April 29, 2005

That's Where I'd Look

I emailed Sam's Club from my alwayslowprices.net account to find out where online I could find more details about their "Small Business Confidence Index".

Here is my email:

According to your recent press release "The SAM'S CLUB Small Business Confidence Index will be released monthly to the media, and also will be available for viewing at http://www.samsclub.com"

However, I cannot find the Small Business Confidence Index on samsclub.com.

Could you provide me with a link?

Here is Sam's response -- I kid you not:

Dear Jeff,

We apologize for the inconvenience. We are unable to provide you with a link to the Small Business Confidence Index, but it is located on our home page at www.samsclub.com. The link is located on the left-hand side under "Order Your Tires Online." Thank you, and have a great day!

Patrick

Of course, "Order Your Tires Online" is on the right-hand side of the page, and the Small Business Confidence Index is immediately below it, and if I ever change my name to Jeff, I'll find it even more useful...

Posted by Kevin at 8:37 PM

Talking to Small Towns

wmw_ad.gifWal-Mart Watch has taken out blogads in some econoblogs, and are now on their second ad.

Their first advertisement noted that 70% of WM's products are made in China, and as recently as 11 years ago, Wal-Mart still focused on "Made in America" in company literature. 11 years ago! I was 16 at the time, and don't even remember those advertisements that were airing before then, but some people do. That ad ignored the fact that the 70% figure drops considerably if you add in produce, and pretends that Wal-Mart still presents itself as an all-American company. I don't think it does, and WMW has not made a case that is at all convincing to me. And if you were to go into any WM in the DC region, I doubt you would get that feeling at all...

Anyway, the latest ad (at left) starts by informing us that WMW has instilled fear into the heart of Wal-Mart. No evidence -- such as actual internal memos or emails, extensive corporate mobilization, or a renewed PR campaign -- is given on WMW to back up this claim.

The main graphic is a pretend email from the Chairman to the CEO telling the latter to do something because "customers are asking questions" -- apparently more serious questions than where they can find the toaster on deep rollback.

But the main text is criticaly important; it says that WMW is trying to bring attention to the towns Wal-Mart has allegedly "destroyed". I've been waiting for them to do this. Everybody talks about the destruction of towns, but nobody photographs them.

In the comments to their first post, I challenged WMW to name the actual towns Wal-Mart has allegedy destroyed, and post before and after photos. I hope they will try, but honestly, I do not think that they will follow through. Naming them would permit an honest analysis of the actual impact the arrival of Wal-Mart stores has had on small towns, and WMW is not about "educating" on all sides of the issue.

Posted by Kevin at 9:57 AM

April 28, 2005

Wal-Mart: What�s a Bargain Worth?

In a column published in the very first (print) edition of Vermont Commons and, which was recently posted to its blog, Ripton writer Bill McKibben ponders the following question: Wal-Mart: What�s a Bargain Worth?

Posted by Morgan at 2:18 PM

Whistleblower Demands Respect

As previously reported on ALP, former WM VP Jared Bowen wants to make sure that WM did not violate federal law when it fired him:

Bowen spent 13 years at Wal-Mart, rising from store cashier to v.p. of operations before the company fired him March 30, 2005, according to a statement released yesterday by Bowen's attorney, Steve Kardell of Clouse Dunn Hirsch in Dallas. The termination came after Bowen reported some questionable expenses incurred by his immediate superior, former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin, the statement added.

Bowen believes he was the first person at Wal-Mart ever to openly question the Coughlin expenses, even though he said they went on for several years.

If Mr. Bowen knew about the transactions for years, and only came forward after some time, I'm not sure he's in a protected status. Here's more...

Posted by Kevin at 7:23 AM

April 27, 2005

More on Boycotting

The Boycott Wal-Mart for Mothers' Day campaign seems entirely humorless to me, so I thought I'd add my own images to liven things up:

mom_sj.gif

and


Boycotting WM.gif

Feel free to take, repost, modify, and of course mock at whim.

Posted by Kevin at 3:21 PM

Welcome Wal-Mart Readers

I just want to welcome all our readers from walmart.com. One of you just stopped by and looked at a few entries.

Question: Does it even remotely look to you like I am "competing" with Wal-Mart or violating its trademark? If not, then please try to stop your company from shutting ALP down.

Thanks!

Posted by Kevin at 3:07 PM

Love Mom. Now, What's This About Wal-Mart?

Via WUWM blog we find that some Democratic members of Congress allied with WUWM are calling for a mothers' day Wal-Mart boycott:

Rep. George Miller of California, a fervent Wal-Mart critic, said, "None of us here wants to see Wal-Mart fail as a company. On the contrary, what we want to see is Wal-Mart succeed responsibly � with employees who are fairly compensated, without accelerating the flow of U.S. jobs overseas, and with a respect for the law and workers."

Added beauty-queen Sapp, "They have intelligent, passionate women who want to succeed ... but what they�re saying is [that the women] are not good enough, smart enough or worthy to demand that wage."

If Mr. Miller succeeds in directing corporate policy the way he wants, then he will see WM fail. And Ms. Sapp is just making things up about Wal-Mart.

It's interesting to see how the press conference is spun by local media. For instance, in New Haven, CT, the main driver is claimed to be the local representative, Rosa Delauro:

New Haven Rep. Rosa DeLauro is targeting retail giant Wal-Mart.

DeLauro is asking people to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart for Mother's Day gifts this year. It's part of her effort to get support for a federal lawsuit that accuses the nation's largest retailer of discriminating against women.

If the suit is in the courts, and should be decided by the merits of the case, not public opinion, then why exactly does she need to get support?

Some more pertinent information:


Other members of Congress joining the campaign were Linda Sanchez and Hilda Solis of California and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson and former Miss America Carolyn Sapp also backed the effort.

"For the most part boycotts rarely are very effective," said Chris McCormick, a portfolio manager at Seizert Capital in Birmingham, Mich., which manages more than $700 million, including Wal-Mart shares. "I'm not sure campaigns against them (Wal-Mart stores) have had any material effect in slowing their growth."

Strangely enough, I couldn't find any information on the websites of the female representatives, but I could right away on George Miller's website. Is this evidence of discrimination against female members of the house :-) ? George Miller's press release, from which all the news articles are taken almost in whole, is worth a read, even if to notice that Mr. Miller completely ignores the not-insignificant steps Wal-Mart has taken to ensure "fairer" pay.

Posted by Kevin at 12:39 PM

April 26, 2005

Cross-Shopping

BIGresearch produces the Small Business Confidence Index for Wal-Mart. They also produced a ccomparison of Wal-Mart shoppers and other store shoppers. They found that WM has quite a bit to gain from nibbling on competitors' markets:

Percent of best customers shared with Wal-Mart

Shoes: Payless 71%

Electronics: Best Buy 62%

Linens & Bedding: Bed, Bath & Beyond 54%

Home Improvement: Home Depot 64%

Prescriptions: Walgreens 71%

Groceries: Kroger 65%


Look at those last three, and say uh-oh!

The full report is $249, so I haven't read it. Keep updated about BIGresearch on their blog.

Posted by Kevin at 3:34 PM

April 25, 2005

WalMart Watch Fudges the Numbers

Apparently, WalMart Watch just can't help but use numbers in a misleading way:

Meanwhile, Chinese workers are getting paid on average 17 cents per hour.
Note that the link is in the original. Following it leads to a document that contains a table with a source statement. I found and read the source, and it doesn't support 17 cent claim.

I added in the comments:

That 17 cent an hour figure is NOT AN AVERAGE.

It is the figure from ONE factory of bobblehead dolls, in which, according to a summary prepared by your own labor-allied source, (the writers of the Toys of Misery 2004 report) "Wages are as low as 16.5 cents an hour and just $16.75 for a seven-day, over-100-hour work week."

Please be honest with the data, and please be honest with your readers. Start by admitting that you misrepresented the data from your sources, and then take down the faulty "average" right now.

Posted by Kevin at 4:11 PM

WM uses DMCA against Parody

Daniel Papasian registered this Wal-Mart Foundation parody, and now Wal-Mart is using the DMCA against him. I have great sympathy for those who want to keep corporate power in check, and Wal-Mart has plenty of it, but I find Daniel's defense of his website to be mostly over the top:

They didn't even bother to contact me to ask that anything be removed from my site. They're not worried because my page has a similar layout or design. They're worried because my ideas are a threat to them. They're threatened by my belief that big corporations like Wal-Mart have too much influence on the world.
Preposterous! I generally support WM (and other big businesses), and they sent me something worse in tone and intent! Trademark attorneys do business the old fashioned way; they demand your surrender!

How would Daniel have liked for Wal-Mart to have contacted him? He used false information when registering his website, as can be seen on his WHOIS record; why should Wal-Mart's attorneys search for him and contact him in a friendly manner asking for anything?

Daniel's ideas are so damn common that Wal-Mart can't avoid them among its own employees! I find it distasteful that he is using the lawsuit as an activist front, when 1) he knew WM would come after him, and 2) he knows the real reason that Wal-Mart is going after him have nothing to do with his lefty opinion and everything to do with protecting intellectual property. If Daniel had also registered walmart--foundation.org and put on it overwheliming praise of WM's work, they would have sought to shut that down too.

Posted by Kevin at 3:35 PM

Small Business Confidence Index

Sam's Club is getting into the macroeconomic data business with a small business confidence index:

Sam's Club, the warehouse store division of the world's largest retailer, surveyed 1,200 small business owners about the economy, their hiring plans and other issues. The retailer said it will release its new Small Business Confidence Index monthly.

Wal-Mart's (Research) Sam's Club targets small business owners and has gathered data from them for some time, but until now it has never publicly released such information.

The retailer said small business owners have more confidence in the economy than consumers do, but just 45 percent of those surveyed said they were confident or very confident about the chances for a strong economy in the next six months. That was a drop of almost 7 percentage points from a year earlier, Sam's Club said.

Why would Wal-Mart create its own survey about small businesses? Because their slogan is that they are "in business for small business", and this is national small business week. But why not trust the survey conducted by say NFIB, which has a small business optimism index?

Here's the press release with summary tables. Some methodology detail:

Data for the Small Business Confidence Index is based upon analysis of 1,200 business purchasers, surveyed monthly by BIGresearch on critical issues affecting small businesses (Margin of error: plus or minus one percent).
There is no such thing as a simple "margin of error" for surveys that ask about people's beliefs and put them into very narrow buckets... but that is the practice nowadays.

I've suggested before that Wal-Mart publish a price index for its stores, perhaps on a regional basis; they must have one already for internal consumption. Economists could REALLY use this as a better benchmark for the actual prices that people have to pay...

Posted by Kevin at 2:10 PM

April 24, 2005

Barron's

There's an article mentioning Wal-Mart in Barron's(scroll down). I'll post the whole thing in the extended entry since its subscription only.

