November 2, 2005

Do Wal-Mart Consultants Have Fair-Use Rights?

In an age of cheap digital media, it's possible for Wal-Mart consultants to go to the anti-Wal-Mart movie and use a cell-phone to record parts of it:

Rick Jacobs, the chairman of Brave New Films, which is distributing the film, said he was considering filing charges against Wal-Mart and the consultant for attempted piracy. "You can't just go in and record a movie," Mr. Jacobs said. "Wal-Mart should know. They are the largest seller of DVD's in the country."
Why can't you go in and record 30 seconds of a movie? Are there no fair use rights when viewing a film? I think there are, but I know little about the impact of The Family Entertainment Copyright Act of 2005 on said rights.

If there are fair use rights, then a major problem with the "attempted piracy" charge is that Wal-Mart and its agents will have a pretty good case arguing that recording 1% of a film in order to discuss and rebut that portion -- not to sell or market it -- is fair use, official scary-looking FBI warning posted on the screen be damned.

I guess it's not often for a person or corporation to have such a clear interest as to generate a strong presumption of fair use in the film context...

(Note that I'm not arguing that Wal-Mart's consultant's rights were in any way crushed or violated, as the law gives theatre-owners broad though limited rights to detain those suspected of piracy).

Posted by Kevin at 4:21 PM

October 26, 2005

H. Lee Scott on 21st Century Leadership

I believe, in fact, that being a good steward of the environment and in our communities, and being an efficient and profitable business, are not mutually exclusive. In fact they are one in the same. And I can show you why.
That's part of the full text of H. Lee Scott's speech, Twenty-First Century Leadership, which is the source of all the recent articles about Wal-Mart's future environmental and labor plans. (The speech is full of specific targets and goals, and is well worth a read).

Basically, Wal-Mart is going to leverage its size to obtain environmental goals. It will use the same exact tactics it uses against its suppliers to lower prices, only this time very, very few people will bemoan them as an abuse of corporate power. Think I'm exaggerating?:

By being the leader, we will not only change OUR fleet, but eventually change truckseverywhere in the world.
And about "sandwich balers" and waste:
This means working with our 60,000-plus suppliers and educating them. If it has to be thrown away, we don’t want it. We intend to reach the point in the near future where there will be no dumpsters at our stores, and no landfills with Wal-Mart throwaways.

To do that, we have to address packaging.

Posted by Kevin at 8:37 AM

October 19, 2005

Paige Laurie Does the Right Thing

She's given back what she didn't earn:

Elizabeth Paige Laurie's name was on a sports arena when a former University of Southern California roommate alleged the Wal-Mart heiress paid her $20,000 to do her homework. Now it isn't even on a USC diploma.

Laurie, the granddaughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton, has returned her degree, nearly a year after Elena Martinez told ABC's "20/20" that she had written term papers and done assignments for Laurie for 3 1/2 years.

"Paige Laurie voluntarily has surrendered her degree and returned her diploma to the university. She is not a graduate of USC," the school said in a statement dated Sept. 30

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 PM

October 12, 2005

Rees vs. Karlson

At many times, and in many areas, economics has not meshed well with related disciples. That is to say, economists have frequently disagreed with other social scientists and historians. Along those lines, we have an interesting exchange that recently occured between Stephen Karlson (Ph.d in Econ) and Jonathan Rees (Ph.D. in History). And all over Wal-Mart, at that. I'll leave it to you to follow the discussion and comments at your leisure. Here's a discreet outline of how it went down:

Prof. Karlson asks his Microeconomics class a question about small business owners protesting Wal-Mart's entry. Prof. Rees thinks his question was unclear and his comments belittling of students. Prof. Karlson investigates and reponds. The exchange continues in the comments.

Note: I've known Prof. Karlson online for some time longer than I have known Prof. Rees (aka JRMonsterFodder), although I only permalink to the latter on this blog.

Posted by Kevin at 10:14 AM

October 6, 2005

WM in South Central

Cotidiapolis (which is usually written in Spanish) wonders, in my words, " where are all those moral grocers? ":

I wonder...why can't we find markets like Trader Joe's Specialty Grocery Stores, Whole Foods Market, or Bristol Farms - An Extraordinary Food Store in poor neighborhoods? Have you seen one of these markets in South Central LA, La Puente, East LA, South Gate?

Well, I am just wondering;

It reminded me of this 2004 BW article on Wal-Mart's store in South Central LA, and Sam's Curse from 2002 in Reason. From the latter:
As it is, Wal-Mart is already here, with four stores in L.A. and fifteen more in surrounding cities. While these aren't the 200,000 square-foot stores with delis and bakeries that L.A. officials want to banish, you can already get cereal and other groceries there. At one store on Crenshaw Boulevard in the Baldwin Hills section of town, you can walk up to the second floor and buy milk and cheese.

These stores aren't in the nicer or easier-to-reach parts of town. The Baldwin Hills store for example, is located within South Central L.A., which is better-known for poverty and gang violence than for its array of shopping amenities.

Here's Wal-Mart in LA today:


crenshaw.gif

Crenshaw is the number 1 on the map. You see why WM wanted to open up in Inglewood, no?

Posted by Kevin at 12:58 PM

September 23, 2005

Q&A With Lee Scott

Businessweek's been talking to H. Lee Scott: Part 1 and part 2.

Overall, the language used by Mr. Scott does not jive with that of Wal-Mart's labor union opponents. Where Mr. Scott thinks he's reaching out to environmental and international activists, domestic opponents will think he's just spinning. The most telling part of the interview is where he refuses to answer:

I can learn from those people and learn where it is Wal-Mart can change to be a better company, more likely to be embraced or at least tolerated.

That isn't the agenda of the unions?
[Silence. No answer.]

Another good portion:
When growth was easier this idea of critics being ignored was O.K., because you were getting all this positive feedback from the numbers. As the share price slows [and] the critics are attacking, you have to get to this point.

Maybe not all of our critics wish us harm. Maybe some would like us to be a better company and do things differently. So you start reaching out...trying to understand what is it about us that causes them to have this concern. How much of it is legitimate? How much of it is misinformation? What is it that we need to change? What is it we can't [change] that we will hopefully be able to communicate?

As the share price stagnates, he means?

I think Mr. Scott fails to convey what he really means, so let me rewrite his words:

Unions want a big say in how we run our business, mostly by lowering the returns to our shareholders. However, the other groups do not want to control our operations or redirect our profits; they may demonize us at first, but they can be persuaded to pipe down by particular, well-defined changes that support their goals and those of Wal-Mart shareholders. And, frankly, we are willing to work with them because their voices impact the views of the consumers we want in our stores, while there's little use in dealing with somebody who vows never to shop at your stores.

What I think many people should realize is that Wal-Mart is not terribly exceptional in any respect other than its productivity and success. Most other businesses face the same difficulties, at a scale proportional to their operations. Mr. Scott quoted a visiting CEO:

"There isn't anything you are faced with, from a class-action lawsuit to the rest of the stuff, that we are not dealing with in our company. The only difference is that yours is played out on the front page of the paper and you never read about ours."

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

September 2, 2005

Eminem + WM + Kids = Bizarre Music Video

Here's a strange music video filmed by some kids inside a Wal-Mart, choreographed well to Eminem's song Just Lose It.

Posted by Kevin at 3:45 PM

August 19, 2005

Newborn Found in Wal-Mart Bathroom (UPDATED)

This leaves me speechless:

MACON, Ga. -- A woman could face charges after her full-term baby was found in a Wal-Mart bathroom toilet, covered in trash and toilet paper.

