Friday, February 17, 2006

Vicious Cycle, or, the problem of Wal-Mart...

Oh, before I forget...Dick Cheney shot someone in the face, and Bill Clinton...

OK, now back to our regular post...

From today's NY Times:

In a confidential, internal Web site for Wal-Mart's managers, the company's chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., seemed to have a rare, unscripted moment when one manager asked him why "the largest company on the planet cannot offer some type of medical retirement benefits?"

Mr. Scott first argues that the cost of such benefits would leave Wal-Mart at a competitive disadvantage but then, clearly annoyed, he suggests that the store manager is disloyal and should consider quitting.

The Web site, which Mr. Scott uses to communicate his tough standards to thousands of far-flung managers, gives a rare glimpse into the concerns that are roiling Wal-Mart's retailing empire, from the company's sagging stock price to how it treats its workers. Judging by the managers' questions, Mr. Scott has an internal public relations challenge that in some ways mirrors the challenge he faces from outside critics.

And while Mr. Scott's postings are usually written in a careful, even guarded manner, they can often be revealing — for example, showing a defensiveness and testiness with critics — that Mr. Scott normally keeps under wraps.

Copies of Mr. Scott's postings covering two years were made available to The New York Times by Wal-Mart Watch, a group backed by unions and foundations that is pressing Wal-Mart to improve its wages and benefits. Wal-Mart Watch said it received the postings from a disgruntled manager. While the existence of the Web site and Mr. Scott's participation in it have been known, transcripts have never been made public before.

The Web site has a folksy name — Lee's Garage, because Mr. Scott pumped gas at his father's Kansas service station while growing up.


Ah, that passed...after the setup to the Dick Cheney joke, I can't afford to offend too many people. Of course, nobody can afford to offend too many people, except for George W. Bush. But I digress...

So, Wal-Mart's Scott argues that "the cost of such benefits would leave Wal-Mart at a competitive disadvantage," because any potential competitors - if there are any- pay in the relgion of an oligopsony wage; and if there are no local competitors, we can assume it's because Wal-Mart's employees might actually use health benefits, probably in a way that is related to their economic status, which means they're not only poor but sick.

Hmmm...why not just cut your salary, Scott? Oh, yes, I am disloyal.

But his responses often serve to remind managers of the gap between them and their chief executive, who earned more than $17 million last year, including stock options, who hops around the globe on Wal-Mart's fleet of jets and who lives in a gated community called Pinnacle.

I'm sorry, but Wal-Mart's prices are too high if they're going to pay that clown more than 100 times what I make.

In one posting, he urges managers to set an example by doing more to comply with the company's 10-foot rule, requiring employees to smile and ask "Can I help you" when a shopper is less than 10 feet away.

I always mention "Organize a union" if I'm accosted by one of these folks, on the rare occasions that I've actually steeled myself to step inside the local Wal-Marts. The one near me, as I noted, is a depressive, cavernous place filled with junk and with food of which at least some is adulterated.

So without further adieu, here's my "suggestion and feedback" for 'em:

To Whom it May Concern:

Mr. Scott, as quoted in today's Times, as having written, "...General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits."

This for a guy who makes 100 times more than I do.

Really. What testicles.

Moreover, you've opened a monstrosity of a "supercenter" near my house, located in a neighborhood of 1/2 million dollar houses, and sure enough, it's now populated by customers I'd rather not have my young son around, it's staffed by people who look doomed because they know they're on the lowest rung of the economic ladder, and the stuff you stock is nothing but dreck.

Hint: idiot, you located the store in a neighborhood of upscale folks, of whom a large number are Asian. They just aren't going to scarf up Toby Keith, or Garth Brooks CDs.

They're not going to buy your adulterated pork products; the local Chinese butcher can beat your prices.

They might buy all that plastic crap you have, if they need plastic crap.

Give your employees real health benefits or get out of my neighborhood. I'm not shopping in your store, and frequently urge everyone I know to do the same.

Writing on the Wal has more...

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