No matter at what level you are engaged in politics here in the Golden State — Governor or a legislator, County Supervisor or a city councilmember, a Superior Court Judge, a news reporter or blogger, or one of the thousands of parties either trying to get government at some level to do something (or in many cases, not do something) – it is an accepted fact that when big-box store giant Walmart wants to open a “super center” store anywhere, local opposition often appears and a big battle ensues. There are certainly cases where a Walmart just skips into a town somewhere without a hue and cry, but examples of those don’t come readily to mind…
Recent revelations have come to light that create a very plausible reason for the consistent, organized and funded opposition to most new Walmart supercenters. Based on a story that appeared earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal, Rival Chains Secretly Fund Opposition to Walmart, there may be someone with a big, cushy office at Safeway Foods who waits for news of a potential Walmart popping up to compete with some of their local stores, and when they get a “live one” – they pick up the proverbial bat phone and call in, “The Saint!”
Who is this superhero that is available at a moment’s notice to come in and rescue large grocery chains like Safeway from the specter of low-priced competition that will force them to in-turn lower their prices? The superhero is P. Michael Saint. Saint and his company have literally made a business out of “killing Walmarts” all around the country – they are rumored to have stopped hundreds of proposed Walmart developments, and substantially delayed the building of many others. I am guilty of using a little “tongue and cheek” rhetoric in calling Saint a superhero, though if you are someone who has to compete in the free marketplace against Walmart, he may indeed be just that to you. But for the average consumer, who looks to a healthy system of supply, demand and competition to make sure that he or she is getting the best quality products for the lowest possible price, Saint may actually be more of a super-villain.
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