Walmart didn’t grow just by selling stuff for better prices than the next guy. It also grew by getting people to buy more stuff overall. Cheap prices and overwhelming selection have a powerful effect on a consumer behavior. Fishman says:
“When stuff is so inexpensive, you don’t have to think that hard about whether to buy it. ‘Do I really want the blender? Do I really need those blue jeans? Whatever, the jeans are just twelve dollars. Let’s just buy it.’ The prices of many things have come down below the level where you don’t have to even think about whether to buy it.”
But it’s about more than cost-benefit analyses of impulse shopping. Walmart’s push for low prices inevitably led to cheaper goods, once all the inefficiencies were wrung out of the supply chain. As Fishman writes, “Things become so cheap that it’s never worth repairing them.” This led to a culture of disposability as well as overconsumption that is a sad part of Walmart’s legacy, and it flies in the face of Walmart’s latest and daring push for sustainability.