BACK WHEN WINTER was in full chill, we wrote a brief item on Wal-Mart. The gist of it was that the company, as a wise pal of ours put it, was "a great story topping out." The stock was changing hands at slightly above 51; Our friend, who's a chart fancier (but a very decent sort nonetheless) suggested that if it broke much below 50-51, roughly its then 18-month trough, it was in for trouble. Just how far down would it go?, we remember asking. And he smiled and shrugged. (Did we neglect to say our friend could be frustratingly enigmatic?)

He did point out that the company's formidable size and corporate reach could easily make the action of its stock a barometer for the consumer, the economy and the market. And in many ways, the shares, which have spent a lot of time recently in the 40s, have indeed been a barometer, particularly for the market.

Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer on the face of the planet, naturally came to mind as we were mulling the prospects of a consumer slowdown and the air seeping out of the credit bubble. The company already has been feeling a bit of pain, as the uninspiring performance of its stock intimates. Its customers, management often stresses, live paycheck to paycheck, and paychecks have been somewhat paltry the past few years.

Moreover, its customers often are off in the boonies and driving is their only means of getting from where they are to where they have to go, so they're highly sensitive to soaring gas prices. And the company is prone to cite those prices in shrugging off disappointing performance.

Wal-Mart has been growing, to be sure, but not at the brisk pace its many fans on the Street had grown accustomed to. What's more, there's reason to suspect that its trademark double-digit sales gains may be a thing of the past. And not just because towering fuel prices might be with us for longer than we like to think.

On this score, Jon Jacobs, who's the fixed-income maven at Cantor Fitzgerald and a shrewd scanner of the investment scene generally, offers some intriguing observations on what's in store for Wal-Mart. Jacobs holds that beyond the impact of gas prices, the company is vulnerable on several fronts to the possible further detriment of its sales, earnings and stock valuation.

More specifically, he zeroes in on four factors, three of them fundamental. Let's start with the one that isn't -- what the company calls "headline risk." As noted, Wal-Mart has been quite adept at attracting negative publicity, which management is actively striving to counter via ads and a PR blitz. Jacobs wonders, though, if investors sense that "after decades of successfully toughing it out against both labor unions and communities trying to restrict 'big-box' expansion" the company may be in for rougher going.

As he dryly notes, whether Wal-Mart "can continue employing the nuclear option against unionization at the same time it tries to burnish its image as a good corporate citizen is an open question."

Turning to his fundamental concerns, Jacobs raises questions as to how vigorously Wal-Mart can continue to grow, even apart from the so-called headline risks. How much can the company expand and how much more market share can it wrest away from the competition when it already boasts nearly half of total U.S. chain-store sales? "No one," he reflects, "can grow twice as fast as GDP forever."

Jacobs also worries that the increasing shift of Wal-Mart's overall sales mix toward groceries, a "notoriously low-margin business," will chip away at the company's overall profit margins.

Finally, he cites reservations that the "international growth story is not as rosy as Wal-Mart's past numbers and pronouncements indicate." A sizable chunk of international sales gains the past two years he traces to the favorable currency-translation impact of a falling U.S. dollar (which, for the moment, has stopped falling). Last fiscal year, the company reported foreign business, which chips in some 20% of the whole, rose a rousing 18.3%. However, strip away the benign effect of a devaluing dollar and the rise shrinks to 11.6%, or not much different from the gain in total corporate sales.

All of which explains why Wal-Mart shares have been trending lower for quite a spell now and why earlier this month they sagged below $50 for the first time in two years and touched a new low last Friday. (The P/E, we calculate, is around 17). Since none of these drags is apt to vanish any time soon, Jacobs reasonably anticipates they'll continue to weigh on the stock.

Posted by Bob at 7:10 PM

ATMs in Wal-Mart

Here's the very short and long-dead blog of an armored guard who serviced ATMs in Wal-Mart and lived to tell about it. One describes a woman who, wanting a closer look at all the money stuffed into his canvas bag, flips open the cover:


I grab the bag and look at her. "Excuse you!"
"I just wanted to see!"
"It isn't your's to see, ma'am, please do not touch my things!"
"I have a right as a customer of Wal-Mart..."
"And as a non employee of Wal-Mart I have the right to phone the cops if you dare touch that bag again. Lady, what would you do if I went through your purse to see how much cash was in your wallet?"
"I'd call the police!"
"Bingo."

People have nerve.

Posted by Kevin at 7:53 AM

94 days at Wal-Mart

Here's a blog that ended last December. The Wal-Mart Blog was supposed to recount one man's experiences working there, but all of a sudden, he seems to have vanished... but we have his recollections of his first 94 days.

Day one described the application process and aptitude test:


They don't have you fill anything out (lucky for me), instead, I sat down at a touch-screen kiosk and typed all the important stuff. References, previous employers, work experience....But then they had this sort of aptitude test, where I answered certain questions about my views on management/employee relationships, past work problems, and a bunch of ethical questions about workplace theft and drug use. Not if I had been involved in these sorts of things, but hypothetical questions about how I (or sometimes management) would/should react if employees were stealing, or if someone came to work "just a little bit high" (their wording). It was weird. I'm guessing maybe they've had problems with this in the past, and they try to root out potential "bad seeds" before the interview process?

Posted by Kevin at 7:46 AM

Billboard Pic

The Wake-Up Wal-Mart blog has a pic of the billboard that Clear Channel refused to run in NYC. I actually find it annoying to read the text on the left, and far less professional overall that I had imagined.

Posted by Kevin at 7:34 AM

Yet Another Anti-WM Blog

Wal-Mart really sucks has been restating the Litany of charges agaist Wal-Mart since April 9. If they keep posting, I'll add them to the sidebar, even though you probably know exactly what's posted there.

Oddly, the blog is alleged to be owned by a fake "small manufacturing company" of assembly-required pressure washers headquartered in an abandoned building in Oklahoma City?!?.

Nice spoof, but why???

Posted by Kevin at 7:23 AM

Bargains at walmart.com

Here's a "blog", a subsidiary of More Stuff 4 Less, devoted to deals and bargains on walmart.com. Once you get there, it's obviously a site devoted to money-making.

Posted by Kevin at 7:09 AM

April 22, 2005

The Plot Thickens

Although the article is not yet available online, today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is reporting that Jared Bowen, one of those fired in connection with the Tom Coughlin matter, will petition Wal-Mart's board of directors to reconsider his termination. Bowen and his attorney appear to be claiming whistleblower status.

Other tidbits in the article:

Bowen claims to have given Coughlin $5,100 in gift cards which Coughlin claimed would be given to "all-star" managers at the shareholder's meeting. However, Coughlin did not want the awarding of these cards to be put on the meeting agenda and said he'd mail them out himself.

Bowen is cooperating with the FBI investigation of the matter and quotes an unnamed agent as saying, "the investigation is growing tentacles every day".

Links will be provided when available. Here's the link.

Disclosure: I knew Jared from working on a few projects with him. I hadn't heard that he'd been promoted to VP, but I am not surprised. He could definitely get things done.

Posted by Angus at 6:13 AM

April 21, 2005

IBD: WM Shouldn't Have Bothered

This editorial from Investor's Business Daily, while defending Wal-Mart, makes the more important point that Wal-Mart shouldn't have bothered with its 2-day media event:

Outside a clear-eyed editorial in Monday's USA Today, Wal-Mart has gotten little from its media junket. And even that positive press was offset by a USA Today op-ed article by United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen; he portrayed the company as a vicious monster in need of shackles.

The grievance list against Wal-Mart fits neatly into any 500-word newspaper story or two-minute TV report: It pays low wages, offers lousy health-care benefits, forces its people into public assistance, resists unionization, and so on.

We weren't invited to Bentonville, Ark., for the media event, so we can set the record straight without feeling bought....

Wal-Mart is big and successful. We doubt it will find friends or defenders in the media it has courted � or among the activist groups that have vilified it. It'll just have to be satisfied doing what it does: selling people goods they want at prices they can afford. You know, what businesses are supposed to do.

It also reminds people that Wal-Mart has a right not to have unions...

Posted by Kevin at 6:48 AM

WM and Google

Adam Penenberg compares Wal-Mart to Google:

Key moment in company's history:

� Wal-Mart: 1988, when it opened up its first Supercenter in Washington, Missouri, thereby giving new meaning to the term "one-stop shopping."

� Google: 2000, when, following Yahoo's lead, it began selling advertisements based on keywords, giving new emphasis to the term "relevancy."

In-house technology:

� Wal-Mart: Developed information technology (it operates the nation's largest private satellite communication system) and perfected the use of the bar code to speed up the supply chain so that both Wal-Mart and the vendor know exactly how many blenders, brooms and baseball gloves they have sold, and how many need to be delivered to specific stores.

� Google: Developed algorithms to rank web pages by link popularity so that searches are not only fast, but also yield the most useful results.

Posted by Kevin at 6:04 AM

April 20, 2005

Ancient Remains

It seems a new Kentucky Wal-Mart will be replacing some long-time squatters:

Bone fragments were unearthed last week during an archaeological survey of a 55-acre site near Interstate 65 and Outer Loop slated for a Wal-Mart, restaurants and condominiums. Spear tips and burned rock were found several years earlier at the site, officials said.

The remains, accompanied by trash pits, charcoal, carbonized seeds and tools, suggest a camp used by nomadic hunters who might have gathered medicinal herbs and food in the wetland area around 3000 B.C., said David Pollack, a Kentucky Heritage Council archaeologist and site-protection manager.

Posted by Kevin at 9:00 PM

Teflon Target

I'm glad people will be noticing that Target's compensation policies are little different from Wal-Mart's:

Finally, Wal-Mart's critics lambaste the retailer's pay and health benefits policies, alleging that the retailer doesn't adequately pay or provide medical coverage for its non-managerial employees.

Oddly, these same critics confess that they can't prove Target's wage and benefits are significantly better. And Wal-Mart maintains that its wage and benefits are comparable to Target.

"We think that Target and Wal-Mart are both guilty of wage suppression," said Bernie Hess, the union organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 789 chapter in St. Paul, Minn....

The St. Paul union office estimates that Target's hourly employees typically make around $6.75 to $7.25 and that less than half the company's workers are covered by its health insurance plan.

Target's defense is the same as Wal-Mart's -- "We regularly complete wage surveys in all of our markets to ensure that we pay competitive wages."

I haven't seen any reporter try to explain that there's a fundamental difference in the way that Wal-Mart & Target figure out appropriate wages versus the way that unions determine appropriate wages. WM and T figure they're paying enough when enough people of the required quality can be found to work at the store. Unions figure that workers deserve X amount based on some a multitude of considerations, none of which equates supply and demand.

Posted by Kevin at 8:23 PM

What Percent of Hourly Associates Work Full-Time? (UPDATED)

Wal-Mart used to list as a fact the figure that, at one recent point, 74% of WM hourly associates worked full time. All of a sudden, this number has disappeared from several places on the "Do You Know" section of walmartfacts.com. However, "currently 74 percent of Wal-Mart�s hourly store associates in the United States work full-time" still appears on the careers section. (UPDATE: The page has been modified, and now reads " the majority of Wal-Mart�s hourly store associates in the United States work full-time"; below is a screenshot I took this morning when I initially posted, just in case WM changed its information).


