Wal-Mart Takes a Stand

Wal-Mart is a target again. Instead of getting in trouble for labor issues or its big business practices, some individuals are going after the retail giant for its refusal to sell the product that gets rid of unwanted children–the morning-after pill.

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41 thoughts on “Wal-Mart Takes a Stand

  1. Funny how the people who support the world economic environment that allws Walmart to grow to it’s current size, are the same people who attack Walmart for being that same world wide business.

    So, it’s not good enough that Walmart strive to compete on a world wide scale and market sell products on a wold wide scale. Now Walmart must allow these people, against their business models, to dictate what they sell.

  2. Relatedly, Walmart has also adopted a corporate refusal clause: any of its pharmacists can refuse to fill valid, legal prescriptions for birth control based on their personal beliefs.

  3. Good observation Mary.

    Anyone remember back about 15 years or so when K-Mart was still competing with Walmart? K-mart decided to offer porno-mags and the church-going public threatened a boycott. K-mart did it anyway, and within 2 years K-mart was close to bankruptcy and Walmart business was booming. K-mart still won’t admit that a boycott every happened.

    Walmart knows what the public will, and will not, tollerate in this kind of merchandizing environment.

    {please excuse my spelling deficiencies today}

  4. Lawrence,

    What is this “merchandizing environment”? Do you actually think Wal-Mart will get away with this (their refusal to prescribe this pill)?

  5. Lawrence –

    Are you actually insinuating Kmart’s bankruptcy was the result of that boycott? That’s a pretty big stretch.

  6. Good for Wal-mart. I think Wal-mart is the best run business in the country right now. They understand capitalism, if they don’t sell it and the public doesn’t mind then more power to them. This is the type of thing a free market society was founded on. If Wal-mart makes people mad people can take care of that by not shopping there. But if you say they have better prices than anyone that is why I shop there I say exactly if you want the prices you take what you get with them.

  7. Lawrence,
    The boycott may have had something to do with it, but probably not as much. K-Mart didn’t have the distribution procedure in place to compete with Wal-Mart on a price point. Their products were about the same (on the low end of the scale). Store Managers were notorious for not keeping their stores clean. This then affected their ability to properly promote, plus, K-Mart hinged a lot on Martha Stewart, Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith. Martha, nuff said. Kathy and Jaclyn just aren’t big names anymore. Thus K-Mart’s problem is bad infrastructure and a horrible marketing mix (yeah the 4 P’s)…

    That’s about all I can grab from memory in my Marketing Capstone research project for my Marketing minor in college.

    oh, and tim, it now says my msn email is spam… what gives?

  8. Wal-Mart’s refusal to sell pornography was a good decision, but this does not make them a good company –it doesn’t even make them a better company than they would have been.

    When Wal-Mart attempted to open a store in our city at one end of our downtown, their campaign included misleading elements throughout.

    1) They implied that charitable contributions by their employees and customers were their own.
    2) They claimed their wages were good –$7.38/hour with a straight face (in South San Francisco!)
    3) They said they intended to coexist with small businesses in our CBD.
    4) They had an army of lawyers at our city council meeting to parse their statements carefully. Apparently they were needed because the basic statements of the Wal Mart store marketing campaign don’t really agree with what comes out when you ask their very own people how the store operates -yes those same attorneys.

    For instance, Wal Mart helps charities…really means Wal Mart employees and customers help charities. The store itself is actually quite stingy.

    I used to shop at Wal Mart and after attending that meeting was completely disgusted at their tactics. If this is a Christian company, and I don’t think it is, then I hope for the church’s sake, they don’t advertise the fact.

  9. And what about, more generally, the contradiction between Biblical ethics and free-market economy rightly understood? The Church will have to have a word on that one day.

  10. Little known fact: Asda – the UK foodchain owned by Walmart (and the second largest retail food chain in the UK) sells sex toys and gay wedding cards. But Walmart is taking a “moral,” no-porn, anti-birth control stance to appease (as Lawrence puts it) the “church going public” here in the US?

  11. Michael asks, “Do you actually think Wal-Mart will get away with this (their refusal to prescribe this pill)?”

    Yes, why not? It’s not illegal to refuse to sell stuff. When it gets to the point where government can dictates that you have to sell stuff, then I’ll be worried.

  12. Mary asks… “Are you actually insinuating Kmart’s bankruptcy was the result of that boycott?”

    I guess that is what I insinuated but as you and tutal point out, there is more to the story.

  13. David said, “Wal-Mart’s refusal to sell pornography was a good decision, but this does not make them a good company.”

    True. However, it doesn’t make them a specifically bad company either. Just because they are the biggest and don’t do everything exaclty the way we want, doesn’t make them any worse than most other retain chains.

