“Brenda! Brenda, get over here and pick me up!” the young woman gasped into her silver flip-phone, excited and impatient. Her name was Kristen, sometimes calling herself Kristy, and she had the desire to wander a shopping center aimlessly.
“Fine, just hold on.” Brenda, like Kristen, enjoyed loitering at shopping centers, though perhaps not quite as much. Both girls lived in Wrightstown, where they wasn’t much to do besides get drunk, fool around, get drunk and fool around, or get drunk and hang out in public.
After a few minutes, Kristen slipped on her Tigers sweatshirt and her Keds, while skipping out her front door into the waiting warmth of Brenda’s Pontiac Sunfire. “Let’s hit it! Pedal to the metal!”
The girls decided that since they were out of alcohol they would take a burn cruise on the way and drive aimlessly around Brown County. Kristen pulled her piece out of her purse and packed up a bowl of schwag. Placing the unit to Brenda’s lips, the bowl was sparked and the clambaking began. The roads seemed longer and the music stretched into symphonies of pure ecstasy, which is weird because all the radio would play was really piss-poor pre-manufactured bubblegum pop.
Brenda cracked the window to let her hotboxed little car air out, and they fishtailed into the parking lot, which was surprisingly packed for such a backwater little podunk town. They parked next to the cart return, where a retarded black man with a lisp and a missing arm attempted to bring the carts back in.
“Oh Brenda, I have to take a most vicious shit.” Kristen had some of the worst bowels movements you’ve ever seen, whcih is probably somehow connected to her addiction to peanuts and raisin bran. That shit would plug even the most advanced of toilets, spilling water out under the door and into the hallway, pissing off Ken, her father. “What the fuck is wrong with you!?” he would ask rhetorically.
This wasn’t going to be one of those shits, though. Just a little one, probably left over from lunch. The girls pushed past their friend Tony’s mother, a greeter, and headed for the bathroom. Kirsten assumed the stall while Brenda looked in the mirror practicing her evil, glaring womanly stare on herself. But then they heard a little voice – like the ringing of bells – come from the other girl’s stall.
“So, you girls like shopping at Wal-Mart?”
Both girls kept quiet. You don’t just talk to anyone in the toilet, especially strangers with irritatingly Disneyesque voices.
“Brenda, Kristy, you didn’t answer me. Do you like shopping at Wal-Mart?”
“Who the fuck wants to know?” Brenda was a little scared, and hesitatingly reached into her purse for some pepper spray or maybe a switchblade. She knew she didn’t have either one, but sometimes things just seem to show up on their own.
Out of the stall walked a three-foot tall like creature, like a human but smaller and dressed in some sort of tunic. “Hello, mate. My name is Crib Death, the Socialism Fairy. I’ve come to teach you and your friend the evils of Wal-Mart.”
“Evils? What evils? These deals are unbeatable.” Brenda was very confrontational, Kristen was still hiding in the stall and trying not to make too much noise.
“Well, the deals are part of what makes Wal-Mart evil, you know. Did you see your friend Tony’s mother greeting you at the door?”
“Well, she used to own a hardware store with her husband, but they were unable to compete with Wal-Mart’s low prices and had to go out of business. She went from brining a respectable paycheck into the pockets of Wrightstown folk to barely scraping seven dollars an hour for herself.”
“But, isn’t that how things work? People will want the lower prices. Tony’s mom could have lowered her prices.”
“Well, yes, but if Tony’s mom had lowered her prices she would have gone bankrupt and ended up even worse off than she is now. Wal-Mart is able to buy bulk because of its large size and keep its costs far below that of individual stores. Also, they use a deceptive method where they will actually sell things for less than they bought them for and make up the difference on other products and by cutting employee wages.”
Kristen wanted to join in. “But aren’t low prices still better for people like us who wish to save money?”
“Sometimes, and sometimes not,” said the fairy. “You see, many times a product works equally well no matter who makes that product. But other times, there is a real difference between a brand name product and the Wal-Mart version. So when you’re buying things for less, you are also giving the manufacturer implied consent to make products that aren’t as reliable as the more expensive kind.”
“Oh. Now that mention it, I do see the service desk full every time I’m here with people trying to return their broken junk.”
Kristen left the stall and walked over to the mirror to wash up, seeing the fairy for the first time and thinking he looked kind of hot. She considered asking for his number, but then thought he might not like her and didn’t want to embarrass herself.
“Have you girls ever seen a billion dollars? In real life?”
“Um, well, no, of course not.”
“Well, now, the owners of Wal-Mart are worth over one hundred billion dollars. Yes, not just a billion, but one hundred times that amount. Do you think they owe us something besides these cheap prices on useless crap?”
“Owe us how?” Kristy’s eyes lit up with the thought of getting a kickback from this fat stack of cash.
