November 30, 2004

Workers at CO Attempt to Unionize

Workers in the automotive department at a Wal-Mart in Colorado are attempting to unionize:


LOVELAND, Colo. - In a move that has been unsuccessful elsewhere in the United States, 17 workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer.


The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing Thursday to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.


"Wal-Mart workers don't have to be second-class citizens," said Ernest Duran Jr., president of the union, which also represents more than 17,000 grocery workers at King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons stores.


Union officials argue the workers in the automotive service department are separate from the store and eligible for independent union representation. Wal-Mart officials disagree.


"With approximately 400 associates in that particular facility, we feel that more than 17 associates should have a say on such an important matter," said Christi Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark-based Wal-Mart.


Wal-Mart said it treats its workers fairly and has an open door policy that lets each negotiate directly with management.


"Our associates see they don't have to pay hard earned money to do what they can do every day," she said.


The union is in negotiations with the Colorado grocery stores, which have cited competition from nonunion discount chains such as Wal-Mart in offering wage and benefit increases that have been rejected by workers.


Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart stores in the United States have failed, while in Canada, a government agency this year certified workers at a Quebec store as a union and told the two sides to negotiate. Wal-Mart has said it may have to close that store.


In the United States, the closest a U.S. union ever came to representing Wal-Mart workers happened in 2000. Eleven members of the store's meatpacking department at Jacksonville, Texas, store voted to be represented by the UFCW.


In a move it said was unrelated to the union vote, Wal-Mart eliminated the job of meatcutter company-wide, and announced it would only sell pre-cut, pre-wrapped meat.


The workers were offered other jobs at the store.

Posted by Bob at 6:35 PM

Liza Featherstone

Emily White recommends Liza Featherstone's new book The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart, which is about Betty Dukes et. al. suing WM for sex discrimination:

Featherstone's book is a valuable document of a case that will be written about in the national media only if something "happens" with it, when Wal-Mart is happening all the time. Lately, the company has started airing commercials with happy female and black employees sitting in plush armchairs under a soft white light, saying how great it is to work there. The commercials seem to work: Wal-Mart keeps expanding, and more and more people flock toward the entryway from the parking lots (where employees were famously made to gather up carts after punching out on the clock).

Featherstone's book is a voice in the wilderness, a protester standing outside the automatic door shouting, This is an evil place, don't enter it! But the masses enter anyway.

Naomi Aoki reviews the book as well:
Featherstone paints a grim picture through stories of women suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for depriving them of pay, promotions, and job assignments because of their sex.

Still being litigated, the class-action Dukes v. Wal-Mart represents more than 1.6 million women. Featherstone builds a compelling case through interviews, legal depositions, and court records. But in the end, it's unsatisfying.

Featherstone repeatedly asserts the suit's potential to change workers' rights not only at Wal-Mart, but throughout retail. Yet she offers little insight into what change would look like. Unlike Wal-Mart, Target Corp. pays women comparable to their male counterparts and promotes women in greater numbers. But ''in many markets," Featherstone writes, ''its wages are as low as Wal-Mart."...

Perhaps the reason her proposition seems unsatisfying is that in the age of Wal-Mart, it just doesn't seem realistic.

Two years ago, Ms. Featherstone had an extremely one-sided but important article in The Nation entitled Wal-Mart Values, which included this bit:
Asked how long it will take to unionize Wal-Mart, Gretchen Adams, who is 56, answers without hesitation: "The rest of my life." But she's determined. As a manager opening a new store in Las Vegas, Adams says, "I was not allowed to hire any experienced help, because they might be union." Now, she deadpans, "I'm trying to get Wal-Mart the help it needs."
You mean WM hires inexperienced workers? How would unionization change that?

Other Featherstone links:

Salon review of recent book
AlterNet Articles
Audio: Featherstone talks to WM Worker
Email Interview about her book "Students Against Sweatshops"

Posted by Kevin at 1:15 PM

Walmart.com Going Upscale

Discount prices are for the top 10% of income earners too :


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Discounter Wal-Mart can keep "rollin', rollin', rollin'" back its prices but Walmart.com has loftier intentions.

The retailer's online unit next week is launching a four-day Thanksgiving online special that will feature upscale items such as cashmere sweaters, high-end electronics like flat-screen TVs, portable multi-media systems and even shiatsu massage chairs exclusively for Web shoppers.

"These are high-end items that consumers typically find at specialty stores and not necessarily at Wal-Mart," CEO John Fleming said In an interview with CNN/Money Thursday. "The idea is to take our base business and layer it with unexpected products."

Said Fleming, "I think of this as going above and beyond in terms of price points and the assortment of products that we currently offer."

The high-end products may be a little out of character for the world's largest discounter, but Fleming said shoppers will be pleased with the competitive prices.

The article contains an excellent summary of walmart.com's troubled history:
Wal-Mart's dot-com unit got off to a shaky start. First launched independently in 1996 with no online puchase functions, then relaunched in January 2000 as a joint venture. In 2003 it finally became fully acquired by Wal-Mart and has grown to become one of the leading online shopping destinations, competing with industry leaders Amazon.com and eBay in terms of average visitors per week.

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 AM

Stephen Bainbridge Sums Up the Common Wisdom

Professor Bainbridge sums up the story that WM tried to pre-empt by not releasing Black Friday sales data:

In sum, my guess is that Wal-mart's woes are unique to it rather than, as in the past, suggesting a systemic problem with the economy. I'd also guess that online e-commerce has a ways to go before it can be invoked to explain any decline in retail sales.
All this inspired by one day's data not specified by WM!

Posted by Kevin at 10:44 AM

Not a Surprise: 70% of WM Goods Made in China

Drudge is highlighting this China Business Weekly piece:

Wal-Mart's China inventory to hit US$18b this year
By Jiang Jingjing (China Business Weekly)
Updated: 2004-11-29 15:21

The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, says its inventory of stock produced in China is expected to hit US$18 billion this year, keeping the annual growth rate of over 20 per cent consistent over two years.

The trend is expected to continue, company officials revealed.

"We expect our procurement stock from China to continue to grow at a similar rate in line with Wal-Mart's growth worldwide, if not faster," said Lee Scott, the president and CEO (chief executive officer) of Wal-Mart....

So far, more than 70 per cent of the commodities sold in Wal-Mart are made in China.

Experts say Wal-Mart's plan of increasing its procurement from China has granted the firm a positive corporate reputation in the country.

"Buying more products in China means more job opportunities, which helps the firm win not only the government's hearts, but also the customers' appreciations," said Wang Yao, director of information department under the China General Chamber of Commerce.

In the United States, poor people find it possible to afford cheap "Made In China" products for their daily necessities, Wang said.

Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, entered China in 1996. It has opened 39 stores, including supercenters, "Sam's Clubs" and neighborhood markets in 15 cities around China, including Beijing, Harbin and Dalian.

Quite a while ago, WM stopped its pro-American campaign when they realized what a foolish strategy that really is for a discount retailer. So they buy most of their manufactures from Chinese suppliers at far lower cost. Please note that this has NOT, on net, transferred manufacturing jobs to China from the US, since the number of manufactuing jobs is decreasing in both China and the US!

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

November 29, 2004

Sears + Kmart = IT Innovation?

Many readers doubted the profitability and efficacy of the Sears-Kmart merger. Some IT analysts see things differently:

[B]oth companies -- particularly Sears with its powerful data warehouse � need to understand that the right use of technology can be a differentiator and an ally in the battle with Wal-Mart and other specialty retailers. He just hopes they can keep innovating while they're stepping back and reassessing....

Where they may like to go is head to head with Wal-Mart. Laurie Orlov, a vice president and principal at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., thinks the acquisition, to borrow a line from Martha Stewart, is "a good thing."

"IT in the retail world is so affected by what Wal-Mart does," she said. "Sears and Kmart want more control of the IT aspect of their supply chain. If there are innovations at either company that will trump Wal-Mart, then this combined muscle is good."

To me, that's a lot more hope and hype than seems warranted...

Posted by Kevin at 11:40 AM

Pittsfield Township Calls in More Big Guns

We saw last month that select residents of Pittsfield Township called in anti-WM experts to stop a new WM in the planning phase.

Well, it seems that they're getting a lot of good press in their effort to make themselves look like they're speaking for everyone:

Robert Hoffman, a Charlevoix businessman who led a successful fight to stop Wal-Mart from locating in his community several years ago, told the group how "multi-faceted" opposition, from petitions to updated traffic studies, deterred the retail giant from building in Charlevoix.

"In order to protect the quality of life in our small town and to prevent a big box superstore from sucking our merchants dry, everyone got involved, including the Chamber of Commerce, businesses, environmental groups - even students," said Hoffman.

His talk was sponsored by Pittsfield Community First, a grass-roots citizens' group dedicated to stopping the project on the 44-acre property bounded by Michigan Avenue, State Road and Old State Road.

After listing complaint after complaint about the proposed WM, the article ends with this:
But one woman defended Wal-Mart and urged those in the crowd not to disparage Wal-Mart customers.

"I'm retired and I appreciate low prices," she said.

Posted by Kevin at 11:33 AM

WM to push Firefox

As I've noted elsewhere, WalMart is a major player in the effort to lower computer prices. WM's primary contribution is to sell off-brand hardware bundled with with operating systems and office suites away from Microsoft. Now they are pushing the Firefox web browser:

Now Firefox is going to start showing up in retail stores as a preinstalled browser on PCs from Linspire--the company formerly known as Lindows. The browser is being bundled alongside the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite which is considered an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. Retailers like WalMart Stores' (nyse: WMT - news - people ) WalMart.com and Staples (nasdaq: SPLS - news - people ) carry Linspire machines.

Posted by Kevin at 11:12 AM

97¢ Shipping at WalMart.com

97cent.gifFor a limited time only, Walmart.com is offering 97¢ shipping on select toys and video games:

Walmart.com, the Internet arm of Bentonville-based giant, bricks-and-mortar Wal-Mart Stores, kicked off its holiday shopping season with Thanksgiving week specials offering savings on items not available in its stores. To sweeten the pot, it offered 97-cent shipping on toys and video games.
More details here and here .

Posted by Kevin at 11:05 AM

WM vs. WalMart.com

Sometimes WM's prices are so low, they are below themselves:

Lower prices are also helping lure shoppers online.

"They have to be competitive online just to be in the ballgame," Schatt said.

For instance, Walmart.com offers a Konica Minolta Z2 digital camera for $50 less than the "everyday low price" for the same camera in one of the retail giant's stores.

Posted by Kevin at 10:58 AM

November 28, 2004

How a Small Toy Store Competes with WM, Target, and Toys R Us

Absolutely fantastic article in the Lakeland Ledger (FL) about a local small toy store competing successfully with the big boxes:

LAKELAND -- Marchets Toys & Hobbies, a small shop tucked in the corner of Southgate Shopping Center, is a reminder of life before the big-box stores.

There is no intercom announcing deals in the produce and lingerie departments. Customers aren't pushing carts filled with everything from motor oil to Barbie dolls.

Marchets has been in business for nearly 50 years. David Nickels, 38, a Wisconsin native who lived most his adult life in Tampa and worked for the University of South Florida before buying the store, is the fifth owner. He took the toy store's helm three years ago....

