Riese’s Team Pick: Wal-Mart – The High Cost of Low Prices

As you know, we love documentaries!

I saw this documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices yesterday and I’d been putting off watching it ’cause corporate world takeover is one of my top three concerns and I knew it would freak me out and IT TOTALLY DID AND YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT. Maybe you already have it came out like a while ago. Seriously I have thought of little else besides Wal-Mart for at least 24 hours. Thank G-d I was on my deathbed yesterday and forced to participate in passive activities like watching films.

I wouldn’t lie to you, this is a thing you need to know about. I recommend it as a double-feature America the Purchased Night with Casino Jack: The United States of Money, which Brandy & Julie watched and did a thing for but then we decided not to use it but we are using a lot of it in the upcoming Behind-the-Scenes Retrospective that will delight you to the very very core of your special special self.

I saw it on Netflix but you can also “rent” it via amazon for $2.99: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, also visit the website. You could also look it up on YouTube if you can’t afford to rent it or buy it from their website or see it on Netflix or iTunes, it’s all on there. But if you can afford it, it’s always good to toss these people some money,

I feel like this trailer doesn’t even begin to scrape against the monumental importance of this thing.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3223 articles for us.


  1. documentaries are great. idk if i’m allowed to link to this (if i’m not, just redact it, you beautiful AS folk, no harm) but this particular doc is available for free online here: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/watch-online/
    along with like a buttload moar. some of them are meh, but i’d think that most of them are at least dubiously informed. happy hunting!

  2. Ugh. I’ve always hated Wal-Mart. Once, when I was young, I went to a Wal-Mart with my mom and I was accused of stealing a tube of lipstick. Even though they had no evidence, I didn’t have the tube of lipstick with me, and, oh yea, I FUCKING HATE LIPSTICK, the manager still believed that I’d stolen it and they said they wouldn’t press charges if we just payed for it and left. My mom did, even though she knew I didn’t steal it, and since then I never set foot in a Wal-Mart if I don’t have to. My mom still loves it. She said, “Oh, that’s just one ignorant guy. We can’t blame the whole chain!”

    • Seriously?? I’ve worked in retail for years (not at Walmart, but a Walmart-esque chain) and we’ve always been told that we can never accuse a customer of stealing. That guy should have been disciplined for that! Unless you see the person actually take an item off the shelf and into hir pocket/bag/whatever, you can’t say anything.

    • What an asshole! Let’s go kill him w/ lipstick, sensible shoes, and hair clippers.
      I’ll drive.

  3. documentaries are great. idk if i’m allowed to link to this (if i’m not, just redact it, you beautiful AS folk, no harm) but this particular doc is available for free online here: http:(doublebackslash)topdocumentaryfilms(dot)com/watch-online/
    along with like a buttload moar. some of them are meh, but i’d think that most of them are at least dubiously informed. happy hunting!

    • Oooooh, neat. I need to much more documentaries. They are pretty great.

      Also, I apologize for my sticklerishness, but / is a forward slash. \ is the backslash. Again, sorry. (Am I over-apologizing? Hrrrrrg, neurosis.)That particular mixup just really bothers me.

  4. Ever since the demise of Eaton’s here in Canada (to which Wal-Mart contributed tremendously), setting foot into Wal-Mart makes me feel dirty. Like, ACTUALLY DIRTY, as in covered with dirt. I too avoid it if I can.

    The ONLY thing that ropes me in is the fact that they’re the only store in the Greater Toronto Area that carries Ocean’s canned tuna salad, which is delicious.

    • Maybe bad idea? If it were my dad, he’d start yammering on about America/American capitalist ethos partway through and while he’d concede that Walmart has done some unfair business practices, that’s the way it is in big businesses, and also that he’s sure the liberal! filmmakers have skewed the documentary way to the left. From what you’ve said about your dad, and from the few times I’ve met him, I have a feeling that he might be the same way.

      • My tea partier uncle more or less said this to me about the documentary… and he hadn’t even seen it.

  5. It’s not just Wal-Mart either; they are just more publicly shitty than a lot of other chain stores. BUY LOCAL, PEOPLE!

  6. I watched this last year right before new years eve, and so i made it my new years resolution to stop shopping there. No matter what. I’m basically a starving hobo theatre artist, and last year i moved to a new place and needed all kinds of stuff… and managed to do it. So I think it’s possible to not support them any longer. So far, I’ve failed to a) get other people to stop going there or b) get anyone to watch this documentary. So thanks for posting this!

  7. I live in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. I have seen those little stores and family diners close because of a chain store or “restaurant” slapping down in a 15 mile radius. People aren’t willing to part with money anymore.
    My family was a bunch of crafters. Note the word was. My childhood was made up of going places and setting up shop in a different location every weekend. This was a wonderful childhood for someone who lived in the middle of nowhere. Well, that fell apart once chain stores began selling identical crafts made in China. I do not blame China, like my father’s ignorance does, I blame the chain store and his lack of copyrighting.
    I know what chain stores do first hand. Those cute, scenic towns I use to visit looks like ghost towns now, ripped apart due to the Walmart down the street.
    This documentary is something I have been wanting to see. I am disgusted by the mistreatment of these people in foreign countries and the mistreatment of people here at home (mostly for the foreigners though). This just makes me all more prone to avoiding Walmart at all costs. I will find things I need elsewhere.

