Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Workplace, Company, Employee, Community, Health, Business, Documentary, Human Resource Management

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/02/22


In Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices (2005), filmmaker Robert Greenwald, in partnership with production company Brave New Films, explores the business model and practices employed at Wal-Mart. Greenwald, an independent filmmaker, has done various documentaries in the past including those that covered 9/11 and the War on Terror and the 2000 presidential election among others. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices is an expose of Wal-Mart’s unethical and unjust practices and treatment of employees locally and abroad. The succeeding discussion is an analysis of the documentary based on the techniques and strategies used in the film, the effectiveness of these techniques, the arguments made and substantiated in the documentary, and personal viewpoints and responses to the issues raised in the film.

Meaning and Evidence

The film’s main message is that Wal-Mart’s practices are detrimental to people and communities. In the workplace, Wal-Mart implements policies that are favorable to the organization but unfavorable and unfair to employees. Employees are put in a position where in Wal-Mart can easily take advantage of them while reaping the benefits of a mobile workforce. Moreover, Wal-Mart’s expansion strategy of building stores across the US is detrimental to communities. The entry of Wal-Mart in communities is forcing the closure of small, mom-and-pop businesses that have built the fabric of local communities for decades. Wal-Mart’s acquisition of various companies including Standard Oil, as mentioned by one of the resource persons in the documentary, appears to be a monopolistic move on the part of the organization.

Techniques Applied

Greenwald collated extensive data to support the main message of the documentary. Greenwald conducted extensive research to gather information about Wal-Mart and its policies and practices. To put together a picture of how Wal-Mart treated its employees, Greenwald arranged interviews with Wal-Mart’s former and current employees. Greenwald asked about their experiences working at Wal-Mart. Greenwald also interviewed representatives from organizations competing with Wal-Mart including business owners in local communities who were driven away by the company’s growth and expansion. In this way, Greenwald was able to establish how Wal-Mart’s practices were detrimental to local communities. Greenwald also filmed footage of Wal-Mart’s executives in the workplace to show the contrast between the image or reputation demonstrated by the company to the public and the actual practices implemented in the workplace and the effect of these on people and communities.
Greenwald’s strategy in putting the film together and establishing a solid argument was to explore the issue from two opposing viewpoints as a means to discredit Wal-Mart despite the organization’s claims. In this way, Greenwald was able to reveal that despite’s Wal-Mart’s statement about its commitment to social responsibility and sustainability, the company’s actual practices do not correspond to its claims and established image or reputation in the business.