WM Careers with 74 percent.gif

Click to Enlarge

I have relied on the 74% figure in the past, but I will not anymore. And I do not like the implications of this silent change. Now, a figure like this is bound to change over time, especially as temporary hiring occurs during the shopping season, but instead of 74%, or a range over the past few years, Wal-Mart now writes that "The majority of Wal-Mart's hourly store associates in the U.S. work full-time". That could be a considerable difference, or it could just be bad phrasing, and I'm surprised the anti-WM folks aren't up in arms -- yet.

Posted by Kevin at 6:46 AM

RFID

Here's an interesting little tidbit about the University of Arkansas studying Wal-Mart's deployment of RFID. From the RFID Journal:


Apr. 18, 2005�Research underway at Wal-Mart stores by the University of Arkansas may soon provide insight into how much impact RFID deployments may have in decreasing retail out-of-stocks.

"This is a major, major project across a large number of stores, for a long period, with data collected very frequently and across all products," says Bill Hardgrave, an associate professor and the executive director of the Information Technology Research Institute at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, not far from Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville. "By the midsummer we should have some preliminary insights," he says.

Reducing out-of-stocks�a problem that impacts retailers and their suppliers around the world at an estimated rate of around 8 percent of items�has long been touted as one of the key benefits and driving forces behind deploying RFID in the retail supply chain. But the claim has largely been theoretical because of the limited deployment of radio frequency identification, the multiple causes of out-of-stocks and the multiple reactions that consumers have when a product they are looking to buy is unavailable.

"Reducing out-of-stocks or improving product availability is probably the single biggest area of potential consumer benefit from the use of RFID EPC," says Milan Turk, the director of global customer e-business at Procter & Gamble, a founding member of the Auto-ID Center and a supplier to Wal-Mart. "We need to use pilot activity to understand and validate how it works and how big the benefit is."

Posted by Bob at 1:12 AM

April 19, 2005

"Libertarian" Paternalism and Wal-Mart

Pejman Yousefzadeh brings Wal-Mart into the libertarian paternalism debate:

Responding to "libertarian paternalism," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remarks that "[i]f you were to walk into a Wal-Mart and say to people, 'Don't you feel really depressed by having 258,000 options; shouldn't it be their obligation to reduce the choice you must endure?' They would think you were nuts." Well, yes, they probably would. But that inability of "libertarian paternalism" to pass the laugh or sanity test has apparently not dampened the enthusiasm of the paternalists themselves in pushing their bizarre theory in respectable academic and political circles. And the depressing thing is that one can probably expect even more of this "libertarian paternalism" to pervade our social and political discourse, as amazingly, we actually have to fight to continue to be able to have access to the many choices that are (for now, anyway) available to us in a Wal-Mart, in our 401(k) plans and in our jam-purchasing forays.
Wal-Mart does not restrict your choices to make it easier for you to choose, although it does restrict some violent or sexually-oriented material in its stores... to make it more pleasant for you to choose.

Posted by Kevin at 9:57 AM

Two Links

I'd like to point to two articles I haven't had time to read.

Wal-Mart: the $288 billion welfare queen

Watt to light up Wal-Mart private label:

And now, after a hiatus of almost two years -- during which he left his namesake firm and relinquished the prized Wal-Mart account -- he's back full force, ready to revamp the U.S. chain's Great Value house brand.

Posted by Kevin at 7:36 AM

Clear Channel Rejects Anti-WM Sign

Anti-WM forces claim that Clear Channel is censoring them by rejecting an inflammatory billboard:

The image planned for the anti-Wal-Mart billboard was unusual - a fire-breathing Godzilla standing next to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - and the language was strong: "The Wal-Monster will destroy Staten Island businesses and devastate our quality of life."
I personally think that Clear Channel should let them have this billboard, if only to show how out of line the anti-WM message is with most people's beliefs -- and reality.

I'm still waiting for people to actually give me the name and location of a community which has been destroyed or devastated by Wal-Mart.

Posted by Kevin at 7:31 AM

April 18, 2005

Gender Discrimination

Due to a glaring silence in the media, you may not know that the 13% unionized darling of the big-boxes, Costco, is being sued in an attempted class-action sex discrimination lawsuit:

The latest suit seeks class action status and could include as many as 650 former female Costco workers across America subjected to gender discrimination.

Fewer than one in six of Costco's senior store managers are women, yet the company's workforce is roughly 50 percent female, according to the suit.

Monetary damages were not specified, but attorneys said damages could reach into the millions.

"There is no clearer example of a glass ceiling than how Costco promotes workers into assistant manager and general manager positions," said Brad Seligman, executive director of The Impact Fund and the lead attorney on the case. "There is no promotion system at Costco. Women must rely on the subjective and arbitrary decisions of Costco's all-male senior management."

Seligman was lead counsel on the mother of all sex discrimination class actions against retail stores. The $107 million settlement he won from Lucky Stores Inc. in 1993 helped lay the foundation for The Impact Fund.

Northern District Chief Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who was the trial judge in the Lucky Stores litigation, was assigned Tuesday to the Costco case.

The same arguments made in Ellis vs. Costco Wholesale Corporation are currently being used against Wal-Mart in Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc..

In fact, both the Costco and Wal-Mart cases are spearheaded by the Impact Fund.

I'd just like to point out the almost incredible similarity between the Wal-Mart Class and CostCo Class websites. The women pictured in both websites are the same, and are, in fact, wearing the same clothing.

For a few months, I've been reading through the Wal-Mart filings, testimonies, a d reports, and in a month or so, I'll have many posts regarding the allegedly "expert" testimony, "scientific" methodologies, and legal maneuvers on both sides.

Posted by Kevin at 1:58 PM

Stakeholders in Unions

Russ Nelson argues briefly and amusingly that if business corporations are to give "stakeholders" decision-making authority, then union corporations should give non-union "stakeholders" the same form of authority over their activities:

Thus, I claim that I am a stakeholder of the Communications Workers of America (just to pick on one of them), and the next time they vote on a union contract, I get to vote on it too.

How about it UFCW, would you like the entire population of cities to vote on whether or not Wal-Mart should be unionized, or whether a union should be disbanded entirely? Would that not be more "democratic"?

Posted by Kevin at 1:31 PM

Chinese Dominance of Textiles: Winners and Losers

Wal-Mart eliminates jobs in the U.S. because of its ability to get suppliers to shift production to lower cost areas. On the one hand, the U.S. has handled this in a pretty robust way. U.S. consumers have benefited from higher real incomes, and displaced workers, while feeling economic pain, have mostly shifted successfully to other work that supplies the additional purchasing power of the domestic and international consumer.

On the other hand, many developing nations are not handling this at all well.

Ivan Janssens discusses in detail the winners and losers of free-trade in textiles. The losers are those in nations whose governments pretended that industry protection created a real comparative advantage :

The real losers are elsewhere. The real losers are the textile workers in developing countries like Egypt, Turkey, Mexico and the Philippines, Bangladesh, Jordan and many African states. They used the textile sector as a major development tool, pushed that way by preferential trade agreements that gave textiles produced in those countries preferential access to developed countries and which assured their share in the world market.

The result is that those countries were �locked-in� into a sector which turned out to be uncompetitive. And it probably led to a less diversified economy. If so then the ultimate cause for all their troubles will have to be found in the preferential trade agreements themselves and not so much in their abolishment.

Related to this is that U.S. trade policy especially as conducted under the Bush-administration could also be a major loser. In the past years the Bush-administration has chosen to follow the road of bilateral and preferential trade agreements as well, bypassing as much as possible multilateral options like that of the WTO. This could all be well come tumbling down

UPDATE: In a later post, Ivan suggests that China success is partly the result of engaging in open trade, not unfair trade. He also notes that China imports from even lower-wage countires and does NOT complain:

Note the fact that the growth of China�s imports is mostly the result of products coming from other East-Asian countries and from commodities (oil...) coming from Africa and Latin-America. As a result many countries in Africa have posted their best economic growth rates in decades. Those countries in Africa have even lower wages but China is not complaining. So why should we?

Posted by Kevin at 9:24 AM

St. Albans

The Los Angeles Times has an article on Wal-Mart moving into St. Albans, Vermont. It seems a little different in that the article talks about where to put it and not if:

ST. ALBANS, Vt. � In her hometown here on the shore of Lake Champlain, Erin Raymond pays $18 for a package of 30 diapers for her 2-year-old son. If she drives to the nearest Wal-Mart, about 45 minutes south, she can buy 110 diapers for $27.

The 23-year-old convenience store clerk is one of many enthusiastic supporters of plans to bring the big-box retailer to Vermont's fourth-largest city, where shopping options are limited.

But the project has brought loud opposition from residents who fear that the giant retailer will drive small merchants out of business and suck the economic vitality out of their historic downtown � especially if it goes on the site the developer is proposing.

These foes are joined by preservationists who worry that Vermont will lose its rural charm if vast retail outlets enter the state. The fight over building a Wal-Mart in St. Albans, about 15 miles south of the Canadian border, gained momentum last year when the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Vermont on its list of endangered sites. It was the first time an entire state had been given this status.

"This is sort of a wake-up call to Vermont," National Trust President Richard Moe said in Washington. "We're saying the character of their communities, and I think the character of the state as a whole, is at stake."

...

Preservationists say they are not trying to bar Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from expanding in the state. Rather, they say they want the company to open smaller stores that do not detract from Vermont's quaint image.

In St. Albans, the yearlong debate has centered less on whether to open a Wal-Mart than where to put it.

Posted by Bob at 2:31 AM

April 17, 2005

The Hartman Group

The Hartman Group has several interesting essays about Wal-Mart.

where wal-mart can't dance: changing the rules of the game

As soon as it comes into town, you can't win if you're going to play by the Wal-Mart rules. It's a formula of utility.

But if Wal-Mart scores high on the utility index, I'd bet its score on the emotional index is about as low as you can go. People go there because it's practical, not because they love to go there, in spite of what their ads may try to show. It's about as soulless a place as you can find on the national retail scene.

watching wal-mart

You see, it's not so much that consumers don't like Wal-Mart as much as it is just not a salient part of their everyday life. For many, if not most, a visit to Wal-Mart does little more than a visit to the gas station.

All of this raises the question, how can we collectively be so obsessed with a contemporary institution that appears only modestly relevant to our individual, everyday lives?

the retailer as brand

The retail promise may be a specific shopping attribute. So, the Wal-Mart brand promise is lowest prices everyday. The Target brand promise is good design at a low price. The Nordstrom brand promise is exceptional customer service. Each of these organizations have all successfully converted a physical store into a branded retail environment that meets the lifestyle needs of their shoppers on trust and value. These store environments provide a forum for interaction and community that further define the essence of the store brand and give it a personality. It is these elements of trust, value, interaction and personality that appeal to consumers and form a strong retail brand.

