Friday, July 07, 2006

"Say Yes to Wal-Mart" Campaign Has Begun

If you are a wealthy, transplant living and paying taxes in the Saranac Lake area please BUTT OUT on the Wal-Mart issue.

However, and this is very important, if you are the Wal-Mart Eastern Region Community Relations people (TRUE OUTSIDERS) please feel welcome to tear our community apart.

Soon you will be seeing "Say Yes to Wal-Mart" signs sprouting up around the area, courtesy of this office. Don't believe me? Call 877-236-8862 and listen to the message. You can tell them how many signs you want them to send you. I support the right of CARD people to lobby in support of a Wal-Mart store, they are local area residents at least. But even CARD should be outraged at a group of professional, paid, outside Wal-Mart supporters meddling in our community affairs.

This is so OUTRAGEOUS. I suggest we all call and order hundreds of free signs courtesy of Wal-Mart. It will be a simple matter to change the YES to a NO. After you get your free order of signs, call again and tell them how outraged you are.

This is a perfect example of Wal-Mart 'Community Relations'.

UPDATE: I noticed there was a visit or two from Edelman PR this afternoon. Probably wanting to see the reaction to Wal-Mart's latest shenanigans. After reading Fishman's book I was beginning to believe that Wal-Mart was just clueless, not really evil. But damn, they are one truly evil company.

A Few More Questions From Fishman

Even if you are the most devoted fan of Wal-Mart, maybe you could think even a little bit about these questions.
Wal-Mart is now so big that it's possible to ask a whole set of questions that would have been irrelevant, if not downright silly, twenty years ago.
What is the impact of Wal-Mart's wages not on its own workers, but on the wages in an entire town, or in an entire industry?
What is Wal-Mart's impact on the variety and availability of consumer goods?
What is Wal-Mart's direct impact on sending U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas?
What is the impact on local economies of Wal-Mart's abandoning old stores, and even as Wal-Mart freely announces precise numbers for stores it opens, how many stores does it close but leave empty?
What is Wal-Mart's impact on the environment?
What is the impact of Wal-Mart's suppliers on the environment? a country, we have the right to ask the questions; we have the power to ask the questions; indeed we have the responsibility to ask the questions.
I think the Village Board of Trustees has an obligation to ask some of these questions also. They owe it to the Village of Saranac Lake and it's residents who voted them into office.

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman - 4

Wal-Mart could be more like Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines isn't just cheap, it's fun. Wal-Mart isn't just cheap, it's joyless, when not downright vexing. Wal-Mart takes its duty to lower prices so seriously, there's no room for any other attitude, for them or us, except duty. Even without doubts about wages, suppliers, local businesses, American jobs, and quality, Wal-Mart has done such a superb job of austerity from start to finish that austerity is all that's left.
Fishman asks some very important questions about Wal-Mart:
Do we value cheap merchandise more than good factory jobs?
Do we value the convenience of buying everything from eggs and eyeglasses, Levi's and lawm mowers in a single place more than charming main streets with local shopkeepers?
Do we value the freedoms of a business to decide where and how to serve its customers more than the responsibility of a local government to safeguard the shape and character of a town?
In a democracy, do we want a single company to have the reach and power that Wal-Mart has - a power that right now is accountable to no one?
Do we value the "rules" of economic fair play as they happen to be written right now more than our ability to recognize and manage a totally new kind of economic power?
An insight into Wal-Mart corporate behavior:
The source of almost all of Wal-Mart's troubles can be traced not to some evil conspiracy spun out of the home office, but to the slogan printed right on every Wal-Mart bag: "Always low prices. Always." The second always is in italics and underlined, just so there is no confusion about the mission.
It is remarkable that almost all of Wal-Mart's behavior - even the bad behavior or the seemingly diabolical behavior - can be explained by taking Wal-Mart at its word. It really is all about "always low prices."

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman - 3

That Wal-Mart has driven jobs overseas is an understatement.
To survive n the face of the sort of pricing demands Wal-Mart made of Vlasic, Huffy, Lovable, and Levi Strauss, some consumer products companies have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products overseas.
In the 1980's I clearly remember Wal-Mart being proud that they sold 'American-made' items. It was a major part of their marketing. Forward to 2004: Wal-Mart now imports 18 billion dollars worth of Chinese-made goods.
"People say, how can it be bad for things to come into the United States cheaply? How can it be bad to have a bargain at Wal-Mart?
Simple really, you need a job that pays a living wage to buy stuff.

And what about those overseas jobs and factories?
The problem isn't callous, greedy, and inhumane factory managers. "Wal-Mart is itself the reason for the inhumane conditions," the suit alleges. "It uses its vast market power to insist on low unit prices that are possible only if workers are squeezed to such an extreme degree that they can barely survive the long hours and low wages they are forced to endure."
But Wal-Mart will tell you that they have ethical standards for overseas manufacturers and that they inspect the factories of Wal-Mart suppliers. That is true. But:
Yes, the factory inspections team did 12,500 inspections, but only 8 percent of them were surprise inspections.
In 2004, 8,900 out of 11,500 scheduled inspections of overseas factories revealed serious violations in factories that knew in advance that Wal-Mart inspectors were coming.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wal-Mart Rolls Back Pay

Wal-Mart is in a bit of trouble in Massachusetts. A class-action lawsuit claims that Wal-Mart skimped "on work breaks and pay owed to thousands of former employees" to the tune of over 1 million times.

