The film features archival footage of Walmart CEO Lee Scott praising the corporation at a large employee convention, intercut with interviews designed to undercut Scott's statements. It also includes ebullient TV ads for Walmart, which seem disingenuous when intercut with the other material presented in the film.
The documentary argues that Walmart underpays its workers, paying them an average of $17,000 per year (in 2005 dollars). According to the interviews, these wages are too low for employees to afford Walmart's health insurance, so management counsels workers to apply for government programs such as Medicaid. Greenwald also exposed that Walmart hires undocumented workers for their cleanup crews, paying them well below minimum wage. Other criticisms of the retail mega-chain include Walmart's anti-union practices, its negative effect on mom and pop stores and small communities, insufficient environmental protection policies, and its poor record on worker's rights in the United States and internationally. Scenes filmed abroad document factory workers in Bangladesh and China creating Wal-Mart goods for as little as 18 cents an hour. One 9-year veteran of Walmart testifies that he was moved to tears when he viewed the conditions in clothing manufacturing facilities in Latin America. He reported the abuses but the company did not correct them.The documentary also argues that Walmart's parking lots have unusually high crime rates, a situation that could be vastly improved if the company were willing to spend the money to place cameras outside the stores.
To avoid accusations of a partisan POV, most of Greenwald's interviews are of politically conservative, patriotic, "red state" citizens who are distressed about Walmart's policies and impact.
As the film draws to a close, Greenwald documents the efforts of several communities that have successfully blocked Walmarts from opening in their towns, suggesting that others should do the same.
Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price has enjoyed good reviews and earned a 93% on the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes. The Boston Globe calls it "advocacy journalism at its most unsparing, and it demands to be seen, discussed, argued with, and acted upon." The ViewLondon reviews says, "If Greenwald’s intention was to make the audience very angry indeed then the film is a resounding success." The film has been endorsed and promoted by MoveOn.org; unions, through the Wake Up Walmart and Walmart Watch campaigns; and other groups.
Some reviewers have observed that while the documentary features stories of former employees and residents of communities that Walmart has impacted, it does not sufficiently explore the customers' role in Walmart's financial success, despite its business practices
Walmart has disputed the factual accuracy of the statements made in the film "It has posted 10 pages of anti-Greenwald material on one of its websites, gleefully quoting from every bad review the man has gotten since 1980." Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price has been credited as one of the reasons that Walmart created a public relations "war room" in late 2005 to respond to criticism.