Main Arguments and Opportunities for Counterarguments

The main question in the documentary pertain to the ethics and morality of Wal-Mart’s practices as a business company. Initially, Greenwald showed a clip of Wal-Mart’s Chief Executive Officer, Lee Scott while at one of the company’s conference talks. In the clip, Scott had good words to say about Wal-Mart as a company and its employees. Furthermore, Scott praised the company for its success and excellence. Despite the positive outlook of Wal-Mart’s CEO and the way that Wal-Mart projects itself as a company to the public and in the industry, its practices prove otherwise based on the revelations in the documentary.
Greenwald’s interview with Wal-Mart’s current and former employees also show that many workers are underpaid. Low wages then limits the capacity of employees to afford health care insurance. Essentially, health care insurance must be part of a company’s payment scheme for its employees. Nonetheless, Wal-Mart asks its employees to sign up for health insurance through Medicaid, which increases the amount that employees need to deduct from their salary to afford health care services. Based on health care practices in the industry, companies should shoulder half of employee health care insurance in order to reduce the amount that employees need to pay for this benefit.
Aside from paying workers low wages, Wal-Mart also hires and recruits undocumented immigrants. In fact, Greenwald argues that the company prefers to do so for the reason that Wal-Mart may easily pay its undocumented workers below minimum wage without following existing laws and guidelines of employment because undocumented workers are not part of the population that the Constitution protects. In addition to this, Wal-Mart’s undocumented workers are relegated to difficult manual labor jobs because they are in no position to complain since they are not American citizens and are living in the country illegally, an act that is punishable by law. Hence, undocumented migrants are forced to take on difficult jobs or work longer hours at below minimum wage to support their family and for fear that they would be reported to the authorities and deported to their home countries. In this way, Wal-Mart could
One of the major issues that Wal-Mart faces is the company’s refusal to work with unions. Hence, Wal-Mart’s employees are not allowed to sign up for and join union groups. Greenwald emphasized that Wal-Mart’s anti-union practice places people at risk for being unfairly treated in the workplace. Without unions representing employees at Wal-Mart, there is no entity to look after and promote their needs, wellbeing, and interests. Consequently, Wal-Mart can easily impose their policies and practices on their employees without looking after their welfare.
Abuses in the workplace and the implementation of unjust practices do not only occur within Wal-Mart stores. Greenwald also exposed how the company’s practices abroad perpetuate unequal treatment of employees. To speed up production of products or goods, Wal-Mart outsources its operations in other countries, especially in countries where the cost of labor is low. Greenwald’s documentary illustrates footage of factory workers in Asian countries such as Bangladesh, among others. Greenwald’s footage show how many factory workers are being unfairly treated by the management. Furthermore, factory workers are underpaid by the management of Wal-Mart’s facilities in Asia and Latin America.
One of the main issues concerning abuse of local and international workers is Wal-Mart’s refusal to address the problem. Many individuals and groups already raised the issue so Wal-Mart was already informed of the problem. Nonetheless, Wal-Mart still refused to address the problem. Wal-Mart does not take the opportunity to help improve employment terms and conditions abroad or to reprimand the management in other countries that treat employees unfairly.
Greenwald also exposed the impact of Wal-Mart’s expansion to local communities. With Wal-Mart’s expansion in many communities, the company is driving small stores out of business. Greenwald’s interview with business owners and locals document how Wal-Mart’s entry changed the dynamic in local communities. Wal-Mart operates a monopoly, which prevents the competition from establishing their own businesses. Hence, Wal-Mart’s business model violates the core of free market. Wal-Mart buys a significant area of land in local communities, destroys natural resources in the process of construction, monopolizes local resources including water and electricity, and drives local stores out of business, which is detrimental to the locals’ family and livelihood. Greenwald then presented supporting evidence by interviewing experts in the field of environmental sustainability. Greenwald’s resource persons communicated how prolonged and extensive expansion of large-scale businesses such as Wal-Mart is detrimental to environmental sustainability.
Greenwald supported the foregoing arguments with evidences from current and former Wal-Mart employees’ experiences, interviews with business owners and locals, as well as resource persons. Furthermore, to highlight the contrast between Wal-Mart’s practices, Greenwald also showed footage of Wal-Mart’s people in the workplace as well as the company’s advertisements communicating its goals or objectives, values, and philosophy. By revealing both sides of the issue – Wal-Mart’s claims and the claims of people and resource persons – Greenwald was able to underscore the company’s practices that contradict its stated values and affect people and communities. Wal-Mart, however, also has the right to refute claims and make counterarguments by responding directly to the film through a press release or other forms that would communicate its views on the matter.

Conclusion and Reflection

Overall, Greenwald intended to urge other communities to stop Wal-Mart from building stores in their communities and customers to boycott the company as a form of protest for the company’s unethical and unjust policies and practices. Greenwald sought to encourage the viewers by presenting numerous arguments not only from resource people but also from individuals affiliated with Wal-Mart and those who were detrimentally affected by the company’s practices. In terms of Greenwald’s technique, the filmmaker’s use of actual footage and the interviews with other people allowed him to disprove Wal-Mart’s claims. Hence, the documentary makes a compelling case against Wal-Mart and raises awareness about the impact of large-scale chain stores such as the company on individuals and communities.

Works Cited

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Dir. Robert Greenwald. Perf. Lee Scott, Don Hunter, Jon Hunter, Jeremy Hunter, and Matt Hunter, etc. Brave New Films, 2005. Documentary Film.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2021, February, 22) Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices. Retrieved February 06, 2023, from
"Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices." WePapers, 22 Feb. 2021, Accessed 06 February 2023.
WePapers. 2021. Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices., viewed February 06 2023, <>
WePapers. Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices. [Internet]. February 2021. [Accessed February 06, 2023]. Available from:
"Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices." WePapers, Feb 22, 2021. Accessed February 06, 2023.
WePapers. 2021. "Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved February 06, 2023. (
"Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices," Free Essay Examples -, 22-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 06-Feb-2023].
Free Essay About Evaluating A Documentary: Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 22, 2021. Accessed February 06, 2023.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now