The newborn girl was found Sunday afternoon by three Wal-Mart employees. A customer started CPR until a fire department worker arrived and revived the baby, according to a police report.

UPDATE: The baby has died:

A baby girl Bibb County authorities say was born in a Macon Wal-Mart bathroom Sunday died today after more than five days on life support.

Charges against the infant's mother, Amy Dianne Shorter, 26, held in the county jail for aggravated assault and first degree child cruelty, will be upgraded to murder, said Bibb Sheriff's spokesman Capt. David Davis.

Posted by Kevin at 5:27 PM

August 15, 2005

US of WM

Kerry Hannon has an interesting review of John Dicker's The United States of Wal-Mart in USA Today. The skinny:

Cheap is our new crack cocaine.
This is a perfect summary, from what I've read so far of the book.

Posted by Kevin at 5:33 PM

June 27, 2005

Benton, Upscale

Michael Barbaro writes that Benton County is showing its wealth:

Benton County, once a sedate backwater, is quickly morphing into a swanky oasis in the middle of the Ozarks.

The result is an unprecedented migration of high-paid executives to the northwest corner of Arkansas -- professionals from amenity-rich cities like New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami, who bring not only their six-figure salaries, but an appetite for Jaguars, sushi, pet day-care centers, Gucci shoes and Chanel sunglasses.

It's not Wal-Mart executives buying these things, it's the employees of WM's suppliers.
Jeff Collins, an economist the University of Arkansas's Sam Walton School of Business, said the thousands of suppliers who have moved to the region are "trying to recreate the world they knew back home, wherever that was, and they have the money to do it."
Wal-Mart executives should take this as anecdotal evidence that personal contact is influencing decisions in subtle ways -- away from the standards considered by the home office to be optimal or most efficient.

You'll notice, though, that Chinese-owned suppliers are not noted to have any Bentonville presence at all...

------

The article does contain some stupidities, however, including:

Wal-Mart's unchallenged dominance in American retailing
Just what would you call Target and every other retailer that make up 70% of household consumables, unchallenging competitors?

Posted by Kevin at 11:35 AM

May 17, 2005

Apt Descriptions?

Clipped from Kitty's Tale:

Wal Mart is the tricky, abusive, trailer trash boyfriend of stores. It looks so nice and unpretentious on the outside. So inviting. It's saying, "Hey baby, come back to me. You know I've got what you need. I'm gonna be so good to you."
....
Target is the passive-agressive, emotionally manipulative girlfriend of stores...but that's another story.

Posted by Kevin at 3:40 PM

Getting Hitched at WM: Part II

In our previous post on this topic, we linked without comment to a wedding ceremony at Wal-Mart. But the folks at Stay Free Magazine blog feel the need to amuse themselves at Associate expense:

In recent years Wal-Mart has hosted dozens of its employees' weddings. My heart breaks for Beverly McCutcheon, who got married at an upstate New York store. She has so internalized Wal-Mart's draconian labor policy that is almost seems romantic that her friends are economically imprisoned at work during normal wedding hours....

Yes, why follow up the ceremony on the happiest day of your life with camraderie and dancing when everyone can just get back to work and you can pick up a new garden hose.

I personally think getting married in a Wal-Mart is silly, but no sillier than having Elvis as officiant, or worrying that 4 lbs. of shrimp per person isn't enough at the cocktail hour, or having a horse and buggy pull you across the park, or insisting that on the superstretch Hummer limo, or the very concept of matching, ugly, one-time-use bridesmaid dresses...

Question: Men, what would you do if your wife had secretly arranged you to be married at Wal-Mart?

Posted by Kevin at 3:21 PM

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

April 27, 2005

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

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

April 13, 2005

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

April 2, 2005

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

March 29, 2005

Whole Foods, the Wal-Mart of the Health Food Retailers?

Rob over at BusinessPundit asks "Why is it that I don't think we will see people protesting to keep Whole Foods out of their cities?". They drive mom and pop shops out of business too:


Auerbach already has enough competition from Whole Foods and Wild Oats. The impact of their openings in the last two years, on his St. Matthews store in particular, has been "worse than our worst-case scenario," he said.

Posted by Bob at 3:45 AM

March 25, 2005

Right and Left Talk Past One Another

Jay Nordlinger is Wal-Marted-out:

The activists, of course, had no need of Wal-Mart: They didn't need jobs, and they didn't need goods at Wal-Mart prices. They have the fortune to work and shop elsewhere. Wal-Mart is a godsend to the poor and the lower middle class. They generally don't get a say in whether a Wal-Mart goes up. The activists would greatly prefer a vacant lot � with weeds growing between the cracks � to a Wal-Mart, which they deem an unmatchable offense.
Perhaps intentionally ignoring the most cogent part of Nordlinger's piece, Sneaky Rabbit gets in some really good hits:
It seems Nordlinger's well-meaning attempts at a mutually elevating dialogue have sustained one too many blows from the emotionally charged fictions that fuel such things as Wal-Mart protests and university conferences.

Yet, though discouraged, he comes out of the battle with the liberal elite with the truth at his side, still secure in the knowledge that "Wal-Mart is a godsend to the poor and the lower middle class." While we might think at first that he means lower middle class and poor Americans, who don't happen to work in manufacturing, want to join unions, or make a living wage, Nordlinger anticipates our misreading and misinformation. Yet, rather than succumbing to the temptation to mock the ignorant liberal reader, Nordlinger serenely turns away from the technique of making straw men out of the opposition and delivers us the cold hard facts, setting us straight about the Wal-Mart issue

Jawbones is good at picking quotes, and in my opinion wins this rhetorical battle hands down.

Posted by Kevin at 11:22 AM

March 14, 2005

WM Closes All Stores [Humor]

Via the comments on this Blogcritics post, we have a wonderful spoof:

TORONTO (AP) A loud noise was heard in Jonquiere, Quebec as the door slammed shut at the local WalMart store. The worldwide retailing giant decided to close the doors to its store rather than give in to demands to unionize the huge discount store. The sound echoed throughout the region causing other WalMart stores to close. One by one, WalMart closed down operations at each store as the news of the Jonquiere closing spread. Fearful of having to pay workers a decent living wage, the corporate giant instead chose to quit doing business rather than start dealing with labor unions....

The ripple effect of the WalMart closings hit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by noontime and loud cheering could be heard all across the state....

All across the mid-west and then extending out to the east, south, and west the store closings continued throughout the day....


In world developments, thousands of sweatshops in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Costa Rico closed up shop. Worst hit was China where thousands of factories that produced low quality merchandise for WalMart were closed and the workers were sent back to the fields....

As the sun set on the west coast, the last Walmart store locked its doors...

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II got out of his bed to give his blessing to the WalMart store closings. �This is the best news since the end of communism!�

A satire is funny when built on truth. However, the idea that most small businesses pay better wages and benefits than WM is completely unsupported by data, or my own personal andecdotal evidence. Still, fables built on myths are interesting structures...

Posted by Kevin at 10:20 AM

Blog Roundup (Updated)

Here are a few recent posts from around the blogosphere.

Blog Retrofuturistic supports WM but finds that it can support private vices just as much as the public good


I, on the other hand, love the idea that by shopping at Wal-Mart, I can now afford to buy box cereals again. I pay $2.89 for cereals that would be well over four bucks at the Albertson's. And look at the beef prices! And those little tubs of flavored Philadelphia brand cream cheese! And Breyer's ice cream, which I wish was a little more expensive so I could more easily avoid letting it into my shopping cart.