Of course:
Wal-Mart declined to address the allegations in the case, saying, “It is disrespectful to the court to comment on matters that will be heard in a legal proceeding. . . . we’re not going to comment.”
Wal-Mart has 70 lawsuits throughout the country claiming similiar allegations. People love to talk about how well Wal-Mart treats disabled employees.
Among his clients is a disabled woman from Chelmsford who has accused Wal-Mart of changing her time sheet to show she worked only one minute on days she worked eight-hour shifts. Except in this instance below.

“When I went to to complain, my manager just told me (my paycheck) was right, that there wasn’t a problem,” said Kelly Thompson, 32, who worked as a greeter for about a year before being terminated. “But they would never open up the books to show me. They just insisted.”

Thompson, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said she was shocked when her lawyers showed her a computer analysis alleging that Wal-Mart routinely denied her pay for the hours she worked. “I feel like I was ripped off,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they would actually do this to someone.”
And Wal-Mart marches cluelessly onward.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wal-Mart Supports Unions! Is it owned by a leftist group that wants to unionize Wal-Mart stores? Nope. It's owned by Registrant:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
805 Moberly Ln M31
Bentonville, AR 72716-0560

So, Wal-Mart either wants to help unionize its stores or they want to keep unions from using that domain name. Unfortunately, they forgot to buy

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman - 2

Jobs and Manufacturing
While Wal-Mart was adding 480,000 jobs between 1997 and 2004, US manufacturing jobs during those years fell by 3,100,000 jobs, a loss of 37,000 factory jobs a month, on average, for eighty-four straight months.

...during the last 7 years, a remarkable milestone has passed all but unnoticed: In 2003, for the first time in modern US history, the number of Americans working in retail (14.9 million) was greater than the number of Americans working in factories (14.5 million). We have more people working in stores than we do making the merchandise to put in them. .....Just ask the residents of Peoria, who used to make lawn sprinklers for L.R. Nelson.
K-Mart and Target and Sears etc. also sell clothing made overseas is commonly pointed out by Wal-Mart supporters. Yeah, they do. But who shipped the jobs overseas. That would be the largest company on earth wouldn't it?

Rural Effects
In towns with a Wal-Mart, sales of general merchandise leaped dramatically compared to the state average, up 55% per capita after three years. In the 45 small towns within twenty miles of a Wal-Mart, total sales dropped 13% after 3 years, nearly double the decline for similar Iowa towns that weren't near a Wal-Mart.
But even in towns with Wal-Mart stores driving dramatic increases in the retail trade, there were losers. Grocery stores lost 5% of their sales after 3 years; specialty stores - drugstores, clothing stores, toy stores, and the like lost 12% of their sales after 3 years. Even service businesses in Wal-Mart towns lost business - down 13% after 3 years.
The entire report of Wal-Mart's effect on rural communities by Dr. Ken Stone can be found under the links to the left.

Stone updated his study in 1993.
Across the rest of the retail landscape, the arrival of Wal-Mart coincided with a swath of destruction. Grocery stores lost 5% of their business after 5 years; specialty stores lost 14% of their business, and clothing stores lost 18% of their business - all while total sales were rising 6%, mostly due to Wal-Mart.
In towns that were nearby but didn't have a Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart vacuumed customers away: clothing stores lost 13% of their business after 5 years; specialty stores lost 21%.
...small Iowa towns, with populations between five hundred and one thousand, lost 47% of their retail sales....
...43% of all stores selling men's and boy's clothing went out of business. Neary half of an entire retail category in a state was wiped out.

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman

A few of my favorite parts of the book:

Concerning pharmacies
He opened a pharmacy at the Wal-Mart in Mena, Arkansas, #67, in 1982 or 1983. "There was already a pharmacy in the shopping center there. I opened with a coupon in the newspaper for $5 or $10 off, with the grand opening of our pharmacy, and the 9-cent rubbing alcohol special or something." The next day, the pharmacist in the shopping center announced that he would match Arch's coupon. "So the day after that, I ran a coupon for $20 off your next prescription. And I never heard another word from the guy after that."

You really can walk in the store, drop off your prescription, do your shopping, and pick up the prescription on the way out. "Once, Mr. Sam said to me, 'Clarence, tell those pharmacists to slow down a bit, so we can get the carts filled up some more.'" (pg. 43
Not just competition, cut-throat, purposeful put-them-out-of-business competition.

Monopoly and Monopsony
The term for suppliers who are big enough to control prices and markets is familiar - that's monopoly, and anyone who has played the board game understands that if you control the available real estate, you get to charge not what the market will bear, but what you want.

There is a parallel economic concept for a company that is such a large buyer (Wal-Mart)- of pickles, say - that it holds an equivalent kind of price-control power. The term is monopsony
So it is pretty clear (at least to me) that Wal-Mart has a huge, and unfair, advantage over just about any other retail business in the USA. If you haven't read the 'Vlasic Pickle Story' you can fined it here.