Would consumers be confused at all if Wal-Mart started saying they were "a brand you can trust"? Unlikely, as consumers probably think this already, it just hasn't been put into words. This is similar to the Whole Foods Market model, which communicates its brand every day: You (the consumer) don't need to know about all the manufacturer brands and ingredients that go into the products because we (WFM) have done the work for you. Just come into our stores and know that you can "trust" all of the products here because you can trust us (WFM).

Posted by Kevin at 2:27 PM

WM in Korea

A nice photo of the outside of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in South Korea, with conveyor belt.

Via WM Blows:

On a recent trip to the Busan/Pusan area of South Korea, I stumbled upon the biggest damn Wal-Mart I've ever seen. 4 or 5 stories tall, with each floor about half the size of your average "Supercenter". This thing was massive. It seemed very much like any U.S. Wal-Mart, except with Korean stuff, better electronics, and a small food court. A few more upscale differences included very wide aisles, and the availability of suits (decent quality, from what I could tell). A few American items were available, and the "Great Value" line of items was there, but in Korean.

Posted by Kevin at 11:46 AM

Paying for Healthcare

WUWM_QUIZ.gifReaders of ALP know the difference between health care (the actual medical treatment given to those who need it) and the financing and payment for that health care. Apparently, Wake-Up Wal-Mart doesn't. The image at left is from their front page, and it asks a strangely-phrased question:

How many of Wal-Mart's 1.2 million U.S. employees DO NOT get health care from Wal-Mart?
The correct answer is not given as an option. Obviously, as a retail store, outside of its pharmacy, optometrist, and small medical aids, WM does not provide healthcare to any of its employees. Wal-Mart is not a doctor's office or a hospital; it is a retail store. It's not in the business of providing healthcare.

WuWM is actually complaining that Wal-Mart doesn't pay for the healthcare of a lot of its "associates" (which it mistakenly equates with the sub-category of "sales clerks").

WuWM phrases the question this way partly to make the question short, and partly because it doesn't want to bring up the obvious question -- why should employers be involved in the financing of their employees' healthcare at all? Private employers don't pay for employees' housing, education, food or recreation, so why healthcare?

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

Gettin' Political

Mark Albright has a nice roundup if recent Wal-Mart events and views in The Ledger:

Perhaps the ultimate company town for the 21st century, Bentonville has lost its bucolic charm since Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart discount store in 1962. Today, the place looks more like any sprawling edgecity suburb lined by strip shopping centers and overcrowded roads.
Does Bentonville have a downtown or a Main Street?

Posted by Kevin at 9:36 AM

Competing with WM: Portsmouth, NH

The entry of Wal-Mart and other big box stores does NOT destroy downtowns, it reconfigures them. A good example is Portsmouth, New Hampshire's RiverRun Bookstore:

Independent-minded - One local bookstore owner is optimistic about the future. RiverRun Bookstore, in downtown Portsmouth, recently passed its third anniversary. Sales are strong, and owner Tom Holbrook believes the store will thrive into the next decade and beyond.

That is good news for Seacoast readers and is somewhat surprising in a business that often seems ruled by Amazon.com, big chain stores such as Barnes & Noble, and retailers that include BJs, Target and Wal-Mart.

Holbrook attributes RiverRun�s success to solid market research, which revealed that Portsmouth needed a bookstore.

"I knew that the reasons other stores had closed were not the usual ones," Holbrook says.

Stroudwater Books went under with its parent company Bookland of Maine. Little Professor closed when its owners decided to move on. Holbrook filled the vacuum with the type of store he feels the downtown needs.

The key is personalized service. More details and a photo here. Mr. Holbrook knows his niche:
And Holbrook adds, "If you know exactly what you want, it makes sense to order it online and have it sent to your door."

Posted by Kevin at 9:23 AM

April 16, 2005

Florida Canker-Voucher Mess

For once, all Wal-Mart bloggers agree!

It was at best mighty stupid of the Florida government to offer Wal-Mart vouchers as "payment" to citrus tree owners after it forcibly cut down their healthy trees outside of the 125ft radius of contamination. At worst, it was corrupt and mostly unnecessary.

Here is an excellent written timeline of the development of this "program" to eradicate canker (again), and the development of compensation schemes.

Now I understand the need to contain a wildly destructive plant disease, and I believe that just compensation can come via cash or suitable in-kind replacement, but giving a $100 "Florida Shade" voucher (paid for with Federal tax dollars) good for purchasing certain non-citrus tree items from Wal-Mart garden centers smacks of corruption and favortism.

I also understand the need for proper accounting and limiting fraud, but limiting purchases to select Wal-Mart items is just foolish--unless these items are sold at Wal-Mart's cost, which frankly, I doubt. It cannot be written into the law that these vouchers must be spent at Wal-Mart, but one assumes that is the way the law is written (just like big-box zoning laws that don't specifically mention WM, but are targeted at it).

Nobody has explained why "Wal-Mart-only" vouchers were offered in the first place. Why didn't Home Depot or KMart put up a fight to get these dollars? Initially, more stores were eligible, but neither KMart or Home Depot could guarantee that the vouchers would be used only for plants! In other words, a seemingly sensible restriction has been used to favor a single business -- imagine that!

Some people are content to blame Republicans for this mess, but I would blame it on the outright ineptness of both the permanent non-appointed members of Agriculture bureaucracy itself AND the appointees of both parties.

There is no solid evidence of political chicanery, even with the high levels of donations by Wal-Mart stockholders. However, $52 million in WM vouchers has already been doled out, which is not chump change.

But since contractors are getting ~$70 a pop to cut the trees down, I'd suggest this welfare program is targeted to smaller fry as well as the big boys.

The anti-canker cutting program started in 1995, when Democrat Lawton Chiles was governor. It's bad enough that a Democrat starting taking private property away without any thought of compensation, but then the legislature enacts a program to compensate pitifully in-kind. The "Florida Shade" Wal-Mart voucher program was enacted in August of 1998, although details weren't sorted out until a year later, under Republican control. Mr. Bush was elected in November of 1998, so he is partly to blame for the compensation mess.

But exactly how is Mr. Bush totally to blame for this?

Mr. Bush should not be the prime target in this scandal; the entire political establishment of Florida should be given a thorough drubbing by the newspapers and the electorate.


Via The Box Tank and JR

Posted by Kevin at 2:21 PM

April 15, 2005

WM Supporting the Little Guy?

Of course this is a press release, but looking behind the hype shows how the sheer breadth of Wal-Mart should make it be able to counter entrenched media distribution networks:

In the spirit of supporting the little guy, Wal-Mart has struck a deal with independent film distributor Excel Entertainment Group on DVD distribution rights for the award-winning film "Saints and Soldiers."

In a deal unprecedented in the industry, Wal-Mart gained exclusive big box rights for national distribution which includes key retailing space and heavy in-store advertising. "The partnership we have with Wal-Mart is very, very exciting," says Randy Davis, VP Motion Picture Distribution for Excel Entertainment Group. "With all the risk that independent filmmakers take in producing a movie and taking it to the mainstream, it�s great to see such a retail giant stand behind the little guy."

There's an alleged "Mormon message" in Saints and Soldiers.

Posted by Kevin at 3:46 PM

"Just Wanted the Things"

This just boggles the mind:

A 45-year-old Brownwood man told a police officer why he tried to steal $748 worth of merchandise -- including beer, soft drinks, binoculars and clothes -- from Wal-Mart Wednesday.

The man hadn't had a paycheck in several weeks, and he "just wanted the things" he is accused of putting in a cart and wheeling out the door...

The man told Bastardo he figured since it was his first time to steal, he would get a citation and be sent home.

In other words, Gary Becker is right, criminals do respond rationally to expected punishments. Sometimes, expectations are off...

Posted by Kevin at 3:39 PM

VOA on WM

The Voice of America's Mandarin service had a report about the history and controversy over Wal-Mart, which it put into a multi-part English series online (1, 2, 3) With audio in mp3 and realyplayer format.

Posted by Kevin at 3:35 PM

Swooshless Nike Selling at WM

Nike is going after WM shoppers:

VANCOUVER, Wash. � After long arguing that its brand would be devalued if it sold in discount chains, Nike Inc. has made it to Wal-Mart Stores. But you won't find its trademark swoosh anywhere.

Customers at over 400 Wal-Mart stores nationwide can buy a pair of $37.64 Starter sneakers engineered by Nike and introduced last month. The world's largest maker of athletic apparel bought the Starter brand last year with the specific aim of entering the value end of the retail business....

The Nike-engineered Starter sneakers, which sport a sleeker design, sell for nearly $40 � far below the $110 tag for a top-of-the-line Nike shoe. But at nearly twice the cost of the sneakers just down the aisle, the new Starter shoe is scraping the ceiling of what many penny-pinching customers are willing to pay

Posted by Kevin at 11:02 AM

Tesco Outlook 2005

An interesting look at the big players in the UK grocery market for 2005. The skinny. Wal-Mart/Asda is #2, and is likely to stay that way:

Tesco appears to be on an unstoppable march towards victory in the battle of the supermarkets. This week it announced profits of overmore than �2bn for last year � a record for a UK retailer.

The chain�s share price has responded in kind, up 26 per cent since March 2004, outperforming both its sector and the FTSE All-Share. Most analysts had a buy recommendation on the stock a year ago, and continue to do so now. But when the consensus is so overwhelmingly bullish, should investors be wary?

Tesco appears at times to do everything right. Whereas competitors like J Sainsbury or Wm Morrison (which bought Safeway in March 2004) are struggling, Tesco, with a nearly 30 per cent share of the domestic supermarket grocery sector, just goes from strength to strength.

I'll try to do more international blogging in the future.

Posted by Kevin at 9:44 AM

April 14, 2005

Woodland Park WM Gets Go-Ahead

The controversy described earlier has been resolved -- NOT:

IT TOOK 17 HOURS, BUT THE WOODLAND PARK CITY COUNCIL FINALLY GAVE WAL-MART APPROVAL TO BUILD A STORE IN THE CITY.

NOW A CITIZEN'S GROUP OPPOSED TO THE SUPER-CENTER SAYS NOT SO FAST.

CITIZEN'S FOR RESPONSIBLE GROWTH IS ALREADY STARTING TO GATHER SIGNATURES TO OVERTURN THE COUNCIL'S DECISION.

(Caps in original). There will still be a moratorium referendum, and now perhaps another vote on this particular decision.

Posted by Kevin at 9:24 PM

Mississippi Strawberries

Wal-Mart's infamous international distribution system can handle local produce too:

A Pine Belt produce farm is teaming up with Wal-Mart to promote Mississippi strawberries.

Commissioner of Agriculture Lester Spell launched the event Thursday along with representatives from Wal-Mart and Eubanks Produce Farm.