The Ledger asks him 5 questions, and lets him answer in detail. Here's the first:

Q. What's the most difficult part of owning Marchets?

A. The hardest thing is carrying things you can't buy at Wal-Mart and Target. About 95 percent of what I have in here is unique.

It's tricky. I bought the business in September 2001, and then we had Sept. 11. The economy was really shaky and then with things like the hurricanes, I missed time because I didn't have power. You're at the mercy of the economy.

Toys "R" Us is having trouble because of Wal-Mart, so you know I'm being affected in some ways. But at the same time, I have no payroll and I don't have to accept shipments I didn't order.

If you're a chain store, you have to carry certain items. Every Wal-Mart has the same merchandise and it's sent to the store automatically. I can control my own money and my own stock. If I don't want to order something, I don't have to.

Read the whole story! Now! What are you waiting for?!

On a recent trip to my alma mater, my wife and I stopped in at Bank Street Books, a wonderful children's bookstore I had no use for as an undergraduate. It has an incredible selection of intelligent books for children, and if you're in the area (112th and Broadway, Manhattan), I'd suggest you stop in.

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 AM

November 27, 2004

Small Businesses Thrive against WM

In retailing the myth is that Wal-Mart makes retail start-ups doomed. This is just not true.

Small businesses can find wonderfully productive niches by learning how be like the early mammals and dance under the feet of dinosaurs

That's Jeff Cornwall, who links to Anita Campell's analysis of a BusinessWeek article that examines the rise of small business. Anita insists:
As it turns out, news of their death at the hands of Wal-Mart was greatly exaggerated...

We could have told them. It's about "the experience, stupid." We've written about that here on Small Business Trends many times.

When buying necessities, consumers go for price. After all, how much pleasure can you get out of buying paper towels and laundry detergent?

But when it comes to other items, consumers want shopping to be an experience. They want the pleasurable sensory experience, fabulous selection and great service that comes from shopping at niche retailers. You can get low low prices at Wal-Mart, but it's not exactly big on atmosphere.

Her inspiration from BW:
Driving these changes in cyberspace, at shopping malls, and on Main Streets are consumers who want more than low prices and name brands. "We see Wal-Mart around for generations to come," says Candace Corlett, principal of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. "But we're seeing on a day-to-day basis a shift in consciousness that there are other choices, that it's not always about the lowest price."

Consumers want to be inspired and often desire products that can't be had at discount behemoths. Many retailers are using a strategy popularized by Target -- signing big-name fashion designers to create a special line. Swedish clothing chain H&M's fall lineup includes clothes by Karl Lagerfeld. In a similar vein, Bath & Body Works is selling $25 Henri Bendel scented candles.

Some things just aren't Wal-Mart's bag. Most sporting gear is better at stores that specialize in such products, says Irma Zandl, president of retail consultancy Zandl Group. She notes that young adults she has polled are looking to buy from www.boardzone.com, a snowboarding Web site. Hot Topic sells a comprehensive array of gifts featuring characters from the foul-mouthed animated hit South Park -- definitely not Wal-Mart's cup of tea.

Posted by Kevin at 10:43 AM

Pathetic Protest at Missoula, Montana WM

It ain't a protest with only 11 protesters:

MISSOULA � Empty shopping carts, pushed by 11 people clad mostly in pink, gathered in the center of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Missoula at lunch time Friday.

"I'm going to have to ask you to leave now," an employee told the group, which then formed a conga line and circled the huge store 1 1/2 times chanting "buy local, buy American" before exiting.

Shoppers looked on with a mixture of amusement and puzzlement.

"We heard you the first time," a young boy kept shouting back.

It was "Buy Nothing Day," according to Code Pink, the women's peace movement that organized the protest.

Code Pink's website is amusingly pink.

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

November 26, 2004

Researchers say U.S. Military Personnel are Stupid

Not really. But they did say the military families go to Wal-Mart, even when it is more expensive for them to do so:

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Researchers say military exchange stores are losing money to retail giant Wal-Mart.

They say military exchange stores are actually about 9% cheaper than Wal-Mart, and there is no sales tax.

Despite the lower exchange prices, many military families still go out of their way to shop at Wal-Mart.

The company says it builds near military bases because so many military families want to shop at its stores.

Some military exchange stores are considering combining back office operations to be more competitive with Wal-Mart.

IMHO, without reading the original report, I'd say that this is not a good summary of the research. Either WM offers goods that the military exchange doesn't, or the measure of savings is incorrect. Simply put, people are not that stupid.

Posted by Kevin at 11:45 AM

Black Friday at WM

We previously noted that WM will not be releasing today's Black Friday sales data, in a pre-emptive strike against the deluge of doom and gloom stories that will arise should today's sales figures come in below expectations. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that sales will be brisk:

WOODBRIDGE, Va. Nearly one-thousand customers rushed the doors of the Wal-Mart in Woodbridge when they opened at six a-m to take advantage of some specials sales.

Store manger Chris Harris says a main focus for him was rearranging the store to keep traffic moving -- that meant pulling some products from the floor and having customers pick up big items like T-Vs in the parking lot. The strategy comes after the fire marshall closed the doors to new customers for more than an hour on Black Friday last year.

UPDATE:Instapundit notes that anecdotal evidence can be incorrect:

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Nov 27, 2004 � Weaker-than-expected holiday shopping forced Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Saturday to cut its projected sales increase for November by more than half, an ominous announcement for retailers as their busiest time of year begins.

The world's largest retailer estimated that the month's sales at U.S. stores open at least a year would be 0.7 percent higher than last November, well below the 2-to-4 percent range that the company had said it expected last week.

The new projection was based on four weeks' worth of sales, from Oct. 30 through Friday, the company said in a statement on its Web site.

Remember though exactly what WM stated two weeks ago:

"People use sales from that one day too much as a barometer of what the whole season is going to be like," said a spokeswoman from Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Arkansas head office.

"We are looking at the whole season and we are cautiously optimistic about that. What we see is that people are shopping closer and closer to the holiday so we don't know that this is a fair barometer."

This move to not release specific data seems to have failed, as people are now pre-judging the Christmas season by WM sales in all of November. The consensus seems to be "a solid--not spectacular--Christmas".

UPDATE 2: OK, people are piling on WM for it's too high forecast of same-store sales increases. Here's one that calls it "ominous for other retailers".

Give it up folks, WM most likely still sold at least $1.5 billion on Black Friday. And the data released do not include Saturday or Sunday. So everybody's judging WM on one single day's worth of sales, which are not broken out from the rest of the month! Since, as this Forbes articles suggests, WM did not have a discount blitz, like $25 DVD players, why is the result shocking? Still, why would a WM strategy of "protecting profits" actually lower profits, like many believe? I'd suggest that WMs profit margins might very well be higher than last year.

But I'm not putting up my money, as other people are. As of 10:45am Monday, 11/29, WM shares are down 3.3% from opening.


wm_price_2004.gif

Posted by Kevin at 11:37 AM

November 22, 2004

Stormtrooper Stalks Wal-Mart: Could Darth Vader Be Far Behind?! (humor/*shock* value)

Late last month (Friday, October 29, 2004) Neil Hetzel got all dressed up in an expensive enough suit and yet had nowhere to go, so he went to Wal-Mart to walk around and look at action figures and lingerie with a really good friend of his, who made certain to bring a camera and take plenty of photo's.

Neil's blog post tells the whole story about their adventure, complete with lots of excellent photo's of course (here) [and, while you are visiting that particular post, make sure to watch the video clip of the Trooper Dance too!]:

If true friendship can be measured by your buddy�s willingness to strap on Stormtrooper thigh pieces in the parking lot of Walmart at 10:30pm, then Ryan Farley measures up.

I got my armor earlier this week and its seeming simplicity is surprisingly complex. I�ve worn it twice now to get the feel of it and made adjustments so things hang together correctly. Last night I called Ryan up while I was in the suit and he brought me over to surprise his kids. Everybody enjoyed the show but after a few minutes it just didn�t seem like enough. So we got the brilliant idea that we�d go walk around Walmart and look at action figures and lingerie. [...]


Read the entire post and view all the pix, here.

via Verns blog (here); within his post on the subject, Vern quipped:

Perhaps the Empire can straighten out the world's largest retailer...

Who Knows?!

By the way, a couple of additional photo's are over on Ryan Farley's blog and are well worth checking out as well, here.

Posted by Morgan at 3:45 AM

November 21, 2004

WM In the News

***Updated 3x***
(here scroll down to *Update 1, 2 & 3*)

Just a quick round up of a few news items concerning or otherwise relating to Wal-Mart in one fashion or another that have come to my attention.

The Los Angeles Times published an interesting article within today's edition of how a WM Supercenter is changing shopping habits in the Coachella Valley, as well as -- for better or for worse -- all the implications such big box stores brings along with it of course: Wal-Mart Effect Moves Into the Grocery Aisle.

Elsewhere, the Dallas-Fortworth Star-Telegram has what is becoming within the news media lately a very common place report of how and why: Stores look to counter Wal-Mart effect over holidays.

In other news, this morning's edition of The New York Post reports (here):

Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie got rich off "Everyday Low Prices" � but she allegedly paid top dollar every day to hire a fellow student to do her homework.

[...]


Read the entire story, here.

In addition, for more along the same storyline, ...

..., a quick search found that Friday's (November 19, 2004) edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch included an article within their sports news section that reported how (here):
[emphasis mine]

The daughter of Blues owner and University of Missouri benefactor Bill Laurie paid her roommate at the University of Southern California about $20,000 over three years to write papers and complete other class assignments for her, according to a report on ABC's news- magazine "20/20."

Elena Martinez said she was Paige Laurie's roommate freshman year at the school in Los Angeles. Martinez said it wasn't long before she was writing reports and papers for the daughter of businessman Bill Laurie and Nancy Laurie, an heir to the Wal-Mart empire. In return, Paige Laurie paid Martinez hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars at a time.

[...]


In my opinion, this particular article (above) from the Post-Dispatch is a must-read (here).

For the complete story as reported by ABC News 20/20 however, make certain to check out [emphasis mine]:

Big Cheats on Campus

Cheating Has Never Been Easier -- Especially for the Wealthiest Students

[...]

Student Says Heiress Paid Her $20,000 to Do Much of Her Coursework
[page 2]

[...]

... Paige Laurie is a granddaughter of one of the founders of Wal-Mart. Her mother has more than $2 billion. Her father owns the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

[...]


Read about it, here (jump to page 2, here).

Of course it would be good to hear from the other side concerning all of this, but they're not talking, so we may never know what truly took place or not.

If this were to prove to be true however, it sounds to me like Elena Martinez and (Elizabeth) Paige Laurie should be trading places as well as fortunes; since the former did a lot of the work and the latter got all the credit as well as the degree as a result and, of which her parents were so proud, private matter or not (of course that will never happen).

By the way, views of the Paige Sports Arena are available, here (the bottom view is a live Webcam view of the outside of the arena) [via chrysanthalbee is me, here (via Yoni @ College Basketball, here)].

