June 30, 2004

Wal-Mart Steps up Security (Spoof/Humor)

*Updated*

Another item I could not resist as well was this humorous piece featured on The Spoof Website (here) [the link now only goes to the main Spoof page, as it appears the original article is no longer available for some reason; too bad, as the photo was great]:

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has decided to get tough on shoplifting and employee theft.

Their new robotic anti-theft device, nicknamed "Sam" after Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, will be gradually phased in at all Wal-Mart and Sam's Club's stores across the United States beginning this Fall.

"It's based on the ED-209 robot from the movie Robo-Cop," said Wal-Mart Media Relations Manager Ted Gentry, "but we can assure all those would-be Winona Ryder's out there that this is a fully functional version. Sam features two 20 mm cannons and two .50 caliber fully automatic machine guns putting out 5 thousand rounds per minute...enough firepower to discourage even the most dedicated shoplifter or union organizer. There are also a few surprises up Sam's titanium alloy triple armor plated sleeves, but we would like to keep those a secret at the moment. Let's just say that Sam won't be as easy a pushover as your typical 95 year old Wal-Mart greeter."

[...]

Hmmm, it would not surprise me in the least if the folks at Wal-Mart Headquarters would think is a good idea and attempt to do something along these lines.

;->

Okay, I think I have managed to make up for not posting on the ALP blog for over a month's time and have gotten my quota of blog posts in, for the time being anyway.

Until next time ...

:-) [smile]

*Note*: last updated on Saturday, July 3, 2004 at 2:55 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 2:02 PM

Vermont temporarily canceled, due to Wal-Mart (Humor)

Just could not resist providing a heads up about this must-read this guest column featured in today's New Hampshire-based Union Leader (here):

Another View: Vermont temporarily canceled, due to Wal-Mart By STEVE TWOMEY Guest Commentary
(Vermont) now faces an invasion of behemoth stores that could destroy much of what makes Vermont Vermont. To highlight the threat to this vital piece of America�s heritage, the National Trust for Historic Preservation today named the state of Vermont to its 2004 list of America�s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. � National Trust news release, May 24

VERMONT VISITORS� GUIDE (Revised)
WITH THE
summer vacation season only two more gas hikes away, the guide�s editors saw a need for a supplemental edition of �Vermont: In Your Webster�s Under �Quaint,�� in light of its designation as a vanishing state.

Unless travelers fully heed the state-restoration plan now underway, the day will come when our grandkids will experience the genus Vermont only in Nickelodeon reruns of that Bob Newhart show, the one where he runs the inn.

First and most obvious, any visitor lucky enough to come upon Vermont in the wild should not touch it. Don�t play with it. Resist the urge to feed it. Giving an endangered state a handout weakens its innate economic abilities and increases its dependency on tourism until, inevitably, it goes the way of Las Vegas, South Florida and other extinct species of the natural world.

For the leaf-peepers out there, please be aware that fall in Vermont has been canceled. The renowned annual changeover to orange, yellow and especially crimson was taxing and contributed to the state�s endangerment, researchers tell us. By order of the governor, Vermont�s leaves will remain on their trees right through this winter, and they will remain green. You are urged to peep in New Hampshire.

[...]

Continue reading here.

Enjoy!

Oh, and remember, don't tread on Vermont 's sacred soil (but please do keep sending your money to help the effort toward continuing to preserve it thoughout the ages however. Mastercard, Visa and all other major card payments directed to the State of Vermont will indeed be accepted. Absolutely no personal checks whatsoever though)!

;->

Posted by Morgan at 1:46 PM

Time on "Wal-Mart's Gender Gap"

Yet another must-read article on the subject, this one is featured within the Business section of the Monday, July 05, 2004 edition of Time Magazine:

Wal-Mart's Gender Gap

What a landmark lawsuit aims to prove about how the No. 1 retailer pays its female workers
By LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN/WILSON


Monday, Jul. 05, 2004
Gretchen Adams has more than a few bones to pick with Wal-Mart, but she figures its treatment of women is a good place to start. The mother of four took an hourly job at a Wal-Mart in Stillwater, Okla., in 1993 and was quickly promoted to head the deli department. Soon she was managing 60 workers and flying around the country to train hundreds more. When she learned that a man she had trained was earning $3,500 more than she was, "they told me it was a fluke." But as other male colleagues leapfrogged past, her salary never rose above $60,000 and she never landed the promised job of store manager. When she complained, "they told me where to go," says Adams, 57. She quit at the end of 2001.

