April 20, 2005

Full page ad against Wal-Mart in todays NYT

A group called Wal-Mart Watch put a full page ad in today's New York Times. (If you haven't seen the ad, you can see a pdf version here.)

Highlights from the ad:
"Year after year, Wal-Mart's low pay and meager employee benefits force tens of thousands of employees to resort to Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. Call it the "Wal-Mart Tax." And it costs you $1.5 billion in federal tax dollars every year."

"The $1.5 billion Wal-Mart tax doesn't even include state tax dollars spent on Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. And it doesn't include the millions of dollars that communities pay every year to provide new roads, electricity, sewer, and water lines for Wal-Mart stores. The company has a $10 billion annual profit, but won't even build the driveways to its stores."

And here's some of the info. they post on their website about Wal-Mart:
* California spends an estimated $89 million annually providing public assistance to Wal-Mart’s employees.
* In Georgia, over 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees are on state-funded healthcare.
* Wal-Mart spends $1,300 less per employees on healthcare than average retailers and $2,100 less than average U.S. companies (according to a recent Harvard Business School study)
They have a great research library that lists journal articles, book titles and television and radio programs that address the problem of Wal-Mart. They also list primary sources for the facts that they have posted on their ad (and on the site).
I wonder if they're going to start addressing the union issues, use of illegal immigrant issues, and use of child and slave labor overseas issues next.


  1. Interesting! They tried putting one on my area. Luckily everyone said, "Get the bleeeep out." From my perspective, it is an nasty store. Im not speaking from the responsibility stand point this article is but rather the aesthetics and product quality (hello, virused plants anyone?). I cant even stand being near it. How's that for snobby? :)

  2. Well i for one am grateful to have a walmart in our area. there are 300 people in my town who had no jobs at all untill the super walmart opened this year. Everything I own ( almost ) comes from there and with five children, am very grateful that I have a place like walmart to buy clothes, food and other items that my children need. here in Tn we are not so snobby as you I guess. My grandfather always told me that when you agree to work for a Man for a certin wage, you know what you are making from the get go. So if you take the job work hard. If you don't want the Money that the Man is offering, look else where for a job..

  3. I wonder what they're basing the dollar values on. $89M in CA spending on Walmart employees for what, exactly? Assuming they had 8,900 employees in CA (which I don't know how many they have, and this sounds like an extremely conservative estimate) then that's only $10,000 spent per person on in public assistance. That's actually not much, and they don't explain what they mean by "public assistance".

    If Walmart spends less on their employees benefits, then it's up to the employees to get more out of their employer. Communities stonewalling Walmart won't improve the employees' situation; it'll actually make them worse since they will end up being unemployed...

  4. They have much bigger problems to deal with. California turns a blind eye to illegal aliens flooding across the border and I'm sure the cost to Californians has more digits than a mere $89M.

  5. They have source material for all of the numbers that they post. It's on their site under the resources section.

    California has sued Wal-Mart due to the extra expenses that they've incurred thanks to Wal-Mart. (Well, not all of the extra costs, just the ones related to welfare. I don't believe they took into account any of the tax breaks that Wal-Mart gets, nor the infrastructure breaks that small independants don't get, but behemoths like Wal-Mart do.)

    There's a reason why Wal-Mart is cheaper. They're selling us out to China. And their products are built by the sweat of children, slave labor, and prison labor. American jobs, ones that pay a decent wage, are quickly being relocated to China (and Honduras, etc.).

    If Wal-Mart let its workers unionize, then perhaps they could get better benefits. But Wal-Mart has a history of threatening those employees that try to unionize. The only unionized store that Wal-Mart has ever had was in Canada, and Wal-Mart shut than down rather than let the union have a foot-hold.

  6. Are their products cheaper? I have a hard time believing that the retail cost versus the quality is a fair ratio.

  7. They were saying that CA is spending $89M per year on Wal-mart employees alone.

  8. But Wal-mart doesn't manufacturer their own products. They sell manufactured goods from other sources; the same goods that Target and other stores sell. If that's the case, then don't leave Target and other businesses out of the boycotting efforts.

