When you get off Highway 101 at Exit 484A, you immediately fall into headachy traffic on access roads not designed for this crush. It is the kind of dysfunction that Wal-Mart would never tolerate in its own internal operations but that big-box stores breed in the world they increasingly define. This Wal-Mart is in Rohnert Park, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.
I’d been hearing about Wal-Mart’s efforts to mend its ways, offering energy efficiency, zero waste, organic cotton, and even organic food. It all seemed so unlikely—a little like walking into Fox News’ offices and finding a wing devoted to The American Prospect—that I wanted to see for myself. (My son, who is 8, was more interested in the Wal-Mart exclusive Nerf gun.)