Adams may yet have the last laugh. The retail giant � the nation's biggest private employer � has weathered a yearlong maelstrom of bad press about its employment practices. More than 30 lawsuits have accused it of cheating workers out of overtime pay. In a case in Oregon, the company was found to have forced employees to punch out and then return to work off the clock. A federal investigation discovered that in dozens of stores Wal-Mart used contractors that hired illegal immigrants. Now a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed in 2001 by six women can proceed as a class action on behalf of all Wal-Mart's current and former female employees. With up to 1.6 million plaintiffs, it will be the largest private civil rights case in U.S. history.

In many ways, Wal-Mart's problems stem from the conservative, Southern culture fostered by founder Sam Walton, according to Ellen Rosen, who is writing a book about the role of women at retail companies, including Wal-Mart. The old-fashioned values were one of the things that attracted Deborah Zambrana, 37, an 11-year employee of the store in Wilson, N.C. Then a note she wrote requesting help sorting lingerie came back scrawled with a chauvinist comment. When a male colleague admitted to the deed, "instead of being reprimanded," says Zambrana, who like Adams is not one of the lead plaintiffs, "he was promoted to assistant manager."

[...]

The rest of the article can be found here.

*Update*

Meanwhile, in today's edition, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports about how another:

Former Wal-Mart worker details bias
She says she was passed over for promotion; chain says any incident would be 'isolated'

Posted by Morgan at 1:12 PM

Shaking Up the Big Boxes: The Bigger Picture

Being that I believe the court battle in question really has more to do about the bigger picture and the retail industry across the board, hence less to do about Wal-Mart itself, anyway; I found this Associated Press article from last week (Thursday, June 24, 2004) of interest, because it explores how the:

Wal-Mart Case May Prompt Industry Change [emphasis mine]:

By MELISSA NELSON Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Retail experts say a nationwide class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could lead to changes within the world's largest retailer and among competitors.

"If the allegations are true, it will very fast lead to radical improvement of the situation. It is absolutely in (Wal-Mart's) best interest to resolve this as fast as possible," said Kurt Barnard, president of Retail Forecasting LLC in Upper Montclair, N.J.

Another analyst noted that those changes may already have begun before the decision Tuesday by a federal judge in San Francisco to grant class-action status to a suit filed three years ago.

The suit originally filed on behalf of six women will now represent as many as 1.6 million current and former employees - the largest private civil rights case in U.S. history. The suit claims Wal-Mart set up a system that often pays female workers less than their male counterparts for comparable jobs and bypasses women for promotions.

[...]

Robert Blattberg, director of the Center for Retail Management at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, said the lawsuit will force all retailers to look at whether they are complying with equity laws.

"Most companies spend a lot of time trying to avoid these types of problems," he said. "If these cases start becoming prevalent, it will significantly increase the cost to retailers to track and determine if they are in compliance."

Wal-Mart's size and its staunch opposition to unions make it any easy target for such lawsuits, he said. "They are admittedly anti-union, and the unions like these types of lawsuits because they would like to see Wal-Mart bend," he said.

[...]

Yet the most noteworthy portion of the article happen to be found within the three closing paragraphs [emphasis mine]:

But retail experts said negative publicity from the lawsuit is unlikely to hurt the company's bottom line.

"In the long run, it doesn't hurt Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart; they are resistant," Barnard said.

"People don't go to Wal-Mart because they love Wal-Mart," Blattberg agreed, "they go to Wal-Mart because they like their prices."

Read the rest of the article, here.

The fact remains that Wal-mart can of course afford to continue fighting this as they have vowed to, even if they should end up losing the actual case in the long run. As far as they are concerned anyway, it is a no lose proposition for them either way the case turns out.

As the article points out however, since this is an industry-wide practice and thus more of a major problem for Wal-Mart's competitors, they are not as likely to fare as well as Wal-Mart is inclined to do and, smelling blood as well as a potential gain of the market share in addition, may change their own practices where they need changing in these regards.

Posted by Morgan at 12:09 PM

Differing Directions

This particular article in the Business section within today's edition of the New York Times caught my attention for obvious reasons: i.e., since it focuses on as well as examines certain complex social and cultural issues and their interplay both within and without the world that would be Wal-Mart.

Of course this definitely makes its a must-read, at least in my opinion.

Social Issues Tug Wal-Mart in Differing Directions

By CONSTANCE L. HAYS

Published: June 30, 2004

After a judge's ruling, announced last week, gave class-action status to a federal sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, the company's management broadcast a two-part message to its one million employees over the television monitors that hang from store ceilings.