  9. Well I can't say that I blame them there. My family has always been very anti Union. my cousins where strike busters when I was a Kid. My Grandfather was a trucker driver and fought the teamsters all of his Career for his right to be an independent trucker, including being shot at and Mobbed at truck stops. My family has felt there was a time for unions but that time has long passed. unions are a form of Socialism and Communism. A friend of mine once belonged to UAW and worked a t the Saturn Car plant here in tn. He got tired of busting his butt while the guy next to him made the same wage. my friend couldn't get a raise unless everyone got a raise. he hated that system. h e Quit and went to work at the Nissan Plant where it was non union. he also believes that unions are a form of socialism and actually cause the prices of things to go up because of there policies. There I'm done. I'll shut up now meg. ;)

  10. I think both phenomenons described (Meg's + TA's) occur, and the "best" solution will probably lie somewhere in the middle.

    Who could agree with two able bodied people getting the same wage if - over a broad range of time; we all have our dips - one works significantly harder than the other?

    On the other hand, big companies that bring work don't just bring society benefits, they also cost something. It's important to monitor what goes in and what comes out in terms of social / fiscal investments.

    And because some big companies do treat their workers like crap (especially those who live in areas where the company knows people's choice consists only of the job they offer and welfare), Unions do sometimes serve a purpose.

    The random meanderings of my mind. All for free, too ;)

  11. well, yes and no.

    it's wal-mart that is putting the screws to the manufacturers. they insist that the wholesale costs actually DECREASE over time (irregardless of inflation, cost of living increases, gasoline costs rising, etc.). american manufacturers simply can't keep reducing the cost of their products and survive. so BECAUSE OF WAL-MART in particular, many businesses have had to move their production facilities overseas.

    despite the fact that Target and K-mart sell many of the same products, they aren't as heavy handed with their suppliers.

    and again, Wal-Mart uses threats and intimidation with their suppliers. they're a big company and they know it. they know that this will most likely be the biggest (in terms of quantity at least) deal that many of these manufacturers will ever get. so Wal-Mart calls the shots.

    i really recommend reading In Sam We Trust by Bob Ortega. (i think his name is bob. i forget now.) he's very even handed with both Sam and Wal-Mart. he very squarely puts blame where blame is due and that's not always on Wal-Mart. he gives a detailed history of K-Mart as well as Wal-Mart and he even goes back to the mid-1800's to the beginning of retail trends that have continued through to today. i keep meaning to write up a review on this book and i'm kicking myself right now (*kick kick*) that i haven't done it yet. maybe i'll churn it out this saturday.

  12. well, to be perfectly honest, i think that many unions in the US are bloated and selfish. in detroit you HAD TO join the union. if you opted out, you still had to pay union dues.

    but the union did absolutely nothing for us (nor for the students we taught). when the union should have been fighting for smaller class sizes (all of my classes were at the 35 max.) they were instead fighting for more wages. (the more wages the teachers get, the higher their dues.)

    however, when a corporation like Wal-Mart can come in and wipe out all independents, they essentially create a local monopoly in terms of retail jobs. at that point they can call the shots (and Wal-Mart has shown a consistent trend of screwing the employees at all possible times. Sam even admits to this in his autobiography.)

  13. But, that's the consequences of going into business: you have to meeting the demands of your customers or else you go out of business. In the case of manufacturers, they have to meet the demands of their channels in order to survive.

    I'd be interested in reading your review of the book, though I don't know that I'll ever get around to reading it (too many tech books, class books, etc. on my plate) soon. I just tend to look at things from the consumer point of view, and think that the fuss might be a bit overblown with regards to Walmart.

