January 17, 2005

H. Lee Scott in New York

When the CEO and CFO of Wal-Mart decide to offer interviews in New York, big media decided it would give away free adverts to the pro-WM side:

For an executive who rarely talks with the media, it was a hectic 24 hours. After granting interviews to USA Today and the Associated Press, H. Lee Scott Jr., Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s generally low-profile chief executive, sat down for on-camera interviews yesterday with ABC, CNN, Fox and CNBC.

Anyone who somehow missed the TV blitz could have opened one of 100 newspapers across the country, from the Wall Street Journal to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and read a full-page advertisement bearing his signature. Or they could have visited a new Web site, www.walmartfacts.com, to read yet another statement from Scott.

I saw several of these interviews, and was dutifully unimpressed; Mr. Scott comes off to me as quiet, solid, competent, and completely toothless--which is the image he wanted.

News Hounds notes that Fox gave an extraordinary amount of time--commercial-free:

The company has been accused of such things as discrimination, human rights violations, paying miserably low wages, destroying local environments, locking employees inside its stores, invading residential neighborhoods, creating traffic congestion, noise and light pollution, contributing to urban sprawl, and censoring the books, DVDs and videos it sells.

None of that mattered until Walmart was surprised by lower than expected 2004 holiday sales numbers. Now it's hitting the road, trying to convince the public that it cares.

Fox News was happy to lend a hand on Thursday (January 13, 2005) by giving the first 13 commercial-free minutes of Your World w/Neil Cavuto to Walmart's CEO, Lee Scott....

Nonetheless, I was touched to see these two corporations working together.

Here's a partial transcript of the Cavuto interview. And here's full video of Scott on CNBC (warning, requires IE with Flash).

Also of note is a Q and A with H. Lee Scott. I think he's best here:

Q: Why do you attribute the frustration to associates?

A: They know the wage they make. They know they're full time or, if not, working the hours they want to work. They know they have health insurance. They know they have discounts. They know they have 401(k)s, profit sharing.

If anything, the negative press and the criticism take away the opportunity to feel as good as you can feel about your employment.

Yes, with 1.2 milion Americans employed by the company, it's truly shocking how few of them are vocal against the company. But he's not glossing over the difficulties a new WM can bring to a "town":
But Scott said he does not dismiss concerns that people express when Wal-Mart wants to open a new store.

"I think there's lots of questions when Wal-Mart comes to a town that need to be answered. Not all of those questions are frivolous," he said.

Scott said he planned meetings with a variety of groups not associated with government to help explain Wal-Mart's employment practices, environment-related policies and how it deals with its suppliers. He would not name the organizations, saying did not want the groups to feel they were being used to garner media attention.

Personally, I think Mr. Scott is being had by organizations he has no chance of swaying; do the union sharks smell blood?

Posted by Kevin on January, 17 2005 at 11:37 AM