive to the message, I suspect. You'd also have to agree that the harm the book talks about is worth intervention. But I found it a compelling and fast read. As a warning, the earlier part of the book can be a bit difficult to get through. There are so many "hidden costs" of big box stores, and so many advantages the big boxes have over local retailers, that it's disheartening to read. But that's what makes the latter chapters such a relief. Still, it might make it difficult for some to get through.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This was eye opening and inspired me to be much more conscious of where I'm spending my money, especially on everyday items. Unfortunately, it really depressed me and made me feel a little hopeless about the plight of small business owners, of which I am one. With my new-found interest in being more supportive of the small time retailer. I went on vacation with my hubby to apple country (Sonoma) After researching a nice apple orchard and country store to visit while we were there, we pluncked do This was eye opening and inspired me to be much more conscious of where I'm spending my money, especially on everyday items. Unfortunately, it really depressed me and made me feel a little hopeless about the plight of small business owners, of which I am one. With my new-found interest in being more supportive of the small time retailer. I went on vacation with my hubby to apple country (Sonoma) After researching a nice apple orchard and country store to visit while we were there, we pluncked down a bit too much change on some home grown apple butter and several other items made by this family owned business. Yes, I spend $5.50 on a small jar of jam. This felt good, supporting the family farm until a couple weeks later. I happened upon the same jar of jam in a Longs Drugs store for $1. Gone are my sympathies. I was duped. Yes, Longs, Walmart, Home Depot are all ruining the economy and the environment according to this author. But I live in suburbia where small businesses seem to never have started in many categories, at least not that I know of. I also can't be driving around town from specialty store to specialty store with my three kids in tow, each of them in a car seat. Oh the work to get them in and out of the car! So I put this book down, half-read, with a guilty conscience and a feeling of helplessness in doing much to avert this disastrous situation. Okay, I shopped a tradeasone.com a bit. Go fair trade!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    Full disclosure: I stopped reading halfway through. I got the point, and it was too depressing to continue reading. But it contains lots of good information, and I'd recommend checking it out if this is a topic that interests you. I haven't been able to set foot in a Wal-Mart since reading this, which has forced me to seek out (local, where possible) alternatives to the very few things I had only been able to find there. I would be interested to see how things have changed in the years since this Full disclosure: I stopped reading halfway through. I got the point, and it was too depressing to continue reading. But it contains lots of good information, and I'd recommend checking it out if this is a topic that interests you. I haven't been able to set foot in a Wal-Mart since reading this, which has forced me to seek out (local, where possible) alternatives to the very few things I had only been able to find there. I would be interested to see how things have changed in the years since this book was written. For example, the author mentions Blockbuster as a big-box store that put local video rental places out of business, but every Blockbuster around us has now gone out of business (not sure if the whole chain has yet or not), pushed out by Netflix and Red Box. She also mentions Costco--still a big-box store, but one that apparently has more ethics than Wal-Mart's Sam's Club. I'd be interested to know if they still offer their employees better pay and benefits than Sam's does. Overall, I'd say it's worth the read. Even if it just makes you think about your shopping habits and about what we've allowed these huge companies to do, it's worth it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This was an excellent read. It was dense, as business and finance are not a strength of mine, but an eye opening fascinating account of big business retail and it's damaging effects on everyone. Highly recommend this book. This was an excellent read. It was dense, as business and finance are not a strength of mine, but an eye opening fascinating account of big business retail and it's damaging effects on everyone. Highly recommend this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

    It took me a long time to get through this book, mostly because it made me really sad. The first 2/3 of the book (at least) is about all of the terrible consequences of big-box retail in the US. I can only read about small towns and city neighborhoods being destroyed by Wal-Mart so many times before I feel a little hopeless. However, I do think that these stories are important to hear. The last 1/3 of the book is more hopeful, describing ways that communities can fight back against corporate ret It took me a long time to get through this book, mostly because it made me really sad. The first 2/3 of the book (at least) is about all of the terrible consequences of big-box retail in the US. I can only read about small towns and city neighborhoods being destroyed by Wal-Mart so many times before I feel a little hopeless. However, I do think that these stories are important to hear. The last 1/3 of the book is more hopeful, describing ways that communities can fight back against corporate retail, and telling success stories. One critique I have is that this book does not address class issues at all. It seems like a lot of Buy Local campaigns are targeted to, and only affordable for, the upper class (such as Pittsburgh's Shadyside buy local movement). Maybe that is a subject for a different book, but it seems important to work on Buy Local issues in a way that benefits poor people as well as rich.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    FUCK WAL-MART. I've always said that and I constantly read/watch reasons why that statement makes sense. I have never shopped at a Wal-Mart and I rather get punched in the face than do so. And I rather pay more money elsewhere...yup, I am an indie kind of guy. Good read, great facts, easy on the eyes, and once again Fuck Wal-Mart. Shopping there is just hurting everyone around you. SALES are founded on dead kittens, old peoples tears, and gun pointed at the working man. Eh...uhhh...just read the FUCK WAL-MART. I've always said that and I constantly read/watch reasons why that statement makes sense. I have never shopped at a Wal-Mart and I rather get punched in the face than do so. And I rather pay more money elsewhere...yup, I am an indie kind of guy. Good read, great facts, easy on the eyes, and once again Fuck Wal-Mart. Shopping there is just hurting everyone around you. SALES are founded on dead kittens, old peoples tears, and gun pointed at the working man. Eh...uhhh...just read the book, it's nice. I'm an indie guy and i keep it local.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I found this book to be eye-opening as to some of the economic and social ills associated with "big box" chain stores. It definitely has me thinking about my own shopping preferences and how those might be changed. That said though, I believe that the author places too much of the blame for the problems she describes on the Big Box stores themselves. It seems to me that the big box retail phenomenon is as much a symptom of broader changes in our society over the past 60 years (or more) as it is I found this book to be eye-opening as to some of the economic and social ills associated with "big box" chain stores. It definitely has me thinking about my own shopping preferences and how those might be changed. That said though, I believe that the author places too much of the blame for the problems she describes on the Big Box stores themselves. It seems to me that the big box retail phenomenon is as much a symptom of broader changes in our society over the past 60 years (or more) as it is a catalyst of those changes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angel

