The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works – And How It’s Transforming the American Economy (Review)

February 6, 2013

Book cover for "The Wal-Mart Effect" by Charles Fishman.Title: The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works – And How It’s Transforming the American Economy

Author: Charles Fishman

Narrator: Alan Sklar

Publication Year: 2006

Pages: 352 (audio length: 10 hours 27 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from

From the cover:

Wal-Mart isn’t just the world’s biggest company, it is probably the world’s most written-about. But no book until this one has managed to penetrate its wall of silence or go beyond the usual polemics to analyze its actual effects on its customers, workers, and suppliers. Drawing on unprecedented interviews with former Wal-Mart executives and a wealth of staggering data (e.g., Americans spend $36 million an hour at Wal-Mart stores, and in 2004 its growth alone was bigger than the total revenue of 469 of the Fortune 500), The Wal-Mart Effect is an intimate look at a business that is dramatically reshaping our lives.

I’ve always been curious about the doings of big corporations. When I was in high school, I researched the Coca-Cola company for a project in my business class. And so it wasn’t surprising that this book caught my attention.

The Wal-Mart Effect is about Wal-Mart the company, its founding and its operations, and the way in which it deals with its employees and suppliers. It’s also about much more than just the company of Wal-Mart, though: it tells the story of how Wal-Mart, and the ideology that drives the people who run it, has changed the landscape in America in a myriad of ways. It attempts to convey a balanced look at how Wal-Mart has reshaped the American retail market and the everyday lives of so many people.

Maybe it’s because I’m from Canada, and we have much fewer Wal-Marts than there are in the States, but a lot of the things in the book didn’t really seem to apply to me. Fishman really does some great exposition on the ways that Wal-Mart’s dominance of the market has changed the way things are chosen, priced, and presented to the American people, and while this was rather informative, it didn’t have the personal connection to me that it might have to an American reader.

The real strength of this book was the way that Fishman was able to explain the way that Wal-Mart affects the local and national economy in simple terms using specific examples. And this is the best reason I can give for recommending you read The Wal-Mart Effect: to learn more about how super-centres and rock-bottom pricing affect both your everyday life and the long-term economics of your city and your country. If Wal-Mart is going to continue to be such a large presence in our communities, it’s important that we learn more about it and, particularly, how to do our best to live well despite its negative effects.


One Comment

  • Kelly February 7, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Thanks for this review. Even though I know a few of the bad things about WalMart, I still do my weekly grocery shopping there–the prices just can’t be beat, even with coupons, and I’m on a tight budget these days. I should probably read this though, just to be a better-informed consumer.

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