First, employees were told that the ruling means "that there was no finding of guilt and it was all about the class, but that we even disagree with that and are going to appeal it,'' said Jay Allen, a company spokesman. Then there was a second part: "When this is all over with, this company is going to be a better company for it."

Lately, it's been hard to tell what kind of company Wal-Mart plans to become. On one hand, it bans certain magazines from its stores, vigorously fights matters ranging from shareholder proposals to federal lawsuits, and justifies strategies by quoting its long-dead founder in the obsolete manner of Chinese quoting Chairman Mao.

On the other hand, in the last year, Wal-Mart created an office of diversity, announced that it would protect gay workers from workplace discrimination, and pledged to promote women in the same proportion that they apply for management jobs, promising to penalize senior executives if that does not come to pass.

"They make an appropriate move, and we feel we would like to remain involved," said Julie Goodridge, president of Northstar Asset Management in Boston, a money manager emphasizing social responsibility that owns 6,455 Wal-Mart shares and has contemplated selling them. She praised the company for taking action like its nondiscrimination policy toward gay employees. Other moves, like banning magazine titles, "make me feel like, 'what am I, out of my mind?' " Mrs. Goodridge said.

The seesawing suggests that Wal-Mart's prolonged transition from Samuel L. Walton's personal project to giant global corporation has reached a critical stage. Since 1992, the year Mr. Walton - known as Mr. Sam - died, Wal-Mart has had to make its way without the founder and visionary who turned a single five-and-dime into a retailing megalith.

[...]

Read the rest of the article, here.

Posted by Morgan at 10:54 AM

June 24, 2004

Aldi Enters Switzerland

Swiss consumers are already starting to see prices fall as the two dominant retailers prepare to fend off Aldi.

Aldi � famous in Germany and elsewhere for offering a narrow range of discounted brands � has applied to Swiss cantonal authorities for a building permit.

The chain wants to open a SFr2.1 million ($1.7 million) branch in Romanshorn, in the northeast of Switzerland.

The plan is part of a strategy to open dozens of new stores throughout Switzerland.

Industry experts believe Aldi, along with its German competitor Lidl, will need to open more than 60 discount supermarkets to break even.

For established Swiss retailers such as Migros, Coop and Denner, the threat of such newcomers has triggered a price war....

Denner, which is Switzerland�s third-largest supermarket chain, last week launched a campaign promising discounts of up to 30 per cent.


Note however, that many folks oppose Aldi because of traffic concerns:

However, many local authorities are becoming increasingly opposed to new developments that increase traffic.

�Everyone is very sensitive to traffic, so local councils are reluctant to approve Aldi-style developments,� said Wangler.

Posted by Kevin at 1:46 PM

Who is Betty Dukes?

0623-WalMartsui_1.jpg
Betty Dukes (on right) is the lead plaintiff in the sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, and she still loves WM:

[T]he lead plaintiff in the case was back on the job here Wednesday nattily dressed, quick with a smile and talking about how much she likes the company she's suing.

All Betty Dukes wanted, the 10-year veteran of the company said, was "the opportunity to advance myself with Wal-Mart."

I wonder if her lawyer told her to say that. (It's clear that everything she says, and that WM reps say, has been thoroughly debugged by their lawyers...

The article also contains this ahistorical nonsense:

The company has weathered a series of high-profile tests, most recently in Inglewood, where Wal-Mart went so far as to ask voters to allow a Supercenter in their community only to be rejected. At the same time, other communities in the state have actively courted the retailer.
No, the most recent large battle for WM has been in Chicago, where they have succeeded in gaining permission to open up one store.

Note also that another original plaintiff, Stephanie Odle, thinks she has already won, now that WM has changed its promotion policies to promote more women regardless of merit.

Posted by Kevin at 10:55 AM

Media Responses to Certification

It is impossible for one man to summarize the mass of newspaper, TV, radio, internet, and other responses to the certification of the sex discrimination class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart. I won't even try. But I will give some recommended readings. Here's one.

Amy Joyce notes that "a pattern of pay disparties" may be enough to prove discrimination de-jure, even if not logically. Later on she recounts WM's rebuttal to plaintiffs accusations:

Wal-Mart lawyers had argued to the judge that statistical differences in pay and positions were due to differing job aspirations and interests between men and women that exist in the general labor force, and that can't be blamed on the company.

