Walmart Cometh

Some time ago, I saw a sign for a Walmart. Some people were not happy, but others said it was only a joke. Unfortunately current evidence makes it look quite real. Does Panama really need a Walmart? I don’t know, but it’s not up to me anyway.

I went biking today and saw that they have now built a fence around the site. I asked the guy working there if a Walmart is coming and he said yes, it is. For you local readers, the location – There is an intersection on the PanAmerican highway just past Cochez, just west of the Franklin Jorado parking lot. Take that road northwest towards Aguacatal. The Walmart site is on the left maybe a half mile down the road.

If you are from the US you will see a lot of familiar things here – McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, TGI Fridays, Subway, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, and Dairy Queen, just to name a few. I’m not sure this is a good thing, especially the food which isn’t good for people’s health. But, it is well liked here. KFC delivery motorcycles can be seen all over town and the parking lot is overflowing in the evenings.

WalMart though? They are known for beating down the prices they pay suppliers, and for giving employees low pay and less than full time work so they can’t get benefits. Are they going to do the same here? Panama has very strict laws that give workers many benefits and protections so it will be harder to mistreat employees, but of course not impossible for a creative and determined employer. Many here are more concerned with price than quality, so maybe the products will be popular. I don’t know, and all I can do is observe and listen.

916WalMart3

“Private Property – Walmart”, in English. I know it’s a small thing but they speak Spanish here, so have some respect and make a sign in their language.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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14 Responses to Walmart Cometh

  1. Rob says:

    I noticed first off that the sign was in’s English, not Spanish. I also thought that was presumptive and somewhat arrogant. One would hope that Walmart had better manners.

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  2. Ken Kimsey says:

    Thank you for posting this, Kris. My family owned an intermodal drayage company in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. We picked up and delivered the kinds of cargo containers you see flowing through the Panama Canal. For awhile, we handled loads to and from Walmarts across the southeastern U.S. Walmart consistently disputed agreed-upon rates and held up payments. They were brutal about our prompt arrivals at their docks, and then frequently kept our drivers waiting long past the two hours of free waiting time, and often declined to pay legitimate driver detention charges. Occasionally, when they did deign to pay those charges, they delayed payment as long as possible. There is always some other company willing to accept their abuse at lower rates. We eventually made a decision to decline their pickups and deliveries. This, of course, made no difference to Walmart. We were then able to dispatch our drivers to customers who actually honored their commitments and paid our agreed-upon rates. It saddens me to hear they are coming to Panamá. Prepare to join the global race to the bottom. I used to like the chain’s low prices, until I learned some of their methods firsthand. Again, Kris, thanks for this posting. I think it is naive to expect better performance in Panama, though I suppose it’s possible to hope.

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    • Ugh, no surprise you wouldn’t want to do business with them. I hope they do better here but I’m not counting on it. People here tend to have more patience and fuss less, so they could get hurt even more.

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  3. Robert & Helen says:

    Walmart started in the early 2000s in Germany. They closed because they did not understand the German mentality. Moreover local competition was fierce and suppliers refused to supply at ridiculous low prices. They closed down within 2 years.

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  4. Laureen says:

    I’m one of those people that do not like Wal-mart, and there is one in Ajijic, MX. We have shopped there because they are very conveniently located (never shopped at any Wal-marts in the US). We do most of our food shopping at the local organic farmer’s market or the Tiangui, or smaller local grocery stores.
    I’m sorry to hear Wal-mart is moving to David. Hopefully the Panamanian employees will be better taken care of than in the US.

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  5. Walmart? Oh dear me no, no, no – there should be an international law against opening up Walmarts ANYWHERE in the world. I am so saddened to hear they’re moving in to Panama – they’ll just run roughshod over everything in their path.

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    • I know. I hope the laws here provide more protection for the workers, but I’m not sure how it will go on the supply side. Ken Kimsy above told about their problems working with Walmart and I can see that happening here and worse. Panamanians can sometimes be too peaceful and cooperative for their own good.

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