  14. but being forced to do things that are illegal is pushing it a bit too far.

    part of the problem is not only that Wal-Mart is pushing manufacturers to go overseas (raising the American unemployment rate and creating just that many more people who can only afford to shop at Wal-Mart), but that manufacturers are then forced to subcontract their work out in these other nations. these subcontractors in turn subcontract out the work to another level and so on until you get to a point where a 6 year old is making t-shirts but there's so many layers between Wal-Mart and the 6 year old that despite the fact his shirts are being sold by the giant retailer, it's very hard to pin the child labor problem onto Wal-Mart itself. and Wal-Mart, unlike some other large retailers like the Gap, has taken a very punitive stance against subcontractors that have been found to be hiring children under the age of 14. instead of working with them to make sure their employees are 14 or older and are being treated well, they simply cancel their orders with those subcontractors, putting the people out of work.

    this is another area that the book dealt with very well. the author was very fair about the fact that this is hard to track and overall a very hard issue to deal with. but he pointed out not only all of the companies that were caught, but how each company chose to deal with the problem. and some definitely have done a better job than others. and Wal-Mart, with more cloat, literally, than any other retailer in the entire US, could do more good in this area than any one else. and yet they've had a remarkably dismal record.

    it is very clear from their actions that all the Wal-Mart executives care about is the bottom line. this is true in terms of how they deal with their manufacturers. this is true in terms of how they deal with their employees. and this is true in terms of how they deal with municipalities.

  15. Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) just followed the trends. he wasn't an innovator at all. rather, he was really good at picking up other people's ideas and running with them. and he knew when to hold his cards and when to fold them. (which was the undoing of K-mart. they failed to update outdated areas of their stores/systems and failed to cut out areas that were dragging the company down.)

    again, the author was really fair about this. Sam wasn't trying to devise the down fall of America. he wasn't trying to put millions of Americans out of work. he wasn't trying to encourage child labor. in fact, he started his "Buy American" campaign (which ended up being a debacle) specifically because he had been to Central America and seen the horrible working conditions of the people down there. he didn't want to be a part of that. that is, until it started to affect his bottom line. (when reporters started to check out Wal-Mart's products and find out how many were actually made in America, they found a huge number were made overseas.) it was the beginning of the anti-Wal-Mart movement, in fact.
    but, some of the charges leveled against Wal-Mart could also be leveled against Target, K-mart and other stores. the big difference in that case, is that Wal-Mart is far and away the largest of the retailers. it is setting the trends. the rest of the retailers are only trying to keep up. you could plug away at Target and K-mart and do nothing. but if you plug away at Wal-Mart, you could begin to affect real change for Americans (and those horridly treated workers overseas).

  16. Walmart costs me less $, as a taxpayer & consumer, than Enron, WorldCom, Social Security...

    the list goes on, but I am but a lowly ex-dictator.

    /i buy my halloween candy from walmart every year, allah willing...

  17. But nobody's forcing anybody to do anything. The manufacturers have the ability and option to not accept Walmart's terms. They have plenty of other channels for distributing their goods.

    As for companies subcontracting work to the degree where 6 year old children are working in sweat shops, why place the blame for that on Walmart's shoulders alone? Why not blame the company immediately over the children, since they are the ones who decided to employ children in such a way?

    Or, if blame's going to go on Walmart for saying they won't pay above a certain amount for goods (what you're saying caused manufacturers to start the chain of events in the first place) why not go an extra step and blame the consumers for wanting the low prices in the first place? Walmart's just answering consumer demand, after all...

  18. And that real change would be:

    1. loss of jobs overseas
    2. an extreme increase in the retail price of consumer goods, resulting in
    3. a marked drop in the economy as consumers become unable to purchase said goods, which results in
    4. loss of jobs in the US

    The point is, putting those jobs back in the US is not the answer. Taking those jobs away from children in sweatshops is not the answer. Improving the working conditions in overseas manufacturing facilities is the answer. Bringing those jobs back to the US won't improve the situation, since US production will result in higher manufacturing costs, leading to even higher retail prices, leading to a sharp decline in consumer purchasing, and an economy that dies.

    But, the whole point of my original comment is that it seems to be the trendy thing now to attack Walmart, who is doing nothing different from anybody else. They're just doing it better and are currently making more money doing it. So everybody seems to be jumping on the "let's get Walmart" bandwagon like the villagers chasing Frankenstein's monster up the hill. Walmart isn't creating sweatshops. They're not forcing manufacturers to do anything. The manufacturers are doing that of their own choice, and have been doing it for a long time before Walmart was anything more than a blip on the radar.

  19. I wonder what the bill to CA would have been _without_ the employees working at all. Is the assumption that a California company is obligated to pay for all benefits and health care for its employees? I'm just asking, not baiting.