Say, maybe MoveOn is right. Maybe those Wal-Mart bargains aren't such a good thing after all.


The Box Tank discusses the forces arrayed for and against Wal-Mart in Staten Island

Wal-Mart finds a good chance of finding support in Staten Island as it is the most suburban of New York's five boroughs. The retailer already has the support of the head of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and Borough President James Molinaro, and Councilman Andrew Lanza (R-South Shore),


On Provincial Paradigm, Doris Myers claims to have personally witnessed the destruction of her own community at the hands of WM

The reasons I hate Walmart are many. To begin with... they SUCK the life out of every community they infest. I watched it happen in my own community. They literally destroyed the entire nature of this community. They pay disgustingly low wages.... they even have the nerve to hand out applications for food-stamps and medicaid when you get a job with them. So, not only do they drive small businesses into oblivion... they have the gall to expect our County to subsidize them with money for food and medical care for their employees. I USED to occasionally shop at Walmart.... so I WITNESSED the oppression their employees are forced to toil under. They are treated like second class citizens. I find their policies to be reprehensible. The expectation that this company has, to collect biological material and to treat their employees like criminals from the start, is so distatsteful to me, that myself and my family (I would NEVER allow my kids to submit to such demeaning treatment under ANY circumstances.... let alone for the 'privilege' of working for a dictatorial company that pays SLAVE wages) would live in a tent and STARVE before any of us would work for them. They built their 'empire' on the PROMISE that EVERYTHING in their store is MADE IN AMERICA.... that is the only reason I ever began to shop there.... obviously they have violated that promise and in doing so, they have betrayed every customer that fell for their lies. They build factories in PRISONS and use slave labor in their manufacturing in China.
There's lots more! [Update: Why would I link to this? Because I think it is an almost cogent example of the nonsense that WM must battle. I must say that Doris presents no real evidence or argument at all. WM is evil, and must be stopped. Death is preferable to WM! QED. Please?! She even fails to tell us the town that WM allegedly destroyed.]

Coffee House Studio links to Ruth Coniff of The Progressive who writes about WM, but more importantly thinks that Marshalls and TJ Maxx profit off of putting small businesses out to pasture!

Places like TJ Maxx and Marshall's profit from the liquidation of smaller retailers that pay higher rents and charge higher prices because of their downtown location and small size. It's a perfect business plan: Undercut these little shops, then sell their remaining inventory when they go belly up. More and more of us, even if we like our local mom and pop businesses, drive out to the edge of town, vulture-like, to pick over their remains and snap up the "great deals."
Uh, that's not where those companies get their merchandise...


Get the Word Out seems to have forgotten that Wal-Mart actually managed to open a store in Chicago:

QUEENS, N.Y. (PAI)--First it was Los Angeles, then it was Chicago. And now it's the borough of Queens in New York City.

The nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has been forcibly thrown out of the nation's three largest cities due to its low wages, bad benefits and anti-worker policies.

The Chicagoist noted the groundbreaking in February:
After a ton of debate the City Council approved the building of Chicago's first Wal-Mart on the city's West Side. A huge crowd showed up yesterday for the groundbreaking ceremony which included a high school band and a ribbon cutting. But the protestors also showed up.

Posted by Kevin at 9:52 AM

February 28, 2005

Reich on WM

Robert Reich tells us that, as consumers, we should be able to shop anywhere we want, but as citizens the results should bother us. His solution: as business owners, we should be told how much our employees should be paid in wages and benefits. I interpret this to mean that he thinks we need to become Sweden, a.k.a. the land of incredibly expensive consumer goods.

This, in essence, is what Reich recently opined in The New York Times. He writes that WM is bad because we don't use legislation to force it to be good.:

We can blame big corporations, but we're mostly making this bargain with ourselves. The easier it is for us to get great deals, the stronger the downward pressure on wages and benefits. Last year, the real wages of hourly workers, who make up about 80 percent of the work force, actually dropped for the first time in more than a decade; hourly workers' health and pension benefits are in free fall. The easier it is for us to find better professional services, the harder professionals have to hustle to attract and keep clients. The more efficiently we can summon products from anywhere on the globe, the more stress we put on our own communities.
I expect better from Reich; I don't know why. I expect empirical economics--not advocacy dressed up as such.

I get the feeling that Reich is in a restrained crisis mode.

The only way for the workers or citizens in us to trump the consumers in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one. A requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer their workers affordable health insurance, for example, might increase slightly the price of their goods and services.
Actually, Reich's "social choice" is not my "social choice"; he's pretending that there is only one "social choice"--one good thing we can do with redistribution. I emphatically disagree; in fact, that's just silly.. I believe that my "personal choce" is a "social choice", even if Reich disagrees: I want to spend my own income where I damn well please, and that's NOT in places where I am guaranteed to make the poorest Americans even richer than people in China, Russia, India and the Maldives.

Put another way, insisting that WM's prices are lower than social cost is no more convincing to me than me insisting that WM's prices are much higher than social cost. I can't measure "social cost", and neither can Reich. Even if I could measure something like or near "social cost", I would be measuring the distance from the current economy to my own vision of the just society, which is far more libertarian than Reich's vision. Since the notion of "social cost" is normative and affects every human activity, it can easily be used to justify a set of laws and institions that details how everyone must behave.

Also, Reich seems to know that a "small" price increase will be the effect of unwritten but almost certainly vague legislation on the operations of a complex retail sector. Just how did he get this info??? Certainly not economic theory, which makes no quantitative prediction.

Reich knows that tax legislation made specific benefits not subject to income taxation if employers provided them; since WWII, this above all else, has created the expectation by employees that their employers pay for health insurance. However, there is little reason to expect employers to be experts in the purchase of health care, and the only way for employers to control or restrict the costs imposed by their employees on the insurance companies is to share those costs with the employees. I'd like to know why doesn't Reich discuss further tinkering with an already interventionist tax code. Without using subsidies and pretending, the only way to lower insurance prices is to lower healthcare costs, and the only ways to lower costs are productivity enhancements and smarter healthcare usage. People must be made to bear more of the costs of their decisions; even if Reich thinks this unfair, he has little alternative... Why not adjust the tax code to fully separate employment from healthcare provision by incentivizing individual purchase and control over healthcare plans?

I'd like the government to offer wage insurance to ease the pain of sudden losses of pay. And I'd support labor standards that make trade agreements a bit more fair.
I'd like that "offer" of wage insurance to come from a nonprofit corporation, with rates that make the organization solvent; and I insist that having such insurance be completely voluntary. However, I think that Reich has a compulsory income transfer in mind, not an insurance program. Also, I'd support "labor standards" only if they are explicitly temporary AND are tied to permanent elimiation of tarriffs. And for Reich to call labor standards "fair" is just nationalistic moral posturing. I don't think workers in China will belive it "fair" if labor standards -- wage and hour controls -- prevent them from moving to the cities from the farms. They will not think it "fair" that workers losing their jobs in the U.S. due to rapid change will still have far better standards of living than them.

And, let's check the data on hourly workers, shall we?

A) Real wages: Down 0.4% in 2004. But if all the pressures Reich claims are so dangerous (though not new), why have real wages increased 9 out of the last 10 years? 9/10 is not a problem, and I think Reich knows this, but cited the data because it can feel scary.

