Last year someone tried to capitalize on this fear and distrust of Walmart by floating a flyer in south San Ramon titled "Stop Wal-Mart." The flyer was printed on orange paper and warned residents, "Wal-Mart is in negotiations to build a 24-hour store at the Alcosta Mall Shopping Center at 9100 Alcosta Blvd."
The flyer told residents to phone Mayor Abram Wilson and Councilwoman Carol Rowley to protest the proposed Walmart in their neighborhood. It claimed this would be a full-size Walmart Superstore, open 24-hours and allowing RV's and trailers to park overnight in the parking lot.
The flyer wasn't signed but it did include an email address for email@example.com. Many people, including Mayor Wilson, thought the flyer was sent by a man named Frank Ganz. I boldly said I would reveal the true identity of "Frank Ganz" in a blog I posted on August 25, 2011.
After searching online for hours for a Frank Ganz in San Ramon I came to the conclusion that this was really a word play on the German word Ganz, which means "totally" and Frank, which means "Honest." So the sender was proclaiming he or she is "Totally Honest."
I won't go any further than this recap, since the person I named, whom I shall not name again, protested in a torrent of messages, some quite cleverly written, that my accusation was totally wrong. I don't want to start another such torrent, so let's just say whoever wrote the flyer got their information wrong. The fearsome Walmart headed for San Ramon isn't a Superstore, but, and I got this part right, a smaller Neighborhood Walmart Grocery store.
I know the City wanted a Trader Joe's there. I know Marc Fontes, Director of Economic Development, called Trader Joe's almost weekly trying to convince them to take over that building, but they were not interested. I know the City was not looking for a Walmart, but Walmart was looking at leasing that building, and it's better to have an occupied building there than a vacant one.
I explained at the end of my blog last August, "The City actually has no authority to choose who or what goes into that building. . . . as long as the store is within the approved use and the size or footprint of the building isn't changed, the City cannot keep it out."
Walmart does have a line of smaller, grocery-only Neighborhood Markets about the same size as the old Ralphs building. I uploaded a photo of a Neighborhood Market from the Walmart Corporate website and it looks very nice.
The City cannot keep a Walmart Grocery store out of a building already approved for a Grocery store, but it can limit the hours and control the parking. There will be public hearings on whatever permits Walmart requires, so residents will have a say on how many hours the store is open and what kind of vehicles can park there overnight.
I don't know the quality of Walmart's produce or milk or meat, and since I don't plan to shop there I won't find out. I suppose the prices will be lower since that's what Walmart is famous for low prices, low pay, and no benefits, so they can afford to charge less. This, in my opinion, is not an ethical business model but it is one that's been very successful in these difficult times.
Seth Meyers, on the December 17, 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live, defined the poverty line as, ". . . the invisible line that separates Target from Walmart." Whew, that means I'm still above it.