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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price - a ninety-minute documentary demonising a massive company, and with no one from Wal-Mart prepared to go on record, there's no subjective balance. That said, they do look like horrible bastards, certainly in their native USA and in the Asian sweatshops where they manufacture their goods. The family themselves seem to have amassed 100 billion dollars between them, yet the employees can't afford the healthcare plan offered by the chain. A bunch of small towns are presented, showing how they've become virtual ghost towns as one business after another has folded. There are security cameras in their parking lots, but they're only used to monitor possible union activity or demonstrations. The rest of the time they're unmanned to save a wage and as a result Wal-Mart car-parks have become a haven for robberies, assaults, rapes, abductions and murders. Bangladeshi workers, making garments to be sold in store, work 14-hour days for 17 cents per hour and are literally beaten by the supervisors. An American inspector, a loyal employee of Wal-Mart in love with the company, was moved to tears by the conditions but upon reporting them to Wal-Mart, was promptly fired. Managers in stores stopped eating their lunches in the staff rooms because they would feel guilty sitting with employees who were so broke because of their terrible pay that they wouldn't have anything to eat on their hour breaks. Sweatshop workers in China were sent to live in the same dormitory, for which rent and utility bills were deducted from their pay. They were free to move out of the dormitory, but the rent would continue to be deducted anyway. The chinese workers are taught how to lie, and what lies to say to health inspectors who might visit the sweatshops. Gardening retail products containing pesticides and poisons are stored in car-parks, and when it rains those poisons run into the creek that provide a whole town with drinking water. There are examples all over the country of stores being fined for this practise. And so on, and so on. It's a damning piece of material on its own, but I think an attempt at hearing an alternate view might have made it even more powerful (in fairness, my understanding is not that Wal-Mart were not approached, but that they simply wouldn't co-operate). Anyway, 7/10, worth a look.

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