While the Webcam shots (both the one frozen in time as well as the live view) are worth checking out, the one that is *most definitely* the item to check out is the excellent image or, rather, an exclusive artist�s rendering of the new facility available on the Phog Blog, here, which nails it perfectly.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and, this particular one is priceless!


*Update 1*

In more current news on the subject and, in what is a rather quick turnaround -- especially given all the non-denial denials from the Lauries and their most loyal supporters, etc.: In scandal�s wake, Lauries give up naming rights for arena [via Columbia Daily Tribune (Tuesday, November 23, 2004); initial heads up (of this first item in this particular update) provided via Phog blog, here].

[...]

The family transferred the rights to the University of Missouri, the university announced late this afternoon. The Board of Curators is to meet later to decide whether to change the name and, if so, what to call it.

MU Athletic Director Mike Alden said the Lauries contacted the university today to discuss relinquishing the naming rights.

[...]

In addition, from the same article, regarding Paige Laurie's alledged cheating at the University of Southern California:

[...]

Paige Laurie graduated from USC in the spring with a bachelor�s degree in communication. USC said Monday it would investigate Martinez�s claims and said there was precedent for revoking an issued diploma.

[...]


This is also yet another quick turnaround from USC's previously reported initial stance on the matter.

Read the article in full, here.

The Kansas City Star has a brief article devoted mostly to the developing story at USC, here [requires free registration].


*Update 2*

While doing some blog searching I came across a post on FWNED that includes one of the best pictures so far of Paige Laurie, this one with her sitting with her father, here. Yet the title of the post alone is worth checking it out however.

Then I just came across a recent post blogged by Ami, a free spirit and thinker, whom reports (here):

Interesting...

I tuned into some local news tonight (I'll talk about the reason for that later, when the time is more appropriate), and saw a story about a girl being accused of cheating at USC. I wasn't paying too much attention at first, but the name sounded familiar and the face looked familiar... Paige Laurie... Yes! She was in my class! It was Sarah Banet-Weiser's Children and Media. She was the typical Mercedez-driving, Louis Vuitton-loving, dumb USC blond sorostitute (sorority + prostitute), but I didn't know she was the heiress to Wal-Mart, and she had some sports arena named after her in Missouri. She paid her freshman roommate $20,000 in 4 years to have her papers written and other projects completed. And she graduated with a 3.5 GPA.

[...]


Read her post in full, here.

It is certainly a small world, especially within the blogosphere.

Definitely interesting ..., true enough Ami!


*Update 3*

As a final update to provide both a follow-up and closure to this particular news item:

USA Today featured an Associated Press article on its Website Wednesday (November 24, 2004) reporting, prior to it actually becoming official, that: College removes name of Wal-Mart heiress on arena.

On Friday (November 26, 2004), once it was official, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article announcing: Turning the Paige: It's now Mizzou Arena.


*Note*: Made several edits and changes as well as a few additions for the purposes of clarification and readability, along with providing updated as well as related information; added an update with a follow-up of more current news; added update 2 with some good blog finds, etc.; added update 3 to post a final news update: last updated on Saturday, November 27, 2004 at 1:09 PM [EST].

Posted by Morgan at 11:31 PM

November 19, 2004

Frontline: Is Wal-Mart Good For America

FYI, the PBS frontline program, Is Wal-Mart Good for America?, is supposed to be available online today, but is not up as of 3PM. (Update: It will be available at 5 PM)

Still, there are good written portions, and lots of links. (But not to ALP!)

Thanks to Joe Hill Dispatch

Posted by Kevin at 3:00 PM

Unpaid Work at WM

In an extremely short New York Times article, Stephen Greenhouse insists that at least one person was still working off the clock at WM--and names him:

But some employees say their managers still demand off-the-clock work. Aaron Payne, who earned $6.25 an hour working in the sporting goods department of a Wal-Mart in Camden, S.C., said the assistant manager made him work many hours last summer without pay.

"I'd be clocking out, and he'd point out all this stuff, saying, 'This isn't done, and if you leave before this is done, you won't have a job Monday morning,' '' said Mr. Payne, an Army veteran who served in Iraq. "It happened almost every night. I'd usually have to stay one and a half or two extra hours."

Question: Who is Mr. Payne of SC, and how did Mr. Greenhouse of NY find him? A search of Google and Lexis-Nexis turned up no previous "Aaron Payne" Wal-Mart appearances. Mr. Payne's treatment was deplorable, thought not inconsistent with Wal-Mart's quasi-official explanation that there will always be a few bad apples in management positions who disregard corporate policy. How can WM better stop this sort of worker abuse?

Posted by Kevin at 2:47 PM

12 Toys of Christmas

WM releases its recommendations for the top 12 Christmas toys:


* Cabbage Patch Kids(R) Dolls;
* Barbie(R) as the Princess and the Pauper Doll Assortment;
* Marvel(TM) Spider-Man 2(TM) Triple Action Web Blaster;
* Leapfrog(R) Leapster(TM) Multimedia Learning System;
* ESPN Game Station(TM);
* Little Tikes(R) Hummer(R) H2 Ride-On;
* Color Video Now(TM) Personal Video Player;
* Bratz(R) Funk Out Doll Assortment;
* 1/6 Scale Radio-Controlled Cadillac(R) Escalade and
Hummer(R) H2 or SUT;
* Plug-it-in and Play TV Games(TM);
* Schwinn(R) 20-inch Sting-Ray Bike; and
* Sesame Street(R) E-L-M-O(TM).
How much do you want to bet that at least 10 of these 12 will be top sellers? Is this a recommendation list, a forecast, or a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Posted by Kevin at 2:19 PM

Response to Frontline: It's the Culture, Stupid!

Jerry Heaster thinks that when media elites go after WM with activist attack dogs, they igore a much more interesting story:

What Wal-Mart's critics don't appreciate is that it's as much a cultural phenomenon as a retailing colossus. Wal-Mart's revenues last year amounted to about a quarter of a trillion dollars. To put that in perspective, the Sears-Kmart merger will create a company with annual sales of $55 billion, thereby making it the third-largest retailer, after Home Depot.

The magnitude of Wal-Mart's patronage makes it sui generis in the history of human commerce. Even so, media attacks are based on the premise that Wal-Mart's success results from some perverse consumer irrationality. The implied message is that the hundreds of millions who shop at Wal-Mart each month are acting against their own best interests.

This apparently is why the stories are uniformly devoid of adequate perspectives from customers and employees. Instead they focus on those with an ax to grind, who validate the negative perceptions of the reporters. Thus the thrust of the �Frontline� analysis was typical: an abundance of people willing to claim the worst about Wal-Mart, but minimal attention paid to Wal-Mart's core constituency. It's as if the journalists fear they'll become tainted if they interact with the great unwashed who throng to Wal-Marts.

Just once it would be nice if an interviewer asked those blaming Wal-Mart for their woes whether they or their families patronized the company some seem to see as the devil incarnate.

Instead you get economic observations often as zany as they are pointless. When discussing the imports Wal-Mart generates, the interlocutor muses that such business practices transform us into a �Third World country.� Perhaps he forgot about those who flee the Third World and risk all � sometimes even death � to get to America, the land of plenty.

As for those imports, the examples usually are goods that U.S. producers have no business making anyway...

Read the whole thing. I believe that the last sentence above will disturb most non-economists, but it's true. Even if you dislike WM, you know that elitist reporters don't connect well with the average joe. And frankly, neither do I, but at least I'm willing to admit it.

Posted by Kevin at 10:31 AM

November 18, 2004

John Talton is Burning Hot

Did you know that we're to blame for WM's "grip"?

Until 2003, the 13,000 residents of Circleville, Ohio, were blessed with the good jobs and benefits of an RCA television plant. That changed when the factory was shut down and its 1,000 jobs were moved to China.

Welcome to the world that Wal-Mart is making. Circleville was one of the consequences examined Tuesday night by the PBS program Frontline.

Readers of this column know of Wal-Mart's predatory and monopolistic tendencies. Two victims, Sears and Kmart, announced a defensive merger Wednesday. Frontline showed another face of "everyday low prices."

As Duke University Professor Gary Gereffi said, "China is the largest exporter to the U.S. economy in virtually all consumer goods categories. Wal-Mart is the leading retailer in the U.S. economy in virtually all consumer goods categories. Wal-Mart and China are a joint venture."

Taking an advantage of 50-cents-an-hour labor, Wal-Mart admits to importing $15 billion a year in goods from China. Some estimates are as high as $30 billion.

In the bloodless world of economics, one can say that Wal-Mart is helping to raise living standards of the Chinese. It has been a driver in the explosion of world trade, which, history shows, tends to deter war. It has perhaps helped hold down inflation, although not as much as its apologists suggest.

But there's always more to the story. As Frontline reported, Wal-Mart's non-union, low-benefits, heavily part-time workforce has become the "template" for American business. Taken to its logical end, it will undo 100 years of progress by the American middle class.

Oh, please!

The lower production costs fostered by WM's interventions have not just held down inflation--that's a really stupid thing to write. WM's interventions have increased manufacturing productivity, and significantly increased the real wages of its consumers; even non-"apologists" recognize the almost amazing impact that it's had.

This man is almost to the level of a conspiracy theorist. I'd love to see him try to provide actual citations for all his assertions. Given his point of view--all these good jobs are being sucked into China--how would he explain the fact that the number of "factory jobs" has declined more in China than in the US???

China is losing more manufacturing jobs than the United States. For the entire economy between 1995 and 2002, China lost 15 million manufacturing jobs, compared with 2 million in the U.S., The Conference Board reports in a study released today.

�As its manufacturing productivity accelerates, China is losing jobs in manufacturing � many more than the United States is � and gaining them in services, a pattern that has been playing out in the developed world for many years,� concludes The Conference Board study.

According to Robert H. McGuckin, Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board and co-author of the study: �Increased unemployment has also accompanied the restructuring of the industrial sector, but per capita income has risen over the period.�

Did WM cause ALL of this?

Posted by Kevin at 11:45 AM

John Barnett on WM's Product Discrimination

As I've written before, WM can choose to not sell anything it wants; anyway, it sells online what it doesn't sell in the stores. That rationale doesn't appease everybody:

The place most of these security moms and NASCAR dads shop should clue us in to their relative mentality. America's own Mecca, Wal-Mart, has the most bizarrely discriminatory policy of entertainment sales of which I'm immediately aware. They do not carry parental advisory labeled CDs, but they DO carry R-rated films. They carry Mature rated video games, but only conditionally. Many Wal-Marts in Indiana refuse to carry "San Andreas," while all Wal-Marts carry "Halo 2." Both games are rated Mature, but apparently "Halo 2" has greater sales potential amongst Wal-Mart shoppers, and therefore it's sellable. Why expect more from a chain of stores that openly endorses Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" books on its Web site as "important works of modern literature"? I guess the supposedly impending apocalypse is less of a threat to the fragile minds of kiddies than fake nude pictures of Supreme Court justices in the Daily Show's banned-from-Wal-Mart "America: The Book."