    I apologize for the rant. Yay for my first comment on here! I am no longer just a lurker.

  8. I have a friend who works at Target and from the things she said it appears they do similar things there. Especially with the whole not paying overtime and working hours that are not paid. This makes me sad.

  9. This is one of those documentaries that stresses me out immensely, much like Food Inc. As an anthropology student, one of my research projects/internships dealt with fair trade and actually realizing where your “stuff” comes from. In all honesty, it’s REALLY hard to not let it ruin your life. It becomes incredibly overwhelming to walk into a grocery store or department store and feel okay about what you are consuming, knowing that whatever you are buying is exploiting someone, somewhere or funding political issues that you aren’t even aware of because information is SO limited unless you really dig, but even then… I’m going to stop now before this becomes an essay. Ha! Because it very well could.

    Anyway, thank you Riese for bringing this to the attention of people who may not know about it yet! Alsooo, I somehow missed the post you guys made about the 28 documentaries. Bookmarked! Some of them I have not seen yet.

  10. I’m gonna watch this. Just not today, because I don’t know if I can deal with it today. It’s frustrating because I don’t have a lot of purchasing power at this point in my life (meaning I don’t buy the groceries and other basics) and I’m also broke most of the time and Wal-mart has cheap shit. They set it up that way on purpose. “They” are taking over the world. Articles/documentaries like this always make me feel like a crazy conspiracy theorist except that I think that image has been created in the media to keep people from thinking about or exploring these issues. Anyways, thanks for the information. I’ll be watching soon.

  11. I bought this movie a few years ago and after that I was like an annoying evangelical telling everyone to watch it.

    I think I cried from the beginning to the end.

  12. Pingback: World Spinner

  13. I remember watching this in a class a few years back, and just feeling terrified for the world. I don’t shop at Walmart but I still shop at other fucked up chain stores, and I’m really not sure why.

  14. Haven’t seen this. I wonder if the women asleep at their sewing machines were fired when it was seen on film that they were sleeping on the job. Or maybe they just schedule the sleep time in so they can work more hours without leaving the factory.

  15. I’m of two minds about Wal-Mart. While on one hand I know them to be extremely exploitative/full of people who can’t dress themselves, I also have been to a community where it is literally the only game in town. (Not because of them wiping out the competition, mind – Hurricane Katrina did the job for them.) When the Wal-Mart opened, people were so happy because there was finally a place to buy food that wasn’t the local gas station or halfway to Biloxi. :/

  16. My spouse is a manager at Target. Them not letting anyone unionize is true and not good, but they strive to do other things well for their team members. They try to work with school and child care schedules. Managers are tasked with identifying peole who are doing well and helping them move up if they want to. They give fairly good benefits. The things the other person said up there about not being paid for OT would never happen at my wife’s store. They manage that pretty closely. Her store is pretty gay friendly, too.

  17. We watched this my Econ class last semester, and oh my g-d I cannot deal with it at all. We basically had a whole unit on corporations and now they scare the shit out of me. America’s entire fucking economy is seriously terrifying, actually.

  18. Watched the doc yesterday and really enjoyed it. Told my mom about it, and we had a little discussion about commercialism. She insists that this doc was put together by some disgruntled former employees as a smear campaign, and that it ignores the the surely good things (?) that Wal-Mart does to give back to the community. It’s true that there are two sides to every story, HOWEVER! any good deeds Wal-Mart (maybe) does cannot negate the shady shit they do, which I told her.

    Most of what we buy is being put together by some poor souls in sweatshops in Shenzen for pennies a day. It’s just incredibly hard/maybe impossible to look through our closets and pantries, and know that the places we buy from are not exploiting any human labour whatsoever.

    While sweatshops are scary and awful on one hand, on the other hand, these people have ABSOLUTELY NO other way to make a living, so at least working in a sweatshop provides them with some money they can use to provide for themselves and for their families. Am I a hypocrite for despising Wal-Mart but buying clothes at say, H&M or Urban Outfitters?

    This is how I see it, plain and simple: Wal-Mart sits on BILLIONS of dollars it CAN use to improve conditions in its sweatshops overseas, and for its employees. But it doesn’t. It’s killing smaller and local chain businesses, and lies about providing its employees and customers with all sorts of benefits. A store like Urban Outfitters isn’t trying to wipe every other store off the consumer map. It just is what it is. There’s absolutely no comparison.

  19. I’ve been holding off on watching this for a while until i finish Naomi Klein’s No Logo book yeah i’m super late to that party) but man, these things make me really paranoid for the future, especially for the future of developing countries.

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