In other words, the statistical data are incomplete. One cannot infer discrimination from wage discrepancy because relevant variables are unobservable.
And:
According to statistics gathered by an expert for the plaintiffs in the Wal-Mart case, women from the most menial positions up to top levels make less than men in the same positions. The numbers also found the number of women decrease as the level of job increases. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Wal-Mart women were not told when higher level job opportunities opened, or they were told not to apply for certain jobs because they belonged elsewhere.
But men weren't told to apply either. Isn't part of being a good manager knowing the right people and gaining their trust? If men do that better than women, should the men be punished? I cannot imagine any organization when a job becomes vacant, an internal memo is sent to notify all potentially qualified, and they are sorted and ranked with the best person getting the job. Networking--which we're told to do constantly--is not a "fair" process, nor is is necessarily based on merit or rankings or qualifications. It's about putting yourself "in" with the right people at the right place at the right time.

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

June 22, 2004

Certified

The sex discrimiation case against WM has been certified as a class action of 1.6 million women:

In a statement, attorneys for the six plaintiffs said the case was the largest civil rights class action ever certified against a private employer.
The statement contains the following:
The Judge noted that in their case, �plaintiffs present largely uncontested descriptive statistics which show that women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region, that pay disparities exist in most job categories, that the salary gap widens over time, that women take longer to enter management positions, and that the higher one looks in the organization the lower the percentage of women.�
The Judge did not say whether the gap between men and women was smaller or larger than the one in other companies known not to have engaged in sex discrimination. Also:
The Court in reviewing all of the evidence found that together the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, �raises an inference that Wal-Mart engages in discriminatory practices in compensation and promotion that affect all plaintiffs in a common manner.�
In other words, a practice of promoting the most aggressive ladder-climbers is illegal discrimination against women if the most aggressive ladder-climbers are men, even if this is not discriminating against any specific woman for being a woman.

My question is, if women are a sure-fire bet to be paid less for the same work, why does WM employ so many men?

UPDATE: Wal-Mart already insisted on its innocence:

In anticipation of the ruling, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Bentonville, Ark.-based company will appeal and is confident in its contention that it does not discriminate against women employees.

Posted by Kevin at 10:21 AM

June 18, 2004

Anti-WM Billboard on WM Land!

Rather amusing short article about a local community association renting a billboard for an anti-WM message on land owned by WM.

A billboard erected by Wal-Mart opponents at the proposed store site in this Tacoma suburb has been torn down at the demand of the Bentonville, Ark., retailer.

The 5-by-11-foot sign proclaiming "Don't Wal-Mart Bridgeport. Not here!" on Bridgeport Way West was up for three days last week....

The billboard owner, Clear Channel Outdoor, a division of the entertainment corporation Clear Channel, took down the sign because it violated company policies because Wal-Mart owns the land, spokesman Chris Artman said.

Posted by Kevin at 4:15 PM

Fictional Fragrance

I don't even know how to describe this:

ABC's popular soap [All My Children] and retail behemoth Wal-Mart are turning the fictional Enchantment perfume into a real-life specially formulated stench....

Marketing decisions involving how to package, advertise and test the new Wal-Mart perfume will be debated within the series, which is bound to make for subtle cross-marketing.

"We are pleased to offer our customers this exciting new fragrance," says Ronnie Hoyt, Wal-Mart senior vice president and general merchandise manager. "We recognize that many of our customers are 'All My Children' fans and will be excited to see the product integrated into the storyline."

The amber oriental fragrance of Enchantment will be available to consumers in late September.

Posted by Kevin at 4:00 PM

June 16, 2004

100+ Suppliers for RFID

WM is building up momentum for with its RFID supplier network:

Wal-Mart expects to have more than 100 suppliers shipping products to the retailing giant with radio wave tracking devices by January, according to a top executive.

Simon Langford, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s manager for RFID (radio frequency identification) strategies, told Baseline that the retailer will have 137 suppliers in compliance with its RFID requirements by its January 2005 deadline. Wal-Mart's mandate requires the top consumer goods companies to tag cases and pallets with RFID tags.

Posted by Kevin at 4:49 PM

June 15, 2004

Keeping WM Out of Montgomery County, MD

Don't even try to argue that this proposed legislation is pro-consumer, or is intended to curb sprawl, or will save a small town from annihilation:

Giant and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 are prime advocates of the proposal before the Montgomery County Council. The measure sponsored by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan would impose tough new zoning restrictions on stores that are larger than 120,000 square feet and devote at least 10 percent of their floor space to groceries....