Posted by Kevin at 11:30 AM

Lileks on WM

James Lileks on WM:

Note: I really, really don�t like Wal-Mart. If doubling down on a Salvation Army donation is the price I pay, it�s cheap. Anything to keep from seeing that banal yellow smiley face that sums up the 70s in a vacuous icon that makes Hello Kitty look like Munch's "Scream." Am I the only one who imagines a hole between the eyes and a red trickle? No? Then I�m among friends. Have a nice day.

Posted by Kevin at 11:23 AM

November 17, 2004

Sears + Kmart = Competition

In a surprise move, Sears and Kmart unite:

CHICAGO (AP) - The discount retailer Kmart Holding Corp. (KMRT) is combining with one of the most venerable names in U.S. retailing, Sears, Roebuck & Co. (S), in an $11 billion deal that will create the nation's third largest retailer.

The company being created by the surprise combination announced Wednesday would be known as Sears Holdings Corp., but will continue to operate the Kmart and Sears stores under their current brand names.

The combined company is expected to have $55 billion in annual revenues, 2,350 full-line and off-mall stores, and 1,100 specialty retail stores. That will mean it will trail only Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Target Corp. (TGT) among the biggest U.S. retailers.

It looks like Kmart bought Sears, but both boards unanimously approved, so who bought whom doesn't really matter to much.


H/T: Drudge

Posted by Kevin at 10:25 AM

Where Would Jesus Shop? Not WM

Again, via evso, Where would Jesus shop? Much if it provides false information, but the ending was intruiging:

Wal-Mart expects to reap $1 billion in sales of "Christian" merchandise in 2003, only the doorstep of a much larger market. Evidently, Christians are shopping at Wal-Mart. But what are we buying, when a dollar saved in the store is another dollar squeezed from the life of "one of the least of these?"

Preachers and Sunday school teachers need to be asking Christians more about what our dollars support, and in Wal-Mart�s case, who�s paying for consumer "savings." A favorite preacher of mine says, "If you want to know what people care about, look in their checkbook" (or Visa statement, as the case may be). Our purchases ought to reflect deeper values than just "always low prices." Christians have asked Wal-Mart for cleaner magazine and CD content. Perhaps it�s time to demand cleaner corporate character as well.

Posted by Kevin at 10:15 AM

What's Wrong with WM in Bullet Points

Via evso, we find that the Center for American Progress put together anti-WM bullet points last March, reprinted below the fold.

Why do I have to keep reminding people that WM is not the largest employer in the world? My guess is that the Chinese or Russian government is much larger, the US military is larger than WM, and entire US government employs about 10x more people than WM.

Wal-Mart's In Washington

Wal-Mart, currently the largest employer in the world, has also become a lobbying powerhouse, using its considerably deep pockets to manipulate lawmakers in Washington. In 1998, the company threw off founder Sam Walton's antipathy towards influencing politics and began its campaign to take over Capitol Hill.  According to the WSJ, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) traveled to Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to offer advice on getting started: Increase your profile and open your wallet. As a result, "Made In America" is a thing of the past and anti-labor policies are the wave of Wal-Mart's future, with money paving the way to Washington.

HEY BIG SPENDER: Wal-Mart took Lott's advice. Last year, the company's political action committee was the number one corporate donor in the country, with over $1 million in contributions. Its PAC is the second largest in Washington and the committee's donations are decidedly one-sided. According to the WSJ, "Unlike most corporations, which contribute to both parties in rough proportion to Congress's partisan split," about 85% of Wal-Mart's money goes to conservatives. Wal-Mart Senior Vice President Jay Allen recently became a "Pioneer," or a contributor who has raised at least $100,000 for the Bush campaign.

THE PRESSURE IS ON: Wal-Mart employees, who are not unionized, say they have felt pressured to give to the PAC. The WSJ reports, "At an August 2000 meeting attended by thousands of Wal-Mart managers, buckets were passed around for donations, as well as forms authorizing automatic paycheck deductions for the PAC." Voluntary is in the eye of the beholder, though: "For some employees, the pressure to contribute became a point of contention. 'With my district manager sitting 3 inches over my shoulder, you think I didn't sign up?'" said Jon Lehman, a former Wal-Mart manager.

MADE IN AMERICA NO LONGER: Founder Sam Walton's autobiography was titled "Made In America." No longer. Wal-Mart more than $13 billion in goods from China last year. China is so vital to the corporation that Wal-Mart even held its annual board meeting there. Also, Wal-Mart hired trade expert Angela Marshall Hofmann to influence federal policies. Hofmann promptly pushed through language at the Central American Free Trade Agreement meeting last September allowing Mexican manufacturers to send products duty-free to the United States. Textile mills will lose business, but Wal-Mart will get cheaper wholesale products.

THE PHARMACEUTICAL PHIGHT: Last year, in order to control costs, Congress wanted to allow seniors to order prescriptions through the mail. Forget the elderly; Wal-Mart saw this as a threat to its in-store pharmacy. The bill passed but lawmakers asked the Federal Trade Commission to study "potential conflicts of interests" in mail-order companies.

WAL-MART AS BIG BROTHER: Wal-Mart may be watching you. According to recent reports, Wal-Mart conducted secret tests to monitor consumers. A store in Oklahoma inserted miniscule radio frequency identification chips (RFIL) into packages of Max Factor lipsticks. Hidden RFIL scanners then signaled nearby surveillance cameras allowing researchers 750 miles away to watch those consumers. Another Wal-mart store did the same thing with Gillette razors at another location. (Read Sen. Patrick Leahy's speech on other privacy concerns related to micro monitoring.)

FIGHTING BACK: Wal-Mart is a financial drain on American communities, and now taxpayers are fighting back. According to a report commissioned by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the average Wal-Mart supercenter worker makes $8.23 an hour. At that low wage, the average Wal-Mart store leaves taxpayers picking up the slack to the tune of about $420,750 per year, for things like welfare, free and reduced lunches for the kids of Wal-Mart families, and health insurance. Keep your eyes on communities who are trying to block the opening of Wal-Marts in their areas, like Martinsville, IN; Oregon City, OR; Windsor Township, PA; Hemet, CA; Thornton, CO, Centerville, UT and South Valley, NM.

Posted by Kevin at 10:11 AM

WM Associates Journal

A place for WM associates to vent. Like this one: :

i love walmart

i credit all of my co-workers with having some grasp on reality but man can they be stupid at times

i have my tongue pierced and as it states clearly in the dress code book we are allowed to keep them in as long as it is a clear plug so i was in the break room eating minding my own business and a lady that works with me comes up and asks me if i have it in i said yes and she then proceeds to tell me how it causes heart disease i replied a piece of plastic in my month can cause heart disease?

i am sure the look on my face said YOU'RE STUPID so she just turned around and walked away and said as she was leaving well they are not good for you anyway

first of all don't talk to me

second just because we are a hometown store and you have known me since my grandmother was born does NOT mean i like you or want to talk to you i only tolerate you because i am paid 2

i am a really nice person but really her stupidity made me crack up all day

It gets quite a bit of traffic.

Posted by Kevin at 9:41 AM

November 16, 2004

Fortunoff to Sell Majority Stake

Fortunoff, an upscale privately-owned retailer in the New York metro area has decided to sell a majority stake, in order to better compete with WM and others:

Fortunoff, the famed furniture and jewelry seller, said late last night it is selling a majority stake to two private investors, making it the latest in a long line of local retailers to give up its independence in an era of relentless competition....

They hope to open two new superstores in the next three years, and are looking at locations out of its New York-New Jersey base. Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia have been mentioned as possible locations.

Fortunoff started with a single storefront in Brooklyn 82 years ago and grew to be a favorite destination for generations of Long Island and New York City shoppers. The shops - there are now four superstores, plus nine satellite stores offering selected categories of merchandise, including the Fifth Avenue jewelry store in Manhattan - won intense loyalty from customers, who came for the personal service and high-quality goods at discount prices...

But independent, locally based chains selling general merchandise have not been able to survive the onslaught of giant discounters like Wal-Mart. Some of the local chains have sold out to their rivals, often under pressure, and some simply shut their doors, as Swezey's did late last year.

Note: I worked in a Fortunoff warehouse one summer. Good pay. Decent bosses. Outdated computer technology. No discount prices, and I don't really see it competing with Wal-Mart; Fortunoff's service is/was A+.

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 AM

WM Singles Night in Germany

Since I haven't heard of this in the US, I guess that it's just one example of how WM does things differently outside of the US:

DORTMUND, Germany - On a stifling Friday evening, Andreas Semprich, a 35-year-old single father, decided to go looking for love. Or at least a date. He packed up his 2-year-old son and headed to his local Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart workers greeted him at the sprawling store's entrance with a glass of sparkling wine and freshly shucked oysters. They took his picture and tacked it on a singles bulletin board, along with his age, interests and the qualities he seeks in a prospective partner. Semprich grabbed a shopping cart outfitted with a bright-red bow denoting his unmarried status and hit the aisles.

"I first tried out discotheques, but that did not work," said Semprich. "First of all, when you see some of the women again in daylight, I sometimes almost fainted. No, this here is much better. It is a natural, relaxed atmosphere. And besides, I can also save money. The milk is cheaper than in any other store."

Note that this was originally printed in the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by Kevin at 9:52 AM

The Classic Story

Everywhere WM opens up a new store, the same pattern of activity can be seen. Since I'm an economist, not an anthropologist or sociologist, I've not formed a concise story to explain it. But now I don't have to, as this new store story in the Times-Herald has it all, starting with the title--Wal-Mart draws criticism, praise. Continue below to read an excerpt:

By ERIN KOSNAC

FORT GRATIOT -- Michael Ward thinks it's great news Wal-Mart wants to open a supercenter north of Meijer on M-25.

But the Fort Gratiot resident knows not everyone shares his opinion.

"Wal-Mart's a big company," said Ward, who owns North Port Party Store, which is across the road from the proposed site. "And anytime you have something that big, you're always going to have groups who dislike you."

As plans have been announced to bring or expand Wal-Marts in Fort Gratiot, Marine City and Sandusky, supporters and opponents of the retail giant have emerged.

Eugene Fram is familiar with both sides.

Fram is the J. Warren McClure Research professor of marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and has been studying Wal-Mart for more than 20 years.

Fram said Wal-Mart critics have varying reasons for their opposition, including concerns about low wages, environmental issues and changes in the nature of a community because of the increased retail -- and other businesses -- the store could bring.

Fram also has seen communities try to attract Wal-Mart because all the independent stores have left the area.

"Not everyone likes Wal-Mart," Fram said. "Some people will say they're not going to shop there, and they don't shop there. But a lot of people are shopping there because their prices are so low..."

Dick Reynolds, a member of Fort Gratiot's planning commission, voted against granting Wal-Mart special land-use approval for a gas station and tire-and-lube express at its proposed supercenter.

"I don't shop at Wal-Mart," Reynolds said at Tuesday's planning commission meeting. "I don't like their practices."

Rosalie Skwiers of Marine City also doesn't like Wal-Mart's practices...

She said she reads two to five stories each week in newspapers about Wal-Mart, and almost none of them are positive. She has concerns about labor abuses, the impact on independent businesses in the surrounding areas and the number of Wal-Mart employees on public assistance....

