Study: Walmart Runs Better Stores in White Areas

Chain understaffs those in minority neighborhoods, say researchers
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2016 11:49 AM CDT
Study: Walmart Runs Better Stores in White Areas
A girl takes cover under an umbrella and tries to cover the shopping cart from rain at Walmart in Hesperia, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.   (David Pardo/The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP)

Ouch. A study out of Columbia University suggests that Walmart deliberately runs much better stores in white neighborhoods than in minority neighborhoods. The study found that stores in lower-income neighborhoods have considerably lower customer service ratings than those in wealthier ones. More specifically, the higher the percentage of black or Latino residents in an area, the lower the Walmart rating, reports Consumerist. The researchers suggest one reason is that the chain generally doesn't staff stores in low-income neighborhoods adequately because it doesn't need to do so—Walmarts in such neighborhoods are often the only place people can shop, and thus competition and customer satisfaction aren't priorities.

“When Walmart moves into the South Side of Chicago, it’s not really displacing numerous other businesses,” study author Adam Reich tells the Atlantic. “So it can shortchange investments in staff, and force people to work harder. Consumers don’t have a choice about where they’re shopping.” The authors, who published their study in the American Sociological Association journal Contexts, analyzed Yelp reviews of 2,840 stores and found that those in predominantly black areas tend to be rated with words like "nasty," "terrible," and "unorganized," while those in white areas tend to be described as "friendly," "clean," and "pleasant." A Walmart spokesperson tells Business Insider that the analysis is both "flawed" and "without merit," and the publication notes a few "holes," including that reviewer bias and outside influence can't be accounted for. (More than 200 violent crimes have been reported at Walmarts so far this year.)

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