Last night just before my Monday role-playing game (a nWoD game where we play mortals "supernatural" investigators/consultant) we had an interesting discussion about Wall-mart and other large surface shop. Two conflicting opinions were supported by my friends, one that Wal-Mart is just progress in shopping and that we shouldn't worry about it and another that Wal-Mart were dangerous for the economy.
For the first side, my friend argued that in the past people were scared of supermarket saying that supermarket where dangerous for the economy and were killing the small neighborhood grocery store. While many (probably most) small grocery story close down it was not catastrophic economically speaking. Just like the vanishing of ice merchant and coal door-to-door seller, economical progress (some might call it evolution) marched on and society was not the worse to wear.
On the other side, my other friends argued that Wal-Mart destroy the market in a area, removing not only the small store but also the specialty store by underselling the newest, most fashionable item. They also argued that these stores offered services targeted to the upper middle class (I'm recounting that argument even if I don't see how or why that is a bad thing) by their location and "style". They offered example of small shops that couldn't survive this competition whose services will be sorely missed.
Now unlike most of the time I stood on the sideline for this argument (yeah I know unbelievable) because I do not really know where I stand. On one hand I hate shopping at Wal-Mart, I feel like I'm in some kind of low quality cheap-ass "temple" to the lowest denominator in society. The only thing I feel while I'm in a Wal-Mart is that I should buy the first product that I find and not ask question about how it his or how it is made. But on the other hand I can understand how the low price and easy access to the latest/most popular item would be interesting to families or people for which money is tight. It is a big dilemma and some of those store business practice are questionable so we might review this "progress" and think about how it might affect us on the long term.