Also, I find it implausible that Reich doesn't know that the BLS does NOT include price decreases due to the proliferation of WM Supercenters, and including them would probably mean real wages are about unchanged.

B) Real health benefits: (These data are from the BLS. You can look them up yourself.)

Series ID : EBUMEDINC00000AP

Title : Percent Of All Workers Participating In Medical Care Benefits
Type : All Private Industry

Year Ann
1999 53
2000 52
2001 No data available for this year.
2002 No data available for this year.
2003 53(D)
2004 53

So we see workers participating at about the same rate over the last 5 years. However, the amount they're paying is really going up:

Series ID : EBUFAMAVE00000AP (A)

Title : Average Employee Contribution For Family Coverage Medical Care Benefits
Type : All Private Industry
Year A : Average monthly premium
1999 169.84
2000 179.75
2001 No data available for this year.
2002 No data available for this year.
2003 228.98
2004 264.59

And more individuals have to kick in a share for their plans:

Series ID : EBUSELFCONTRIBAP

Title : Percent Of All Employees With Medical Care Required To Contribute Toward Cost Of Single Coverage
Type : All Private Industry

Year Ann
1999 67
2000 68
2001 No data available for this year.
2002 No data available for this year.
2003 78
2004 76

But is the amount paid by the employer decreasing? Uh, no. Here are the Q4 to Q4 percent changes in the healthcare benefit cost per hour for private industry

Year Yr/Yr Q4
2000 8.5
2001 9.2
2002 10.2
2003 10.5
2004 7.3
Bottom line: Healthcare is getting more expensive, insurance prices are rising, and companies are giving compensation increases in the form of paying for health insurance, which is not income taxable.

See also the Eclectic Econoclast's comments:

How do our purchases from Wal-Mart become choices that necessarily lead to gubmnt intervention? Why is there some need to "trump the consumers in us ... through laws and regulations...?"

Posted by Kevin at 10:08 AM

January 23, 2005

Lord of the Things

In 2002, Business 2.0 provided a nice rundown of Wal-Mart factoids, including two about theft:

Estimated value of goods Wal-Mart employees steal from Wal-Mart stores each year: $1 billion

Estimated value of goods stolen by shoplifters: $700 million

Many of the others are seriously dated...

Posted by Kevin at 11:35 AM

January 21, 2005

Massena WM Closed Due to Structural Failure

It's the weather...

The Wal-Mart store in Massena remains closed after bolts on a roof beam sheared off. Wal-Mart officials say the structural damage occurred Tuesday afternoon. The store was closed after an inspection revealed that bolts connecting an expansion beam to a column had broken. Officials say the beam wasn't in danger of falling. Company official at Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas believe recent weather fluctuations that saw temperatures range from near 60 degrees last week to well below zero this week may have caused the damage

Posted by Kevin at 10:22 AM

January 19, 2005

Writing Letters to Editors

The Wal-Mart controversy can get very heated, but its best for all sides to keep this simple piece of advice at heart: keep it short, man! Nobody wants to read a 1,000-word dissertation on why you think Wal-Mart isn't right for Papillion.

I think there's good reason the editors chose WM for the example...

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

Wal-Mart in an Obituary

I do not wish to disrespect this man, but I know that many people will be revolted by the inclusion of Wal-Mart in his obituary:

ARMSTRONG, Tyrone Andrew, 54, of Beechgrove, Tennessee died Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at the VA Hospital. A native of Durant, Oklahoma he was the son of the late Arward Andrew and Louise Robinson Armstrong. He was an associate at Wal-Mart and a Vietnam Veteran serving in the United States Army 1969-1982.
Thank you for serving your country. Rest in peace.

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 AM

January 14, 2005

WM Nursery Rhyme

The Washington Post ran a feature last November asking for modern "edgy nursery rhymes". WM took an honorable mention:

To Wal-Mart, to Wal-Mart,

my town's only store.

I swear that there used to be others before.

(Seth Brown, North Adams, Mass.)

Posted by Kevin at 12:55 PM

January 12, 2005

Deer Take Notice

Apparently, building Wal-Mart supercenters all over the land has not harmed the deer population in the slightest; regardless of what you put on their territory, deer will adapt.

Posted by Kevin at 8:24 PM

January 7, 2005

The Box Tank (UPDATED)

Please note the recent & excellent posts about Wal-Mart on The Box Tank--in particular the one about Wal-Mart as Total City and the one discussing the various store styles and designs that WM has cooked up for those who have complained about the standard blue box.

UPDATE: Make sure to see the picture of WM, Mountain Style

Posted by Kevin at 5:06 PM

2 Fast Company Articles

Fast Comany mentions Wal-Mart in two recent articles:

1. Solving Poverty Profitably

American and European businesses have to go back and look at their own roots. Sears was created to serve the poor. Singer sewing machines innovated with a scheme to make consumption possible by allowing customers to pay $5 a month instead of $100 at once. The world's largest company today, Wal-Mart, was created to serve poor people.

2. How to Fix K-Mart

Bill Chidley, chief creative officer, Design Forum

"The radical approach would be an altruistic retail concept. If we shop at Wal-Mart to be good fiscal managers and at Target to be hip, maybe we could shop at Kmart to give something back. Kmart becomes K for care, K for community. I'll put up with tiles that don't match, and I won't care if I pay 25 cents more for Tide if I know 20 cents is going to the high school."

Posted by Kevin at 11:15 AM

January 5, 2005

ALP Featured on Arkansas Times Blog

It's nice to get a nod from the mainstream media, even if only on a blog:

Wal-Mart obsessives probably know about this website already. Always Low Prices does a little reporting and commentary and rounds up items from the world press about Arkansas's huge retailer. A quick glance indicates it's relatively agnostic on Wal-Mart -- a chronicler rather than an unrelenting critic or sycophant. But you can't say the same about people who post comments on blog materials. Some of those comments delve into company gossip and innuendo. Not that we'd ever read such stuff.
I'd post gossip to, but I'm not good at it.

Posted by Kevin at 11:50 AM

December 28, 2004

WM: Grinch of the Year

Who else but the AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice would exult in using a necessarily flawed online poll to conclude that Wal-Mart the grinch of the year:

Retailing giant Wal-Mart won the 2004 Grinch of the Year award, an annual contest to highlight the corporation that most harms workers and their families sponsored by Jobs with Justice. Runners up include Comcast, Angelica Corp., Continental General Tire and Cintas.

Posted by Kevin at 1:39 PM

December 14, 2004

Bush, Bin-Laden, and Wal-mart???

This guy is not an anti-WM activist--he's just nuts:

Such questions hardly matter to Bush and his friends, for they live in a world based not on facts, but on faith. Bush himself is the perfect mirror image of his nemesis (or is he his secret ally?) Osama Bin Laden. While one true believer sits in his cave in Waristan, working with his followers on the One Way, eager for death and martyrdom, the other is borne aloft by the Christian right of America, full steam ahead to Armageddon, who egg him on to revive the Middle Ages and launch the crusade of the "good". Wholesale death courtesy of Walmart, all in the name of God and Country, smiting the Islamic "evil". The curse of jingoism, to which America seems periodically drawn, is back with a vengeance, fully robed in Biblical cloth. And this time, it is blooming from the depressed centre, while the elitist coasts are squeezed to the sidelines, reduced to mere spectators in their own country. Meanwhile, China sits silently, watching and gloating.
You see, this theory is incomplete: isn't China in cahoots with WalMart?