"At some point, someone is going to come along and out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart," he said. "But they've got at least another 20 to 30 years, at least that's what my crystal ball says."

Posted by Kevin at 9:51 AM

November 15, 2004

What WM Knows about You

When the New York Times writes about what WM knows about it's customers (~80% of you), it gets a lot of attention. Other papers will show for free the full text of the article much longer:

A week ahead of the storm's landfall, Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed by the trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights.

"We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Dillman said. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."

Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 to Wal-Marts in the path of Frances, and most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly.

Such knowledge, Wal-Mart has learned, is not only power. It is profit too.

Plenty of retailers collect data about their stores and their shoppers, and many use the information to try to improve sales, but Wal-Mart amasses more data about the products it sells and its shoppers' buying habits than any other company, so much so that some privacy advocates worry about potential for abuse.

A small town general store owner knew a lot more about his customers' purchases than WM ever will. To damnpen WM's understanding of your consumer habits, you could just pay with cash; all they'll know is that somebody bought it... a level of privacy you could never have in a general store.

Posted by Kevin at 2:51 PM

WM Refuses to Release "Black Friday" Sales Data

In a move sure to upset somebody, WM will not be releasing sales figures for the day after Thanksgiving:

The day is one of the biggest shopping days of the year and traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season.

Last year, the company hit a record high of $1.52 billion in sales on Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving. In 2002, the company posted $1.43 billion in sales on Black Friday.

Reuters cited a spokeswoman from Wal-Mart who said the industry uses sales from that day to measure what the rest of the holiday selling season will be like, and the company doesn't know that the measure is a fair one because consumers are shopping closer to the holiday.

Some points:

1) All releases of data by every company are a form of advertising
2) Public companies are not forced to release sales data
3) WM doesn't want you to make a decision about the holiday season based on one day...
4) $1.5 billion in a day -- damn!

Posted by Kevin at 2:24 PM

Bomb Scare at Arroyo WM

Thankfully, this was just a scare tactic:

ARROYO GRANDE - More than 100 shoppers were evacuated from the Arroyo Grande Wal-Mart store Sunday after a reported bomb threat.

No bomb was found, authorities said....

The store's assistant manager, Joy Brehm, said that customers were evacuated under the guise of an impending power outage. That tactic, she said, was standard procedure for the retail giant.

"We didn't want everyone panicking," she said.

After the customers were outside, Brehm said she told them the truth and apologized....

It might seem crass to discuss lost sales, but if the intent of the bomb scare might just be anti-WM hooligans trying to harm the bottom line:

"We don't yet know about how much profit we lost, but it was a weekend day," Brehm noted. "It wasn't fun, but it wasn't as bad as I thought because the customers were so awesome."

She said many had been supportive of her and the store, and were eager to resume shopping.

"Whoever did it did more good than harm," she said. "I don't think the customers appreciated it, so it was almost like they were determined to come back and get their stuff."

MORE GOOD THAN HARM! Are you kidding me?!?!?!?

Posted by Kevin at 2:17 PM

Mullins Textile Offer Rejected

Reader Chaim Karczag sends along a story about Mullins, SC: Chaim's synopsis:

This is the story of an old South textile town that approached Wal-Mart with a business deal. Wal-Mart reviewed the proposition and declined. Town leaders are predictably disappointed; Wal-Mart says that they couldn't justify it on the basis of their bottom line and
their customers' needs.
Former textile workers offered WM a chance to purchase shirts from an American made company, under a multi-year contract. They knew the shirts would cost more, but they were hoping that WM would invest in a "goodwill" benefit of keeping American manufacturing jobs. WM did not agree that a higher cost and consumer end-price was worth the goodwill:
FLORENCE � Wal-Mart has refused a partnership with a closed textile mill that former workers hoped would restore jobs in Mullins.... the company was not interested in signing a multiyear deal to buy clothing from the Anvil Knitwear plant.

Vice president Claire Watts indicated a five-year commitment was too long...

Wal-Mart spent a lot of time looking at the proposal but found the deal would mean higher prices for customers, spokeswoman Karen Burk said Thursday...

Supporters of the idea said Wal-Mart could create goodwill by the move. Wal-Mart has been in a courtroom battle with residents over its plans to locate a Supercenter in neighboring Florence County.

The town and Anvil�s proposal to Wal-Mart executives said their research showed South Carolina Wal-Mart shoppers would pay more for a T-shirt made in America. A shirt manufactured at Anvil in Mullins would cost about 75 cents more than a shirt made outside the United States, according to the research.

Wal-Mart �gave absolutely no credence to the validity of our �buy American� research,� Florence attorney Marguerite Willis said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Burk said the company regularly does business with domestic suppliers, but in this case, the company�s research indicated that customers would not be willing to pay more for products made in the United States.

�While most of our customers would probably agree with this philosophically, they just aren�t willing to pay more for domestically made merchandise,� she said.

Please pay attention to the bolded section

Posted by Kevin at 2:12 PM

Wal-Mart Touts its Various Efforts on Behalf of U.S. Service Men and Women Serving Overseas

*Updated*
(see below @ *Update*)


Just came across a recent Wal-Mart press release (dated Tuesday November 9, 2004) concerning how their 'M.A.C.K. Packs' Connect 900,000 Service Men and Women to Loved Ones Back Home:

Phone Cards, E-mails and Message Books Link Family and Friends


BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Nothing compares to a word from home -- or a chance to send word home to loved ones. For more than 900,000 active duty service members, communicating with family and friends this holiday season just became a lot easier.

A gift from the Wal-Mart & SAM'S CLUB Foundation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Foundation will provide M.A.C.K Packs to every member of the armed services deployed overseas. M.A.C.K. stands for Military Assistance Communications Kit. Each kit includes a phone card, writing paper, note cards, envelopes, a folder with a 2005 calendar and a letter of support. The kits will be Fed Ex'ed to the troops overseas beginning on Veteran's Day, allowing some 900,000 members of the military to call and write loved ones from virtually anywhere in the world this holiday season.

"Our troops love nothing more than to know that they are remembered and appreciated," said VFW Adjutant General John J. Senk, Jr. "Out of all the hardships our military endure, the hardest thing is being away from family and friends. The M.A.C.K. Pack kits will bring a little bit of home to them and help them connect with their loved ones -- it's a gift of communication. Wal- Mart's tremendous support for our troops and veterans now and through the years has been remarkable."

[...]


Read the press release in full, here.


*Update*

In addition to the above mentioned press release however, WM also has several informative pages (ten at this point in time) -- including some archived news articles -- documenting their various efforts and programs for Supporting Our Troops and their families (left-hand menu under the main heading of Supporting Our Troops, which is highlighted in red).

Posted by Morgan at 1:08 AM

November 14, 2004

Wal-Mart Gift Registry Kiosk's Offer Access to the Internet's Operation Dear Abby

*Updated 3x*

However one may personally feel about the U.S. led war in Iraq, for those not already aware of it and whom are inclined to do so, anyone may use Operation Dear Abby to send an e-mail to *AnyServiceMember* (i.e., generally speaking) of each of the five branches of the U.S. military (one branch at a time, depending on which one you may select) and, as I understand it anyway, whether they may be serving in Iraq or elsewhere, including here within the U.S.A. and, also includes those whom have been injured and hospitalized of course (note that message text is limited to only 1000 characters, including spaces).


What Does this Have to do with WalMart, You Ask?

Due to an associates suggestion about whether the company could help out in making Operation Dear Abby accessible to those whom may lack Internet access, in rather short order Wal-Mart made:

[...] it possible for customers to access operationdearabby.net through the gift registry kiosk. In its first seven days it was available, 123,467 messages had been sent through the gift registry.

[...]

Read about it in full via the Wal-Mart Foundation Website, here.


For additional information concerning Operation Dear Abby, read the following items:


What More Can I Do to Support Our Troops?

By the way and, most importantly, if you find yourself wondering what *more* you could do along these same or, even better, other lines in supporting our troops and their families, click here for additional information.

In addition, The Art of the Blog has posted a blog post with an ever growing and updated compilation of links to all sorts of resources they have come across from one place or another, here [via Verns blog, here].

In fact I particularly like the link for the Website set up for people have a way to Send Pizza to our Troops (yet while I don't mean to give into cynical doubts at all, am just hoping it is the real deal and they are making good on delivering every time to the regions they state our troops are currently be served via their arrangements: i.e., certain areas of the Gulf and Middle East).


Had originally come across Operation Dear Abby earlier today when I paid a visit to Crickets blog. Her blog post (here) on the subject has additional insights concerning the program in general. [Thanks Cricket!]


*Note*: added link to AARP Magazine Mail Call article; added link to *recent* Houston Chronicle Dear Abby column; expanded the resource links portion concerning what more people can do ..., which is now under the heading of What More Can I Do to Support Our Troops?: last updated on Monday, November 15, 2004 at 2:59 AM [EST].

Posted by Morgan at 10:05 PM

Guest Post: Sterling Wright Reviews the CNBC Wal-Mart Special

The following is a review of the recent two hour CNBC special report on Wal-Mart. The author is Sterling Wright, who works for WM, and blogs at sterlingwright.blogspot.com:

The CNBC documentary talked about the competitve keys that made Wal-mart
unique and the largest private employer in America. Wal-Mart's competitve
edge might be driven by its logistics and information systems; however,
it cuture is the most significant factor. If one visits the Headquarters of
the largest company on the face of the planet, one will find a culture od
thrift. Simply stated, the CEO's office looks exactly the same as the store
managers on the front line.

More importantly, the documentary touched on the fact that Wal-Mart's
culture of thrift also correlates to they way it interacts with suppliers
and competitors. One the main entrance wall of Wal-Mart's heeadquarters
which looks like a gaint factory, you will find wanted posters of the CEO's
of its top competitors. Vendors will also notice that each meeting room has
the golden rule for supplier's, "no gifts accepted!". Wal-Mart has acheived
much of its growth because it walk's the walk of the timely preached lessons
of Sam Walton: "giv[ing] your customers what they want".

Sam Walton focused on building a shopping experience that offered a wide
assortment of good quality merchandise, the lowest possible prices,
guaranteed satisfaction with customers buy, friendly, knowledgeable service,
and convenient hours. The documentary touched on Sam's relentless
efforts. One of his friends noted that he was once on a plane flying to a
meeting, when Mr. Walton spotted a very empty Wal-Mart parking lot. He
immediately "nosed dived" the plane and landed. He went straight to the
store and asked the store manager what "we were doing wrong". The store
manager explained that a local holiday event was going on for 2 hours in
which the entire town participates. He told Mr. Walton not to worry and to
stop back by in 2 hours.

Wal-Mart is successful because of the work ethic culture it built. It's not
unusual to see everyone in the office by 6:15 a.m. Some people even arrive
well before 5:00 a.m. Every Saturday morning, Wal-Mart's management
throughout the world get together at 7 a.m ,going over what's working and
what's not! Even the semi-annual managers' meeting kicks off by 6 a.m.
Simply stated, the documentary touched on the fact that Wal-Mart's hard work
and information gathering and dissemenation techniques are the secret to its
success.