  20. Im sorry but Walmart does not compare to similar stores such as Target or Fred Meyers (similar store types) in terms of service, cleanliness or product quality versus cost. If Walmart was up to that standard, I wouldnt care if one was in my local area. I can easily see a store such as Fred Meyers being in a community other than the current standard of Walmart and enabling a better quality of life for those involved. Fred Meyers is Pacific NW only, though. This is why Walmarts are more rare in this area (I can name 3 local cities in a sea of 19+ cities that have one) compared to my home state of South Dakota where Walmart is far more common.

    So if Walmart raised their standards, I could care less.

    ps. They really need to quit selling virused plants. Its disgusting =p

  21. I didnt quote the whole thing. Oh wtf, whatever multiply :P

    "But, the whole point of my original comment is that it seems to be the trendy thing now to attack Walmart, who is doing nothing different from anybody else. They're just doing it better and are currently making more money doing it."

    I only quoted that.

  22. So what? We're not discussing the presentation of the stores here. The complaints leveled against Walmart here have to do with their business relations with manufacturers, not with the appearance of their stores.

    But, to respond, I have yet to go into a Walmart that's dirty. I've not had problems with their customer service. And, they're selling the exact same products as Target and other retailers; i.e., Walmart doesn't manufacturer anything, they their merchandise from the same manufacturers as Target, Fred Meyers, etc.

    If you want to talk about cleanliness, let's talk about Kmart. I have never seen a Kmart that looked like someone understood how to operate a mop, duster or vacuum...

  23. All of the Walmarts I have seen in several states are on par with Kmart. Appearance has everything to do with it. It shows the quality of the total package presented. They are all related. Target does have better products. I can easily compare mens jeans as to how long each will last me when working outside. I look at the stitching, seam symmetry and all else. Ive yet to inspect a pair at Target and know that they'll bust after a week of usage. The quality of product has everything to do with their dealings. Where do you think they get their products? Magic? :P

  24. "why not go an extra step and blame the consumers for wanting the low prices in the first place? Walmart's just answering consumer demand, after all..."
    - mcpierce

    i DO blame the consumers and that's one reason why i try to inform people about what is going on. i don't think that people choose to shop at Wal-Mart because they think child servitude is good. i think they choose to shop there because they can save a buck or two. BUT, if they knew the cost of their saving that buck or two, they might choose to shop elsewhere. (and Wal-Mart would learn a lesson in ethics at the hands of American consumers)

  25. "it seems to be the trendy thing now to attack Walmart, who is doing nothing different from anybody else."
    - mcpierce

    PETA has attacked McDonalds over the chicken that it uses. they didn't choose McDonalds because McDonalds was forcing the farmers to cut off the chickens beaks, to stuff them in dirty coops and to force feed them. McDonalds was doing nothing of the sort. nor did they choose to pick on McDonalds because McDonalds was the only corporation that was buying chickens that had been treated this way. pretty much every other fast food chain bought the same crappy chicken. BUT McDonalds was (and is) the *largest* purchaser of chicken in the entire US.

    getting McDonalds to change means changing the entire fast food industry. when McDonalds changed it's purchasing policies on chicken, most of the other fast food chains followed suit.

    it is exactly the same with Wal-Mart. they are not the only retailer that benefits from slave labor, etc. but they are far and away the *largest* retailer who is benefitting. changing Wal-Mart's practices will most likely affect change across the industry.

    (i haven't finished reading all the posts here, but i've got to go grab the kids from school. *puts on best swarzenager voice she can muster and says* i'll be bawck.)

  26. They get them from the same manufacturers as Target, etc. Walmart manufacturers nothing of their own: it's all made by Hasbro, Milton Bradley, Levi, Starter, Nike, Panasonic, Compaq, etc.

  27. And their choosing to shop elsewhere is fine, but they are still supporting those sweatshops since it's the manufacturer who is sending that factory work offshore. It doesn't matter who you buy the goods from, they're still manufactured in the same sweatshop.

    IOW, boycott the product, not the channel, since that is where the problems lie.