Posted by Kevin at 11:29 AM

December 11, 2004

Clydesdales at WM

Another example of how WM becomes a town focal point--the Budweiser Clydesdales show off in a WM parking lot in Dahlonega, GA:


DAHLONEGA - A crowd gathered at the Dahlonega Super Walmart shopping center on Wednesday to see the Budweiser Clydesdales, which are in the town this week to participate in the town's Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration, scheduled on Saturday.

The horses are staying at the Cottrell Ranch where they arrived on Monday.

"We've got them here for the week, and there's all kind of things going on," Said Mike Cottrell, "Tuesday Grace Episcopal School from Gainesville came up here and saw them at the ranch." On Thursday, Long Branch Elementary will visit.

"Friday," he continued, "They're at an open house at the ranch, and Saturday they're going to be in Dahlonega from 4 to 7 for the Old Fashioned Christmas." Cottrell said that the Clydesdales' visit was organized by his wife, Lynn Cottrell, "She's the one who needs all the credit."

"It was actually a joke," admitted Mrs. Cottrell. "My husband and I were on the Christmas Committee for Old Fashioned Christmas, and...they were just like, 'It would be neat.' It's just one of those things you see at Christmas, and they don't have to say anything. It's just the background, and just to see the horses and the wagon...So I took the idea and ran with it. And they're here!"...

She continued, "Budweiser has five teams throughout the United States, and they have three full time teams. This is a full time team and they stay on the road eleven months out of the year."

Posted by Kevin at 2:06 PM

December 4, 2004

WM to Sell "Made in China" Submarine (Humor)

The incomparable Scott Ott has today's crucial WM news:

Wal-Mart today announced a deal to market the new 'Made in China' ballistic missile submarine through its 4,900 retail stores, adding a "big-ticket item" to help boost sales just in time for the holidays.

"It's Wal-Mart's first truly intercontinental strategic nuclear delivery system," according to a company news release.

Posted by Kevin at 1:20 PM

Ukrainian Revolution vs. Shopping at WM

Mary Beth Danielson judges American and Ukrainian values based on recent events--Ukrainians protesting election fraud, and lower than expected sales at WM:

I think these two stories lay out a hard question.

Which nation is stronger? The one with so many shopping choices we can't see straight? Or the one where hundreds of thousands of educated citizens took to the streets to forcefully, non-violently, and resolutely demand the one clear choice they made? There's no simple answer, but I think the question is worth asking...

I've bought one present so far this season, a plastic toy for my toddler nephew. I bought it at a store whose corporate offices are in a city far from here - and the toy was made in China. Exactly HOW does this purchase make our nation and community a more robust place to live? By employing the clerks and stockers at the store who earn less than $10 per hour and have sparse benefits? By making richer the people who own stocks? Are stockholders, in general, the kind of people who will flood city streets to demand reform when reform is needed? You know what I wonder? I want to know how to foster citizens as brave, committed and empowered as the citizens of Ukraine. (If someone wants to buy me a ticket to Ukraine, I'll go ask them how they do it.) I think the key lies somewhere in the work and power of choosing....

Do we want our teenagers to spend their energy choosing among 17 kinds of shampoo? Or do we want them to know the difference between capitalism and democracy, that the two things are not the same?
.

[Emphasis added]

Posted by Kevin at 10:13 AM

November 22, 2004

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Who Knows?!

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

Posted by Morgan at 3:45 AM

November 21, 2004

WM In the News

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]


Read the entire story, here.

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

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

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

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

[...]


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

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

Big Cheats on Campus

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

[...]

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

[...]

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

[...]


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

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

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

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

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

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


*Update 1*

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

[...]

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

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

[...]

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

[...]

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

[...]


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

Read the article in full, here.

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


*Update 2*

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

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

Interesting...

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

[...]


Read her post in full, here.

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

Definitely interesting ..., true enough Ami!


*Update 3*

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

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

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


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

Posted by Morgan at 11:31 PM

November 18, 2004

Lileks on WM

James Lileks on WM:

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

Posted by Kevin at 11:23 AM

November 17, 2004

WM Associates Journal

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

i love walmart

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

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

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

first of all don't talk to me

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

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

It gets quite a bit of traffic.

Posted by Kevin at 9:41 AM

November 12, 2004

Misspelling WM

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

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

November 6, 2004

Meet the Waltons

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

Posted by Kevin at 9:28 AM

November 1, 2004

WM and National Politics

A few interesting tidbits:

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

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

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

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

Posted by Kevin at 3:53 PM

August 24, 2004

A little privacy please

I don't really have much to say about this(via Drudge):

N.O. Man Says He Was Shot At In Wal-Mart Bathroom

UPDATED: 9:48 AM CDT August 24, 2004
NATCHITOCHES, La. -- A New Orleans man was wounded by gunfire in a botched holdup in a Natchitoches Wal-Mart restroom Sunday, police said.

Viator Tyndale, 48, told police that someone reached over the side of a stall and fired one shot into the floor, then demanded money. The gunman then moved to the front of the stall and fired two more rounds. Tyndale said he shoved the swinging stall door at the robber, who then fled the restroom.

Tyndale suffered a small cut on his hand from shoving the door.

A shopper in the store said he received a minor arm wound from what he believes is a round that exited the bathroom.

Lonnie Davis, of Natchitoches, was treated at the scene and declined further medical treatment.

The investigation is continuing.

Police are reviewing store surveillance video.

Posted by Bob at 2:05 PM

August 23, 2004

Getting Hitched at WM

A couple meets and falls in love at WM, and that's where they get married:

"It never dawned on me to have it anyplace else," said the 55-year-old bride.

Neither bride nor groom work at the discount store. Still, they spend more time there than many employees do, wandering the aisles and visiting friends for up to six hours a day, nearly every day since the store opened two years ago....

Both Pat Byrd and Bill Hughes are disabled. They met nine years ago, when Bill was a patient at a North Idaho hospital and so was Pat's sister...

They celebrated their blooming love with a ceremony Friday in Wal-Mart's garden center. The store manager was a groomsman, and a fabric department employee was matron of honor.

A garden center employee, Chuck Foruria, walked alongside Pat as she rode her motorized shopping cart down the makeshift aisle, her oxygen tank in the basket.

"Who gives this woman in marriage?" asked Stacey Garza of the Free Will Church.

"Her friends and family at Wal-Mart," Foruria replied.

Posted by Kevin at 1:20 PM

August 12, 2004

Shop the Vote: Wal-Mart = Bush. Costco = Kerry. Costco's Winning

An interesting commentary featured on Slate's Website, written by Daniel Gross, here.

Posted by Morgan at 9:11 AM

July 3, 2004

Wal-Mart Attempts to Change its Ill-Fashioned Image Falls Short

It appears that Wal-Mart's attempt to change its ill-fashioned image is falling short, though some within WM would have us believe otherwise.

Wal-Mart's fashion dilemma

By ANN ZIMMERMAN
The Associated Press
7/2/04 9:12 AM

and

SALLY BEATTY

The Wall Street Journal

Two years ago, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. set out to do what was once unthinkable: get serious about fashion.

The world's largest retailer -- known for being cheap but never chic -- had bulked up its fledgling product-design team and dispatched buyers and designers to Europe for inspiration. Most importantly, Wal-Mart announced it would roll out the contemporary apparel line George, which already had enjoyed a decade of success in the United Kingdom.

