Wal-​​Mart announced today that it’s dropped its bid to open its own line of banks. Citing “man­u­fac­tured con­tro­versy” the retail monolith’s spokes­peo­ple denied attempts to impose yet another facet of con­trol over a nation which is already arguably far too Wallified for its own good, instead all but blam­ing the Librul Medya for their problems.

Ever notice how, when skull­dug­gery and uneth­i­cal beha­vor get exposed, it’s some­how the fault of those who shine a light into the nest of cock­roaches? Well, Wal-​​Mart won’t be open­ing a bank, at least not this year, and it’s pout­ing as only an under­rep­re­sented, pow­er­less, help­less and dirt-​​poor US mega­cor­po­ra­tion can.

I’m going to wax elit­ist in the next graf, so be warned. Feel free to skip ahead if you want.

Considering the cal­iber of clien­tele Wal-​​Mart usu­ally draws, one has to won­der what the hell the com­pany thought it would accom­plish. We’re talk­ing peo­ple who have trou­ble with sim­ple one-​​variable alge­bra, for non-god’s sake, whose account bal­ances are always three fig­ures if you include the stuff to the right of the dec­i­mal, whose checks are gen­er­ally not merely rub­ber but actu­ally Flubber. And Wal-​​Mart thought it could make a viable finan­cial gain from this kind of cus­tomer base?

Sneering arro­gance aside, though, you have to admit the idea is damned clever. Think about it. All they’d have to do is issue any accoun­tholder a pur­chase card that links to their bank bal­ance, and can be used at any Wal-​​Mart check­stand just like a debit card — with, pos­si­bly, an option to auto­mat­i­cally issue credit over­age at an industry-​​standard APR for preda­tory lenders, say a nice even 25%. That bulk box of Ding-​​Dongs doesn’t seem like such a bar­gain any more, does it?

And, of course, Wal-​​Mart wouldn’t stop at merely being a savings/​checking/​moneylender — it would also con­trol mort­gages and more.

Wal-​​Mart can offer future ser­vices includ­ing mort­gages, con­sumer loans, home equity loans, invest­ment and insur­ance prod­ucts and any other type of ser­vice or prod­uct that the com­pany might develop.

Imagine that. Not only do you shop there, you bank there, you pay them your mort­gage and you work there. This tran­scends creepy and actu­ally becomes a lot more like a truck sys­tem — the nineteenth-​​century habit that some employ­ers had of requir­ing employ­ees to live in com­pany hous­ing and buy all their goods from the com­pany store. (It’s still going on today, as it happens.)

And you know — you just know — that mil­lions of peo­ple would hap­pily queue up for their inden­ture to Sam Walton’s dread­ful legacy.

The dan­ger hasn’t passed, though; Home Depot — another mas­sive chain whose stores resem­ble air­craft hangars more than retail out­lets — is get­ting ready to acquire an indus­trial loan business.

I guess what that means is your next Wal-​​Mart store will be financed by Home Depot.

Am I the only one made intensely uncom­fort­able at that idea?


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