September 9, 2005

Katrina (Updated)

* For the latest disaster relief news from Wal-Mart, click here *

Wal-Mart has set up a national online system that allows people affected by the disaster to be able contact one another. Using the Community Crisis System, you may post comments stating your whereabouts, or your concern for someone specific, and search the database by first and last name.

*9/7 -- In the WSJ, Alan Murray writes about the epiphany of big business in the wake of Katrina, but also about the limits to charity because of its corporate structure:

As for the obligation to shareholders, Mr. Odland says that if his charity efforts help New Orleans recover, it will help his company as well. Mr. Scott calls it a balancing act. "We can't send three trailer loads of merchandise to every group that asks for it," he says. He tells of being in Houston on Monday, and talking to someone who wanted Wal-Mart to donate 2,000 blankets to help refugees. Mr. Scott turned down the request. "We have to, at the end of this, have a viable business," he explains.

*9/9 -- 15 stores still closed.

*9/6 -- Wal-Mart associates provide stories from the front.

*9/6 -- Wal-Mart's Mini-Stores are operational in the Cajun Dome, Monroe Civic Center.

*9/6 -- In addition to Wal-Mart's corporate donations, The Walton Family Foundation has donated $15M:

Separately, the Walton Family Foundation is providing $8 million to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. The Walton Family Foundation has already donated an additional $7 million to organizations such as The Salvation Army, America’s Second Harvest and Foundation for the Mid-South.

*9/6 -- On page D1 of the WaPo, Wal-Mart is at the forefront of hurricaine relief:

At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, as New Orleans filled with water, Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. called an emergency meeting of his top lieutenants and warned them he did not want a "measured response" to the hurricane.

"I want us to respond in a way appropriate to our size and the impact we can have," he said, according to an executive who attended the meeting. At the time, Wal-Mart had pledged $2 million to the relief efforts. "Should it be $10 million?" Scott asked.

Over the next few days, Wal-Mart's response to Katrina -- an unrivaled $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers -- has turned the chain into an unexpected lifeline for much of the Southeast and earned it near-universal praise at a time when the company is struggling to burnish its image.

This does indeed set a new standard for corporate response to disaster; whether done out of sincere motives or not, with $20M in cash and in-kind, Wal-Mart has finally received extremely positive news coverage.

*9/6 -- Meanwhile, there are many examples of Wal-Mart asssociates being given temporary work outside the disaster area.

*9/6 -- To boost morale, WM store managers are showing a video to associates of all that WM is doing in response to Katrina.

1. 123 Wal-Mart stores closed, mostly due to loss of power (with 70 reopened as of 9/1/05, and only 18 closed as of 9/6/05. More details about damage here.)

2. Ball joints to haul trailers most popular item before the storm.

3. Families sought refuge in Wal-Mart parking lots??? A commenter on Wal-Mart Watch claims a Target store collapsed.

4. Wal-Mart donates $1M to the Salvation Army and another $1M to the Red Cross. Target donates $1.5 million to the Red Cross. Later, H. Lee Scott announced a donation of $15M to flood victims and the opening of mini-Wal-Mart stores to give away supplies:

As part of Wal-Mart's commitment it will establish mini-Wal-Mart stores in areas impacted by the hurricane. The stores will give away essential items, including clothing, diapers, baby wipes, food, formula toothbrushes, bedding, and water.

5. The looting of Wal-Mart is now a local pastime:

Why stop at everyday low prices?

Giant discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores became a major target for looters rummaging in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, with thieves hitting the store's gun racks while also ransacking for food and clothing.

The Wal-Mart store in the Lower Garden District in New Orleans was missing its entire stock of guns, according to the local Times-Picayune newspaper, which also said looting for guns and other goods was prevalent in other stores....

Wal-Mart has reopened about 70 of the 123 stores that were shut down in the immediate aftermath of Katrina's strike on Monday...

The strangely peaceful looting of the wrecked store (people selecting goods off the shelves, and placing them gently in shopping carts) was caught on camera:
Residents are seen looting a Wal-Mart and a Walgreens in full view of camera crews and security guards.

In one scene, several people dressed in security guard uniforms join the looters in stripping the Wal-Mart store.

Then other people dressed as security guards arrived and detain some looters.

Reportedly, troops armed with M-16 rifles arrived at the Wal-Mart to disburse the crowd.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told NBC's Matt Lauer that while officials were deeply concerned about the looting, the government was focused on repairing huge holes in the city's levee system and saving people trapped by floods.

Even the security guards POLICE! are looting:


Also, Crooks and Liars has MSNBC video of Countdown reporter Martin Savidge confronting the police and other looters.

6. I should also note Wal-Mart will pay associates whose stores have closed three days of pay, even if they were not even scheduled for work:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. initially closed 156 stores in the affected areas. As of yesterday afternoon, 46 were closed. Before the hurricane hit, workers were given a toll-free number to call for assistance or to find out if their store had reopened.

Wal-Mart employees whose stores were shut received pay for the first three days the store was closed, whether they were scheduled to work or not. Employees who need money for food or clothes can ask store managers for $250 in cash assistance. Employees whose stores do not reopen in three days will be provided temporary work at other Wal-Mart or Sam's Club stores if they can get there, according to a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

The company's "associate disaster relief fund" provides financial help to employees for lodging and food. "We've not had to do this to this degree" before, said Sarah Clark, a spokeswoman. She could not estimate how much money Wal-Mart might spend helping employees.

See more details at the WM Associates Blog, on which one associate has an interesting photo of a Wal-Mart badge, while another poster describes the damage to several WM stores:
Store 5079, Pass Christian, MI
There is 1/2 of 1 wall left. The only items that were found were an item from the cash office, and 1 camera from the roof.

Store 1088, Biloxi, MI
The roof had 30+ holes in it. The whole backwall is gone, which means that receiving is gone and all of the offices.

Store 1195, Waveland, MI
Had 19 feet of water. Of course most, if not all the merchandise is destroyed and everything has been moved around, i.e. the meat freezers, etc.

Posted by Kevin on September, 9 2005 at 09:29 AM