Stateside, nervous fashion retailers bristled. With apparel sales already stalled, the industry worried it would be the next victim of the so-called Wal-Mart effect. The Bentonville, Ark., retailing chain is known for dominating nearly every consumer product category it sets its sights on -- from toilet paper to toys -- forcing down prices and flattening competition along the way. As the largest seller of clothing basics, such as jeans, sweats and underwear, Wal-Mart sales already accounted for roughly 25 percent of the U.S. apparel market.

Four seasons out, George, which is targeted to women 30 to 50 years old, is hardly the megahit industry denizens feared. Although Wal-Mart insists sales of the George are ahead of plan this year, apparel suppliers, analysts and observers say sales have been far below what the fashion world was expecting.

"(George) is not flying off the shelves," says Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y., market-research firm that tracks apparel sales.

[...]

One problem seems to be the fact that:

Not that the merchandise is drab or costly. Sharply-priced George offers Chanel-inspired tweed jackets and flouncy floral skirts, with most items less than $20. The problem, rather, appears to be with Wal-Mart's execution. In-store displays are small and often hard to find. Some feel it has suffered from a lack of advertising in a heavily promotional industry. Others perceive George as less a fashion collection than a gaggle of basics in better colors and fabrics.

"When you launch a fashion brand you should do it with 360-degree support in terms of how it is merchandised and placed in stores and you need to talk about it -- difficult issues for Wal-Mart," says Mandy Putnam, an analyst with Retail Forward, a marketing research and consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio.

George's wobbly start raises the larger question of whether Wal-Mart's low-price, commodity approach is too restricting for a fashion brand. "Wal-Mart is really known for price," says Todd Slater, an analyst with Lazard, a New York investment bank. "But that is not the primary goal in buying fashion apparel."

[...]

Yet, still, one is left to wonder if other factors besides those mentioned in the above referenced article may be contributing to some shoppers habits, particularly among the population of momen shoppers that these fashion are targeted and geared to attract.

Maybe, as big as they are, they can manage to afford to stay both in denial and in business all at the same time.

Who knows?

Read the article in full, here.

Posted by Morgan at 3:14 PM

June 30, 2004

Wal-Mart Steps up Security (Spoof/Humor)

*Updated*

Another item I could not resist as well was this humorous piece featured on The Spoof Website (here) [the link now only goes to the main Spoof page, as it appears the original article is no longer available for some reason; too bad, as the photo was great]:

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has decided to get tough on shoplifting and employee theft.

Their new robotic anti-theft device, nicknamed "Sam" after Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, will be gradually phased in at all Wal-Mart and Sam's Club's stores across the United States beginning this Fall.

"It's based on the ED-209 robot from the movie Robo-Cop," said Wal-Mart Media Relations Manager Ted Gentry, "but we can assure all those would-be Winona Ryder's out there that this is a fully functional version. Sam features two 20 mm cannons and two .50 caliber fully automatic machine guns putting out 5 thousand rounds per minute...enough firepower to discourage even the most dedicated shoplifter or union organizer. There are also a few surprises up Sam's titanium alloy triple armor plated sleeves, but we would like to keep those a secret at the moment. Let's just say that Sam won't be as easy a pushover as your typical 95 year old Wal-Mart greeter."

[...]

Hmmm, it would not surprise me in the least if the folks at Wal-Mart Headquarters would think is a good idea and attempt to do something along these lines.

;->

Okay, I think I have managed to make up for not posting on the ALP blog for over a month's time and have gotten my quota of blog posts in, for the time being anyway.

Until next time ...

:-) [smile]

*Note*: last updated on Saturday, July 3, 2004 at 2:55 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 2:02 PM

Vermont temporarily canceled, due to Wal-Mart (Humor)

Just could not resist providing a heads up about this must-read this guest column featured in today's New Hampshire-based Union Leader (here):

Another View: Vermont temporarily canceled, due to Wal-Mart By STEVE TWOMEY Guest Commentary
(Vermont) now faces an invasion of behemoth stores that could destroy much of what makes Vermont Vermont. To highlight the threat to this vital piece of America�s heritage, the National Trust for Historic Preservation today named the state of Vermont to its 2004 list of America�s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. � National Trust news release, May 24

VERMONT VISITORS� GUIDE (Revised)
WITH THE
summer vacation season only two more gas hikes away, the guide�s editors saw a need for a supplemental edition of �Vermont: In Your Webster�s Under �Quaint,�� in light of its designation as a vanishing state.

Unless travelers fully heed the state-restoration plan now underway, the day will come when our grandkids will experience the genus Vermont only in Nickelodeon reruns of that Bob Newhart show, the one where he runs the inn.

First and most obvious, any visitor lucky enough to come upon Vermont in the wild should not touch it. Don�t play with it. Resist the urge to feed it. Giving an endangered state a handout weakens its innate economic abilities and increases its dependency on tourism until, inevitably, it goes the way of Las Vegas, South Florida and other extinct species of the natural world.

For the leaf-peepers out there, please be aware that fall in Vermont has been canceled. The renowned annual changeover to orange, yellow and especially crimson was taxing and contributed to the state�s endangerment, researchers tell us. By order of the governor, Vermont�s leaves will remain on their trees right through this winter, and they will remain green. You are urged to peep in New Hampshire.

[...]

Continue reading here.

Enjoy!

Oh, and remember, don't tread on Vermont 's sacred soil (but please do keep sending your money to help the effort toward continuing to preserve it thoughout the ages however. Mastercard, Visa and all other major card payments directed to the State of Vermont will indeed be accepted. Absolutely no personal checks whatsoever though)!

;->

Posted by Morgan at 1:46 PM

June 18, 2004

Fictional Fragrance

I don't even know how to describe this:

ABC's popular soap [All My Children] and retail behemoth Wal-Mart are turning the fictional Enchantment perfume into a real-life specially formulated stench....

Marketing decisions involving how to package, advertise and test the new Wal-Mart perfume will be debated within the series, which is bound to make for subtle cross-marketing.

"We are pleased to offer our customers this exciting new fragrance," says Ronnie Hoyt, Wal-Mart senior vice president and general merchandise manager. "We recognize that many of our customers are 'All My Children' fans and will be excited to see the product integrated into the storyline."

The amber oriental fragrance of Enchantment will be available to consumers in late September.

Posted by Kevin at 4:00 PM

June 11, 2004

Appendices to Drogin Report

Does anybody know where I can get a copy of the Appendices to the Drogin Report?

FYI--the Drogin Report is a 46 page statistical summary of WM payroll data from 1996 to 2002. Most of the anecdotes and data figures reported in "fact sheets" and the like are taken from the Appendices--not the report itself. I haven't been able to obtain the appendices, and can't even get people to return my email inquiries about them.

Posted by Kevin at 1:33 PM

May 28, 2004

A Little Bit of Everything

This article contains a little bit of everything about WM--from CEO to protestors to activists to European expansion.

Posted by Kevin at 11:18 AM

WM to Move Remains

When Hawaii granted WM the right to build, it didn't realize people were buried on the site. WM has agreed to move the remains to another location, and the courts have given them the go-ahead:


The ruling in State Circuit Court allows the movement of 42 sets of remains to another area of the Keeaumoku Street site where a Wal-Mart store and a Sam's Club are being built.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin said Thursday Paulette Kaleikini went to court to block the movement of the bones; however, Judge Virginia Marks ruled Kaleikini hadn't proved state officials had violated the public trust in granting Wal-Mart permission to move the remains.