  28. I disagree that that will have a change, since you'll just switch from buying from Walmart to buying the exact same things from a different vendor. The only thing you can do is focus on the manufacturer and not the retailer to get change.

  29. well, yes and no. retailers seem to use different suppliers for clothes in particular. they probably use different suppliers for other items as well. although, when it comes to something like toasters or pharmacy supplies, etc, yes, they probably are pulling from the same places.

    here's a great article on the perils of doing business with Wal-Mart. (the article focuses on problems that vlassic had in dealing with the retailer.) basically, it's a lose/lose situation. you lose if you don't sell your product to Wal-Mart and you lose if you do. these are problems that i've Never heard in regards to any other retailer.

  30. I've been through Walmart and even with the clothing there's nothing unique to them. Sure, they may go through a different supplier, but if so then they're even further removed from the problem of sweatshops, etc.

    As for the article, if it's a lose/lose situation, then it's still the manufacturer's fault if sweatshops, etc. are used since (again) they chose that route in order to lower their costs. And, as I said in a previous post, that's been going on for longer than Walmart's been a major player by about 20+ years or so.

  31. again, when it comes to clothing, many retailers DO have their own lines.

    "The Federal Labor Department revealed that goods produced for Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothes line (which is produced exclusively for Wal-Mart) were being made by Honduran children, working up to 13hours a day for "starvation wages." However, the story goes on; not only were these ‘Kathy Lee’ clothes made under terrible circumstances abroad, they were also being produced in New York City by a company called SEO fashions. This is significant because the subsequent investigation revealed that the workers at SEO were being paid off the books; their wages were below the legal minimum wage, and despite the fact that they were working up to 60 hours per week, they were not being paid overtime." -- http://www.local1358.com/walmart.htm

    there's also the issue of the fact that Wal-Mart often uses a bait and switch to get more money out of consumers. so irregardless of whether the products are made by slave labor or night, it IS likely that Wal-Mart is going to charge you more than some of the other big chains. (PBS recently did a report on Wal-Mart that addressed this issue. I believe the name of the show was "Is Wal-Mart good for America" or something along those lines.)

  32. again, yes and no. not all retailers sell the exact same stuff. in fact, Wal-Mart carries a brand of black-beans that I can't find anywhere else. that's the chief reason i ever shop at Wal-Mart. (you should see the cashiers when i walk up with a cart full of nothing but black beans!)

    but, there are others issues to consider concerning Wal-Mart. the standard of living that Wal-Mart employees don't enjoy, which was the chief point of contention that this full page ad addressed, is another reason not to shop at Wal-Mart, even if the products that you buy are identical in brand and price (which i doubt they will be).

    i don't think these people, nor am i, looking for Wal-Mart to come to a crashing end. rather, we'd like Wal-Mart to be more ethical, more responsible, and to lead the way in more than just reducing prices to their rock-bottom level.

  33. i don't get it. how does their going through a different supplier mean that theyr'e less likely to be connected to the problem? they use a different supplier than the Gap and that is to their detriment because the Gap is actually dealing with the problem of child labor and slave labor. Wal-Mart uses a different supplier than the Gap because the bottom line is far more important to them than being an ethical company. the Gap, on the other hand, wants not only to provide a good product, but they want to provide a product that was made ethically.

  34. Your quote is from a union website speaking against non-union work being done. It's not what I would consider unbiased and objective. Their use of emotionally charged phrases and words lends little credibility to their arguments. And the quote is from nearly 10 years ago. What is their practice today?

    As for bait-and-switch, can you cite specific examples of such that's unique to Walmart? Every flyer I've ever read (and I don't read that many, I'll admit) from every retailer carries the disclaimer "not all merchandise shown is available in all stores" or something to that effect. They're usually organized and printed in a central office and then published to the various regions where stores are located. Since not all stores carry all the same merchandise, not every sale item is going to be found in every store.

    For this I speak from experience: when I was a teen I worked for Jamesway during Christmas. We regularly had people come in and accuse us (including me) of bait-and-switch tactics because we wouldn't have some items in our store that were advertised. And, just as I explained above, that's because the individual stores don't create the adverts nor do they publish them. They just sell what they have that is purchased by their consumer base. If the corporation decides to put widgets on sale and your Walmart doesn't carry widgets, then it's not bait-and-switch for them to not have the product when someone walks in to buy it.