It would exempt stores that do not sell food, such as most Target stores and Home Depot, and it would exempt club membership stores such as Costco.

The article does relate this neat factoid:
FTN Midwest found that within a year of opening, a Wal-Mart supercenter takes 11 percent of grocery store business within three miles.

Posted by Kevin at 2:20 PM

June 14, 2004

More on WM Unionization in Canada

Investor's Business Daily has a good roundup:

The application of Terrace Wal-Mart employees to join UFCW Canada is part of a broader momentum building against the giant retailer from workers and communities across Canada and the United States.

Employees at a Wal-Mart in Thompson, Manitoba conducted a vote last week on joining UFCW Canada. The results of that vote have not yet been released pending labour board rulings in Manitoba. Wal-Mart employees in Weyburn and North Battleford, Saskatchewan are also currently in the process of joining UFCW Canada.

UFCW Local 1518 represents 26,000 workers in the retail, commercial, industrial and health care industries in B.C.

UFCW Canada is one of Canada's largest and most respected private sector unions with more than 230,000 members across the country, working in every aspect of the food industry, as well as other service, commercial, processing, manufacturing, technical and professional occupations.

Posted by Kevin at 8:14 AM

June 11, 2004

Appendices to Drogin Report

Does anybody know where I can get a copy of the Appendices to the Drogin Report?

FYI--the Drogin Report is a 46 page statistical summary of WM payroll data from 1996 to 2002. Most of the anecdotes and data figures reported in "fact sheets" and the like are taken from the Appendices--not the report itself. I haven't been able to obtain the appendices, and can't even get people to return my email inquiries about them.

Posted by Kevin at 1:33 PM

Chicago Aldermen

Either you set up and protect institutions--like property rights and a court system--and let a free people choose in the marketplace, or you tell an unfree people how to act in the marketplace. Many Chicago Aldermen, seeking a third way, want WM to succeed only so much if they even let it enter the South Side:

Specifically, the ordinance aims to require companies to pay a living wage, provide a minimum level of benefits, remain neutral in union attempts to organize workers and promise not to use their buying power as leverage to force competitors to close up shop.

"The philosophy is to make sure anyone seeking to do business in Chicago contributes to the overall economic well-being of the city," North Side Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said.

"Without it, these businesses could end up costing the city economically with lost businesses and jobs at a faster rate than (places like) Wal-Mart provide.

"It's like the oil barons of 100 years ago. The oil industry got so big and powerful that it resulted in no competition at all."

Mr. Moore should stick to politics, because his economic history is senseless. Other aldermen don't know how to respond:
Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), whose South Side ward includes the proposed Wal-Mart, said he's skeptical of the proposal to put conditions on business redevelopment agreements.

"I'm fearful it will be another thing that may run business out of the city of Chicago along with the head tax and other things businesses have to agree to come into the city," he said. "Maybe it's good in theory ... but I'm afraid businesses will say it's easier to locate in Evergreen Park, Bedford Park, Skokie and other places along the perimeter of the city and still get (Chicago's) market."

Sir, it's not good in theory; in fact it's bad in the theory, and the theory is bad itself. However, it will give aldermen far more power, control, and "respect" than they have today; maybe that is the real reason it is being proposed?

Posted by Kevin at 10:04 AM

WM in Windsor

Windsor residents are having a fine time (rr) hissing and screaming at a recent government information session:

The Windsor Chamber of Commerce invited Keith Morris, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, to address residents' concerns about plans to build a 200,000-square-foot supercenter between 16th and 17th streets next to King Soopers.

Drawings of the building were also presented.

The meeting started out cordially, but it didn't take long for it to turn contentious as residents on both sides of the issue started standing up and asking questions out of turn, groaning at answers they didn't like and even shouting.

At one point, Windsor Against the Wall members waved their yellow signs as Morris tried to talk over the noise.

If anyone was undecided on which side of the issue they stood, their voices were drowned out by the vocal supporters on each side.

Nearly half an hour into the meeting, which started at 6:30 p.m., an audience member, fed up with the constant interruptions, yelled "Stop interrupting and keep to the agenda."

The agenda, at least what the chamber of commerce organizers had hoped for, was for written questions to be submitted to chamber president Myles Jensen, who would then read them and let the Wal-Mart representatives answer.

The questions varied from the quality of jobs Wal-Mart would bring to the community to the effect it would have on area businesses and how close the store would be to Grandview Elementary.

Morris said the Wal-Mart supercenter would bring in 350 jobs to Windsor with 70 percent of those full-time and with benefits.