It is the first large-scale promotion for Mississippi-grown strawberries in Wal-Mart stores. The product, labeled "Make Mine Mississippi," will be showcased as customers enter the stores.

Posted by Kevin at 9:20 PM

Nation vs. Economist Debate

Via Laborstart, we find out that Freespeech.org has posted a video of the Wal-Mart debate (and part II) between The Economist and The Nation, reported earlier here. It's good quality RealPlayer video.

I see that The Box Tank beat me to it.

Posted by Kevin at 2:36 PM

April 13, 2005

Damn Their Low Prices!

In my opinion, choosing low prices is not is an anti-social choice. Others aren't sure:

So I shop at Super Wal-Mart. My cereal of choice is only $3.68 at the behemoth whereas at other grocery markets, one box is pushing $5.00. Damn their low prices! And they even wrap the meat with the seal around the styrofoam instead of the cling wrap method that most meat departments use where you actually have to touch the meat to get it out of the packaging.

I hate Wal-Mart. There�s nothing super about it. Only idiots shop there

You may damn WM's prices, but I will not damn you. Shop at Wal-Mart all you want now, because someday a Robert Reich follower will ride to your rescue with laws and regulations!

Posted by Kevin at 11:44 AM

Alternative Use for Ladies Night

In November, we noted WM singles night in Germany. US stores are copying the format, and one lady sees this as a peculiar opportunity to avoid bad men:

I hate Wal-Mart and everything it stands for and can't possibly imagine myself with someone who shopped at Wal-Mart on a regular basis. If they had one of these nights here, I would go in disguise just to scope out all of the single men who shop at Wal-Mart who I shouldn't date.

Posted by Kevin at 11:27 AM

Chris Bennett on Wal-Mart Employees

I have found this opinion common among people, but rarely is it voiced online:

If Wal-Mart employees think they should receive health care benefits, here's a crazy thought, go on strike. One of two things will happen. Either Wal-Mart will realize it much provide its employees with health care benefits to keep them happy or they will find new employees who don't give a crap whether or not they have health care, they just want a paycheck. There's a reason Wal-Mart is able to keep over 10,000 employees without providing any of them with health care benefits, the employees don't care. It's not Wal-Mart's fault that you're so poorly equipped yourself for the outside world that working at Wal-Mart is the best gig you could get. You want health care, make yourself a more marketable employee and quit working at Wal-Mart.
Apparently, Chris doesn't realize the large number of Wal-Mart employees (probably ~40% of 10,000) who use the company's health insurance, which is essentially a catastrophic care program with other non-catastrophic benefits.

Posted by Kevin at 11:23 AM

"An Even Better Place to Work"

You have to hate the way H.R. people are required to talk in public:

APRIL 13, 2005 -- NEW YORK -- One of Wal-Mart's key objectives in 2005 is to create an "even better place to work," said the retailer's s.v.p. of human resources, Susan Oliver, yesterday in a keynote speech at the New York HR Week 2005 event here.

Oliver spoke of Wal-Mart's four "key deliverables" in the HR arena: strategy execution, administrative efficiency, increasing associate engagement and commitment, and change management.


The article contains some real blunders too, such as Wal-Mart opening 500 new stores but creating only a 1000 new jobs, and 1.3 million people being 1% of the U.S. population.

Posted by Kevin at 7:20 AM

April 12, 2005

A Pretty Small Place for ShopKo

ShopKo is under new ownership. It now prides itself on being the discount store that doesn't want to compete with Wal-Mart and Target!:

He said the company didn't plan to compete head-to-head against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer.

"That is not our goal. No one can do that. But we do believe there is a place for ShopKo in the market for people who don't go to Wal-Mart, who don't go to Target," he said.

What can this actually mean for a discount retailer?

Posted by Kevin at 1:46 PM

The Case of Tony Gerling

Right now, we don't have full details or access to primary documents, so it's hard to tell whether Wal-Mart fired Tony Gerling for rejoining the Army:

Tony Gerling, 27, of Stronghurst, Ill., says he was terminated on April Fool's Day, just two days after telling his bosses he was returning to active service in the military in June....

Federal law prohibits employers from dismissing a worker because of military service. Gerling has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor seeking lost wages.

Wal�Mart spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said Friday that Gerling's firing was unrelated to his Army commitment. Company policy forbids her from giving further details, she said....

Expect company policy to be clarified shortly.

Posted by Kevin at 1:43 PM

"Acres for America"

Wal-Mart will preserve as much habitat as it takes away for development (pr):

Acres for America will permanently conserve at least one acre of priority
wildlife habitat for every developed acre of Wal-Mart's current footprint, as
well as the company's future development over the next 10 years. This puts
the minimum total acres to be protected at 138,000. Lands conserved will
benefit a wide variety of wildlife, including large and small mammals,
freshwater and saltwater fish, migratory and neo-tropical birds and native
plants.

"Wal-Mart is the first corporation to commit to offsetting its entire
developed land use for conservation," said Max Chapman, Jr., Foundation
chairman. "We introduced the concept of the offset program to Wal-Mart last
year," he said. "They were quick to say yes, and Wal-Mart's leadership is
raising the bar in conservation."

Question: Is the net return on this investment positive?

Posted by Kevin at 11:48 AM

April 11, 2005

Wal-Mart Helps Revitalize Downtown

Max Borders over at Tech Central Station has an article on Wal-Mart. He says it's all part of creative destruction:


As it often does, Wal-Mart won. And since then, Boone has experienced the Wal-Mart effect. First, some Mom-n-Pop shops in Boone may have gone out of business due to the intense competition. But something interesting has happened: many new businesses have sprung up and they're cooler, more interesting, and more highly specialized than most of the old ones were. Mom-n-Pop have decided to move into more boutique-style businesses -- and not even Wal-Mart can compete with that.

For example, Hands Gallery -- formed c. 1998 -- is an interesting fixture for visitors to the downtown King Street area, offering indigenous art and sculpture for more refined tastes. While taking in the spring verdancy or autumn foliage of the high country, visitors can take jaunts through nearby Blowing Rock and Banner Elk for the utterly zoned and picturesque experience (and, of course, denizens of these planned towns take advantage of Boone's big boxes along highway 321).

But big boxes and all, downtown Boone offers its own home-grown order, complete with quirky restaurants and shops one might have found on the corner of Haight and Ashbury. An eclectic mix of businesses line the main thoroughfare. Earth Fare, an organic foods store, has come to King Street. Older fixtures such as the Appalachian Antique Mall and Mast General Store (retail) have enjoyed continued success and remain favorite establishments for shoppers. You'll even find "Josh," a vagrant everyone in Boone knows, selling poetry and beaded jewelry to passers by.

The question becomes: do we really need small, inefficient and expensive shops to supply us with our shaving cream and plastic laundry baskets? How vibrant is a downtown where such items are being hocked? Since Wal-Mart consolidates these kinds of goods into "big boxes," we, like John Blundell, can get them for dirt cheap all in one place. Charming downtown areas can then evolve into gorgeous window-shopping and restaurant-hopping districts for both locals and tourists. In the meantime, everyone knows where to go to get the bare necessities quickly and at a lower cost.

The Wal-Mart effect is happening all over the country, allowing many municipalities to renew their town centers. In fact, residents able to reduce their day-to-day shopping budgets at Wal-Mart have more money left to spend on the things that make life great and towns charming -- whether it's hand-blown glass or delicious roadside produce grown by local farmers. (Take it from me, no big box can do Silver Queen corn like North Carolina farmers on the side of the road.)

See, Wal-Mart actually helps downtowns not hurts them. In all seriousness, this is essentially correct as many downtowns were destroyed by malls and other factors, not Wal-Mart. The company is actually fairly young and hasn't been around long enough to wreak all the havok laid upon it.

Posted by Bob at 10:55 PM

Higher Gas Prices --> More WM Shoppers

At EconTufte, Marie wonders whether the increase in gasoline prices will increase WM prices, and whether this will shift more consumers into shopping around:

[I]f Walmart does have to raise its prices due to these factors, will people be disappointed that Walmart didn't stick with their motto, everyday low prices? I think people will still shop there, because even if they raise their prices they will still be even or lower than competitors... If Walmart was the same as everywhere else would you still drive accross town, or shop around.
Commenters responded that they would probably increase their one-stop shopping at Wal-Mart.


And I'd like to note for Wal-Mart's lawyers that a lot of people think WM's slogan is "Everyday Low Prices" not "Always Low Prices". Don't even think about asserting that your not-yet-registered trademark is "famous"; people don't even remember it!

Posted by Kevin at 10:47 AM

Slotting Fees are NOT Efficient - Wal-Mart is

Over at T&B, I noted a study by two Yale professors that showed empirically that slotting fees yielded economically efficient results. This was popularized in Progressive Grocer, which then received very negative Wal-Mart related correspondence:

The Yale/Cornell Study could not be farther from reality.

[T]radition[al] grocery distribution companies such as Winn Dixie, Safeway, Kroger, etc. are losing ground and failing...

-- They have attempted to make money buying goods rather than selling goods...

I think that your organization would be wise to explore these issues with manufacturers that find it much more profitable to do business with Wal-Mart and avoid all of the above, which is putting even more pressure on the traditional grocers.

Ouch. Take that Fast Company.

Posted by Kevin at 10:33 AM

April 10, 2005

Alwayslowprices.com is Gone

Alwayslowprices.com, which unlike ALP was registered with the specific intent to profit off Wal-Mart, has been terminated.

And something bizarre is happening behind the scenes at alwayslowprices.com.

Going to that site used to direct you to corporatedomainnames.com. Now it comes up with nothing, and the whois information indicates that it is registered to www.feedtheneedy.com, which is a bizarre "ministry".

Is this a strange defense against Wal-Mart's new trademark war?

Posted by Kevin at 11:51 AM

April 9, 2005

History of Awards Won in China

Wal-Mart China has a curious list of awards won by specific Wal-Mart stores in China. All are given out by the incredibly nosy and dominating Chinese bureaucracy, and some sound really funny:

Honeylake SAM'S CLUB (Shenzhen)2000No Fake Products StoreShenzhen Quality & Technology Supervision Bureau, Shenzhen Trade Development Bureau
1997-2000Civilized Management StoreThe People's Government of Futian District, Shenzhen

I suppose to do business in China, one must go along with such things.

Posted by Kevin at 6:21 PM

Tax Incentives (UPDATED)

You never know where you'll find a post for ALP, tonight I found one on the ANAHEIM Angels message board. This has to do with Mesa, Arizona and the $80 million in tax incentives for a development project which will likely include a Wal-Mart:


Sens. Marilyn Jarrett, R-Mesa; Karen Johnson, R-Mesa; Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert; and Reps. Andy Biggs and Eddie Farnsworth, both R-Gilbert, slammed the estimated $80 million incentive package the opposition group has deemed a "subsidy for the Wal-Martanchored freeway development."

