Loving Wal-Mart is Cool...Trust Me.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart.      

But they're good at what they do - damn good.

Sure, they may not sit atop the opinion polls as of late, but the folks at Wal-mart know how to run a business. Depending on who you talk to, Wal-mart hovers somewhere around a 60-75% general approval rating - but those numbers don't factor in the recent media nightmare associated with the Debbie Shank lawsuit. Wal-Mart learned the hard way that suing a former employee with brain-damage over medical coverage is not the best way to win a popularity contest.

A quick google search yields countless websites dedicated to the defamation of Wal-Mart - check out Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-up Wal-Mart!, and the always classy Wal-Mart Blows! for some pleasure-reading. Or, if you have any questions about why Wal-Mart is the worse for America than No Child Left Behind, just ask any college student - it's actually cool to hate Wal-Mart when you're in college...so much for the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.

But corporations like Wal-Mart will always be the subject of hyper-liberal criticism, regardless of how much money they pump into non-profits ($402 million) and green initiatives ($500 million) every year.

Everyone is too busy whining about Wal-Mart to notice Exxon Mobil stealing the shirts off our backs.

Exxon recorded the largest profits in history last year ($40.6 billion), shattering the previous record of 39.5 billion set by:


A year earlier.

I'm not a math major but,

a) Exxon gave $79 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2006 (compared to $39.5 billion in profits)

b) Wal-Mart gave $402 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2007 (compared to 4.1 billion in profits)

c) 79m : 39.5b vs. 402m : 4.1b = Wal-Mart aint so bad after all.

But it's always good to have a healthy cynicism of big business - Wal-Mart's quest for public approval will ensure that more and more money goes to local communities.

But now, the moral of the story -

Wal-Mart is a well-oiled business machine. Without a doubt.

Its distribution network is arguably the most sophisticated in the world. Algorithms remove any human error associated with ordering and replenishing stock, while strategically placed distribution centers and varying store formats guarantee efficiency and protect against cannibalism. Whoa.

We decided to grill some burgers at the Bradley house tonight. But unfortunately, we were out of propane.

My dad gave a list of about 4 or 5 gas stations where I could swap the tank for a full one.

Every single gas station (and Hannaford) was out of propane. Apparently, grilling is popular when it's nice out. One clerk (at the Exxon station, ironically enough) told me that I was the "twenty-fifth guy to come in and ask."

Wal-Mart was the only place with propane in stock.

Think it was an accident that Wal-Mart stocked up on propane as soon as the weather got warmer?

Nope. Neither do I.

Hit Me.

Rockstar by Association

So my dad found out I have a blog - now he gives me shit whenever I'm on my computer. "So, hows that bloooog coming matt, got a lot of readers waiting for you to post?" Sweet, dad.

But the thing is, while most of our parents understand how the internet has changed our lives, they don't realize how deeply it has become ingrained our lifestyles and relationships . For Millennials, the internet isn't just an innovation of utility, it's the single most important source of information, communication, and social capital. But I'm less concerned with the first two, right now - even my grandmother writes and receives emails.

There are two great examples that demonstrate the profound effect that the internet has on generating social capital: 1) YouTube videos and 2) iTunes download suggestions.

The internet is an early-adopters paradise - being the first person to introduce a new viral or digital phenomenon to your friends is sort of like becoming a rockstar. For those 3 minutes when your friends are cheering or laughing, it seems as if they're cheering for YOU.

The internet has made it possible for anyone to be popular - even without talent or good looks. The desire to capitalize on the talent (or stupidity) of others is what makes viral hits possible.

1) YouTube Videos

The Numa Numa video: The Numa Numa video is probably what hooked me on the concept on YouTubing in the first place. But just take a step back and realize the word-of-mouth buzz that fueled its rise to success -think of how many times some college kid was with his buddies and said "dude, you gotta check out this video."


In the case of the Numa Numa video, the viewers who "discovered" it probably benefited more than the actual chubby kid who made it. While Gary Brolsma will forever live in shame knowing that he is the Numa Numa kid (-5 social capital), the few kids who championed the video before it was an internet sensation will forever remind their friends "oh yeah, I discovered Numa Numa waaaay before it was popular" (+5 social capital).

The OK-GO music video, on the other hand, is the perfect example of how talentless people can capitalize on the brilliance of others - in other words, "talent by association." I mentioned earlier how it's possible to feel like a rockstar when you captivate your audience with an awesome new video - this is evident in the stats for "Here It Goes Again." Well over 32 million people have already watched the video - that's millions of rock-stars by association.

Showing your friends a brilliant new YouTube video is one of the most rewarding experiences that normal, talentless folks like us can have. But this idea of talent-by-association isn't just limited to viral videos...

2) iTunes Download Suggestions

One's music library has always been a source of social capital - but the rise of the Apple empire has changed the way we express our tastes. I always call Jules an "iTunes Whore" because she is a perfect example of an early-adopter who gets her rocks off via iTunes.

As noted in the Stuff White People Like, "Because of the availability of music online, a very strict social hierarchy has been created within white culture whereby someone with a large MP3 collection is considered “normal,” a large CD collection is considered to be “better,” and a person with a large vinyl collection is recognized as “elite.”

But the size of your library doesn't matter if it's stocked with terrible "mainstream" music. The iTunes store allows music elitists to discover edgy new "alt" bands - bands that will increase social capital when introduced to their friends via facebook, myspace, and of course - mix CD's.

If you think introducing the Numa Numa video to your friends made you feel like a rockstar, imagine creating a 72-minute CD packed with the freshest alternative/B-side/unsigned/emo/lyric-driven bands (as rated by iTunes) - you'll feel like Bono on a coke.-binge

Ultimately, iTunes allows any d-bag with an internet connection become a music snob - and that's why it's so revolutionary.

Everybody loves that smug feeling you get when introducing a new piece of pop culure to your friends - iTunes can make you a rockstar by association - .99 cents at a time.

Hit Me.