Asked what the jobs would pay, Morris said Wal-Mart would survey the pay rates of other similar businesses and set their rates accordingly.

Morris said the average hourly Wal-Mart worker in the Denver area makes $11.28 an hour, and the Windsor store would likely be similar.

And activists want more decisions to be based on this method?
A few members of the crowd left early, shaking their heads at the rampant rudeness.

One written question asked Morris to explain why Wal-Mart was bullying its way into town.

"I don't see how you can say we're bullying our way into the community," Morris said. "We filed plans with the city, and now we're holding this open meeting."

The only clear result of the meeting was that both sides agreed more meetings would be necessary.

Posted by Kevin at 9:52 AM

Squamish WM

The Squamish Chief reports that the politically interested are going to battle out a zoning change to allow a new WM:

One of the most vocal local opponents of Wal-Mart is Darlene Pidgeon. Her main concern with Wal-Mart is the fact that it is not a Canadian store.

�Its another American corporation that is overtaking Canadian business and doesn�t sell Canadian products,� Pidgeon said. �It does not support Canadian business and is not local.�

Wal-Mart Canada claims the stores carry Canadian products.

Pidgeon won�t be swayed in her opinion that Wal-Mart will be bad for Squamish. �It is going to give more money to their base in Arkansas,� she said. �It is going to affect local businesses.�

Pidgeon complains that Wal-Mart is able to offer low prices because the products are made in places around the world where workers are exploited.

�The clothing is made in sweat shops in China, Mexico and South America,� she claims.

On the other side of the spectrum, Joan Forry says Wal-Mart can�t arrive soon enough.

�If you are a larger sized person they do have clothes that fit you at a price you can afford,� Forry said. �And, they have such a selection of kids clothes, shoes and runners. I want it here for Christmas.�

When Forry learned of the information meeting she said she will bring Wal-Mart supporters to the meeting.

Posted by Kevin at 9:47 AM

Dubble Bubble

WM supports the bubble blowing contest:

WASHINGTON VILLAGE -- Gum-chewing bubble-blowing connoisseurs are invited to visit Coventry Wal-Mart tomorrow to participate in a national blow off.

Double Bubble, the world�s first bubble gum, is sponsoring its fifth annual Double Bubble National Bubble Blowing contest.Bubble blowers are encouraged to try and out blow last year�s reining champion�s winning 14-inch bubble.

All of the participating contestants bubbles will be officially measured using a Double-Bubble Bubble Meter, with the assistance of a local Wal-Mart associate.At the end of the blow off, local Wal-Mart stores will submit the biggest bubble blown in their store to a third party judging organization, which will determine the top six bubbles blown from all entries nationwide, and then name the six national contest finalists.

It's spelled Dubble Bubble.

Posted by Kevin at 9:44 AM

The National Trust Responds

In the Orlando Sentinel (rr), Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, responds to charges that his organization is demonizing WM:

We're not out to "demonize" Wal-Mart. Rather, we're simply reminding Vermonters that they have the right to decide what their communities are going to be like.

Although there are already four Wal-Mart stores in Vermont, three of them are relatively small and located in or near town centers. Wal-Mart is to be commended for doing the right thing with these stores -- but now the company is planning to saturate the state with seven new stores in outlying locations, each with a minimum of 150,000 square feet. These hulking megastores can drain the economic life out of traditional downtowns.

It's incredible that this man could use such language--"hulking megastores", "massive, sprawl-inducing","hidden costs are enormous."--and still think he's not demonizing WM.

It is by no means clear to me that some "Vermonters certainly have the right" to use the democratic machinery to prevent others from opening big-box stores. Mr. Moe never really defines what it means for a "community" to decide. What he really means, but almost nobody will say, is that such a "right" is often used by a group with special interests different than those of the general population. Such a "right" means that small business owners and preservation-first types--who have the most interest in keeping WM out-- will decide for the rest of the population who have a different mix of beliefs, goals, and preferences.

When a "community" decides on WM, shouldn't there be a quorum--a minimum number of votes--so that we know a large swath of the population is concerned? What happened in iInglewood was that 61% of the 29% of the eligible voters (18% of the population) used the government to determine for the other 82% that they shouldn't be able to work or shop in a local Wal-Mart. That is how the "community" of Inglewood decided that the WM initiative should not pass.