Posted by Kevin at 7:08 AM

November 13, 2004

WM Return Policy Upsets Deadbeat Shopper

If you've written a bad check at Wal-Mart, do not expect to be able to return merchandise. Donna Talarico became irate and embarrassed when WM wouldn't accept a smelly coat return because she floated a bad check in 1997:

I headed off to my nearest Wal-Mart, 40 minutes from my rural home. After waiting patiently in the customer service line, I joked, �Bet you can guess why I am here from the stench!� The woman responded, �My dear, eew, what is that?� and made another woman smell it too. She asked for my ID, proceeded with the return procedure and then gazed up at me. �I�m sorry, ma�am, we cannot take this back. You have a bad check with Wal-Mart, you have to call this customer service number.�

This was a huge embarrassment. In a day of debit cards, I have not written checks in years for in-store purchases. I did not remember having a bounced check at Wal-Mart. At this point, getting the $10.88 back was not important. I felt like they were making me out to be some scumbag looking to get money. It�s not like I was doing something illegal, like stealing a DVD player and then trying to get store credit. For cripes sake, they had a stinky coat in their hands they smelled with their own snouts. I paid money for a product I was not going to use, and had a right to get it back. I told them to keep it, or donate it to someone. Can you believe they would not even let me GIVE it back? She said I owed Wal-Mart money, I couldn�t return an item, and handed me back the coat. I threw it in the trashcan in the customer service department to prove a point- I did not care about the money; I just wanted rid of coat, and figured there was something else I could buy with the measly $10.88. They shook their heads, probably thought I was being difficult. But, I wasn�t going to keep the �stinkin� thing.

On the way home, I called the customer service line to inquire- closed for the weekend. I did call this morning, Monday, and found that I had a bounced check in 1997- when I was a sophomore in college, my first year in my own apartment, and with my own checkbook. Ooops. I was eighteen and made a mistake. The amount? About $20.00. I am sure I was charged a fee from my bank at the time, and almost a decade later, I am sure that $20.00 was written off as a loss for the Waltons. The past came back to haunt me- one bounced check at a discount chain eight years ago. I am not a teenager anymore, but a young professional with a career, a house, and the means to buy a real leather coat.

She thinks WM is greedy because she wrote a bad check!

Posted by Kevin at 2:01 PM

6 BIG Ideas

At the Motley Fool, Selena Maranjian has 6 big ideas for Wal-Mart. I won't spoil the fun with an excerpt, so go read it yourself!

Posted by Kevin at 1:51 PM

November 12, 2004

Review of the South Park Wal-Mart Episode

This episode is a masterful debunking of anti-WM hysteria and pro-WM lore. Here's a short synopsis that includes details you might not want to know about before seeing the episode:

The townspeople spontaneously flood the new WM, purchasing a continuous, tremendous supply of goods day and night. Local stores are put out of business; the entire downtown becomes a slum overnight, WM's power is unstoppable, until the townspeople realize what is happening, and want it out.

Upon confrontation, the WM manager is portrayed as not liking his work at WM. He is fearful of talking, or the WM gods will strike him down. he hangs himself.

The townspeople agree to boycott WM, but everyone shows up anyway. The mystical, evil WM force can't be stopped, so they burn the store down, inflamed by their lack of personal responsibility.

However, the next day WM is back up and running.

The boys go to Bentonville, Arkansas to meet the bigwigs. Cartman is possessed by WM, and tries to stop the others. But they make it to headquarters, meeting the "inventor" of WM.

Before killing himself, the "inventor" tells the boys that "every WM has a heart somewhere near the television department" that needs to be destroyed in order to stop WM.

The boys invade like commandos; however, WM offers great bargains and lowers its prices in order to stop them. In the TV department, WM takes the form of an elderly gentleman, to talk to the boys.

The heart of WM turns out to be a mirror--the consumer--, which the boys break, causing WM to implode and disappear.

Moral: You have to pay more in order to keep a small town. But shopping en masse at small town stores causes them to become big boxes.

Posted by Kevin at 2:53 PM

Zoning: Power, Influence, and Bribery

George Mason University economist Russell Roberts notes the ease with which the Washington Post ignores the real reason for making it harder for supercenters to open in Montgomery County: shakedown by politicians:

I also like how the Council didn't ban big-box groceries outright. That leaves open the door for special begging, pleading and lobbying. It really highlights what smart growth is about�legislator as gate-keeper. If you'd like in, love me enough or pay me enough and I'll consider it. Maybe. It's an outrageous way to run a jurisdiction in a democracy. It makes property use and property rights subject to the whim of legislators. What a sad day for the rule of law.

Posted by Kevin at 10:55 AM

Misspelling WM

Probably in an attempt to get mistyped searches, this web page lists hundreds of variations of misspelling WalMart.

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

November 11, 2004

How to Become a WM Supplier

Sterling Wright gives us the skinny on how to become a supplier to the largest retailer in the world. Points seven and eight are independently interesting:


(7) Always place your bid at the lowest cost possible. Wal-Mart always makes decisions based on cost. If you can save them money, you have there attention. Remember you can make more money on output.

(8) If you are a minority owned business don't pitch only on your minority status. Make sure that you have an expanded portfolio of products and services that save money and time at the end of the day. Or, they had better make them money. Make sure that you are international in scope. Remember you want to do business not only in the U.S., but in Latin American, Europe, and China. By being internationl, you can offer a strategic partnership. More importantly, Wal-Mart biggest parts are in Latin America and China. There is money to be made in both markets.

Posted by Kevin at 6:23 AM

Linux got me kicked out of WM

quickcam.jpgOne creative man had the beautiful idea of using his Linux-running laptop and cheap Quickcam to record movies inside of a WalMart. Security was not amused:

One weekend we rented a car to visit Conneticut and brought our computer into a Wal-Mart on the way home. We set up Ryu-Oh in a cart, booted, rolled into the store and shot a few movies, driving in circles through different departments. In the toy section we stopped to take a portrait of Ryu-Oh and its operators. Customers and employees were oblivious to us until a few snapshots taken with a flash attracted attention. A Wal-Mart security woman found us and asked if she could help. We said no, so she asked what we were doing. We replied vaguely that we were taking a few pictures. She told us that wasn't allowed, so we'd have to leave or she'd have to take them. Afterward we wondered what would have happened if they'd tried to search the computer. Would they have had anyone who could have figured out how to log in? We left without finding out, with hundreds of images awaiting compression.
Grainy videos are available for download...

Posted by Kevin at 6:22 AM

November 10, 2004

Unite to Win

The blog of Fight for the Future, which I affectionately call the other Wal-Mart blog, has closed down. In it's place, we have the SEIU blog, and now Unite to Win. The first post at Unite to Win is meant to jump-start the anti-WM coalition, and is a good read regardless of your position.

All of these are run by SEIU's president, the well-connected Andrew Stern.

Posted by Kevin at 1:32 PM

More than a Scuffle

Afaf Saudi was arrested for assult in a Greensboro Wal-Mart, sustaining serious injury. The local Islamic Center of the Triad immediately demanded an apology. The police were not forthcoming, since they think no excessive force was used:


Local Muslims and police officers agree only on this much: About 3 p.m. Saturday, Saudi was in the check-out line at Walmart.

Police say she became irate and refused when she was asked to leave the store. Saudi�s arrest report states that she kicked an assistant manager in the chest. Gunn said Saudi also lay on the ground to resist arrest by Neal.

Saudi was charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a Walmart employee and refusing to leave the store. Her court date is set for 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 6.

But Helmi said his mother tells family members a different story: At one point during her shopping, she forgot where she had left her shopping cart and pocketbook. She eventually found them and headed for the check-out line, where she discovered $150 missing from her purse.

She told Helmi she was embarrassed and confused that her money was missing � and unable to tell the clerk why she was upset. She claims the people around her began laughing, which upset her even more.

Now 12 witnesses say excessive force wasn't used, that the woman speaks English and is lying about her arrest:

GREENSBORO � Twelve witnesses say a police officer didn�t use excessive force when he arrested an elderly Egyptian woman at Wal-Mart on Saturday, according to police Chief David Wray....

The incident happened Saturday afternoon after Saudi�s daughter-in-law dropped her off at Wal-Mart. On Monday, Wray and department spokesman Brian James summarized eyewitness accounts:

Saudi wanted to buy a $70 piece of jewelry, but handed the clerk $20. When the clerk asked for more money, Saudi implied that the clerk had stolen money from her purse. Store management tried unsuccessfully to solve the problem, then called police while Saudi sat in a chair.

Saudi was speaking English until police arrived, then began speaking Arabic and French. Two store employees, one who spoke French and one who spoke Arabic, asked the woman to leave the store.

Saudi refused.

Officers lifted her. When she went limp, they put her down.

The officers put her in a wheelchair, then handcuffed her when she started flailing her arms. They tried to roll her out of the store, but she put her feet down so the wheelchair wouldn�t move.

When a store manager put her feet on the footrests, Saudi kicked him in the chest.

Wray said Saudi has had other disputes with Wal-Mart employees, but he would not elaborate.

In response, the Islamic Council is insisting that, of course excessive force was used against a Muslim, and spewed forth with lies about violence and hatred against Muslims:

We know there is no possible justification for this type of treatment. We are also aware that police brutality and killings have increased dramatically in recent years, and that since Sept. 11, 2001 a vicious new form of racial profiling has been put into effect against Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants.
Just pathetic self-victimology. And this from an organization that once had a rabid anti-Semite come to speak.

Posted by Kevin at 11:20 AM

WM's Next Victims

On this page, Forbes introduces its analysis of WM's next commercial victims, after pummeling Toys R Us:

nextvictims.gif

Of particular interest is how WM is becoming an ever largest retailer of gasoline:

There are 1,555 stations on Wal-Mart properties, 300 of which are operated directly by Wal-Mart's warehouse arm Sam's Club and the rest by third-party vendors like Murphy USA. Launched in 1996, its pumps already have a 3% share of U.S. retail gas sales--the tenth largest in the U.S. As Wal-Mart's share grows, the only question is whether Wal-Mart will oust its vendors and go it alone.

Posted by Kevin at 10:29 AM

David Farber on Small Town WM

Interesting piece on WM's small-town culture, and the still dominant ethos of Sam Walton:

Scott and Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe earned a combined $14 million in stock and cash in 2003. But on business trips, the two will share a $49 hotel room.

"Sharing rooms is a very symbolic part of what we do," Scott says. "It's also an equalizer. If I'm asking the district managers to share a room, but I won't share a room with Schoewe, then what am I saying? There are two different standards here? The customer is the most important thing for all of you, but for me I think I'll run a different standard.

"You can't do that. You can't do it because it's not how Sam would have done it."

Says Glass, "Sam has been gone for a number of years now, but he's still alive and well in this company to a great extent. There's not a day that goes by that I don't hear conversations around here about what Sam would do or how he felt about something."

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 AM

WM Documentaries

Both CNBC and FRONTLINE will examine WalMart in depth:

THE AGE OF WAL-MART: INSIDE AMERICA'S MOST POWERFUL COMPANY. CNBC takes a tough look at the nation's largest and most controversial retailer. Tonight at 7 and 10 on CNBC.

