August 8, 2005

Examining My Independent Assessment

All academic and independent experts who publish and present on Wal-Mart�s behalf are being scrutinized by our team about possible conflicts of interest.
I'd welcome this, if it were what Wal-Mart Watch was actually going to do. But its promises to "scrutinize" all the presenters at the November Independent Assessments conference for ties to Wal-Mart could easily turn into a "witchhunt", if history is any guide. By "scrutinize", WMW apparently means make invalid insinuations based on their excited interpretations of the available evidence, or lack thereof.

To wit, their recent accusation that Ken A. Mark, co-author of a recent New York Times Op-Ed, was on the take from Wal-Mart, when actually his company provides research about it to other companies. Mr. Mark immediately cleared up the matter on the WMW blog, but WMW still blamed him:

While we would advise Mr. Mark to consider the materials and online promotion of his consulting firm, we too have no further evidence of a conflict of interest.
Well, I was hoping for "we regret the error," or something similar, but for WMW, scrutinizing those favoring Wal-Mart seems to mean lack of responsibility not to defame, and a refusal to admit wrongdoing.

Anyway, go to the Martello Group website yourself; it's a dud, really. From it, I was completely unclear about what the firm did or how it did it. The firm's website lists research about Wal-Mart, but provides NO evidence about financial ties to Wal-Mart, and does NOT insinuate that Wal-Mart is a client. Of course, that doesn't stop Wal-Mart Watch from throwing accusations around. A lesson for all of you academics, indeed.

This leads me to ask, is everyone who writes about Wal-Mart to be required to state explicitly that he doesn't work for Wal-Mart? Apparently, yes.

So let me make an admission right here. I have personally benefited from Wal-Mart's largesse. I have repeatedly gone to their stores and purchased goods, including: a bicycle pump, diapers, various toys, an air mattress, some car cleaners and waxes, a pack of DVD-RW disks, and some diet soda -- all at everday low prices. I estimate I have saved dozens, if not hundreds, of dollars by shopping at Wal-Mart instead of other stores. And those savings are no different from letting me buy goods where I want, and Wal-Mart cutting me a check...

Posted by Kevin at 8:18 AM