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Walmart not an option

Amy Roberts, Park Record columnist

When I was 15, my parents allowed me to start wearing makeup for the first time. Mostly, this permission was needed from my mom. I could have left for school with my face painted like Bozo the Clown and my dad would never have noticed. But my mom was acutely aware if anything more than ChapStick had been applied to my face.

I remember her taking me to the store on my 15th birthday. I was allowed to choose just one item of makeup to start wearing. The choices were dizzying: blush, lipstick, foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara how was I ever going to pick?

Then, standing in the makeup aisle, I saw an advertisement picturing a stunning woman, looking right at me. A very handsome man was pictured right behind her, and, much to his delight, she was dragging him along by his tie. Her eyelashes nearly popped off the poster. They looked like they had to be combed with a garden rake each morning. The caption in the ad was the confirmation I needed to make my selection. It said: "Find a man who ruins your lipstick, not your mascara."

I was 15. I had a desperate crush on boy called Matt, whom I was suddenly certain was going to notice me as soon as I applied mascara. Predictably, he would fall madly in love with me and, when I was finally allowed to wear a second piece of makeup, it would be lipstick, which he surely would ruin.

So that day I chose a gold tube of black eye goop made by L’Oréal, a product I have now been loyal to for over two decades. For all the ways my style has changed over the years, I have seriously worn the same brand of mascara since I was 15.

But this week, much to my dismay, nearly every retail store in Park City has quit carrying it. I checked all the grocery stores, drug stores, and even gas stations. I spent hours driving from store to store, hoping someone had a stockpile of this magic eyelash enhancer they just forgot to put out.

After several panicked calls, I learned the only place that still carries it locally is Walmart. That news was nearly enough to make my precious mascara run. I held back the tears, but I was upset. I’ve worn this stuff nearly every day for over 20 years. I don’t just feel naked without it, I feel lost.

But frankly, I’d rather have AstroTurf for eyelashes than give Walmart a dime.

I have long held a number of grievances against this big-box, cheap crap made in China, human-rights violating, poverty-inducing behemoth.

For starters, Walmart is the ultimate government-welfare queen. The retailer pocketed over $17 billion in profits last year, but pays its employees so little, most qualify for federal welfare programs. The vast majority of Walmart employees fall below the federal poverty line, meaning taxpayers subsidize its corporate growth and pick up the tab for its workers who cannot afford health care, food, housing and other necessities. In fact, a recent study showed an average Walmart Supercenter costs federal taxpayers close to $1 million a year in government subsidies.

Then, of course, there’s the endless list of international human rights violations and accusations: child labor, deplorable conditions, forced overtime in unsafe and unregulated factories, paying third-world workers as little as pennies an hour.

In November of 2012, over 100 workers were burned to death when a fire broke out in a garment factory in Bangladesh where clothes for Walmart were sewn. In April, another garment factory in the country collapsed, killing over 1,100 people. Despite these tragedies, Walmart has refused to sign a pledge to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

The Walton family (heirs to Walmart’s founders, Bud and Sam Walton) is reportedly worth over $115 billion and yet donates only about 2% of its net worth to charity. Corporate contributions are nearly nonexistent. Locally, I have never once seen a Walmart logo on a poster, website or flyer announcing the Kimball Junction store’s sponsorship of a fundraiser or charity event here in Park City.

If allotted the space, I could take up a whole page of this paper citing the horrific impact on the environment and our health from the products Walmart sells.

While I certainly realize I’m fortunate to be in a situation where I can choose to spend a little bit more on groceries and other needed items at a more honorable retailer, I also recognize there are people who can’t. But there are also people who won’t I find that nearly as disgraceful as Walmart itself. We empower this shameful behavior with every purchase.

Which is why, if you see me this week, I might look a little different. I am still trying to find a suitable replacement for my eyelashes, sold locally, at any other store.

Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.


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