In FP's May/June issue, Charles Kenny argues that, for all its faults, Walmart is ultimately a force for good that helps poor people around the world by driving down prices of staple goods. The citizens of Los Angeles, Chongqing, and Teotihuacán might disagree. Here's a look at several Walmarts that have stoked heated debate around world.
San Juan Teotihuacán, Mexico
In Teotihuacán, just a mile from the ancient Aztec pyramids that draw tourists from around the globe, Walmart saw an historic opportunity. A store there, executives calculated, could attract as many as 250 customers an hour. The problem? The location for the new store was an alfalfa field just inside an area near the pyramids that was due to be protected by law in 2003.
The protection agreement was all but finalized until Walmart officials decided to pay a $52,000 bribe to a Mexican zoning administrator to change the layout of the protected area surrounding Teotihuacán, according to a New York Times investigation. Months later, Walmart began construction. Frenzied protests followed, but bribe after bribe -- $200,000 in all -- smoothed the way for the store, which opened in December 2004. Back at Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, company executives were aware of the protests and the bribes, but did nothing, according to the Times. The store remains open today. In Mexico alone, Walmart has paid $24 million for permits to open stores.