    Bait and switch is when, for example, a mattress store puts up its own ad for a Footress and then pressures a customer into buy a Bartress. Simply not having a product in the store is not bait and switch. I don't know about anybody else, but I've never had a Walmart employee pressure me into buying anything.

    Finally, regarding charging prices, I have compared prices and Walmart is absolutely the lowest around for everything. I can't find any store that can beat them on prices for what they sell. A few years ago I bought Christene's Christmas presents at Target (a printer, vacuum, crock pot, etc.). I then went to Walmart and found not only those products for cheaper, but for the electronics and the vacuum I found the next model up for less!

    I'm sorry, but I think in the end we're going to have to agree to disagree on this, because I just don't accept all of the arguments people are using for hating Walmart.

  35. Look at it this way:

    Company X makes widgets.

    Distributor A sells to Walmart. Distributor B sells to Target.

    Walmart puts pressure on A to lower their prices. A then pressures X to lower their prices. X hires off-shore companies to assemble their product to lower their costs and to meet X's demand.

    You buy the product from Target, who bought from B who still bought from X.

    In your example, the Gap manufacturers their own goods. That's not what I'm talking about. In that case, the Gap is directly responsible for the conditions of the factory workers.

    But, Walmart is not a manufacturer, it's a retail channel. It has no control over how anything it sells if manufactured. Whether there's one distributor between Walmart and the manufacturer, 100 distributors or no distributors, Walmart is not responsible for those working conditions because it is not the manufacturer. The manufacturer decided to hire the sweatshop and is therefore the one responsible for those conditions if they exist.

  36. Darryl gives an example in which Walmart pressures a distributor to lower prices. In turn, the distributor pressures its manufacturer for lower prices. In turn, the manufacturer "hires off-shore companies to assemble their products..."

    Darryl then asserts that Walmart has no control over how things it sells are manufactured, and is not responsible if there are sweatshops involved, because the manufacturer is the one that decided to hire the sweatshops, not Walmart.

    I agree that Walmart does not have control over how its products are manufactured. That said, there's a difference between control and influence and as the world's largest retailer, you can bet Walmart has plenty of influence.

    If the manufacturer wasn't being pressured to cut prices, would it turn to the sweatshops? If the distributor wasn't being pressured to cut prices, would it pressure the manufacturer? It's a chain reaction, and it starts with Walmart.

    Interestingly, it doesn't have to be that way. Walmart has the scale, it has the clout, it's the world's largest retailer and all that. When you reach that point, you have the ability - if not the responsibility - to effect change for the better. We've seen it before in the most unexpected places. Like when McDonalds decided that its customers wouldn't want fries made from genetically modified potatoes - and instantly killed the market for them.

    Walmart has the power, and the money, to start setting exemplary policies. If it says "no sweatshops" and is serious about it, there won't be sweatshops much longer. Okay, so maybe that t-shirt costs an extra 25 cents. It's not like people will stop shopping there.

    Walmart could even dare to spend $1.5 billion (of its over $10 billion in annual net income) to get its employees off welfare or whatever. With over 1.7 million employees, that'd work out to less than a $1/hour raise.

    As the country's largest employer, sooner or later it'll figure out that paying its own employees so little that they can't afford to buy its merchandise is a bad idea. Even Henry Ford tried to ensure that his workers could afford to buy the model T, didn't he?

  37. Then, as I asked Meg before, why are you stopping with Walmart if you're going to point to chains of influence? Why not go all the way to the consumers and blame them?

    Business, like people, are responsible for their own choices. Walmart didn't tell any manufacturer "start using sweatshops or we're not going to sell your merchandise". They set prices for which they're willing to pay, and it's up to the manufacturer to either reject that deal or find a way to meet it. If the manufacturer then decides to off-shore the work or send it to a sweatshop, then it is the manufacturer who made the choice and who is responsible for the situation.

    What you're saying is the equivalent of blaming a mugger's friends for the mugger's actions. "Influence" is a very abstract and non-specific connection to use to blame Walmart or any other entity for the actions of a different one. Everything is influenced by something but that influence does not spread the responsibility in the least.