But Riverview developers Kimco Developers and De Rito Partners Development said there will be no taxpayer assistance for Wal-Mart. Also, their campaign spokesman Doug Cole said Harkins has benefited in the past from shopping center incentives and is trying to stop the Riverview project to keep the Cinemark chain out of the market and help his Tempe Marketplace theater two miles away.

On May 17, Mesa voters will cast their ballots on Propositions 300, 301 and 302. If approved, the Riverview at Dobson project at Loop 202 and Dobson Road is expected to include a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, 16-screen Cinemark movie theater, "big-box" retailers with a probable Wal-Mart, auto dealerships and a business park.

Farnsworth and Biggs said they oppose the project because of the economic incentives. Jarrett, Johnson and Verschoor did not return phone calls.

"The problem (with incentives) is government is using its power to pick winners and losers," Farnsworth said.

Mesa Councilman Mike Whalen, a supporter of the Riverview project, called the legislators� announcement "disturbing."

"I�d respectfully ask them to work on their projects and stay out of Mesa projects," Whalen said. "This is a war, we have to understand it, but . . . we don�t need legislators jumping in and endorsing. That�s not their job."

Harkins declined to speak with the Tribune, but did issue a statement.

"I have invested millions in Mesa over the years and do not think it is fair to my business, Mr. Basha�s business or Fiesta Mall, among many other businesses, to give some of the wealthiest companies in the world such a huge taxpayer handout to hurt us, our employees and Mesa taxpayers," Harkins said.


Mr. Basha's sentiment is one I whole heatedly agree with. It is stated in the agreement that no money can go to Wal-Mart, but they could find a way around that possibly. However, that's not the point, government shouldn't subsidize business especially to such a large degree.

Kevin Adds: Wal-Mart is going all out to deny these rumors:

In an answer to the "No on Riverview" campaign materials linking Wal-Mart to possible free rent or other perks, the retail giant on Friday started distributing a letter from its seven Mesa locations.

Wal-Mart spokesman Pete Kanelos said the letter will be placed in shopping bags throughout the weekend at Mesa�s two supercenters, one regular store and four neighborhood markets.

"We don�t have a position (in the May 17 election), but we felt it was important enough to state the facts to make sure our customers know the facts," Kanelos said....

Also on Friday, Kimco Developers president Jerry Friedman sent a letter to City Manager Mike Hutchinson claiming Wal-Mart will be paying a "commercially reasonable and fair market rent for its land if a lease is entered into." He offered the city the future chance to review the lease agreement, which has not yet been signed.

Earlier this week, the city posted a letter on its Web site from Ernst and Young�s Steve Klett, whose Riverview market analysis became the basis for a Tribune article and subsequently the "No on Riverview" campaign materials because it stated that Wal-Mart�s Riverview rent would be $0.00. Klett said the $0.00 figure was not meant to imply the company would not pay rent, but was used to calculate revenue projections from Mesa�s rental tax, which he believed Wal-Mart would not need to pay.

Posted by Bob at 1:34 PM

Wal-Mart Shopper Saves a Life

Next time you read an WM employee's complaints about WM customers, remember this:

GARDEN CITY, Kan. - A trip to the local Wal-Mart turned out to be a life-changing event for a Garden City man whose quick reflexes saved an 18-year-old woman from possible death.

Robert DeLeon, 40, his wife, Delma, and their young daughter had just finished shopping around 7:30 p.m. Thursday and were driving home when Delma noticed a woman sitting on the U.S. 156/83 overpass, her feet dangling over the side....

He said he thought he had convinced the woman to come back to his van, but then a police car pulled up and she panicked and jumped.

"I reached out and had an arm around her waist, then I reached with the other hand and grabbed her belt," he said....

Garden City police Capt. Mike Utz praised DeLeon for saving the woman's life and preventing injury to anyone driving under the overpass.

Posted by Kevin at 1:27 PM

Wal-Mart Impacted by Minutemen?

Though Wal-Mart apparently denies this, the minuteman border patrol project is keeping customers away from at least on Wal-Mart:

"They're not coming because they're afraid they're going to be harassed," Fenske said.

Fenske's wife, Cynthia, said she's seen a similar impact at the Wal-Mart Super Center, where she works. Wal-Mart has publicly denied a slowdown, but William Molaski, director of the Douglas Port of Entry, said the store reported a 12 percent drop to him.

While Minuteman volunteers insist their efforts are focused on stopping illegal immigration, others say their presence has created a fearful environment that has angered the town's largely Hispanic population, frightened legal visitors from Mexico and hurt the town's economy.

Posted by Kevin at 1:22 PM

The Latest on Tom Coughlin (UPDATED)

Lesson of the day: Never, ever use company money to pay off union insiders:

According to the [WSJ] report, Coughlin last year asked a Wal-Mart employee to approve about $2,000 in expense payments without receipts. The employee said Coughlin briefly mentioned the money had been used for an unspecified "union project."

Coughlin told several Wal-Mart employees that the money was actually being used for anti-union activities, including paying union staffers to tell him of pro-union workers in stores, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

If Coughlin did pay union staffers for information, it would represent a criminal offense under U.S. federal law.

Use your own personal funds!

UPDATE: Tom Coughlin swings back:

But lawyers for Thomas M. Coughlin, in rebutting what the company has called a "disagreement" over expense reimbursements, will argue that although he periodically paid people to keep tabs on organizing activity in Wal-Mart stores, none of the recipients were members of a union, the source said.

Coughlin "believes he was doing what was in the company's interest" by collecting information on union activity, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In countering the company, his lawyers will contend "he was not stealing" but reimbursing himself for work-related expenses, the source said.

Steven Greenhouse reports that the union folks want Wal-Mart's full cooperation, but some even doubt the existence of moles:
Ms. Williams said a company investigation had found no evidence supporting accusations of money being funneled to illegal anti-union activities. Instead, she said, the money was misappropriated for the personal benefit of specific individuals.

Greg Denier, a union spokesman, said the union did not know of any officials who had accepted payoffs from Mr. Coughlin to inform on pro-union employees. He said he would be shocked if any staffers had accepted such payments.

Federal law prohibits companies or their managers from paying money to union officials to help derail organizing drives. The food and commercial workers have sought to unionize dozens of Wal-Mart stores, but have failed to organize any workers except for those in the meat department of one store in Jacksonville, Tex.

Posted by Kevin at 12:54 PM

Riverhead is Already Full of Commerce!

WalMartFreeNYC must have a screw loose:

In danger of seeing their town ruined by the invasion of Wal-Mart, Riverhead residents are banding together to stop it. Not willing to stand for secret meetings and closed door dealings, they're fighting back to save their city. This ad is currently running to help combat Wal-Mart's backroom deal.
Town ruined? They've got to be kidding! Is this the best they can do?

Wal-Mart already has a smaller store in Riverhead. So does Target, Home Depot, KMart, Borders, Office Max, Best Buy, etc... Town residents fought them tooth and nail -- and lost!

Riverhead is also the home of a set 165 stores in a Tanger Factory Outlet. I know, because I spent several days in Riverhead just a month ago!

The idea that building a Wal-Mart will somehow destroy Riverhead, which has commerce busting forth on all sides, and is packed with cars on the weekend, is simply preposterous.

If there are (illegal?) secret meetings for Wal-Mart to build a Supercenter, then that's a different matter. But Wal-Mart will have a VERY hard time beating local prices for produce, since the #1 lowest price for groceries on Long Island can be found in Riverhead -- at Best Yet Market (formerly produce warehouse).

And check out Best Yet's Logo:

lowpricesalways.jpg

Low Prices Always!

Posted by Kevin at 7:49 AM

April 8, 2005

What to Buy at WM if You Hate Shopping There

Knit me more time was given a $50 WM gift certificate, but she hates Wal-Mart. Hilarity did not ensue:

I spent an hour in walmart trying to figure out how to spend $50 bucks. I got one of those usb "jump drives," but with walmart's rolling back prices, it was only $19. I wandered around the store in a near daze. The place is so crammed with stuff it is overwhelming....

I ended up with the jump drive, a salad spinner, a nifty battery-operated toothbrush, a notebook, and some not needed but too cheap not to buy tupperware.

Posted by Kevin at 9:26 PM

Small Stores Won't Suffer in Hillsboro, NH

Many residents did not like hearing the summary of the economic impact statement paid for by Wal-Mart but directed by the local government of Hillsboro, NH:

HILLSBORO - Building a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hillsboro would help the local economy by drawing new shoppers to town and keeping residents from traveling to Concord to spend their money, an economic analysis on the project shows....

"Conventional wisdom is that Wal-Mart kills mom-and-pop retailers, but the impact appears to be more on other national discounters and chain stores...."

Of 46 retail outfits in town, only nine, including Rite-Aid and Shaw's, would compete directly with Wal-Mart. Another eight stores, including Aubuchon Hardware and Radio Shack, would compete somewhat with Wal-Mart....

Here's the real fear:
Thibeault also confirmed a fear held by many Wal-Mart opponents: that more big box stores, like Lowe's and Staples, will probably follow once Wal-Mart builds. While some residents may not find the stores aesthetically pleasing, they do tend to give towns a financial boost, Thibeault said.

David Fullerton asked how many more box stores might come.

"Seventeen," Thibeault said.

"Oh my God!" Fullerton gasped.

"No, I'm just kidding."Thibeault said. "I don't know." He said he is about 85 percent finished with the study and he will look into how much land is left in town where large stores could be built.


Posted by Kevin at 8:25 PM

3000+ Apply for Job at WM Supercenter

Probably as a result of an area moving quickly away from a manufacturing-based economy:

With Electrolux and Hitachi shutting down Montcalm County plants this year, the idea of the nation's largest employer coming to town sounded like a good deal to Sizemore. That's why she -- and more than 3,000 other job-seekers -- jumped at the chance to apply at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, a 204,000-square-foot store scheduled to open May 18 on M-57 west of Greenville.

But there's bad news for Sizemore and the thousands of other Wal-Mart hopefuls. The company is done hiring.

Last year, when the Wal-Mart Corp. was pushing to open a store in Eureka Township, company representatives said the new store would employ about 500 workers. But according to Wal-Mart employees who have been collecting applications from area residents for the past month, that number now has been reduced to 310.

Officials at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., did not return calls seeking comment....

"We've gotten over 3,000 applications and we're getting hundreds more every day," she said. "And we don't even have signs up."

In March 2004, John Bisio said the new Wal-Mart Supercenter planned to hire about 500 people. The regional manager of corporate affairs with the Wal-Mart Corp. said that about 350 of the 500 employees would be full-time workers receiving benefits.

500 associates in a Supercenter seems like way more than normal. Did WM really ever expect to hire 500 people?

Posted by Kevin at 7:34 PM

A WM Supercenter or a Casino

I had forgotten that Las Vegas tried to keep away WM Supercenters

Land proposed for the Wal-Mart is presently zoned for a casino, and a lot of folks who make their opinions known in the pages of The Record-Courier, think a casino would be an improvement.