IS WAL-MART GOOD FOR AMERICA? "Frontline" takes a tougher look. [It should be on next Tuesday, check your local listings].

I know people who swear by Wal-Mart and people who swear at it, folks who break into grins when they see the retail chain's flying, price- slashing smiley-face symbol in a TV commercial and folks who would like to practice their skeet-shooting on it. Whichever camp you're in, two new documentaries about the company, one tonight and one next Tuesday, should be of interest....

CNBC's report is the less adversarial of the two, but mainly because it spends more time on the history and day- to-day operation of Wal-Mart than "Frontline" does. CNBC is a business network, after all, and it's pitching its two- hour program to people curious about the inner workings of the company as well as to Wal-Mart's clientele and critics....

Both the CNBC documentary and the "Frontline" report would be stronger if they had done the hard math, so to speak, of comparing one town's per-capita income and tax collections before and after Wal-Mart's arrival, and if they had put Wal-Mart's business practices in the context of those of other big box retailers such as Target and Costco. But either program provides a good primer for a discussion of what our best interests really are.

Posted by Kevin at 10:18 AM

November 9, 2004

Who is Jocelyn Larkin?

If you oppose WM for any reason, I'd advise you not to exaggerate, because you might sound like a loony activist, instead of a well-respected (or feared) lawyer.

Jocelyn Larkin of the Impact Fund, a lawyer assisting in the Betty Dukes sex discrimination class action, sprouted this in September:

What is the nut of the Wal-Mart case?

In every store in every job in the country, women are being paid less than men for doing the same exact job.

Ms. Larkin should know better. That WM discriminates in wages in every single store, every job, everywhere has NOT been demonstrated using the wage data she used the courts to forcibly extract from WM. Nor has this been confirmed from any other data source. It doesn't even pass the laugh test.

In fact, WM has specifically denied this:


The company said it will appeal this latest decision, claiming the lawsuit ignores the fact that thousands of female employees make more than their male counterparts. A spokeswoman said Wal-Mart continued to re-evaluate its employment practices but that a new pay structure and new rules on filling job vacancies had been introduced.
Ms. Larkin, you should be representing the women who have been unlawfully terminated, sexually harrassed, or otherwise illegally interfered with. Stop playing ideological games against WM... The WM case might be "the largest" civil rights case--in terms of numbers--, but it is nowhere near the most important for the advancement of civil rights. I would venture that only a incredibly small number of the 1.6 million women certified in the case have been actually been the victim of sexism. Also, although you might not want to admit it, the average person knows that there are real, actual, sometimes personal, non-sexist reasons that women are willing to work for less in the same job (most notably that men are willing to take many dirty jobs that women won't).

I'm not a subscriber to California Lawyer, which detailed how the plaintiff's lawyers put this entire lawsuit together:

How could The Impact Fund-a three-lawyer nonprofit located in a redwood building on the Berkeley marina-pull off a victory of this magnitude? Seligman doesn't even have a legal secretary. Yet in a four-year campaign, he coordinated a network of 18 lawyers from three private law firms and two other nonprofits. His success was grounded in more than a decade of experience settling Title VII lawsuits, a clever litigation strategy, use of an online document depository-and enough chutzpah to believe he could beat that quintessentially American corporation from Bentonville, Arkansas.

Though Seligman loves to play David to Wal-Mart's Goliath, he is one of the most successful class action lawyers in the country. In 1991 he retired as partner at Oakland's Saperstein Seligman Mayeda & Larkin after just eleven years of practice in the Title VII litigation boutique founded by Guy Saperstein and Charles Farnsworth. During that time Seligman had participated in more than 35 victories, including a twelve-year class action against State Farm that settled for $255 million, the largest damage award at the time in a sex-discrimination case. (Kraszewski v. State Farm Gen. Ins. Co., 912 F. 2d 1182 (9th Cir. 1990).) Attorneys fees from the victories made the partners rich....

With his earnings, Seligman could have bought a winery or a tropical island. Instead, he put up $1.24 million to launch The Impact Fund, an organization intended to train and support lawyers interested in bringing class actions that promised significant social change. The fund has a staff of three attorneys-Seligman, Jocelyn D. Larkin, and Marisa Arrona, a law fellow whose salary is subsidized by several large firms. In addition to civil rights cases, the fund supports environmental and poverty law class actions that are no longer eligible for Legal Services Corporation funding. Since its founding in 1993 The Impact Fund has awarded more than $3.5 million to nonprofit and private law firm grantees, who are expected to repay the grants if their lawsuits are successful.
"What we bring to the table is a blueprint for how to litigate a case," Seligman says. "We don't put in the majority of the money, we don't put in the majority of the resources, and God knows we don't put in the majority of the staff."

The idea of bringing a nationwide class action against Wal-Mart began with a pair of plaintiffs attorneys in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the 1990s Stephen Tinkler and Merit Bennett, then partners in Tinkler & Bennett, had brought a series of lawsuits against Wal-Mart for sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. "It wasn't easy," says Tinkler. "Wal-Mart's legal strategy on every case was to fight it to the ends of the earth."

The law fellow noted above, Marisa, has her own blog, and writes about the WM class action from time to time.

Posted by Kevin at 3:28 PM

Las Vegas Sun: Employers Should Pay for Employees' Healthcare

This Las Vegas Sun editorial demands that health care be paid for by employers, as if this would not have an absolutely devastating negative effect on worker's cash wages. It also abuses data:

To get a sense of just how poorly Wal-Mart treats its employees, it's illustrative to look at one of its discount-retail competitors, Costco. A story in Monday's New York Times noted that Wal-Mart asks employees to cover 33 percent of the costs for its health care plans. Add to that the low salaries that Wal-Mart pays, and it's not surprising that only 45 percent of its work force can afford the company's health insurance plan.
Unfortunately, there's no evidence that 55% cannot afford the health insurance plan. None at all. Zero. Nada. 45% of WM employees have the WM health care plan, 45% have some other plan, which presumably they CAN afford by working at WM. The editorial continues:
If businesses don't pay for their employees' health insurance, government-run hospitals that provide care for the indigent and for those without health insurance have to absorb the costs. Ultimately, taxpayers must pick up the tab, which means that we end up subsidizing the greed of Wal-Mart and other like-minded companies -- and they end up laughing all the way to the bank.
So let me get this straight. Emergecy doctors, whether they want to or not, must provide healthcare, regardless of ability to pay. Hence employers must pay for health insurance. How exactly does that follow? IT DOESN'T.

The editors imply that if employers don't pay for health insurance, a lot of people will not get it on their own, and they will all burden the system. WRONG!!!! True, some people will not get health insurance, but not all of them need or want it. Assume that all uninsured are a cost on the system. This is an argument that people be required to purchase some form of health insurance for themselves, not that their employers pay for it.

I don't see how it's WM's fault for doing nothing other than--completely legally--taking advantage of current government schemes? In fact, WM exposes a critical flaw in the current method. Doctors and governments should realize that if they provide incentives for employees to not pool healthcare costs,, some will take them up on the offer. The vast majority of these will be poor people.

You might want the poor to receive advanced medical treatment. But if you do, then you must recognize that most will either refuse to pay or cannot pay for it. One cannot hide these costs under the umbrella of "insurance" paid for by employers; whether "insured" or not, other people pay for their care in higher premia or higher prices elsewhere. (One can make the argument that a shift towards preventative care will save money and ease the ER crunch, but I'm not yet convinced it will save money).

Also, the editorial does not state why employers should not be required to pay for the food, housing, clothing, transportation, entertainment, or education of their employees. Aren't those just as

Posted by Kevin at 11:00 AM

Dispelling WM Myths

Karel Sovak asks, " what happens to the old Wal-Mart and other businesses once a Wal-Mart Supercenter comes to town?", and let's Tim Romback, manager of a WM in Minot, North Dakota, respond in full. His particular store is dominated by female managers:

The current structure is comprised of 114,000 square feet and was built in 1990. Rombach said that he also feels very strongly in defending the store against other

inaccurate information, especially regarding female employees.

"There has been a lot of speculation and lawsuits, but I know that Wal-Mart has dealt severely with those few who have made wrong decisions," Rombach said. "I hate to see the entire organization being mislabeled or all of the associates summed up in the negative because of the deeds of a few. Integrity is an important part of being associated with Wal-Mart or I wouldn't be with the company. Thirty-five percent of the employees who started with our store 14 years ago are still here. They love what they do and the company that they work for. To the question of why aren't there more female managers, I have to ask people to just look at our store. Ninety-four percent of the managers here, within all the departments, are female. All seven of our customer service managers are female. That hasn't happened just over the past couple of years, most of them have been here all 14 years."

Good stuff, whatever your opinion on WM.

Posted by Kevin at 10:30 AM

Upload at Home, Print in Store

WM and Sam's now let's you upload your digital photos at home, and have them ready in the store in less than one hour:

The new service, unparalleled by any other retailer, allows customers to upload digital photos at http://www.walmart.com or http://www.samsclub.com, edit, share and order images online, and pick up photo prints within one hour at a local Wal-Mart Store, Supercenter, Neighborhood Market, or SAM'S CLUB location with a One-Hour Photo Center - approximately 3,000 nationwide locations by year end. Wal-Mart and SAM'S CLUB's Photo Center online software has been updated to provide customers with improved Web site features, ease of use, and speed.

"Today marks a giant leap in an industry that is constantly evolving," said Dave Rogers, vice president, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "We are taking our one-hour photo service to a whole new level by making this technology available nationwide through our Web sites and the One-Hour Photo Centers in our stores and clubs. We believe it will revolutionize the way our customers process digital photo prints."

The base price will remain the same for digital prints ordered in One-Hour Photo Centers Wal-Mart or SAM'S CLUB locations. Each 4x6 print costs $0.24 at all Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, and Neighborhood Markets with Photo Centers, and $0.18 at all SAM'S CLUB locations with Photo Centers. All prints are provided on the same high quality photographic paper used for printing digital or film prints.

Currently, if you want to upload, you have to have the photos mailed to you or the store...

Posted by Kevin at 10:24 AM

November 7, 2004

Dems to Declare War on Wal-Mart

The Boston Globe asked five Democrats where their party stands after the election defeat the other night. A one Rick Perlstein, chief political correspondent for the Village Voice, says they need to make Wal-Mart an issue(via John Miller at The Corner):


ON ELECTION MORNING I was listening to National Public Radio -- part of what Nation columnist Eric Alterman calls the "So-Called Liberal Media" -- when I heard the kind of thing that drives Democrats like me around the bend. A commentator was explaining that the answer to all of Japan's economic woes was . . . Wal-Mart.

"It could drive smaller retailers out of business, free up land for better uses," I heard -- although I barely heard it over my own cursing. This is not a matter of free trade. It is about the fact that Wal-Mart is a corporate predator, alleged to have broken all kinds of labor, immigration, and anti-discrimination laws. What's more, economists have argued that, far from boosting weak local economies, the presence of a Wal-Mart store in a town kills more jobs than it replaces. Why, I asked my radio, does NPR feel that the dictates of "balance" require them to put on radical right-wing free market ideologues, even when they're telling less than half the truth?