Contrary to Mr. Moe, I do not think that the political/constitutional foundation of Vermont gives "communities" any "rights" to determine anything. If a small number of elites and most impacted citizens want to use local zoning provisions to prevent the vast bulk of citizens from having a Wal-Mart, they may try as hard as they wish. That's the reality of democratic politics...

Posted by Kevin at 9:35 AM

June 10, 2004

More WM in Manitoba

Two great videos on the last time the UFCW tried to unionize the Thompson WM in Manitoba. First is a documentary on union preparation for the 2003 vote (18:45), and second is a news report about WM contesting the vote (2:16).

Posted by Kevin at 12:48 PM

June 9, 2004

WM in Manitoba, Canada

Reader Julie Eisenband emailed, asking about the results of the June 4, 2004 vote in Manitoba, Canada on whether a local WM should be unionized. Unfortunately, I have no information about this vote.

But it is important to note that this is the second attempt by the United Food and Commercial Workers to unionize the Thompson store. The first attempt last year failed by a narrow margin of 61 to 54. Last time the vote count was delayed because WM objected to the voting procedure, and the union responded by saying that WM illegally influenced its workers who had previously indicated that a majority would join the union.

Posted by Kevin at 7:47 PM

5 and 10

Marlene Gelfond fondly remembers the 5 and 10 of her youth:

I miss the three of them. It was always fun to stop in and visit them, roam around for notions, makeup, crayons, pencils, colored thread, hair clips and curlers. And when the wafting aromas of the food counter reached us, we would pull up a stool for a malted milk.

Yes, I miss them very much ... the three dime stores I grew up with in Chicago, Woolworth's, Neisner's and Kresge's.

Posted by Kevin at 8:32 AM

Multiple Traffic Studies

The Davis County Clipper reports that three competing traffic studies--by WM, the government, and a private citizen--agree on one thing: people do not understand what traffic studies mean:

Snyder explained that one element of traffic studies that remains foreign to the public is the understanding of traffic service levels, given in letter grades A, B, C, D, E and F. (A means a signalized intersection wait of 10 seconds or less, and F means a wait of greater than 80 seconds.) The confusion comes when the public makes the incorrect connection between traffic letter grades and the familiar ones on school report cards.

�A D at an intersection is not the same as a D at school,� Snyder said.

�And," he added, �we tend to look at Layton�s traffic and say, �That�s horrible.� And it is. But Layton had exceeded its limits long before Wal-Mart.�

Posted by Kevin at 8:28 AM

Some Donations

WM donated $50K to purchase equipment for San Diego firefighters.

WM also coordinated with Make-a-Wish to give this boy a shopping spree.

Posted by Kevin at 8:22 AM

June 8, 2004

John Menzer Interview

The Chinese People's Daily interviews John Menzer, chief executive of WM International. You have to marvel at the mix of national pride, communist propaganda techniques, and an avid support of market-driven expansion and prosperity:

Excited at talking about Wal-mart's story in China, Mr. Menzer described the incredible way Wal-mart has gone through in China since it entered the country in 1996. Starting with a shopping mall and a membership store in Shenzhen, the giant retailer has extended its business into 18 cities in China with 39 stores employing more than 20, 000 people. The great Chinese culture and the Chinese people full of enthusiasm for development have created Wal-mart's best chain stores.
Wow. Also, it sense an impulse towards a buy Chinese so Chinese work view:
As to the question about whether it would keep on its policy of local procurement, Mr. Menzer answered that they buy goods in bulks locally in all countries, including China.
The rest of the article has Mr. Menzer not answering directly any of the questions asked.

Posted by Kevin at 12:40 PM

A Change in Location

This poorly written article notes that WM decided to pull out of a site in rural Indiana after residents showed up by the dozens to protest the choice of site:

�Is this another sign that perhaps Wal-mart just isn't welcome in certain communities,� speculated Wal-mart attorney Steve Huddleston. �I can't speak for other situations and I think in this situation they listened to the community and reacted on it."

This is not the only time Wal-mart has gotten the cold shoulder. The city's eastside didn't welcome one at 38th and Franklin Road. Fishers put up a fuss and so did Westfield.

"Is Wal-mart willing to work with communities when it comes to this kind of opposition? I think this shows that it's willing to work with communities and that they respect what the community says and they want to be a good neighbor,� added Huddleston.

There were a few people who showed up -supporting the retail chain, but when the vote came down and city
leaders voted against the new Wal-mart coming to Greenwood you heard more claps and cheers than anything else.

Posted by Kevin at 12:31 PM

June 4, 2004

More Details on the New Wage Policy

walmart_hits_back.gif Read this CNN/Money article.

