September 15, 2013

'Living wage' loses to Walmart's low prices

The decision by Washington's mayor brings focus to the fact that Walmart's customers are often as economically disadvantaged as those who scrape by on its hourly wages.

By AARON C. DAVIS The Washington Post

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Washington resident Jimmy Pegues, 64, rests on an overturned shopping cart recently after crossing the parking lot of the Walmart store in Landover, Md. The round-trip bus trip from his apartment takes half a day, but Pegues said it is worth it, saving him roughly $110 a month on heart medications and blood thinners through Walmart's $4 generic prescription drug program.

Washington Post photo by Aaron C. Davis

Harris, who swings by Walmart about once a week on her way to see clients, picked up a guilty pleasure: a $3.30 roll of Walmart's Great Value buttermilk biscuits.

"I guess I could have gone to Giant, but I like these better," said Harris, who lives three blocks from the grocery store in Washington's Columbia Heights neighborhood, as well as Target, for that matter, where the Redskins jersey was only two cents more. But it didn't have her nephew's size in stock.

Roy and Precious Borlend wait for rush-hour traffic to quiet down along 16th Street outside their apartment in Northwest Washington when they need diapers and wipes, or milk and juice, for their 2-year-old son. They pack up the family minivan and trek 30 minutes around the Capital Beltway to a suburban Maryland Walmart.

"I love and hate Walmart. You save on everything — everything — but I hate feeling like it is the only place I can buy things because of that," said Precious Borlend, a public preschool teacher.

The Borlends left with $100 worth of merchandise in bulging bags, and saved perhaps $10 or $20 toward their elusive first home.

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