Director Robert Greenwald, who in previous documentaries exposed the ugly underbelly of Fox News (Outfoxed) and the questionable intelligence used to go to war against Iraq (Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War), has now set his sights on the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, in his disappointing new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.
The problem with The High Cost of Low Price is that the information is not really all that informative — because we've heard it all before, from author Greg Palast in his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy to the PBS Frontline special, "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?"
Greenwald interviews current and former Wal-Mart "associates" (the low-wage earning workers) and managers to tell the story of how Wal-Mart, like so many corporations, is only concerned with its bottom line, and uses its vast resources to promote a folksy, down-home American image of a company that cares for the environment, its employees, and the community the company is a part of. And is it really surprising to learn that Wal-Mart routinely cheated workers out of overtime pay? Or that women were not being promoted into management? Or that the workers in overseas factories worked long hours for very low pay? Perhaps the Wal-Mart shopper who isn't aware of the lengths a corporation will go to in order to maximize profits will be affected by The High Price of Low Cost.
The film attempts to connect Wal-Mart to crimes comitted in its vast parking lots. And I'm not so sure you can make that connection. And let me say right now I'm no apologist for Wal-Mart (nor do I shop at Wal-Mart), but there are many large stores all across America with huge parking lots that are not patrolled by security. Greenwald does reveal an internal Wal-Mart memo that acknowledges the problem of crime at Wal-Mart parking lots, and how roving patrols of security guards can reduce the crime rate to almost nothing. Which would mean hiring security guards and purchasing golf carts for thousands of stores, and I don't think any large retail corporation would be willing to do that. The bottom line is the bottom line. Always.