Among some of the other changes, Scott said the company would establish an office of diversity and an automated lunch break messaging system that would alert employees to take their breaks on time.

"If 50 percent of the people applying for the job of store manager are women, we will work to make sure that 50 percent of the people receiving those jobs are women," Scott said. "My bonus next year could decline by as much as 15 percent if I don't live up to my diversity goals."

50% regardless of the applicants qualifications?!?

Full details still forthcoming.

Posted by Kevin at 3:54 PM

New WM Pay Policy

How off the wire is news of a change in the WM pay policy:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is preparing to introduce significant changes to its pay system that could mean raises for new workers but penalties for higher-paid veterans, according to published reports.

At its annual shareholders meeting Friday, the world's biggest retailer is expected to unveil a new compensation policy for hourly workers that is expected to tie pay more closely to job responsibilities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Wendy Zellner, writing in BusinessWeek has incredibly more detail.

Posted by Kevin at 8:48 AM

Costco vs. Sam's Club Wages

Just wanted to point out Bob Arne's excellent post comparing CostCo and Sam's Club wages (and resulting profits) on my other blog Truck and Barter.

Posted by Kevin at 8:37 AM

June 2, 2004

Mary Jo Melone

Mary Jo Melone doesn't like WM very much:

Shopping at Wal-Mart can be such a disorienting experience that I have no idea if I saved money. I am considering this a fact-finding mission. For this Wal-Mart Supercenter is supposed to be a new and improved Wal-Mart breed, half as big as these monsters usually are.

It's hard to believe that a corporation known for hiring illegal aliens, keeping out unions and driving under hometown businesses cares at all what we think. But as much as we shop at Wal-Mart stores, we're not crazy about them. The company's most successful supercenter is in Pinellas Park. The rest of Tampa Bay is carpeted with Wal-Marts, supercenters, and their cousins, Sam's Clubs. Still, we rebel.

It seems some letter writers disagree:
Mary Jo Melone's bashing of Wal-Mart is not only biased, it is filled with gross inaccuracies. Her statement, "The motor oil and baby clothes, the canned goods and the eggs, all mashed together" is wrong. Items are grouped logically and nothing is "mashed together."

She states, "I have no idea if I saved money." She did, but it appears that she is not an aware shopper.

She quotes Dr. Tom Dawson of Citrus County: "Why do they insist on forcing themselves even though people don't want them?" If people did not want them, they would not be packed with shoppers both day and night.

For those who think that we don't need more Wal-Marts, they should try shopping at the one in Pinellas Park. There are so many customers that the place is packed day and night and it is difficult to find a parking place in their "endless" (per Ms. Melone) parking. I would welcome another Wal-Mart in the area.

Ms. Melone seems to have missed the whole point of our American way of capitalism. Business success comes from offering people what they want at the best price. Wal-Mart is certainly a model of business success.

No, I am not an employee of Wal-Mart and I have no financial interest in its operation. I am merely an occasional customer.

Posted by Kevin at 8:31 AM

Retailer Scorecard

This retailer scorecard is supposed to give an indication of the level of sweatshop abuse by suppliers of major retailers. Which it does... sort of. But how would you feel if you received an F in school this semester for work you did 3 or 5 years ago?

In fact, WM receives an F for contracting with almost all the companies that have had at least one "labor abuse"--and that abuse does not have to be at factories producing goods that actually bought by WM.

I'm all for looking at the labor conditions of sweatshop workers, but this methodology stinks.

Posted by Kevin at 8:15 AM

Wm Endangering Wisonsin Too?

An editorialist in the Madison Capital Times believes that Wisconsin is endangered by Wal-Mart supercenters.

Other states, including Wisconsin, were less vigilant. Massive Wal-Mart stores have been allowed to open on the edges of small towns and, in quick order, the company has used cut-rate prices and cut-throat tactics to become the dominant retailer in those communities, depressing wages, undermining locally owned businesses and leaving once vibrant Main Streets pockmarked with empty storefronts.
Oh my! Empty storefronts and cut-throat tactics ! The world is coming to an end! Am I to take cut-throat literally or figuratively? Either way, the editorial writer doesn't actually prove anything. I could just as easily write that the editorial writer uses cut-throat tactics keep young ambitious writers from the top newspaper management. And please, next time, bother to tell us whether or not real wages or total compensation have actually decreased in Wisconsin, or at least how he knows--and can prove to others--how WM is depressing wages.!

Posted by Kevin at 6:52 AM