The burial sites of ancient Hawaiians are considered sacred by present-day natives, and the discovery of graves frequently delays or blocks construction projects.

Posted by Kevin at 10:54 AM

May 27, 2004

WM in Chicago: 1 Down, 1 to Go

Wal-Mart gets into Chicago:

Chicago's city council Wednesday approved Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s plan to build its first outlet in the third-largest U.S. city following an impassioned debate about whether the world's largest retailer will usher in prosperity or misery.

But a second rezoning proposal that would allow a second Wal-Mart store in another impoverished Chicago neighborhood fell one vote short of approval, and the plan was referred back to a council committee.

50% +1 of the aldermen are needed to approve a resolution. The first had 32 positive votes, the second only 25.

Posted by Kevin at 9:18 AM

May 21, 2004

Andy Kaufman's Back: National Wal-Mart Tour? [Humor]: *Updated Yet Again*

Coming to a Wal-Mart near you very soon, Andy Kaufman Returns?

Yes, believe it or not, Andy Kaufman (here, *here*, *here* -- [via snopes here], here, here, here and, here) is not only reportedly back, but it appears that he is blogging in style with his very own blog and, within only a few hours of his announced return on Monday (May 17, 2004), even quickly posted up a FAQ blog post as well.

In fact within one particular blog post *on Thursday (May 20, 2004)* [opps; see below], Andy has announced his National Starbucks and Wal-Mart Tour:

My friends keep telling me, "Andy - why don't you go on Letterman, man? Or Barbara Walters? Let everyone know you're back."

What I did broke the trust of a lot of people in this country, not to mention many close friends and family members. I will never again be able to gain back that trust. Not even after public appearances or even DNA testing. Some will always have their doubts. I don't care about those people anymore.

I care about my fans, the ones who understood my rare form of comedy meets performance art spectacle. That's why I'm going to give back to you guys only, and tour the country appearing unexpectedly at local Starbucks and Wal-Marts.

I've been working on a lot of new characters these last twenty years, which I may be disguised as:
- aging comedy legend who still thinks everyone recognizes him
- hippie turned yuppie guy in suit, now with bad coke habit
- aging fat and bald guy who thinks he is god's gift to women
- black turtleneck wearing pseudo-intellectual anti-war nerd-chic guy
- and more.

The tour begins TODAY! Be sure to tell your friends and alert the local media when you spot me!

Hmmm. That would possibly be one explanation for the great volume of traffic heading up to the Hospital Hill area in Berlin, Vermont today (Friday, May 21st).

Someone with a cell phone must have spotted Andy Kaufman at the Wal-Mart store (which is located up there, within the Berlin Mall) and put out the word to everyone they knew.

Hey, was that one of those giant CNN trucks I saw flying up the hill in order to do a live broadcast as well?

Who knows?

Anyway, if you have really returned to us Andy, welcome back. You've been greatly missed.

*Notes*: Made several, mostly minor, edits for the purposes of clarification and readability only; in addition, I have also included a few extra links as well.

Ugh!: The *opps* in reference to the day and date, within the third paragraph, is due to my incorrectly having originally indicated "today" -- as in Friday - for when the National Starbucks and Wal-Mart Tour blog post was posted on the Andy Kaufman Returns blog.

That blog post was in fact posted on on Thursday (May 20, 2004).

However in my closing comments, after the quoted blog post text, Friday is correctly mentioned though -- as that was indeed the day great volumes of traffic was sighted going up to Hospital Hill in Berlin, where the local Wal-Mart store is located.

Did you notice how there has been no blog posts to the Andy Kaufman Returns blog either on Friday or since.

Vermont is, after all, probably about the best place for Andy Kaufman to have started making his national (re-)appearances in Wal-mart. It makes sense.

;-> [wink & grin]

Hey, by the way, does anyone know what the 12-Step self-help support group for people who can't stop talking (or, in this case, blogging) is called?

Last updated on Saturday, May 22, 2004 at 9:02 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 4:19 PM

May 20, 2004

Hole-y deal: Wal-Mart to start selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts Tuesday: *Updated*

Krispy Kreme donut (or doughnut) lovers in and around Austin, Texas will be pleased to learn that when they shop at a Wal-Mart store near them, that [article here]:

Krispy Kreme doughnuts will begin arriving in 10 Austin area Wal-Mart stores Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Austin-based Glazing Saddles Ltd., the Central Texas franchisee for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, announced a partnership with retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Stores in the Austin area that will sell the doughnuts are in Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Bastrop and San Marcos.

[...]

Glazing Saddles already has a distribution deal with three Super Target stores in San Antonio and two in Austin.

[...]


Via Austin Business Journal (read article, here), via Google News Alert for Wal-Mart.


*Update*

*Note*: Am not sure, but the date of the above original article appears to be Monday, May 17, 2004 (as indicated within the URL for the article anyway), however this is available on their online edition under Latest News today (Thursday, May 20th). So I do not know if the Tuesday in question was this week's (i.e., May 18th) or is next week (May 25th). Am only mentioning this because I do not want to end up inadvertently frustrating any passionate Krispy Kreme doughnut lovers in Texas.


Not that I have this great thing for donuts really, because the fact is I do nut -- opps, I mean that I do not (was not trying to be cute actually either, as it was just an honest typo, at first anyway) -- have a big thing for them, seriously.

What I am big on though, is posting follow-ups to previous blog posts of mine on a given subject whenever I think they either warrant it or may just be interesting in some odd fashion.

This post is a follow-up on the earlier blog post of mine to ALP dated Thursday, May 13, 2004 entitled: WM Donut Wars Anyone?

Which of course brings me to wonder if, given the information presented in today's Austin Business Journal, Wal-Mart may not have fired the first shot after all, in what just last week looked to me like the beginnings of a donut war.

Rather it makes me wonder that since Wal-Mart had previously had a deal with Krispy Kreme and, then, later did a deal with Dunkin Donuts as well; maybe it was a corporate version of Tit for Tat because Austin-based Glazing Saddles Ltd. -- the Central Texas franchisee for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, [...] already has a distribution deal with three Super Target stores in San Antonio and two in Austin. -- hmmm?

Could it be that Wal-Mart was, at least in part, putting Krispy Kreme in its place or is it just an overall corporate plan that has nothing to do with ego's and the darker side within the politics of the business world, etc.??

Who knows?

It was just a thought.


*Another Update*: fyi:

Links to information and articles about Tit for Tat: here, here and here.


*Note*: Included a paragraph to provide additional information, see *Update* after upper article excerpts; also made several, mostly minor, edits for the purposes of clarification and readability only: last updated on Thursday, May 20, 2004 at 5:08 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 3:32 PM

May 19, 2004

Editorial Roundup

The Times Herald applauds a judge's ruling letting the Marine City Wal-Mart go forward:

The arguments Mariners First raises aren't particularly compelling. In her May 16 Times Herald column, the Rev. Rosalie Skwiers said Wal-Mart would increase retail space by 35%. "Where are the studies to show us this 35% increase, all at one time, will not adversely affect our city?" she asked.

That also begs this question: Where are the studies that prove this retail development will harm Marine City?

