"Wal-Mart Opponents in New York Include Its Shoppers," is the headline The New York Times runs over a strange article today quoting shoppers at a Wal-Mart in New Jersey explaining why they think the retailer should not open a store in New York.
"I don't believe Wal-Mart should be in the city," Ms. Clark, 29, said. "All the local mom-and-pop stores would lose business. And it's already congested. I mean, can you just imagine?"
More: "there are New Yorkers who would be happy to have a Wal-Mart in their city. Of the dozen residents interviewed while shopping in Secaucus on a recent afternoon, half said they would oppose the retailer, while half said they would welcome it."
The article carries no explanation of what the margin of sampling error might be in a survey that uses a sample size of 12 to represent the population of hundreds of thousands of New York City-based Wal-Mart shoppers. The headline seems to hang on the opinions of a total of six people. Only two of them — Ms. Clark and one other person — are identified by name or quoted in the Times article.
Not only is it strange that the Times would hang a whole article on the opinions of six Wal-Mart shoppers, but the whole article conveys no understanding that it isn't up to these people whether Wal-Mart "should be in the city," but up to Wal-Mart management and whoever decides to rent or sell them a site for their store. The Times article reports that "City Council hearings are expected to begin next month" on the topic.
You have to wonder what concept of economic freedom, if any, the Times or the City Council are operating under. No one is forcing anyone to shop at Wal-Mart if it opens in New York. But the idea that a retailer's decision to open a store somewhere should be subject to either a City Council approval or a poll of the store's customers in another state just strikes me as weird. If there's a particular site under discussion and the City Council wants to weigh in on traffic or historic preservation or zoning or wages or other labor practices or something like that, that's one thing. But to just say on a blanket basis that there shouldn't be any Wal-Marts in New York City? Some good witnesses at that City Council hearing would be Jason Furman and Hillary Clinton.