Some of the most powerful unions in Los Angeles want to make sure that Wal-Mart doesn’t have a chance of opening anytime soon in Chinatown. Perhaps they should meet some of the Chinese senior citizens who support it. I did—and with the help of a translator and my own rusty Chinese, I learned that “fresh fruit,” “always low prices,” and “cheap stuff” sound good in Mandarin and Cantonese, too, especially to those immigrants and seniors living near the poverty line or in assisted living centers.
For decades, there’s been nothing on the vacant first floor of the apartment complex where Wal-Mart wants to open its Chinatown store—which it hopes will be the first of many “neighborhood marts” in Los Angeles County. Slightly smaller than a Whole Foods supermarket and only one-fifth the size of a typical Wal-Mart, the 33,000 square-foot store on West Cesar Chavez Avenue would offer fresh fruits and groceries, beauty products, and—most crucially for the seniors I spoke with—a pharmacy.
Right now, Chinatown has only one grocery store and a highly priced CVS drugstore to serve its nearly 50,000 residents. The lack of competition allows these stores to charge even more than the area’s high-priced small markets for what should be cheap products like aspirin.
In addition, many residents worry about the quality of the meat at some of the Chinese shops that Los Angeles city officials say a Wal-Mart will undercut. Indeed, all of the Chinatown residents I spoke with emphasized that at some of the Chinese markets, meats and other items are displayed on the sidewalk, exposed to the air and heat.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Charles C. Johnson.