Things you should and shouldn't buy at Wal-Mart
The retailer's environmental consciousness has grown, but it still has a way to go.
The store has lately been trying to attract more affluent customers, who in this economy are looking for lower prices along with everyone else. But those customers aren’t willing to abandon their ideals to save a few dollars, says CBS MoneyWatch.
“They [Wal-Mart executives] have picked up on trends like organics and natural products, and that has helped get new customers,” Doug Conn of Hexagon Securities told MoneyWatch. “But the key theme is that customers are more value-oriented than they have ever been this holiday season, and Wal-Mart is the default place to go for low prices.”
If you’re looking for these five items, says MoneyWatch, you might want to consider Wal-Mart:
- Moderately priced consumer electronics. Wal-Mart has increased the number of high-end brands it carries, making it a good place to shop for televisions in the under $1,000 category. But do your product research online, because you won’t find a cadre of knowledgeable employees to help you make a choice.
- Smart phones. Wal-Mart has added more high-end phones, making it a good place to compare the BlackBerry with the iPhone with the T-Mobile G1. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile plans are all available.
- Coffee. This year, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club teamed up with TransFair USA to offer fair trade-certified coffee in the stores. The coffee is $5.88 for a 10- to 12-ounce bag, more than supermarket brands but less than other fair-trade coffees.
- Video game bundles. Wal-Mart often sells starter games with the game systems. Recently, Wal-Mart offered the Xbox 360 Elite gaming system, along with two games, including this season’s blockbuster, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," for $259. The game console alone sells for $249 or more at other stores, and "Call of Duty" costs $60.
- Laundry detergent. Wal-Mart is trying to become more eco-friendly, and one area where that is evident is laundry detergent. The store now offers only concentrated detergent, and all the detergents it sells in the United States are free of phosphates, the store says.
Are there things you shouldn’t buy at Wal-Mart?
Yes, says MoneyWatch. Here they are:
- High-end electronics. You’ll find a better selection and better service elsewhere.
- Books. Wal-Mart and Amazon have been in a price war this year over which can offer the lowest prices for hardcover best-sellers. While that means you can get the top-selling books as cheap as $13.99 for a hard-cover, the trend isn’t necessarily good for the industry. If independent booksellers are driven out of business, it will be hard to find books by any but the most well-known authors, says Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for local businesses.
- Wood furniture. The increased focus on sustainability hasn’t yet spread to all the store’s wood furniture. Wal-Mart has pledged to quit using wood logged illegally, but it has given itself until 2013 to get rid of all those products.
Do you shop at Wal-Mart or do you avoid it for philosophical reasons? If you’re a Wal-Mart shopper, what items do you find at the best prices? If you’re among those who avoid Wal-Mart, what would entice you to shop there?
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Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.