    Mary also points out that Walmart subsidiaries in UK sell some questionable items. But the people in UK don’t seem to have a problem with it. The people in the U.S. do have a problem with it.

  14. My point is that Walmart is a product of a Global economic environment. It’s hypocritical to support a global economy and then attack the companies that world economy produces.

    If Walmart really is such a horrible company, then maybe we need to re-think our desires for a global economy.

    And from a Christian perspective, maybe this globalism that breeds corporations like Walmart isn’t such a good idea.

  15. Lawrence,

    “It’s not illegal to refuse to sell stuff. When it gets to the point where government can dictates that you have to sell stuff, then I’ll be worried.”

    Wal-Mart is violating a Massachusettes state policy that requires pharmacies to provide all “commonly prescribed medicines.” The plaintiffs are suing to force compliance with this law through the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.

  16. I would not be surprised in that law in Mass. does not hold up on this issue. The government can not make laws saying what a private corporation has to do. This violates the principles are economy runs on. I understand that the government still does do this on occasion but that does not make it right. After all they allow us to abort children but does that make it right.

    If we lived in a society that did not have privatized health care and a free market economy this might be a good law. There is no place for it in the United States however.

  17. Andrew:

    “The government can not make laws saying what a private corporation has to do. This violates the principles are economy runs on.”

    It is clear that you have some very serious misconceptions about our “free market economy.” Tax codes, wage standards, labor relations requirements, health and safety rules, environmental protection standards, etc. are all examples of how governments CAN and DO “tell private corporations” what to do. These are not “occassional.” There are many regulations imposed on businesses for essential reasons. You seem to be under the impression that we operate under Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” That was a theory – it is NOT a definition of how our capitalist economy works.

    Furthermore, you, and everyone else, seem to have ignored Jean-Martin’s excellent remark about the contradiction between the Biblical ethics you espouse and the definition of a truly free economy.

  18. Little Mary,

    “Tax codes, wage standards, labor relations requirements, health and safety rules, environmental protection standards, etc. are all examples of how governments CAN and DO “tell private corporations” what to do.”

    This is what they do but it is not what they should be doing. I will blame most of our economic issues on the fact that the government has become too involved in regulating the economy. The founders of our nation never intended for the government to be saying what a business can and can’t do. Thus I am saying that much of what the government does in the economy is unconstitutional. I am arguing that the place of the government is to stay out of the private sector. If people understood what Smith meant when he came up with the “invisible hand” theory it would be a good thing.

    Also it is not the responsibility of the government to control the economy to support Biblical ethics. The government just puts something in place for us to use. Rather it is the place of the Christian Church to work with Biblical ethics. The government was not made so that Biblical ethics could be the law of the land. If it was we would not have a democracy rather it would be a theocracy. If we see people that need to be taken care of citizens can do that it is not the government’s role.

    If we want to try communisim where no one is left behind we can but I assure you the results won’t be too nice.

  19. Mary, you pose a good argument with respect to the MA statutes. It will be interesting to see how the court rules.

    With respect to contradictions between Biblical ethics and a truly free economy:

    First, I didn’t realize I was espousing a connection between Biblical ethics and a free market economy. But I guess I did insinuate that in reflecting boycotts of stores based on principle.

    Second, I had assumed that “we”, including you, are trying to espouse the same Biblical ethics. But maybe I missunderstood.

    Regading a free market economy, I think we are all aware that a truly free market is a logical impossibility. Now, while the MA statutes may require that pharmacies sell this pill, I’m guessing it hasn’t been seriously challenged in court. If Walmart wants, they could probably drive this through several appeals before we know a final answer.

    Lastly, I have to make the obvious observation, that we are not talking about a birth control pill that functions in the same context of a true “medicine”. In my context, a medicine is somethig one uses to cure an illness or disease. And birth control pills don’t do that.

  20. Andrew, our system definetely regulates the actions of private companies, just as Mary stated when she corrected you. A common example is that if you need emergency care at a private hospital, it is the law that they must not turn you away because you are broke.

    In this respect, I much prefer that regulation common to western countries than that of say, the Philippines, which if you cannot pay, you can be excluded from any care, even if lacking such care would result in death.

    Human nature being what it is, I prefer there be some earthly control over the powerful to protect the less powerful.

    And whether you agree with it or not, the wealthier countries of the world tend to have a great deal of government regulation and involvement in the market. They also tend to have stronger unions, government mandated/funded healthcare, social insurance programs.

    I prefer this to survival of the fittest.

  21. I guess I was just confused that I never said our government does not regulate things. I just said I do not agree with it, thus I support what Wal-mart is doing. When people start telling me I do not understand what a free-market economy is, or that the United States is not “supposed” to be one, that is when I start to defend my position. If I ever did deny it or incorrectly stated what a free-market economy is then correction would be in order. However, this I did not do. I was merely stating what the role of the government should be in this matter and other matters relating to private business.