  38. ok, so my quote was from a union website. but the union website happens to just have a concise way of saying what many others have said. and yes, this is 6 year old news. unfortunately, the "in sam we trust" book is also about 6 years old at this point. so it's not the best source for up to date information. but much of the book is about the history of wal-mart anyway. so it's still well worth the read.

    there is a current allegation against Wal-Mart concerning Gelmart, a company that supplies both K-mart and Wal-Mart among other retailers. apparently some women at the company are on strike and are trying to unionize. but there's no child labor issues involved as far as i can tell.

    i certainly can't claim to know all that wal-mart is up to. all i know is that i've read sam's autobiography and i've read ortega's book and wal-mart has a history of screwing people (it's own people, it's own manufacturers, it's customers and i believe that it's screwing america in the long run). i'm alert to anything that's going on currently and i if Wal-Mart can show evidence of currently being an ethical, honest company, then i'll shut up about it. but i've seen nothing in Wal-Mart's favor other than that it makes smart, some might say cut-throat, spur of the moment decisions. the company can turn on a dime which is seriously remarkable given it's size. but that's a skill and not related to its lack of ethics.

    sam was incredibly skilled at retailing. it was his life and it shows. he was also a real people person. he was a great guy to talk to and hang out with. i really enjoyed reading his autobiography, even when it convinced me even more thoroughly that sam was a cut throat determined to "win" no matter what.

  39. Wal-Mart has more than a little influence. it can make or break a person's livelihood. it can create life for a company or smash it to smithereens.

    Wal-Mart pushes for efficiency, which is good.
    But then it pushes for even greater cost cuts. It forces manufacturers to use cheaper source materials and cheaper labor. It pushes even when all excess, all waste, has been trimmed off. it pushes for anorexia from a company that has already lost the 100 pounds that it was previously overweight.

    and yes, the company can say, "sorry wal-mart. we won't sell to you anymore." that's suicide. so the company is faced with the decision: anorexia vs. death.

    it seems to me that neither of those choices is optimal and that in the end, the anorexia of more and more american companies will eventually lead to problems in america as a whole.

  40. We can't just blame the consumers. We need to inform them, which is exactly what this initial ad put in the NYT does.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what other information they make available to consumers.

    And I appreciate that they don't just post and run. They invite discussion on their website and they support all of their accusations as well.

  41. Have you given up those black beans? Have you signed a petition (or started one if one doesn't exist yet)?

    It's an interesting catch-22. Wal-mart (and Microsoft) wouldn't have ever gotten so big if they didn't use "questionable" tactics in the first place. After they've been rewarded so well by consumers and the stock market for their use of such tactics, I find it a bit hard to blame them for being unwilling to stop. They didn't get to be #1 by being a nice company, and they know that.

  42. Then the company has a very flimsy business plan in the first place and should retool or it deserves to die off anyways.

  43. Mainly because Walmart is so hellbent on a pricing race to the bottom that it's really competing only against its own past, at this point.

    If Sears and Macy sell an item for $50 and Ross sells it for $30 (which is basically the case, in my town), Walmart can sell it for $25, or $20; they don't have to sell it for $15 or $10.

  44. Why should they sell it for more if they can attract a greater number of customers by selling it for less? You do understand that profit is maximized not on the profit of a single items but on the profit of selling more items at a slightly reduced price. Walmart has found the optimum margin for making a profit by lower prices enough to increase their consumer volume and thereby generating a huge profit. That's how business works.

    You say "they can sell it for $25 or $20". Can they? Have you actually examined their profit function? For every dollar they increase the retail price of a product, they decrease the number of units they will actually sell to consumers. If they increase the cost by 100-150% then they are going to significantly affect the number of units that are actually sold.

    A good chunk of the purchases might be from people who wouldn't buy the product for $20 but would be willing to part with $10 or $15 for it. Raising the price will have a negative impact on sales, which is an economic axiom. Simply saying "they could raise their price, so why don't they?" ignores how economics works and takes an overly simplistic view of their actual profit and margins.

  45. ah yes. feeding right into the american consumer mentality that having more and more and more for less and less and less is what life is all about.

