Monday, March 07, 2005

Wal-Mart's Shell Game

Wal-Mart's inexorable march to own America, lock, stock, and kitty litter, shows us what The Borg of "The Next Generation" was actually a metaphor of. Wal-Mart, like The Borg faced with new defensive maneuvers by the race they intend to "assimilate," quickly learn the new defenses and develop a diabolical path around them. To wit:

In Inglewood, Calif., the company tried to circumvent the City Council's rejection of its 130,000-square-foot superstore by putting a measure before voters that would have exempted the company from the city's zoning and environmental laws. It was rejected last April by 60 percent of voters.

In Tampa last year, Wal-Mart opened a 99,000-square-foot Supercenter prototype designed to come in just below the 100,000-square-foot size caps imposed by cities and counties across the country.

After officials in Calvert County, Md., passed tough regulations last summer that limited the size of big-box stores, Wal-Mart has developed its newest innovation to skirt the rules: It plans to build a 74,998-square-foot store cheek by jowl with a 22,689-square-foot garden center. The two Wal-Marts -- each with its own entrance, utilities, bathrooms and cash registers -- would have a combined area 30 percent larger than the 75,000-square-foot limit for a single store in Calvert County's village of Dunkirk, "a cozy hamlet in Southern Maryland ringed by rolling tobacco fields" and one of the villages Calvert County officials were trying to protect.

And in case you hadn't already gotten the message that "resistance is futile," the WashPost found an academic to underscore that message: "It almost points out the futility of municipalities developing ordinances and laws that restrict the size of stores," said Kenneth E. Stone, professor emeritus of economics at Iowa State University, who has studied the company for 20 years. "There's always a way around them, and an outfit as big and smart as Wal-Mart will think of a way."

"Wal-Mart officials say there is nothing Calvert [County] can do to prevent construction of the stores." See. Just lie back, close your eyes, grit your teeth, and we'll try not to leave bruises.

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