“It’s basic ethics, Kristen. If you have a million loaves of bread and your neighbor has no bread and is starving, don’t you think the right thing to do would be to give them a little bread?”
“That seems pretty obvious.”
“Obvious to you, but not to the owners of this corrupt organization. Last year, the company’s chief executive officer made almost twelve million dollars by sitting in his chair and smoking a blunt. He isn’t even one of the owners, he just helps the owners manage the place. And do you know how much twelve million is?”
“That’s almost as hard to picture as one billion.”
“I know. But the money he made in that one year was more than 756 of his employees combined made in one year. Now, when you’re earning almost 800 times what one employee is making, don’t you think it might be time to give them a raise or at least some decent health care?”
“Of course. Everyone in this country deserves decent health care.” This was Brenda, actively pondering the idea of a respectable health care system, not unlike Canada or Denmark.
“Now you’re starting to sound like a socialist,” said the fairy. “But what the company really does is go out of its way to take all the health care away from the employees that it can.”
“Take health care and insurance away? But isn’t that illegal?”
“No. In this country, you don’t have to offer insurance or health care to part-time workers. So the company hires two part-time employees where it could have used just one full-time employee. Now you have two people making minimum wage and neither with any insurance.”
“But isn’t it better to hire two people than one? I mean, that’s one less unemployed person to worry about.” Kristen had a good point.
“You would think so, but consider this. If a ship is sinking and you have the choice between putting 2 people in dinghies that will probably not float for long or putting one person in a solid rowboat and the other waits for help, which seems the better option? The two people in the dinghies might make it to shore, but you have to ask yourself: am I a gambler?”
“Oh, wow. So Wal-Mart is forcing people to choose the sinking lifeboat over the safe one.”
“You’ve got that right.”
The girls each lit up a cigarette, thinking this might take a while before the fairy would leave them alone and they could get on with their shopping, or loitering, or whatever it is Wrightstown girls do in a Wal-Mart.
“Do you think it’s good to buy American?” asked the little man.
“Sure, it gives people here jobs.”
“And do you see the labels on the products here marked ‘We Buy American’?”
“Well, that’s complete bullshit. You see, in the year 2001, the worldwide purchasing headquarters of Wal-Mart was moved to China and Wal-Mart also happens to be the largest importer of Chinese goods in the United States. They purchased over ten billion dollars of Chinese goods last year from women and child getting paid next to nothing in sweatshops while the manufacturers here don’t even get a pot to piss in. It’s a nice way of saying ‘fuck the Americans’ and ‘fuck the Chinese’ at the same time.”
“Everyone is fucked,” echoed Kristen.
“That’s right. It’s like an orgy, only the guys are wearing condoms made of glass shards.”
Both girls grimaced in pain.
“Did I mention the list of lawsuits against them for discrimination?”
“No,” replied Brenda, now almost anxiously awaiting to see where this could go.
“Well, in Arizona a judge found that Wal-Mart discriminated against cripples. This judge was quite upset about the gimps getting a bum deal that he ordered the corporation to air commercials admitting their guilt to the public.”
“Well, those are just handicapped people,” said Kristen. “What about real people?”
“How about broads? Almost a million of these chicks have filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart claiming that although about 65% of the work force is female, only 10% of the management is female. They think this means the company was actively trying to keep women down. And also, the women who are managers are making $16,400 a year less than the men.”
“Tell us more.”
“The corporation practices something called a Dead Peasant Policy. They were in the habit of taking out life insurance policies on roughly 350,000 employees and not notifying them about it. When the employee died, the money went back into the company. And what’s more, they have been found to be illegally spying on the employees, keeping false records, mishandling time cards to avoid paying overtime, and fired people who were trying to form a union.”
“That’s a pretty impressive list.”
“One last thing about the overtime problem. In Texas, “wage theft” where workers are asked to keep working after punching out has cost the employees about 30 million dollars a year. Lawsuits against this practice have been filed in 25 states. Over 50 million dollars was paid out to employees in New Mexico and Colorado where the company was sued. And in Oregon, a jury even found the company guilty of locking the employees inside the building and forcing them to work while off the clock.”
“Damn. When my day is done, I go home. I ain’t working any damn overtime for free,” Brenda responded.
“Word,” Kristy agreed.
“And, worst of all, the company contributed $2,159,330.00 to George W. Bush and the Republican Party in 2000 and 2002.”
“Those greasy, cocksmoking assrammers!!!”
“So, you girls now fully understand the evil influence this huge corporation has over innocent Americans like yourself and are going to spread the word?”
“Sure thing, elf man.”
The fairy disappeared into a puff of pink fog and floated into the vents and out of sight. Brenda turned to Kristy. “Shit, bitch, next time pack that bowl with nugs. I’m sick of this schwag shit. Let’s go shopping.”