Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers

Wal-Mart had another bad p.r. week in what is turning out to be a bad p.r. year.

The AP reports today that Wal-Mart is overcharging its customers at an alarming rate, according to a University of Illinois study released this week. 6.4% of items tested at Wal-Mart stores in the Midwest resulted in mischarges. 85% of Wal-Mart stores in the Midwest failed to meet federal standards for pricing accuracy.

Last week, the film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price debuted. Siskel and Roeper gave it two thumbs up. The film features former Wal-Mart employees, even managers, speaking frankly about the company, and how it has put five Walton family members among the ten richest people in America while treating it's employees like chattel.

Most damning: Wal-Mart started a foundation to help employees whose families were victims of natural disasters like Hurrican Katrina. Frontline employees contributed millions to the fund, but the Waltons -- the richest people in America, with billions in assets -- gave only $6,000.

Finally, the public is beginning to connect the dots between Wal-Mart and the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, after the debut last month on The Tonight Show of Jib-Jab's Big-Box Mart. If you do nothing else right today, watch this tragically funny video.

Like the fictional store in the video, Wal-Mart loves America so much it buys everything it can from China. In fact, Wal-Mart alone is responsible for 10% of the U.S. trade deficit with China [“U.S. Stock Investors Wary of Analyst `Yuan Plays': Taking Stock, Bloomberg, 7/1/05].

When you wake up to start your Holiday shopping this Friday, remember that where you choose to spend your money has consequences.

7 comments:

grand old partisan 1:26 PM  

My, oh my, what a can of worms…..

The AP report is alarming, and Wal-Mart needs to get their act together. I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that it is all honest mistakes (until proven guilty, as they say). And I don’t think this is a stretch of the imagination. Wal-Mart is a gigantic corporation, and its inventory processing network must be a nightmare to maintain. But I think an investigation as to whether or not it is systematic or intentional is completely justified. But, again, I’m more inclined to assume that this is an example of Wal-Mart becoming a victim of it’s own success. It wouldn’t be the first time that a retail giant has suffered because it’s size had made it difficult to maintain a high level of custom service or quality control standards.

Now, I’ll admit that there are some serious concerns and issues surrounding Wal-Mart. But a few thoughts regarding your post:

First, the film. I have no doubt that it is a powerful film, full of facts and real personal stories. But, just as Farenheit 911, I’m sure that is also makes no attempt to even present any facts or stories that might contradict its preconceived conclusions. Now, there is nothing inherently unethical or wrong with this. But it’s important for people to remember when watching it that this isn’t a group of objective observers who wanted to find out the whole story and film what they found – it is a group of biased activists who set out to make a film to bolster their side of a complicated debate.

Now, regarding the foundation, and the Walton’s $6,000 donation. It should also be noted that the Walton Family Foundation committed $15 million to other Katrina disaster relief efforts and agencies, including $4 million to The Salvation Army alone. (This is the sort of thing I was talking about in the previous paragraph).

Okay, I like Jib-Jab as much as the next guy, but, come on. It is hardly a serious source to be referenced. I have a real problem with comedians (Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Dennis Miller, Al Franken) who try to be comedians and pundits at the same time. As comedians, they are allowed a certain level of artistic license to distort/oversimplify issues to suite their comedic needs – but let’s not forget that they are often doing just that.

I do applaud your closing comment. If you don’t like Wal-Mart’s policies and practices, then don’t shop there – easy as that. The free market giveth, and the free market taketh away.

But if you want to debate the pro’s and con’s of Wal-Mart, I’m game. But you’d better bring more than one-sided documentaries and internet cartoons.

Yellow Dog Democrat 1:49 PM  

GOP -

We don't give gangbangers the "benefit of the doubt" when they take money from shoppers outside of the store, why should we give Wal-Mart the benefit of the doubt for taking money from shoppers inside the store?

For that matter, when other companies like People's Gas overcharge their customers, we bring down the hammer. Why slap Wal-Mart on the wrist?

And this debate is hardly one-sided -- Wal-Mart is spending a buttload of money telling it's side of the story.

The Bible tells us that "The love of money is the root of all evil."

For the love of money, Wal-Mart has made the Walton family the richest in America -- while their employees struggle in poverty and go without health care, for which we, the taxpayers, get to foot the bill.

grand old partisan 3:16 PM  

Yellow dog,

Before you complain that Wal Mart has gotten off easy, don't we first have to wait for an investigation, an indictment, a verdict, and a sentence?

I said I think there should be an investigation. If there is proof that the discrepancies are systematic, due to intentional actions by Wal-Mart, they should receive an appropriate penalty. You will receive no argument from me there. In fact, there should be some penalty even if the errors are random, due to neglect and poor quality service standards by the company. But you are trying to convict them in the PR court before the Attorneys General even have a chance to launch a proper investigation.

And I didn’t say that the debate was one sided: I speculated that the film was. Big difference.

Pat Hickey 6:21 PM  

Yellowdog, well done! That Old Sam and Sons are the most enegetic bunch of merchant-bucanneers this side of Charon's wet oar is no new flash, but the depths to which they will limbo under a dollar is always good to hear.

Trade Unions have fought these free-market Fifth Columnists for years. I fight them the old fashioned way - with my personal boycott and that of my kids. 'We can't go to Sam's Club or Wal-Mart because that is akin to cross a picket line.' How many PROUD TO BE UNION bumper stickers are in Sam and Sons of Sam's parking lots?
My grandfather and the kids' grandpa got their heads spilt on picket lines giving us the standard of living that we enjoy today. It does not seem proper that we ( my family) should give their enemies oor dollars.

Anonymous,  2:21 PM  

Gene Siskel is no longer with us, sad to say.

JB Powers 10:00 AM  

So Pat,

Do you think Sears, Target, Kohls, KMart etc are unionized stores? How can you shop at all if you will only buy from some fictional union discount store.

JBP

Anonymous,  9:36 PM  

Walmart is a target (no pun intended) because it is so big. And I will bet the big wig management teams at the domestic car manufacturers who are taking home millions while average joe is about to be laid off is laughing all the way to the bank. Walmart is the hot "corporate" button right now. Hasn't seemed to hurt them though.

I would be that we too have our own corporate problems in this fine state of ours.

How about the insurance industry trying to pass off after market parts as new? Enron's debacle that led to some of their older employees to have to work around the clock to have some sort of retirement? How about Uncle Sam himself? Should we bash Walmart while our own Uncle Sam rapes and pilages us annually with wasteful spending on ill-managed democracy for Iraqui's of whom many hate Americans? Our own President lives in a mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue amongst the highest crime rate in the U.S.

I could go on and on... if I do no one will read!!! Open your eyes people, Walmart is not the first to watch for the almighty bottom dollar, nor will they be the last.

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