But that wasn't the reception property owner Butch Peri got when he proposed the casino there.

A lot of folks have expended a lot of energy trying to stop Wal-Mart from coming to communities. Las Vegas enacted an ordinance to stop Super Wal-Marts from selling groceries in order to protect unionized supermarket workers. The law was overturned by the courts.

Posted by Kevin at 7:30 PM

We've Been Hoaxed!

The owner of this site has a wonderful spoof on this site. Because I've been writing my dissertation and haven't slept in 2 days, I was taken in by an email the hoaxer sent me accusing ALP of misrepresenting WM.

Bravo! And many thanks to IP!

And here's the WHOIS:

Domain ID:D105961894-LROR
Domain Name:WALMART-FOUNDATION.ORG
Created On:26-Mar-2005 23:30:07 UTC
Last Updated On:27-Mar-2005 00:02:44 UTC
Expiration Date:26-Mar-2006 23:30:07 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:Go Daddy Software, Inc. (R91-LROR)
Status:TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Registrant ID:GODA-010917977
Registrant Name:Daniel Peterson
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street1:5091 Tobar Street
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Philadelphia
Registrant State/Province:Pennsylvania
Registrant Postal Code:19131
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.4124014412
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:info@walmart-foundation.org
Admin ID:GODA-210917977
Admin Name:Daniel Peterson
Admin Organization:
Admin Street1:5091 Tobar Street
Admin Street2:
Admin Street3:
Admin City:Philadelphia
Admin State/Province:Pennsylvania
Admin Postal Code:19131
Admin Country:US
Admin Phone:+1.4124014412
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Admin Email:info@walmart-foundation.org
Tech ID:GODA-110917977
Tech Name:Daniel Peterson
Tech Organization:
Tech Street1:5091 Tobar Street
Tech Street2:
Tech Street3:
Tech City:Philadelphia
Tech State/Province:Pennsylvania
Tech Postal Code:19131
Tech Country:US
Tech Phone:+1.4124014412
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX:
Tech FAX Ext.:
Tech Email:info@walmart-foundation.org
Name Server:DARKSIDE.DOD.NET
Name Server:DEATHSTAR.DOD.NET
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:

The previous information has been obtained either directly from the registrant or a registrar of the domain name other than Network Solutions. Network Solutions, therefore, does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

Show underlying registry data for this record

IP Address: 208.185.250.11 (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
IP Location: US(UNITED STATES)
DMOZ no listings
Y! Directory: see listings
Data as of: 08-Jun-2004

Posted by Kevin at 5:23 PM

Giant Expoloitation

Russ Roberts has an excellent assessment of Giant Foods support of a bill that will restrict competition from Wal-Mart:

Ironically, if this bill passes it will hurt workers by lowering the demand for their services. It will hurt consumers who will end up paying higher prices for groceries. It will help Giant and its unions.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said lobbying on the issue from labor groups was "very light."

Oh, right. They don't really care. It's not that important. Nooooo.

"It's an issue that's been around for a while, and all of us recognize that Wal-Mart doesn't do right by its employees," Miller said.

Great insight, Senate President Miller. Thank you for insulting the employees who choose to work at Wal-Mart for reasons you cannot decipher. Thank you for making it harder to operate a business and hire employees in our state. Thank you for making people's lives harder by making food more expensive. And most of all, thank you for encouraging other businesses to turn to you rather than trying harder as a way of staying in business.

Posted by Kevin at 8:06 AM

Who Decimated Murphysboro? You Did.

Another town, another regular Wal-Mart closing to become a Supercenter.

People in the crowd asked Williams if the city has concerns about the impact Wal-Mart will have on downtown businesses. Williams said the city has already lost business to the big name stores in Carbondale, starting with JCPenney's moving to Carbondale in the 1970's.

"The city of Murphysboro has already been decimated," he said. "I can't blame that all on Wal-Mart. It's the people who have walked away from those businesses."

Posted by Kevin at 7:53 AM

April 7, 2005

Should I Hate Wal-Mart? Why?

A rude commenter on Catallarchy's post about the C&D letter to ALP made me think about how new evidence in the depate over Wal-mart is filtered by preconceived notions, and generally how these pieces are fit into one's view of the world.

In some people's minds, Wal-Mart is evil, and this seems to explain everything. I don't share this view, even after the C&D order.

One guy thinks the potential lawsuit should change my mind about WM:

I'm quite pleased that even legal threats from the company he boosts hasn't broken through to Brancato. Well, amused, anyways.

To which I replied:

If by "broken through" you mean "reduced his brain to the consistency and usefulness of jello, and made him a hyperemotional nut guided by snap judgments", then no, WM's legal threat hasn't "broken through".

I'm still quite capable of rational assessment.

In another instance, on MetaFilter, some commenter noted that WM had to send in the goons to stop me, when I had specifically noted that Wal-Mart did NOT send in the goons.

I replied on MetaFilter:

I have openly stated that Wal-Mart�s intention is not to stifle free speech (they have no apparent problem with walmartsucks.com and the like), but to rightfully defend the integrity of its intellectual property. ALP just happens to be in their way.

That in my case there is a conflict between property and speech goes without saying. I understand that legal conflict is not a battle to the death; it's just another form of conflict, but one which we don't face everyday.

Posted by Kevin at 8:47 AM

April 6, 2005

Tech Law Advisor: ALP is Toast

The most convincing argument that I will lose any contest with Wal-Mart has been provided by Kevin J. Heller of Tech Law Advisor:

The Taubman decision taught us that to successfully squat on the domain name of a business owner, we need a disclaimer and a non-commercial site. Also, non-commercial does not mean that you run an unsuccessful business venture.

The moral of the story is - that when it comes to free speech, don't be penny wise with adsense and pound foolish by giving up your right to speak.

Mr. Heller is an expert, and sadly, I think he has the law on his side. Why couldn't you just let me live in the dream world of Kevin vs. Goliath a little longer?

Posted by Kevin at 11:26 PM

The 2 Day Conference

H. Lee Scott wants Wal-Mart's detractors to stop the "malarkey" and opponents want Wal-Mart to promise that it will "ensure that the retailer provides protection for small businesses, pension benefits and "real" healthcare for workers before it sets up shop in their community." No, really!

Business as usual, but an excellent and lengthy article.

Posted by Kevin at 9:07 AM

Bigger Boxes for Bennington

Though an elephant is still sitting in the corner, let's get back to work analyzing the Wal-Mart debate.

Art Woolf sends in a link to the Bennington Banner, which reports that citizens voted down the towns anti-big-box zoning ordinance:

Voters soundly rejected a bylaw that limits the size of large-scale retail by 465 votes, turning out for the special referendum on Tuesday in numbers greater than during Town Meeting.

"And this was the only thing on the ballot," said Town Clerk Timothy R. Corcoran.

The bylaw, adopted by the select board in January, was voted down 2,189 to 1,724. Although North Bennington voted 232 to 146 in favor of the cap, it wasn't enough to budge the overall tally.

The reporter, Laura Raskin, does a nice job of interviewing both sides. But two pieces of information are notably absent. How many poeple live in Bennington? How many people are registered to vote? How do I know that turnout was high?

Wikipedia says Bennington had around ~15,700 people as of 2000. This means that 1700 wanted to tell another 14,000 how their town should be ordered economically.

[UPDATE: Art Woolf emails that turnout was ~40%, which implies that ~9500 people are registered to vote in Bennington. To me it's unfortuante that even if a 50% quorom cannot be met, that a vote will have legal authority. Most condominium associations have more rigid voting requirements than small towns! In case, like me, you didn't remember who Art Woolf was, I refer you to his op-ed in The New York Times ($) about the National Trust for Historic Preservation and WM:

We are, however, reasonable people. If Wal-Mart saves consumers 10 percent on their average purchase, we would be willing to make a deal with the National Trust. We'll agree not to accept any more Wal-Marts in Vermont. And we'll even toss the existing Wal-Marts out. In exchange, each year the National Trust has to reimburse us for the $36 million extra we'll be spending by not benefiting from Wal-Mart's low prices.
The man is clearly an economist.]

I personally don't think the economic order should be a matter of majority vote; votes on where other people should be allowed to shop are not, in my mind, compelling political matters.

In case the Banner link breaks, here's CNN/Money's version

Posted by Kevin at 8:56 AM

April 5, 2005

Wal-Mart: ALP Infringes on Our Trademark

After a year of my blogging about Wal-Mart on ALP, Wal-Mart has had enough. WM has sent its attorneys after me -- to stop me from using their slogan "Always Low Prices", and to scoot me off the alwayslowprices.net domain.

Let me be clear at the outset; there is no scandal here. I am not outraged. This is about business and control of property -- not persecution. Unlike GM, WM did NOT send a goon squad. And though I find many of Wal-Mart's claims spurious, I am not a lawyer, and I will have to consult with my own lawyers before proceeding formally. And though they will tell me to not discuss the matter any further, I think transparency is more important than most lawyers do.

I promise to fight to keep the alwayslowprices.net domain and Always Low Prices name. And I want the blogosphere's help and advice on how to proceed.

Here is a cropped PDF copy of a letter sent to me by email and snail mail by Wal-Mart's attorneys regarding my use of their "logo". (I have removed sensitive contact information).

What is the claim?

The claim is that I am in voliation of the Lanham Act -- �1125(a), �1125(d), and �1114. Basically that I pretend to be allied to Wal-Mart, and that I use Google Ads to profit off of Wal-Mart's trademark.


I am sympathetic to Wal-Mart's desire to control its private property, but my use of this domain has in no way taken business away from them. Indeed, as one of Wal-Mart's most ardent defenders, taking this domain away from me is likely to hurt Wal-Mart in the short and long run. Who else regularly faces off against Wal-Mart's opponents, union sympathizers, and the like on the internet?

Why are they after me after a year of blogging?

WM filed for a service mark for "Always Low Prices" (with a few variants) on 2/2/04, for both retail store services and online retail store services. As of today, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, WM has not had this sloagan registered as a trademark. However, their claim went forward on March 29, 2005, and will likely have little problem under further review (unlike WM's older slogan Always the Lowest Price, which was without a doubt, a bald but understandable lie).


As far as Wal-Mart's specific claims go, I will reply honestly:

I admit that I have their logo prominently displayed. But I think it's a fair intellectual use. Low Prices are the primary consumer aim of Wal-Mart, and should be the core of discussion about Wal-Mart. I don't think anybody has ever been confused ALP and WM, walmart.com, walmartstores.com, or walmartfacts.com. Does anybody actually think that Wal-Mart would stick "The Best and the Worst about Wal-Mart" on top of its own website?

The URL, alwayslowprices.net, is the same as the blog nam -- that's the entire point of name recognition. Anybody who comes to ALP will realize immediately that they have not come to Wal-Mart, but to a site that discusses Wal-Mart. If the URL was so critical to Wal-mart's business, why didn't they buy it 10 years ago, when they starting using their slogan?

