Recently, the news dominating the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York has centered on ongoing health violations at the local Monticello Wal-Mart -- and some are advocating a boycott of the store until they clean up their mess.
The Monticello store, which is one of the largest retail establishments in the area, has been cited by the NYS Department of Health on a number of occasions for very unsanitary conditions, including rat droppings in its supermarket section.
A hearing is scheduled to take place in Albany next week concerning the repeated violations.
Columnist Barry Lewis of The Times Herald Record writing in an opinion piece on Sunday entitled "Wal-Mart's rats mean we must boycott till it's shut" advocated that local shoppers not frequent the store until a clean bill of health is issued by the state.
"As for our super Wal-Mart, it has become a local health hazard and an embarrassment. And it has become clear that the folks who run the world's retail giant in Bentonville, Ark., couldn't care less about the folks in Sullivan."
How about over one million in sales tax revenues for the county that is generated by the store?
Sullivan County officials are very nervous about the situation, which can lead to losing an important stream of tax revenue for county residents. County Manager David Fanslau stated yesterday:
"A closure of this facility will certainly have a negative impact upon Sullivan County's sales tax revenues, as well as, the harm that may be irreversible by having our public make their retail purchases outside of Sullivan County."
Calling a boycott during the busiest months of the year as thousands of summer residents descend on Sullivan County is the last thing that should be done to secure the future of a major economic engine in one of the poorest areas of New York State.
It would result in local shoppers and summer residents driving to nearby Middletown or Honesdale, Pa to shop in Wal-Mart there-and bankrupt Sullivan County.
How about all the employees working at the store? Should the store be shut down because of a boycott and punish the struggling workers there who would be laid off from the lack of business?
Unemployment is already in double digits in Sullivan County-the county doesn't need more people collecting unemployment insurance.
The real question is why the NYS Department of Health allowed the violations to go on so long without taking some serious action against Wal-Mart to get them to clean up their act-and not informing Sullivan County consumers about the problems there.
And what about other food sellers in the area? - Are they as clean as they should be? How about some other reports on other supermarkets in the county
Where's the investigative reporting about how a system that is supposed to protect shoppers from rat droppings in stores is broken and how consumers are not given convenient information about the cleanliness about public food stores and eateries? ?
Instead of calling for boycotts, local Sullivan County residents should support Wal-Mart in its efforts to clean up its act at the Monticello store and urge them to make the marginal store a showcase of all stores in its chain so that more people shop there.
The quality of service and presentation -- and now, basic cleanliness -- has historically been poor at the store.
Sullivan County shoppers and its summer visitors definitely deserve better.
But boycotting the store is stupid and putting them out of business is certainly not the answer.