  22. “Also it is not the responsibility of the government to control the economy to support Biblical ethics.”

    I do agree with that. I wish wish those who say that would also recognize its not the government’s job to promote Biblical ethics on individuals. So, no 10 commandments anywhere, right?
    I really see a big irony in the attitude of many “conservatives” who are quite controling when it comes to individuals but would let Big Business do whatever it wants, because he is Big Business.
    Also Andrew,when you say “If we want to try communisim where no one is left behind we can but I assure you the results won’t be too nice”, I think it is a false problem. The alternative is not (gladly)Big Business vs. the Reds, at leats from a Christian point of view, since the two systems have been condemned by the social doctrine all nearly all our churches (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox).

  23. Lawrence,

    Yes, the “you” really is a “we,” and I should have been more clear on that. I really wasn’t directing that remark at anyone in particular – I just thought it was a very good point that was getting overlooked and I wanted to draw attention to it.

  24. Andrew,

    “I guess I was just confused that I never said our government does not regulate things. I just said I do not agree with it, thus I support what Wal-mart is doing.”

    From yesterday – “The government can not make laws saying what a private corporation has to do. This violates the principles are economy runs on.” You elaborated on this by stating that the MA law would likely be overturned for this reason. But the law DOES provide for the regulation of business, whether you agree with it or not.

    And with respect to your remark about our founding fathers – our founding fathers were pompous, white slave owners. We have certainly learned that some of the beliefs they had over two hundred years ago don’t have a place in 21st century society. And since they developed a system of government that provides for evolution and development (because they knew they were prone to error), we are able to make necessary changes.

  25. Actually, Mary, I heartily agree with you on your points.

    >>>
    The debte over separating church and state rages wildly from one spectrum to another.

    Inevitably, though, the church issues come first because those dictate the views of society, and the state must function within society. If we want to change our “state” we must first change our “church” as it relates to society. Because, if we get the church going one way and the state going another way they will eventually pull society apart. At which point one or the other has to either change or go.

    We may think, ideologically, that we can remove the 10 Commandments from the public square. However, when the 10 Commandments are one of the pillars of all of Western Civilization we are kind of stuck with them. (For me this is a good thing.) So, any government that exists within the Western Civlization context must embrace the principles identified in those same 10 commandments, whether they like it or not.

    With regard to Walmart not selling abortion pills, we need to be careful. Maybe we can force a pharmacy to sell them, but can we force upon individual pharmacists to sell them?

    Are we willing to force Walmart to fire pharmacists who won’t sell abortion pills based solely on principle? In favor of pharmacists who will? This pushes us one step closer to requiring that all surgeons must do abortions and sex-change operations if they want to practice medicine. And all chuches must marry same-sex couples if they want to continue their tax exempt status as churches.

    At some point society’s religious ethics must take priority over general business law if we wish for any given civilization to remain viable.

  26. “I really see a big irony in the attitude of many “conservatives” who are quite controling when it comes to individuals but would let Big Business do whatever it wants, because he is Big Business.”

    EXACTLY. Even more ironic are the ideas Andrew and others like him bring to the table – they illustrate this point though they are NOT big business. They are individuals proudly taking a stand against their own interests.

  27. Ok, I think we have strayed far from the original topic. I think government should be seperate from the church. Of course the ten commandments come into play because they are basic laws that all men regardless of what they chose to live by feel the need for. This is why it is not ok anywhere to kill someone that belongs to your society. I am proud to live in a society that is supposed to allow free-market ideas whether they conflict with Biblical ethics or not.

    Unfortunately we live in a society where the government has gotten involved we have to deal with that. I will restate again that the government was never meant to espouse the values of Christianity. It is up to us as Christians to do our job and let people know about the Gospel. If we all fulfilled this obligation as good as we could I do not think this discussion would even be taking place. To blame societies problems on the government is to ignore the lack of interest that we have taken in preventing them. If people were taught Christian values we would not be expecting the government to fix these types of problems for us it would happen naturally.

    But back to the original quesiton. Should Wal-mart have to prescribe something that is not really medicine if they choose not to. No, I do not think so it is their business decision. Who cares if there is a law they can break it and face the consequences of breaking it or a judge may rule that the law does not really make any sense in the first place. If anyone thinks legislators can make any law they want and it will be in place forever then they do not really understand the system of checks and balances in our government. And guess what the judicial branch has the ability to check whether the laws made by the legislative branch are good or not. Or are we suggesting that legislative branches know best and always make up great laws?

  28. Andrew –

    We have not strayed from the topic. We are engaged in an evolving, intellectual discourse. You are merely trying to steer the conversation because you have made erroneous, contradictory statements and more than one person has pointed them out.