On the other hand, the Chattanoogan gives ample space to a group called the Coalition for Responsible Progress that thinks Wal-Mart has destroyed too much green space:
The Brainerd Wal-Mart has been foisted upon us through a series of sweet deals, ignoring the wishes of our citizens as outlined in the Brainerd Town Plan and Imagine Eastgate that was adopted by the City Council in 1998.
The Demopolis Times, referencing this National Review article by Jay Nordlinger, characterizes the War on Wal-Mart as silly, while forecasting the only way to take it down:
If Wal-Mart seems unstoppable, there is one force that will be its undoing, and it's not angry protests. Eventually, some retailer will be more nimble and cunning than even Wal-Mart, and it will get -- as all businesses in America do -- its own capitalist comeuppance.
Finally,the Omaha World-Herald relates the moral struggle some have shopping at Wal-Mart:
For some Americans, like Allgood, shopping at Wal-Mart involves internal struggle. For others, no struggle at all - they love it.

While we've carried on this love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart for years, a recent onslaught of bad publicity has threatened the image of the world's largest retailer even more. News stories and lawsuits allege low wages, unequal pay and the use of illegal immigrant workers.

Posted by Kevin at 10:10 AM

May 13, 2004

WM Donut Wars Anyone?: *Yet Another Update*

It appears that someone at Wal-Mart (WM) headquarters has managed to start what could easily turn into a major mess between competitors Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme Donuts Inc., each of whom are setting up shop(s) inside certain WM stores.

CNN/Money reports that Dunkin' Donuts Set to Open 10 Shops in Wal-Mart Stores

Dunkin' Donuts said it agreed to open 10 shops inside Wal-Mart stores in the next three months, adding to the retailer's growing roster of restaurants in its stores, Thursday's Wall Street Journal reported.

The deal could offer a major boost to Dunkin' Donuts' goal of stretching beyond its Northeast stronghold to have a national market. If the initial test is successful, Dunkin' Donuts, one of the biggest coffee retailers in the U.S., says it hopes to expand to additional Wal-Mart outlets.

However, Dunkin' Donuts, which is part of British spirits company Allied Domecq PLC (AED), could come up against Krispy Kreme Donuts Inc. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) already has an agreement with Krispy Kreme to test two of its outlets inside Wal-Mart stores, with a plan to open five more this quarter. Furthermore, Wal-Mart, which has about 3,000 U.S. stores, already sells boxed Krispy Kreme donuts in the main area of more than 500 of its stores.

Wall Street Journal Staff Reporter Deborah Ball contributed to this report.

It will be quite interesting to watch this particular WM sponsored food fight as it evolves.

*Update*

In addition, via Business Wire -- which came my way via a Google News Alert re: Wal-Mart, is this recent Dunkin Donuts press release:

Dunkin' Donuts to Establish Retail Presence in Select Wal-Mart Stores; Famous Brand Names Join Forces to Open Store-within-a-Store Concept

RANDOLPH, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 13, 2004--Wal-Mart and Dunkin' Donuts, the world's largest coffee-and-baked goods chain, announced today the opening of the first Dunkin' Donuts shop within a Wal-Mart store. The store-within-a-Wal-Mart concept will celebrate its grand opening Friday, May 14, in North Wyndham, Connecticut. The brands announced plans to open ten stores in the next three months in Wal-Mart locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

[...]

Prominently positioned in the front of each Wal-Mart, the in-store Dunkin' Donuts shops will look and feel just like a neighborhood Dunkin' Donuts store. Each shop will offer a full menu, complete with Dunkin' Donuts' legendary hot coffee, recently named Best Coffee in America on NBC's "Today" Show. The menu will also include lattes, cappuccinos, breakfast sandwiches and, of course, donuts. Shoppers and Wal-Mart associates will be able to take a break in a comfortable restaurant environment.

For an added treat, some of the Dunkin' Donuts stores will also feature ice cream from Baskin-Robbins, a sister ADQSR brand. Shoppers will also have the option to pre-pay for certain Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins menu items at the Wal-Mart registers, along with the rest of their purchases, and have these items ready for pick up at the in-store Dunkin' Donuts shop to take home or to enjoy in the store.

The Dunkin' Donuts and combined Baskin-Robbins will be owned and operated by franchisees and located in markets where Dunkin' Donuts enjoys a strong retail presence. The next in-store shops will open in Walpole, Massachusetts and Monaca, Pennsylvania within a month.

[...]

Hmmm, donuts a la mode anyone?

*Yet Another Update*

Two related items with additional information or news tid bits (donut holes I suppose) and, lastly, a little food for thought.

FoxNews: Business
Dunkin' Donuts to Enter Some Wal-Mart Stores in Blow to Krispy Kreme

Thursday, May 13, 2004
Reuters

CHICAGO���Dunkin' Donuts Thursday said it will open 10 shops inside Wal-Mart stores, helping the world's largest retailer broaden its branded fast-food offerings.

News of the deal could be a further blow to Dunkin' Donuts' rival Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. (KKD), which has already set up shop inside seven Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)�locations. Krispy Kreme warned earlier this month that the low-carbohydrate dieting craze would dampen profits, and it cut its expansion plans.

[...]

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has been steadily broadening its offerings of fast food in an effort to provide respite to shoppers navigating its vast, large-format stores.

The retailer also houses some 950 hamburger McDonald's Corp. hamburger stands, and it recently entered a deal to offer 100 sandwich shops run by Blimpie International Inc.

In addition, Wal-Mart has about 1,700 of its own Radio Grill and Wal-Mart snack bars, said Sharon Weber, a company spokeswoman. Wal-Mart limits its restaurant offerings to one format per store, she said.

"We really are looking at different formats and different plans to offer our customers," Weber said, adding that it was too early to determine how many total Dunkin' Donuts were planned. "It is important for us that they can sit and relax."

And, finally, some food for thought?

Motley Fool: Our Take
Slam Dunkin' at Wal-Mart?

*Note*: Added more, including excerpts of a (as well as links to) corporate press release, news article and commentary: last updated on Thursday, May 13, 2004 at 7:17 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 9:50 AM

May 12, 2004

To WM or Not to WM, is that the Question?: *Updated*

Concerning the many deeply rooted and challenging troubles of the day faced by society, families and individuals alike; if William Shakespeare were alive and blogging today, with his being the artist and writer (as well as the activist or social critic, whom I think) he truly was, would he rather have had Hamlet pondering:

"To WM or not to WM, --that is the question:--
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"
instead of pondering
"To be or not to be, --that is the question:--
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"
Or would he have gone farther and deeper into these matters, challenging such things on a much broader level?

Who knows really? Does it matter? What do you think?

It is simply a thought, probably not an original one either, that somehow found its way into my thinking from out of the blue and is, using my own version of a very dry Massachusetts sense of humor of course, also just a little tongue in cheek as well.

*Note*: Made mostly minor edits to the first, third to last and last paragraphs for the purposes of clarification and readability: last updated on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 at 8:03 PM [EDT].

Posted by Morgan at 4:07 PM

May 11, 2004

Around the Blogosphere (Serious)

The Kitchen Cabinet debates the efficiency of buying pickles at WM. If it's cheaper to purchase a gallon jar at WM and throw the rest away, than to buy a half gallon elsewhere, is doing so economically efficent? YES.

Dave's not here reports that an Army PX as big as a WM.

Boy as car thinks $14 Levis and $1.98 per gallon OJ make Wal-Mart an amazing place.

Posted by Kevin at 8:45 AM

Around the Blogosphere (Humor)

There are some good things about WM. If you happen to be shopping for clothes, but didn't put on underwear, WM can supply it cheaply and quickly.

WM wine has received plenty of nicknames.

WM keeps families together; its glasses are large enough to get the entire family drunk.

Posted by Kevin at 8:38 AM