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Big Box Retailers

Essay by 24  •  September 4, 2010  •  2,371 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,045 Views

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America has always been a country where freedom has been treasured. Freedom is the most basic, valued principle that America was founded on. Whenever a threat looms, it is the cry and demand for freedom that pulls at the heartstrings of all Americans and moves them to action. Any threat to freedom is, in essence, a threat to America. This is usually interpreted as only a military threat, but there is another form the threat could take that is equally dangerous: an economic threat. This is why there are laws against monopolies - so that one company never has an unfair advantage over another. Freedom, equal opportunity for all. Enter the world of big box retailers. These companies are the biggest and most profitable there are to be found in America - the cornerstones of American economic prosperity. Some people, however, contest that the negatives of having a big box retailer in your town far outweigh the positives. Over the years and through many debates and conflicts it has become apparent that, no matter how beneficial big box retailers are to America, they have an overall negative effect on the American people.

Some of the negative aspects of big box retailers can be seen in the effects on the environment and economy.

Pollution has always been a big concern for anyone who has seen films or pictures from some of the Southeast Asian countries, where smog sometimes fills the whole sky of cities. Indeed, pollution is a terrible thing, but unfortunately it is a real concern for our modern times. There is always a price to pay for advancing, and in many cases that price is the creation of harmful substances to the environment around us, and sometimes even to us. One shocking example of this happened not so long ago right here in the United States, when one of the five great lakes, Lake Erie, was so full of pollution around Cleveland that almost all of the wildlife died and people could literally walk across the top of the pollution on the lake. Obviously, nobody wants anything like this to ever happen again. Fortunately, the lake was eventually cleaned up, but the damage was done, both to the environment and to the psyche and mindset of the American people. Some people see big box retailers as a cause of much pollution, and for some people that's all they need to hear in order to be eternally opposed against big box retailers. While the reality of the situation may not be bad enough to cause another Lake Erie incident, research has shown that enough pollution is caused by big box retailers to warrant some concern (Erlenmacher 10). Research has also shown that pollution in California from big box retailers costs $200 million every year to clean up (Smith 73). This number is way too large for many peoples' tastes, and it can be seen why there are people out there lobbying against big box retailers.

A second major concern centering on big box retailers is the amount of traffic they bring to areas incapable of handling it. Many times big box retailers build their stores in small towns that don't have any other stores like them. These towns aren't used to seeing much traffic at all, much less the traffic that big stores inevitably bring in. This increase of traffic causes long traffic backups, and causes a general headache to everyone unfortunate enough to be driving at the time, especially the people who happen to be living nearby. People with children have to remember to be much more careful than they were before the retailer moved in and make sure their small children stay away from the busy streets, and it makes life overall a much bigger hassle than it was in years past. It is harder for people to sleep at night or enjoy a quiet moment, and basically makes life more unpleasant. Jack Stong said in an interview that "living in a small town before the Lowe's moved in was almost everything I could ask for - peaceful and quiet. After the Lowe's came in, though, the noise level went up 100% and destroyed a lot that made the town special to me in the first place" (Jack Stong interview).

It is also seen that this increased traffic has a direct effect on everyone's safety. Research shows that police response times can go up by as much as 600% from what they were before the retailer moved in and jammed all of the streets (Kunstler 106). Not only is this a major annoyance, it can also be quite harmful - in an indirect way - to people needing assistance quickly. A different study showed that from 1980 to 1990 commuting times in California increased 13% (Kunstler 210). Certainly no small thing, the issue of increasing traffic only adds to the bad taste in the mouths of many Americans.

One last major economic and environmental concern is that of urban sprawl. This is a huge point that many people use to argue against big box retailers. Urban sprawl is basically where the cities spread outward at a tremendous rate, consuming farmland and forests alike. Big box retailers are the main cause of urban sprawl. Since there are so many big box retailers across the country, and because many downtown cities don't have sufficient space to hold the buildings the companies want, the retailers buy huge tracts of land that previously had farmland or forests and build there. This is an inexpensive way for retailers to build relatively close to large cities, as opposed to having to build downtown, which would cost much more. However, as so as the companies build in a place, it is like a domino effect. Other businesses set up there to take advantage of the many customers the retailers bring in. When they set up, many people also build housing nearby so they can travel to work easier or so they can take advantage of the close proximity of all the new businesses. This, in effect, creates a miniature city of itself, with businesses, homes, schools, libraries, police stations, and hospitals all building there (Morris 39). This may seem like a good thing, but the consequences of this are that huge amounts of previously free land are now being taken over, and many habitats are being destroyed. Forests, swamps, and fields all make way for big businesses.

Now that some of the cons were revealed, there are also many benefits to having a big box retailer in a community. One of the largest, most obvious of these is, of course, that of helping the communities to grow.

There are hundreds of small towns in America today, where one would be lucky to even find a delivery pizza place, much less a big box retailer (Morris 37). These towns don't have many residents, and those that do live there usually have to travel far to reach a store that has everything they might need or want. Big box retailers are a solution to this problem. When they set up in a small town, not only do they bring many more choices and much more convenience

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