Is Walmart the evil harbinger of late-stage capitalism? Or is it the hallmark of a civilized society?
Walmart has been criticized for paying workers poorly. Then again, who else is willing to pay that 90-year-old above minimum wage to wave at customers as they walk in the store?
Because Walmart buys in bulk and uses cheap labor, it can keep prices ridiculously low. That provides a major service to poorer people. It increases their standard of living. Their money goes further. They can afford more of what they need.
Then again the products are not the highest quality. If you want something unique or long-lasting, Walmart might not be the place to go.
And Walmart is successful. They don't force anyone to work there, and they don't force anyone to shop there.
Yet now they have voluntarily removed certain products because of the dangerous chemicals inside.
Walmart has banned two paint strippers from its stores because they contain chemicals believed to cause cancer.
The chain announced Monday that it will no longer sell products carrying paint strippers that contain methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) starting in February.
The decision follows in the footsteps of retailers Home Depot, Lowe's and Sherman Williams, which all announced a similar move this year.
The chemicals in question, commonly found in paint thinners and metal cleaning products, can affect the central nervous systems of those in contact with them. Long exposure can at times lead to liver cancer. The chemical has been linked to dozens of deaths…
"At Walmart, we are committed to providing our customers with access to affordable, effective and more sustainable products. We will continue to work with suppliers, NGOs, academics, government and industry stakeholders as we advance our sustainable chemistry commitments," Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives for sustainability at Walmart, said in a statement.
The EPA has opted not to ban the chemicals, though at one point there were plans to do so. But this example suggests that even absent government regulation, certain companies are pro-active in protecting customers.
You might think Walmart only banned the chemicals to look good in the eyes of the public. And you might be right.