    I borrowed this one from the UHD Library. I liked it, and I also recommended it to my students, crossposting from my blog to the student resource blog I maintain. Wal-Mart and Big-Boxes are a popular freshman composition topic here, thus the recommendation. Here is a link to the note I wrote about it in my personal blog: [http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co...] I borrowed this one from the UHD Library. I liked it, and I also recommended it to my students, crossposting from my blog to the student resource blog I maintain. Wal-Mart and Big-Boxes are a popular freshman composition topic here, thus the recommendation. Here is a link to the note I wrote about it in my personal blog: [http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co...]

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Very well written and researched book that highlights many ways that large retailers gain an unfair advantage over small business owners. I worked at WAL*MART for a number of months and no know idea the many underhanded tricks they used to gain an advantage. Many of these tactics should be illegal are illegal in many states and other countries but WAL*MART uses it's clout to prevent laws from being enacted and to reverse laws that constrain it. Very well written and researched book that highlights many ways that large retailers gain an unfair advantage over small business owners. I worked at WAL*MART for a number of months and no know idea the many underhanded tricks they used to gain an advantage. Many of these tactics should be illegal are illegal in many states and other countries but WAL*MART uses it's clout to prevent laws from being enacted and to reverse laws that constrain it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Half way through this one. If you like Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Chris Hedges and that lot, you'll like this. One thing: no mention of the Reverend Billy. Odd. Just watched 'Walmart, the high cost of low price' on DVD. That's good too.Anyway, Nat Overholtzer gave me this book and it's just terrific for many reasons. Interesting that included among the horror stories are examples of towns and local business areas that fought back and won. Half way through this one. If you like Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Chris Hedges and that lot, you'll like this. One thing: no mention of the Reverend Billy. Odd. Just watched 'Walmart, the high cost of low price' on DVD. That's good too.Anyway, Nat Overholtzer gave me this book and it's just terrific for many reasons. Interesting that included among the horror stories are examples of towns and local business areas that fought back and won.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This is a hard book to finish, because it keeps nailing the same point harder and harder, with more and more depressing evidence. This book is very factual, with research to back up every single point, which is great, but at the same time, because of the topic, saddening. A good read for those who don't understand the horrible impact corporate America puts on the entire world. While depressing, there are also small glimmers of hope that we can make a change, and that we must make a change. This is a hard book to finish, because it keeps nailing the same point harder and harder, with more and more depressing evidence. This book is very factual, with research to back up every single point, which is great, but at the same time, because of the topic, saddening. A good read for those who don't understand the horrible impact corporate America puts on the entire world. While depressing, there are also small glimmers of hope that we can make a change, and that we must make a change.

  26. 4 out of 5

    dgw

    I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the second part. Towards the end, I found it starting to get tedious and ended up skimming the last chapter and a half. (Then again, I'm just reading for fun, not doing research or anything.) However, the whole thing is very well-researched, and I think is a worthwhile read, even if you just read the first half. I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the second part. Towards the end, I found it starting to get tedious and ended up skimming the last chapter and a half. (Then again, I'm just reading for fun, not doing research or anything.) However, the whole thing is very well-researched, and I think is a worthwhile read, even if you just read the first half.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Big Box stores control our lives! Really - I was freaked out after reading this and vowed never to shop at any of the big stores - it worked for about a week. This book will make you think and maybe change your shopping habits.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    So far, this book has been a poignant critique of the big-box store boom in America, and what we are trading in order to shop at these stores: our local independent businesses, our greenspace, and our feeling of place. I'm only a few chapters in.... So far, this book has been a poignant critique of the big-box store boom in America, and what we are trading in order to shop at these stores: our local independent businesses, our greenspace, and our feeling of place. I'm only a few chapters in....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This book forced me to think about my shopping habits. It is frustrating to be surrounded by big box stores, and to see small independent shops close. I will go out of my way to support a local business as a result of reading this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    An important book to read and understand, unfortunately it's an easy book to put down unfinished. It's message felt a little repetitive to me, and I feel like it could have been condensed. Overall it significantly altered by purchasing habits. I would recommend it to everyone. An important book to read and understand, unfortunately it's an easy book to put down unfinished. It's message felt a little repetitive to me, and I feel like it could have been condensed. Overall it significantly altered by purchasing habits. I would recommend it to everyone.

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