By Stan Lynch
Why are some folks so opposed to having a Walmart in Burbank? Their vehement hatred for the retail giant seems to be way overblown.
When other big retailers, like Target, IKEA, Costco, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, or Mervyns came to town in the past, I don’t recall any opposition. If there were folks opposed to any of those stores, they were nothing like the “Anti-Walmart Crazies” we see today. I’m sure there may have been Burbankers who didn’t want to see Zody’s become a Kmart, or the old J.C. Penny’s at San Fernando and Magnolia turn into a Ross, but they managed to contain their “rage.”
There are all kinds of reasons some folks don’t like Walmart. Most of those reasons are unfounded. The company is non-union. So are a lot of other big stores in this town. Walmart doesn’t pay their employees well. Their pay is comparable to most other big retailers. A Walmart in Burbank will put all the local small businesses out of business. What small businesses, Target, Kmart, Ralphs, Office Depot? Last time I checked, Walmart doesn’t sell antiques, vintage clothing, or Swedish furniture.
The number one complaint I hear about Walmart is that “EVERYTHING” they sell is made in China. Certainly, they do sell things made in China, as well as the USA, and other countries — just like most other stores. Just go into Target, Kmart, or any other large retailer and look. You will see “Made in China” pretty much everywhere.
I was in IKEA recently. It’s my little granddaughter’s favorite place to go for lunch. Since kids eat free on weekdays, it’s one of my favorite places to take her after she gets out of kindergarten. We go there about once a week with some of her classmates and their parents. One day we checked out the IKEA Marketplace. IKEA may be a Swedish company, but that stuff they sell doesn’t all come from Sweden.
The first thing that caught my eye was a set of plastic storage containers with lids. With a very Swedish sounding name of “PRUTA” (all the stuff at IKEA has Swedish names), it looked like a bargain at just $3.99 for the 17-piece set — until I noticed the fine print on the label, “Made in China.”
As we walked through the maze of aisles I began checking the country of origin on lots of items: cutting boards from India, pillows from Bulgaria, sheets from Pakistan, blankets from Thailand, and a bag of colored sand from Egypt. Those big oil paintings, the ones that all look alike, come from Canada. A large photograph of the New York City skyline was printed in Poland. Bed pillows, ranging from $6.99 to $39.99 were all from China, but they were no match for the 99 cent pillows from Mexico. I did manage to find a plastic waste basket for $1.99 that was made in the USA. There were plenty of fake plants and flowers from China, but I was surprised to find very Chinese-looking real live bamboo plants that were from the USA. Curiously, I didn’t see anything made in Sweden.
I’m all for a Walmart coming to Burbank. They may not have Swedish meatballs with Lingonberries like IKEA, or $1.50 hot dogs and a drink like Costco, but they have the potential to bring jobs and a huge amount of sales tax revenue to Burbank. The increased competition will mean lower prices whether you shop at Walmart or at their competitors.
And just like IKEA, Costco, and all the other big retail stores, Walmart will attract lots of shoppers who will make traffic a mess. When Walmart comes up at the City Counil meeting Tuesday night, I just hope our councilmembers are smart enough to realize that letting Walmart stay open 24 hours a day will help spread the traffic out.