Then, the announcer gave the identity of the commentator, and I really got mad. It was a former undersecretary of commerce for the Clinton administration -- a Democrat.

This is an election story. One year ago, I reported in an article from Rockford, Ill., that when heartland Americans are asked what they think is going wrong with America, "Wal-Mart" is one of the first words out of their mouths. "They pay their workers substandard wages," one factory worker told me. Interestingly, his boss hates them even more -- for the way they force manufacturing jobs out of the country in their too-ruthless drive to cut costs. Judy, another factory owner, who soon after I spoke to her lost her business, said it was a family values issue: "The moms that used to have a factory job with me and who go home at the end of eight hours . . . and take care of their children and have decent day care, now they're working two jobs at Wal-Mart with no health benefits."

And yet the Democrats are not in a position to capitalize on this sort of broad-based frustration with our nation's present Wal-Mart economy, because they are complicit in it. Here's one example: Hillary Clinton is a former member of the board of directors of Wal-Mart. She should not be able to get within spitting distance of a Democratic presidential nomination until she explains, if not apologizes for, her service on it.

For a party whose major competitive advantage over the opposition is its credibility in protecting ordinary people from economic insecurity, anything that compromises that credibility is disastrous.

Even worse, the Democrats don't need Wal-Mart's support -- but the Republicans certainly do: Eighty percent of the staggering $1.5 million in contributions from Wal-Mart's political action committee, the second biggest in corporate America, went to Republicans. The stronger this corporation is, the better off the Republican Party is. And, this Democrat believes, the worse off America is.

We've already heard a lot about the rise of the evangelical vote in this presidential election. Well, God-fearing middle Americans who also fear for their families' economic security would be far more likely to vote their economic interests -- rather than on matters like gay marriage and abortion -- if the Democratic Party beat a public retreat from a politics that condones or even celebrates the Wal-Martization of America and the world. This is the way forward for the Democrats.

Posted by Bob at 2:03 PM

November 6, 2004

Meet the Waltons

The November 15th edition of Fortune has a very detailed multi-part special analysis of the richest family in the world, Sam Walton, and the rise of WM.

Posted by Kevin at 9:28 AM

November 5, 2004

Image: WM a Bad Neighbor

From Not in Our Name:

WM_notinourname.jpg
Posted by Kevin at 9:59 PM

Image: What WM Costs

From rotten.com:

wm_costs.jpg
Posted by Kevin at 9:56 PM

Image: Hostage to Chinese

I've come across a new crop of anti-WM photos and pics. Here's the first:

wm_hostage.jpg
Posted by Kevin at 9:49 PM

WM Enters and Big Grocers Cut Prices

This is how WM benefits the everyman:

Giant Eagle Inc. will cut prices on about 3,000 brand-name items to keep pace with competition from Wal-Mart, the supermarket chain announced.

The average 7 percent discount should save customers about $35 million a year, said officials with Giant Eagle, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of O'Hara Township. The company has 221 stores in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but an average seven percent price reduction is a tremendous markdown for a grocer.

Posted by Kevin at 2:46 PM

WM Health Insurance in WI

The Shawano Leader has dome useful statistics about WM's legal use of Wisconsin state programs to make sure that its employees have health coverage:

The total enrollment of Wal-Mart employees and relatives in BadgerCare is 1,175 adults and 638 children. Additionally, another 1,952 children of Wal-Mart employees are insured under Medicaid.

The state of Wisconsin is providing health insurance for 3,765 people who are Wal-Mart employees or the spouses and children of Wal-Mart employees, according to Jim Malone, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Family Services.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has 25,861 employees in Wisconsin who earn an average of $10.36 per hour, said Sarah Clark, a spokeswoman at the company's Arkansas headquarters. Fifty-three percent of company employees in Wisconsin have insurance coverage through Wal-Mart, she said.

Posted by Kevin at 2:42 PM

November 4, 2004

WM "Planting the Staff of Globalization" in Teotihuacan

The controversy noted earlier over WM opening "near" (1 mile away from) the pyramids has been resolved. WM has opened:

TEOTIHUACAN, Mexico (Reuters) - Bargain-hungry shoppers flocked to a new Wal-Mart-owned store half a mile from ancient Mexican pyramids on Thursday, ending a bitter fight by opponents who said U.S.-style consumerism would mar the ruins.

Around 200 shoppers, some flashing victory signs, stormed into the sprawling Bodega Aurrera in Teotihuacan, the site of major archeological ruins outside Mexico City. Many had lined up with shopping carts for hours while last-minute glitches in the cashier system were repaired.

"This is progress," said shopper Jesus Cabrera, who like many neighbors welcomed the store for the low prices and jobs it brings. "People need the well-being of their families more than they need culture."

Less than a mile away, a handful of local opponents kept a lonely vigil outside the tourist park housing the 2,000-year-old Teotihuacan pyramids, pledging to continue a protest that has drawn international attention and prompted a national debate.

"It's like planting the staff of globalization in the heart of ancient Mexico," said Homero Aridjis, a writer and environmentalist who led a national drive to block the store. "It is supremely symbolic."

See also the BBC report with great pic.

Posted by Kevin at 8:32 PM

November 3, 2004

Proposition 72 Barely Defeated

prop72.jpgThe California referendum that would have required large businesses to offer and pay for a large share of a wide range of health care coverage for employees has been defeated by a margin of 50.9% to 49.1%, a difference of 160,000 votes. Arnold got his way.

The California Restaurant Association fought hard against the measure, claiming it would force many restaurants to shut down. The restaurant lobby was joined by other business groups.

On Wednesday, the California Chamber of Commerce applauded the defeat of Proposition 72.

"This healthcare scheme would have cost at least $7 billion the first year alone -- and driven jobs out of California because employers would have had no choice but to shut their doors or move operations out of state because of this scheme," said California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg.

Wal-Mart responds to the defeat:
Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) issued the following statement on the defeat of Proposition 72 in California:

"Like the rest of the business community, we are pleased voters rejected
Prop. 72," Wal-Mart spokesperson Cynthia Lin said. "As one of California's
leading employers, we care about the health of our 60,000 employees here.
That's why we provide our employees with affordable, quality health care
coverage. We certainly support the goal of affordable health care for all
Californians. But as businesses, school districts, the Governor and even most
of the major newspapers in California have pointed out, Prop. 72 was not the
right approach."

Lin continued, "Prop. 72 was never about Wal-Mart. It was about allowing businesses to operate without unreasonable government mandates, it was about the survival of small businesses, and it was about consumer choice in health care benefits. California voters agreed, rejecting what would have been an extremely expensive, government-mandated health care plan."

Posted by Kevin at 8:59 PM

WM on South Park

Allison Harnack sends word that tonight's South Park episode will feature WM:

You or your readers may be interested in the SP episode that is due to be aired tonight. The synopsis is as follows:

(Courtesy Mrtwig.net)

The streets of South Park are like a ghost-town when a giant Wall-Mart lures all the townspeople to the new store with its incredible bargains. Cartman becomes a boy possessed by the power of Wall-Mart and its low, low prices. In order to save their town, Stan and Kyle have to find a way to destroy the ever-expanding superstore while keeping Cartman from stabbing them in the back.

Posted by Kevin at 7:53 PM

No WM in Windsor, CO

As reported here in June, Windsor, CO was hotly debating WM Supercenter. Well, a meeting was held, and the town board has rejected it:

Windsor's Town Board on Monday rejected a rezoning plan that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a 186,000-square-foot supercenter just west of King Soopers and Safeway stores.
After an emotional public hearing that included comments from 61 people in three hours, the board rejected the hotly contested proposal by a vote of 4-3.

About three-fourths of the citizens who spoke at the hearing opposed the rezoning, citing traffic and low wages as issues. Many voiced safety concerns because of the proposed store's close proximity to a local elementary school.

Others worried that Wal-Mart would put local merchants out of business, drive away local grocers and create low-paying jobs with few benefits.

"Wal-Mart is not a good company," said Sara Hoff, an employee at the Windsor Safeway during the hearing. "It doesn't pay well, and it doesn't pay good benefits."

But not everyone opposed Wal-Mart.

"I'd rather put my kids in the car to drive a block away than to drive 13 miles to get a pair of shoes," said Bill Bray, a Windsor resident.

The 23-acre site, located north of Main Street between 16th and 17th streets, once was zoned as commercial property until a developer rezoned the property as residential property in 2002.

But with the recent addition of a Safeway and King Soopers to the town, Wal-Mart began to show interest in the fast-growing Windsor market.

Many people are just relieved the entire debate is over.
If you listen hard enough, you just might hear a collective sigh in the Windsor community.
After nine months of Wal-Mart talk in Main Street shops, yellow signs lining neighborhood streets and passionate public debates, a decision on whether the world�s largest retailer can build a supercenter west of town will come Monday night.

Of course, the unexpected is always possible. But Wal-Mart and Windsor town officials both say this time, they are ready for a decision to be made.

Thanks to Jim Tayler for the heads up.

Posted by Kevin at 5:34 AM

November 1, 2004

WM is Bigger than...

Today's "WM is bigger than your country" reference, at Mahalanobis.

(Btw, Mahalanobis was a very famous statistician).

Posted by Kevin at 4:31 PM

WM and National Politics

A few interesting tidbits:

More than two-thirds of its stores are in states that voted for Bush in 2000 and the "Wal-Mart" effect clearly leans in favor of the Republicans.

Like some other firms, the company has a political action committee (PAC) to collect donations from employees for campaign contributions.

Wal-Mart's committee was the second most important business PAC in the United States, with nearly 1.5 billion dollars in contributions, about 80 percent of which went to Republicans, according to the independent group Political Money Line.

Wal-Mart has much to gain by supporting candidates who would seek to extend free trade deals with countries like China, a major supplier for the low-cost chain.

Posted by Kevin at 3:53 PM

Competing with WM?

An article that seeks to demonstate that competition is a discovery process actually demonstrates that you must always read the byline:

Donny Lowy, who runs, www.closeoutexplosion.com, a wholesale and closeout business, has been able to see how retailers who take this approach are able to hold on to more of their customers even when they do not offer the lowest prices as compared to other retailers.

�One method for building a one on one relationship with your customers is by having a database of your customers which includes their contact information, buying patterns, and selection preferences. By using this method you can also contact your customers when you have a new selection that matches their needs.�

With the landscape becoming very competitive in some local markets, retailers have also been choosing to join the ranks of eBay members who make a living selling on the online auction site.

�eBay is a great way to reach millions of customers who might live in an area in which either a retailers items are not as available, or in an area for which there is a higher demand for those items altogether.� Donny added.

You can also stay competitive by locating closeouts, liquidations, overstock, and surplus through online search engines such as www.wholesalequest.com. By adding off price merchandise into your inventory you will be able to work on a higher profit margin while offering your customers prices that they will not be able to find, even in a competitive retailer like Wal-Mart.

But note who is writing this:
Donny Lowy is the author of seven books including Secrets of eBay and The Truth about eBay.

He also owns and manages www.closeoutexplosion.com and www.wholesalequest.com

No self-interest here.

Posted by Kevin at 3:43 PM