    Furthermore, your accusation that some people in this conversation don’t understand legislative process is unfounded. “Some people” in this conversation have advanced education (i.e. undergraduate and graduate degrees) in political science, economics, and finance.

  29. Lawrence,

    “Lastly, I have to make the obvious observation, that we are not talking about a birth control pill that functions in the same context of a true “medicine”. In my context, a medicine is somethig one uses to cure an illness or disease. And birth control pills don’t do that.”

    Now that’s an interesting argument – I guess one could counter that with the fact that birth control pills are used in certain female reproductive ailments as a therapeutic tool instead of a method of contraception. Obviously, the majority of birth control prescriptions are written for birth control purposes, but Walmart’s corporate refusal clause doesn’t require that pharmacists determine this before “conscientiously objecting” to filling them.

    “At some point society’s religious ethics must take priority over general business law if we wish for any given civilization to remain viable.”

    This happened in Iran, Afghanistan, etc. and those governments are unstable.
    How do we make it work with Christianity?

  30. Hmmm… government separate from the church. A Catch-22 for the ideologically minded folk.

    I argue that this is not possible. Our Church views define our society, which then defines our government. To fully remove church from government we must also removing church from society. And this kind of massive change to society then disrupts the government.

  31. “This happened in Iran, Afghanistan, etc. and those governments are unstable.
    How do we make it work with Christianity?”

    Very true Mary. Difference is in the Religion. The countries you speak of are/were all Muslim countries. The current Democracies of the West are all Christian countries.

    Whereas Muslim countries tend heavily toward Theocracies, Democracies usually fare better in Christian environments. Primarily because the Christian ideas about government authority are much different.

    Turkey is, of course, a Muslim democracy so I’m sure we can find a variety of exceptions. Now, we can also argue that Turkey really is a secular government. But, just like France’s secular-socialist government, the underlying social philosophy of the people is still based primarily on only one religion.

    This experiment in democratizing the Middle East will be very interesting over the next few years.

    And, this all does tie in with Wal-mart, because Wal-mart is now a global business. The geo-political ideology that drives our politics is the same as what drives our business influence.

  32. Lawrence, your “obvious observation” stated in a previous post is actually quite incorrect.

    Lawrence wrote:

    “Lastly, I have to make the obvious observation, that we are not talking about a birth control pill that functions in the same context of a true “medicine”. In my context, a medicine is somethig one uses to cure an illness or disease. And birth control pills don’t do that.”

    You are incorrect with respect to birth control pills. There are many women with medical conditions for which birth control pills are prescribed as they may help inhibit the growths (not as in births mind you, but tumors, cysts and the like).

    Also, some women are on medications where conceiving would present dangers to a potential fetus, and thus are prescribed birth control so as to avoid placing a fetus in danger. Thalydomide is one such drug that can only be prescribed if the patient is not sexually active or on birth control as I understand it.

    And I’m not a doctor, so I’m hesitant to add any more correction to that. I think you jumped to a hasty conclusion.

    Birth control is medicine.

    I should mention that Minoxidil is used to treat hair loss, but it was initially created as a blood pressure medicine. Thus, how a drug is used does not limit its usefulness as a medicine.

    Thus, if Wal-Mart is denying its female customers typical birth control medications (other than RU-486, the morality of which I think can be argued elsewhere), Wal-Mart may be denying these same females MEDICINE which doctors have deemed necessary for their physical well-being. I think such a denial on the part of a pharmacist would be the greater wrong.

  33. Good point David. Absolute statements like this are good to get people to think this one through all the way, aren’t they?

    Your point reflects that the initial information we get is not always all of the pertinant facts.

    The pharmacist rarely knows what the pills are being subscribed for, so it is hard to justify a moral judgement call when one does not know what the pills are actually being prescribed for.

    Pharmacists who don’t want to sell legal medicines need to think hard about becoming pharmacists.

  34. {okay, lemme try that middle sentence again}

    “It is hard to justify a moral judgement call on this when one does not know what the pills are actually being prescribed for.”

  35. Lawrence, I agree with both posts.

    Thanks for having the patience to continue this discussion.

    I think gifted communicators simplify complex issues so that many more people can understand them better than they normally would. However, one should use their communication gifts responsibly and do it with the gravity that their actions/words influence people and their actions.

    I wish more politicians would do this, and I wish people would have the patience for that type of political communication.

  36. Excactly, David.

    You know, “the Pill” really isn’t the problem, although it reflects the problem.

    The real problem is the hearts and minds of the people pursuing their sex life in an un-Godly manner. If we were truly following God’s plans we wouldn’t be arguing about ills, contraception, or abortion in the first place.

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