Mal Wart is coming to Fergus. Buckle UP!

Bet ya some of you had no doubt what I would be commenting about this week… you got it cowboys and girls: Mal Wart (MW). Yes I can’t seem to bring myself to call it by its rightful name… I have a bumper sticker that says “Mal Wart, your place for cheap plastic crap’’ and from this I have trained my brain to think this is ‘that’ stores name for real! No re-wiring necessary, since I don’t shop at the one south of us by 15 minutes, nor have I had the urge to in the last 8 years.

It IS possible to not shop there, my children are still young enough not to have even started influencing me. The subject is touchy around some parts of my family, as when my kids are in their care, I am not going to die on the ‘don’t take my kids to Mal Wart’ hill, I have more important hills to conquer. However, they all know how I feel about it and sometimes they apologize for the spider man slippers my son now possesses.

Those of us that are opposed to MW all do so for very different reasons. Those of us in retail or manufacturing have our own set of peeves, very different from those who are opposed to the ‘everything made in China’ proverb. Since 90% of what we use on a day-to-day basis is from there anyway, I don’t think that is a valid argument. As a manufacturer and possible supplier to MW I would first of all be expected to have on-time delivery down to the minute, and should my shipment be late, the purchase order can be considered invalid.

Further, I would be expected to offer-up a 5% discount on my merch on a year-to-year basis. In the world I live in, raw materials go up in price, especially those with an oil-base(plastics) therefore, the business would simply would simply go bankrupt. Many, many companies have gone bankrupt trying to keep up with MW’s demands, Vlasic Pickles is one.

The Buyers for MW are bullies. How so? Well maybe I am crazed and want to do business with them. So I take my beautiful unique widget to them. In their infinite wisdom they tell me ‘yes we like the product, not your price, and if you don’t lower the price we are going to take it to China and they will knock off your design via Private label, thereby we will get our low price we demand either way… you can work with us or against us.’’ This was Levi jeans experience, and they decided to defer to MW, shut down North American manufacturing, including the plant in Waterloo that employed some 300 people and off to China it went. In their bid to not go bankrupt, they opted for cheaper fabrics, thus the rugged jean we all once knew and loved is no longer… making it yet another disposable piece of clothing that will clog landfills.

I also have an issue with how they ensure not to have to offer benefits of any kind to their staff by keeping their scheduled hours at low levels. This probably upsets me the most, but I have heard the same from other nationally known grocery stores doing the same, so perhaps this scabby behavior is more widespread than I would like to think. In Mexico MW employ children (employ is a loose term here) to help customers get their packages to their cars. They don’t actually pay them at all, and these children simply hope to get paid via tips. This practice is actually more widespread than we’re all comfortable with, in third world countries, such as in resorts and cruise lines, but I digress.

I was informed recently that when MW opened in Orangeville, their zoning laws didn’t permit a store of that size, giving the Township clout when hammering out development charges. One being that MW would pay a tax levy to the Orangeville BIA for beautification purposes. Unfortunately, our Township allows for zoning of up to 120,000 sq ft, and the proposed MW is for 90,000 leaving our Township powerless.
Our downtown business community is deeply concerned about the impact this will have, and it will likely devastate Fergus, as the closing of the Mill will have on Elora. The Mill isn’t a permanent closure, however, everyone is still paying upwards of $1500 a month in rent down there until the reno is complete and I doubt most of these shops will survive the wait.

I will leave this as a reminder to all the folks who come to all the downtown merchants for support for their various silent auctions, curling bonspiels and fundraisers: remember everytime you go to MW to shop to ‘save money’, you are further cutting off your own access to merchants who have been overwhelmingly supportive of your various initiatives over the last century. Yes Century.

Want to make a statement about all this? Start by not shopping there for one. Further, contact your councilor about why the firetruck zoning bylaws in place have now compromised your community.

What the Firetruck?

I find it quite extraordinary how far the  brilliant art of writing has come in the past decade. My memories of high school reading are that it took about half the book to get into the groove, and maybe the latest edition of Coles notes to help me finish it off.  Comparatively, I started an article in the latest Vanity Fair describing how Pharmaceutical companies are using countries other than their own for clinical tests.  (google: vf deadly medicine for this most startling piece of writing)

That since the year 2000 there has been 58, 788 clinical trials in foreign countries.  You can predict without even finishing the article how this is going to play out, the outrage of it all (couple-a hints: numerous deaths, the poor and illiterate being used as human guinea pigs so that the outcome of the trials read favorable to the FDA, and lets not get into those select few lying about how these folks got into the trials (money), and how pathetic the FDA truly is in not holding these US firms accountable) – all in the first two paragraphs of the article. Is it just me, or are some of the global issues so outrageous that you can predict how the article will play out, that you just skip reading it completely?

Felt that way again later today, reading an opinion piece for sport ‘Is There a Will for Safer Contact Sports?’ in the Toronto Star.  Now lets cut open a vein here folks: Contact sports for children, in general give me the willies. Is soccer contact? Hmmm maybe not so much, but hockey sure is and we have one child in it. He is getting older and his coach /my husband tells me that contact in hockey increases with age that ‘we teach the kids how to hit’. What the firetruck are you saying? I learn how to do stuff all the time. Do I succeed at each attempt? No. So what happens when we ‘don’t’ hit well’, somebody’s going to get hurt – real bad and frankly, I don’t want that to be my kid, or yours  – thank you very much.  Its no news to some that sitting in the bleachers watching our kids at the arena has become quite painful. The parents in the stands hollering at their kids, not just the word Defense!! but KILL ‘EM. Not only is this trashy, but its dangerous.

The data the NFL is publishing of late is quite disturbing – that after years of analysis of retired players, they are seeing from a result of tramautic brain injury (TBI)/ concussions, an increase in epilepsy,  Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age. The NFL’s shakeup last year of their own Committee for  Head, Neck and Spine Injuries and the new roster of Doctors are encouraging coaches and players to come forward with confessions of concussions that have occurred with the players.  The numbers of reported concussions is increasing and this is the good news if you can believe it.  The game has been suffering macho and bottom-line mentality for much too long thus the newly published reports are freeing those afflicted to fess up to their injuries allowing proper post-care and hopeful negate long term brain injury effects.  Some in the medical community would like to see the use of the term ‘concussion’ replaced with Traumatic Brain Injury, as that is what it truly is.

Watching my new/old copy of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious from the mid 80’s has led me to ask friends: “ It’s the year 2011, what are we going to talk about in 10 years that will garner the visceral reactions I had to watching Mr. Murphy from 1985? We won’t be saying (of course!!)‘ you can get The Aids from kissing’ or ‘gay marriage is an abomination’ or ‘there will never be a black president’ (like Mr. Murphy predicted). I hope our reaction to head trauma in sport will be given the depth of concern it rightly deserves and not the shrugging, oh that’s a drag it has today.

I am also hopeful that perhaps a new semblance of order will appear at my local arena during my kids hockey game, but I am not going to hold my breath any time soon.