Of course, I should have had a disclaimer up on the sidebar the entire time; As Kevin Drum once noted, I did at the beginning, but in one of my reformattings, I must have dropped it by accident. So, a new disclaimer is up.

Wal-Mart claims that I pretend to be a part of Wal-Mart by linking to walmartstores.com under the label "WM News". Does anybody find this an even remotely sensible position?

Wal-Mart claims that my use of advertising for services that "might be of interest to Wal-Mart's partners and vendors" concurrent with use of their trademark and name on the blog is against "U.S. law" and my "domain name agreement."

The entire $95.83 I have collected from advertising has not even been enough to pay for the $11 monthly bandwidth charges. Though I'd rather not have to, I have decided to take down the advertising. I know that free speech isn't free, and I'm willing to pony up.

Posted by Kevin at 3:29 PM

Another Big Box Blog

Big Boxes Blow:

A home for those who want to keep their hometown from becoming "Anytown, Anywhere". News about Big Box stores and how to work to keep them from taking over your community.
This adequately describes the content of the blog, except that it's mainl about WM in Iowa.

Posted by Kevin at 10:15 AM

Bloggers Who Work for Wal-Mart

It's come to my attention that hundreds of unknown bloggers and web journal users work at Wal-Mart. Most have little to do with WM, and many are rather vulgar, so don't read on if you're easily offended.

Almost every post by Ryan at News of Aberdeen speaks wisdom about the Wal-Mart debate.


Nikki lives in Ontario, Canada. So does Sarah Specht - "wal-mart isn't coming through for me. i have 2 there next week *sighs* wed and fri night. i wonder what the week after has in store for me....."

A spark in the dark - "I'm Nick, 20 years old, St louis Missouri area. I work at wal-mart because I suck and dropped out of college, trying to make ends meet on my own on a meager salary."

Quixtar Criminals is a construction manager for Wal-Mart.

Anonymous works at WM, and has a good friend working for Target.

i3ai3ygurl1101 is a WM cashier in Florida; she's looking to be a customer service manager soon.

Let Sara describe herself - "I'm 19 and I go to school currently at UW-Eau Claire. I am an Environmental/public Health major with the intent to do hazardous waste management or something to that extent....we will see how long that lasts cuz yea, I majorly suck at science right now....I work at Wal*Mart back home in The Grove. Don't hate on the mart or else i will have to come and beat you up!"

The Gum Guy works for Symbol in Wal-Mart Headquarters

John Hicks is a cashier at Wal-Mart.

Big Crazy has been at Wal-Mart for six years, and has good advice for new assistant managers - "So, the guy says,�I need to have your school schedule on file,� and I say fine. Then he wants to know what I�m doing on my days off. It�s none of your fucking business what I�m doing on MY day off!! It�s MY DAY OFF!!! If I want to hang-glide naked over the Illinois River, then I should be able to do it as long as I don�t have a Wal-Mart vest on when I�m on my day off�.plain and simple. That�s why there are Availablity Sheets, and on them you put what days, times, hours, etc., that you are AVAILABLE! All other time is yours and none of Wal-Mart�s goddamn business."

Chris Dempsey works a lot at Wal-Mart.

Melissa Meloche writes frequently about work at WM as an Inventory Control Specialist

Erica Lynn works in a Wal-Mart portrait studio..

Gimme a break writes candidly about working 30 hours a week for Wal-Mart. Read this entry on the attitude that one customer gave...

Heather is paid $8.15 an hour at Wal-Mart. Kohls offered $6.50.

Posted by Kevin at 10:15 AM

April 4, 2005

Chinese Labor: "Shortages" and Rising Wages

The Eclectic Econoclast notes that there is an apparent labor shortage in China, and that the manufacturing wage rates -- both freely set and regulated -- are rising in China to attract workers. According to the NYTimes:

And if wages keep rising... some companies could face a fate familiar to many manufacturers in the United States - they would have to move to a country with cheaper workers.
I blame Wal-Mart!

Posted by Kevin at 10:36 AM

Wal-Mart: A Business We All Can Look Up To

McGroarty sends in a short article by John Semmens of Capitalism Magazine. The skinny: the basic principles of economics vindicate Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart�s "lowest price" policy is stimulating its suppliers and competitors to be more efficient, which requires higher productivity.

Higher productivity, in turn, is the key to prosperity. By encouraging international trade between the U.S. and less_developed countries, Wal-Mart is helping put these countries on the path to higher standards of living as well.

Wal-Mart is doing all these good things with a profit margin of less than 4 percent. To call Wal-Mart a "corporate criminal," as an article in the January 3 issue of The Nation does, is libel. Wal-Mart is a model of success that should be emulated, not reviled.

Posted by Kevin at 10:19 AM

Pow Wow in Bentonville

Expect a plethora of articles this week as the company has a meeting with journalists to help boost its image:

As part of a national image-polishing campaign, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will play host to nearly 100 journalists this week for meetings with top executives and tours of its Bentonville, Ark., home office.

The two-day conference is intended to help "set the record straight" on issues such as employee benefits and global factory standards, said Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb. After struggling with bad press for several years, the world's largest retailer also hopes to create something less tangible � a bond with reporters.

"We want people to have the opportunity to meet [Chief Executive] Lee Scott, to learn that we're human beings and to see firsthand what is the Wal-Mart story," Whitcomb said. (The Times was invited and is participating.)

Posted by Bob at 5:49 AM

April 3, 2005

Another Anti-WM Blog

Add another to the list -- Global Watch Wal-Mart -- whose author prefers to remain anonymous:

I hope my reflections and random thoughts will stimulate discussion and action on Wal-Mart's global conduct. By way of disclosure, my blog does not pretend to be objective or neutral. But my critiques of Wal-Mart will be accurate.
The posts are very well put together, but are very infrequent.

I found this blog by looking for the "Center for Community and Corporate Ethics". I don't know who the author is, but the domain registrant is Nicco Mele, who was Howard Dean's webmaster, and is CEO of EchoDitto.

EchoDitto put together that deceptive Purple Ocean site I debunked earlier.

Posted by Kevin at 2:05 PM

New Anti-WM Coalition

Via The Box Tank. Stephen Greenhouse writes about the new coordination of anti-WM groups:

In the next few months, those critics will speak with one voice in print advertising, videos and books attacking the company, they say. They also plan to put forward an association of disenchanted Wal-Mart employees, current and former, to complain about what they call poverty-level wages and stingy benefits.

The critics have already begun lobbying in 26 states for legislation intended to embarrass Wal-Mart by disclosing how many thousands of its employees do not receive company health insurance and turn to taxpayer-financed Medicaid.

I don't know if one mallet is deadlier than a hundred bee stings.

Posted by Kevin at 1:41 PM

WM Flasher Arrested

Reader McGroarty emails a perverted use of WM:

On Friday Butler County sheriff's deputies arrested Michael Hamblin, a registered sex offender, on a parole violation.

Grant County deputies say they put him in a lineup and the two girls identified him.

Deputies say he led the girls to the doll aisle and that's where he exposed himself.

McGroarty's comments on the lineup will amuse some of you:
I can see that now...

"Number two, step up!"
"No, it's not number two. He definitely wasn't Jewish."

More:
Middleton said police believe Hamblin had done this at other Wal-Marts.

"It's kind of like a bank robber: if they get away with it once, they'll keep doing it until they get caught," Middleton said.

Posted by Kevin at 6:58 AM

April 2, 2005

Rich Bloggy Goodness

Nicole Bross peppers her anti-WM diatribe with wonderful anti-WM links.

WM is all out: cute chubby babies.

It's against store policy to take pictures in Target. Marissa Sims does so anyway.

Out, Out Damn Spot hates Wal-Mart but had a wonderful retail experience there.

Bill Dennis puts forth an interesting way to get journalists to cover stories regular people care about:

I've just about come to the conclusion that the best training for journalists would be to require them to spend a semester or a summer working at McDonald's or Wal-Mart, and requiring them to actually survive on what they earn there, including the paying of rent, groceries and health care.

Posted by Kevin at 4:55 PM

McChronicles

A blog all about McDonalds. It has photos and evaluations of service and food delivery in McDonalds throughout the USA (including one in WM--"slow business and slow service").

That's something I never really thought of doing for Wal-Mart...

Posted by Kevin at 4:38 PM

UFCW Fails to Unionize Brossard WM

Via WM's press release:

MISSISSAUGA, ON, April 1 /CNW/ - For the fifth time in less than two years, Wal-Mart Canada associates have voted No to being unionized. Wal-Mart associates in Brossard, Quebec, today voted in a democratic, secret-ballot vote against being unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW).
Today's vote result follows a clear and consistent pattern of Wal-Mart Canada associates repeatedly voting against union representation when given the chance to express their views in a democratic, secret-ballot process. To date, no Canadian Wal-Mart store has voted in favour of unionization when given the chance to participate in a democratic, secret-ballot vote.
Notice how WM uses "democratic" in a different sense than the UFCW. Local 501 of the UFCW has its own press release:
With the help of our activists, we will help convince the employees to resist the fear campaign that Wal-Mart organizes for such a vote. They should no longer have to fear the Wal-Mart special envoys who come to intimidate them at our information meetings, like the one held last Wednesday they were heckled by Wal-Mart managers from Ste-Hyacinthe and elsewhere. The multinational Wal-Mart claims to be democratic, but why doesn't it allow people to get information to make an informed and democratic choice?" asked Mr. Bellemare.
See also the article in the National Post:
Neither side disclosed what percentage of votes was for or against the union.
I guess that neither WM nor the union believes in informing people properly about their "democratic" elections.

Posted by Kevin at 6:24 AM

More Wal-Mart and Gasoline

Does anybody actually read Rolling Stone? Can't say I ever ran across anybody who does. Via Land of Black Gold, I found an article which predicts Wal-Mart's demise due to declining oil output:

The way that commerce is currently organized in America will not survive far into the Long Emergency. Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy. The national chain stores' 12,000-mile manufacturing supply lines could easily be interrupted by military contests over oil and by internal conflict in the nations that have been supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods, because they, too, will be struggling with similar issues of energy famine and all the disorders that go with it.

Posted by Bob at 12:40 AM

April 1, 2005

Wal-Mart & Gasoline

At Market Power, Phil Miller is all over the accusation the Sam's Club is engaging in "predatory pricing" of gasoline in voliation of Minnesota's minimum gas price law:

First, if consumers in the small town have an option to buy low-price gasoline at a "corporate" gas station, why should the government restrict their options and how would this be devastating to the community? It would have just the opposite effect. Sure, the owner of the gas station would feel a negative effect, but the consumers of gas in the small town would gain. Not only could they get gas cheaper, but they can put the savings towards the purchase of other things.

Second, those who use the predatory pricing argument say they fear monopolization. Never mind that the evidence suggests that predatory pricing exists in models but not in practice.

Posted by Kevin at 12:04 PM