  46. Wow, now it's really going into a bashing situation. Is there anything that could be done by Walmart that wouldn't be considered a Bad Thing(tm)?

  47. this was supposed to be a bash against the American culture, not against Wal-Mart.

    i'm working feverishly on my "in sam we trust" review, btw. i'm hoping to publish it tonight.

  48. Excellent on the review. I look forward to reading the review and maybe the book, time allowing.

  49. I have a question -
    What do Wall-Mart CEOs earn?
    What if prices were slightly higher - better goods stocked and sold, but, primarily, laws stated that no Board member or executive can earn more than - say - 10x their lowest paid employees?

    What we have with corporations is socialism - for the rich! The communities share the burden of their establishment to do business (driveways, roads, foodstamps, medicare) but the profits are only disbursed capitalistically - among the owners.

    Workers in and out of the corporations do not see "rewards" for their efforts - all of us simply scrape by in a global culture of making top execs wealthier and workers poorer, no matter where they work and what percentage of their income it takes to "get by" - ie. exist rather than live.

  50. ps
    see the film on "Independent Lens" this week - please see this -
    "China Blue" by Teddy Bear Films.

    This writer, Meg, is making important points. These are old and well established arguments and workers have an uphill battle for 200 years in this country to be treated with dignity and respect. Read how the earliest mill owners in New England would have "worked" people (children included) MORE than 13 hours per day, if they thought the cost of gas lamps was worth the outlay! But, fortunately, for the workers, oil wasn't cheap enough even then to work the people into even earlier graves!
    Read about the Shirt Waist Factory working women who were locked into the factory and died in a fire or leapt out to die on the pavement... while the corporation never lost more than a moment's glitch to set up and carry-on making profits! It never was put out of business (NY early 20th c).
    READ, READ, READ - or - if you can afford to, travel and see the poor at work all around the globe. Realize that out of desperation, people do many odd things to survive. But: why are we all functioning "out of desperation" when there are so many global resources, money, wealth... ?
    Forget fearing "titles" like socialism! Just think about why working isn't enough to give us rich communities and beautiful healthy worry-free lives??

  51. btw, wal-mart was recently in the paper for it's new push to cut down on packaging in the products they sell. it's a great move on the part of wal-mart! when a corporation that big takes a stand on something like this, it can have wide-spread positive repercussions (in the same way that these large companies can have wide-spread negative repercussions).

    just thought i'd add that in. i've been meaning to mention it since i saw it in the NYT this week.

  52. Howdy y'all! I am not a big Wal-Mart fan, but only beause I hate lines. I have no problem with a company such as Wal-Mart UNTIL they go ploitical and begin supporting anti-gun legislation, illegal immigration and other such issues. As long as they stay in the "retail" field and out of the "political" i can deal with them. Also, I don't deny them the right to buy and sell goods from China, however, if you are going to promote yourself as a "Sell American" company, then you should provide a much better selection of American goods.

    Worker - I take a great deal of issue with the Government making laws on how much you can earn. It is none of their business! Wal-Mart is a publicly traded company. They have shareholders and a Board. It is the shareholders who determine how much an CEO makes. If the shareholder is happy with it, then I have no business sticking my nose in it. If the shareholders are not happy with the CEOs perfomance, they can fire him. A CEO has worked hard to be a CEO, has gotten his education, in most cases started at the bottom, has initiative and drive and goes far. I had that same oppertunity. I chose a different route. That was not the CEOs fault but mine.
    America and the Democrat party in particular have got to quit hating the rich man. Personnally, I have never been hired by a poor man. If we must dislike the wealthy, let us start with the "Hollywood Elites" who have done absolutely nothing to benefit this country. Who was most responsable for the growth of this country, Andrew Carnege or Sean Penn, Henry Ford or Danny Glover, Bill Gates or Suzan Serandon. Of all those I just mentioned, which provided Americans with more jobs and contributed more to our economy. We have got to get our heads screwed on right or we will wake up a Socialist country someday and soon. This is what redistribution of wealth leads too.
    Sorry for jumping in without an invite. Everyone here has made some good points, I just don't agree with all of them.


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