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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price film poster
Directed by Robert Greenwald
Produced by Jim Gilliam
Distributed by Brave New Films
Release dates
November 4, 2005 (USA)
Running time
99 minutes
Language English
Budget $1.5 million[1]

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a 2005 documentary film by director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films.[2] The film presents a negative picture of Wal-Mart's business practices through interviews with former employees, small business owners, and footage of Wal-Mart executives.[3] Greenwald also uses statistics interspersed between interview footage, to provide an objective analysis of the effects Wal-Mart has on individuals and communities.[4]


  • Synopsis 1
  • Reaction 2
    • Critical reception 2.1
    • Walmart's Response 2.2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The film features archival footage of Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott praising the corporation at a large employee convention, intercut with interviews designed to undercut Scott's statements.[5][6]

The documentary argues that Wal-Mart underpays its workers, paying them an average of $17,000 per year (in 2005 dollars).[7] According to the interviews, these wages are too low for employees to afford Wal-Mart's health insurance, so management counsels workers to apply for government programs such as Medicaid.[3] Greenwald also claims that Wal-Mart hires undocumented workers for their cleanup crews, paying them well below minimum wage.[2] Other criticisms of the retail mega-chain include Wal-Mart's anti-union practices, its negative effect on mom and pop stores and small communities, insufficient environmental protection policies, and its poor record on worker's rights in the United States and internationally.[8] Scenes filmed abroad document factory workers in Bangladesh and China creating Wal-Mart goods for as little as 18 cents an hour.[7] One 9-year veteran of Wal-Mart testifies that he was moved to tears when he viewed the conditions in clothing manufacturing facilities in Latin America. He reported the abuses but the company did not correct them.[9] The documentary also argues that Wal-Mart's parking lots have unusually high crime rates, a situation that could be vastly improved if the company were willing to spend the money to place cameras outside the stores.[4]

To avoid accusations of a partisan POV, most of Greenwald's interviews are of politically conservative, patriotic, "red state" citizens who are distressed about Wal-Mart's policies and impact.[6][9][10]

As the film draws to a close, Greenwald documents the efforts of several communities that have successfully blocked Wal-Marts from opening in their towns, suggesting that others should do the same.[7]


Critical reception

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price has enjoyed critical acclaim and earned a 93% on the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes.[2] The Boston Globe calls it "advocacy journalism at its most unsparing, and it demands to be seen, discussed, argued with, and acted upon." [3] The ViewLondon reviews says, "If Greenwald’s intention was to make the audience very angry indeed then the film is a resounding success." [5]

The film has been endorsed and promoted by Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch campaigns; and other groups.

Some reviewers have observed that while the documentary features stories of former employees and residents of communities that Wal-Mart has impacted, it does not sufficiently explore the customers' role in Wal-Mart's financial success, despite its business practices.[3][10]

Walmart's Response

Wal-Mart has disputed the factual accuracy of the statements made in the film.[11][9] Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price has been credited as one of the reasons that Wal-Mart created a public relations "war room" in late 2005 to respond to criticism.[12][13]


  1. ^ "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price". International Movie Database. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Burr, Ty (11 November 2005). "Dogged documentary presents a damning case against Wal-Mart". Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ a b Roten, Robert (20 November 2005). "Laramie Movie Scope: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices". 
  5. ^ a b Turner, Matthew (10 May 2006). "Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price". The ViewLondon Review. 
  6. ^ a b Fox, Ken (4 November 2005). "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Price". TV Guide’s Movie Guide. 
  7. ^ a b c Brussat, Frederic & Mary Ann (4 December 2005). "Film Review". Spirituality and Practice. 
  8. ^ Nesbit, John (26 January 2006). "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)". Old School Reviews. 
  9. ^ a b c Turan, Kenneth (4 November 2005). Wal-Mart' seen through the eyes of the disaffected"'". Los Angeles Times. 
  10. ^ a b Anderson, John (3 November 2005). "Review: ‘Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price’". Variety. 
  11. ^ Clark, Sarah (25 October 2005). "Robert Greenwald to Release Another Misleading Video" (PDF). Walmart. 
  12. ^ Barbaro, Michael (November 1, 2005). "A New Weapon for Wal-Mart: A War Room". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Gates, Anita. "A Look Inside the Outsize Company That Is the Biggest Retailer on the Planet". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 

External links

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