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November 25, 2012 2:20 PM The Walmart way is not the only way

By Kathleen Geier

To follow up on yesterday’s post about the Black Friday Walmart strikes, I wanted to write about an argument that Walmart and its apologists frequently make — namely, that so far as retail work goes, low wages are the nature of the beast, particularly for retailers that emphasize low prices. But that isn’t the way it has to be. Indeed, for some notable retail chains, that isn’t the way it is at all.

Two of my favorite stores in the world are Costco and Trader Joe’s. Like Walmart, they make a point of offering rock-bottom prices. But in total contrast to Walmart, which exploits its employees and sells cheap crap, Costco and Trader Joe’s feature high-quality products and treat their employees well. I love Costco and Trader Joe’s both for their delicious food items, especially their cheese and chocolate (the chocolate truffles I recently bought at Costco were were frighteningly good, and extremely popular at my family’s Thanksgiving feast this year). I also go to Costco to buy dog food (their house brand is very high quality, and astonishingly cheap) and to fill my prescriptions. Generic meds at Costco are dirt cheap, which has been a godsend for me during times when I’ve lacked health insurance.

I’ve often wondered how Costco and Trader Joe’s manage to simultaneously provide high quality and low prices, while treating their employees decently in the bargain. Recently I came across an article from earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review which explains why. It’s written by Zeynep Ton, a visiting assistant professor at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Ton looked at the practices of four retailers which not only have excellent labor records but also boast “the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors.”

Those retailers are Costco and Trader Joe’s; QuikTrip, an American convenience store chain; and Mercadona, a Spanish supermarket. Here’s how employee compensation at these companies stacks up, vs. the competitors:

Employees of these retailers have higher pay, fuller training, better benefits, and more-convenient schedules than their counterparts at the competition. Store employees earn about 40% more at Costco than at its largest competitor, Walmart’s Sam’s Club. At Trader Joe’s, the starting wage for a full-time employee is $40,000 to $60,000 per year, more than twice what some competitors offer. The wages and benefits at QuikTrip are so good that the chain has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since 2003. All of Mercadona’s employees are permanent, and more than 85% are salaried full-timers.

How can these retailers afford to pay their employees so much more and still remain competitive? Ton found that with these retailers, there is a sort of “virtuous circle” in effect. A high labor budget leads to adequate staffing levels and high-performing employees, which in turn leads to good operational execution, resulting in high sales and healthy profits. By contrast, retailers like Walmart are stuck in a vicious cycle, where low labor budgets lead to poorly trained, poorly motivated, understaffed workforces, which then leads to poor operational execution, all too predictably resulting in poor sales and razor-thin profit margins.

Here are more of the specifics of what Ton found:

— Investing in employees pays off. Retail work is much more complex than you might think, and well-paid, well-trained employees will perform much better at job functions like stocking products, deciding where to place products (which is surprisingly important), and answering customer’s questioners. Stores which perform better at tasks like these tend to be significantly more profitable.

— Investing in employees tends to lower turnover, which reduces recruiting and training costs.

— The business models of the four retailers Ton studied differs from the standard one. They offer fewer products, which lowers prices and simplifies the operating environment for store employees, causing them to be more efficient.

— The four retailers Ton studied cross-train their employees, so that employees can be kept busy doing other things (taking inventory rather than checking out customers, for example) during slow business periods. This boosts morale by alleviating the need for the employer to lay off employees or cut their hours.

— These retailers also streamline and standardize as many processes as possible, so as to eliminate waste. For example, Costco and Trader Joe’s purchase products directly from the manufacturers and get them into stores via their own distribution centers.

— They let employees make small decisions, such as how much of an item to order for their store. There are certain things that local employees will have a better handle on than the regional folks.

Most of this stuff is not rocket science, and many of these practices could easily be adapted by other retailers, without too much difficulty. As for the rest, well, it’s true that it would be a major break with standard practices if retailers began offering far fewer products than they do currently. But would that be so bad? Who needs fifty different kinds of toothpaste, anyway? There’s even a body of research that suggests that that kind of choice overload makes us more anxious rather more happy.

Even without changing its basic model, Walmart could simply increase wages without negatively affecting consumers all that much. Researchers at the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley recently found that if Walmart were to increase the minimum wage paid to all its workers to $12 per hour, and passed 100% of the cost to consumers, it would cost the average Walmart consumer only $12.49 per year.

I’m certain that Costco and Trader Joe’s, like every workplace, have their share of problems. By no means do I mean to suggest that they are ideal employers. But I have to say, my shopping experiences there have been uniformly pleasant. Their workers, from the people stocking the shelves at Trader Joe’s to ladies offering samples of tasty treats at Costco, have been friendly and helpful. Some of them even seem to be having fun.

This a notable contrast with another retailer where I regularly shop, albeit guiltily, because I know they don’t treat their employees much better than Walmart does. This retailer — for the purposes of this post I’ll call them MoreGet — tends to be so understaffed that when I need help, locating an employee who can assist me can be a challenge. And even when I manage to get a hold of one, they frequently give me the wrong information. I don’t blame the employees, because they clearly seem overworked and overwhelmed, and I’m assuming undertrained as well. Wouldn’t these employees be doing their job a lot better if their employers paid them more, trained them better, and treated them like human beings? And wouldn’t we as customers be enjoying a far more satisfying shopping experience, and be spending many more of our hard-earned dollars there as a result? I know I would. Is this simple lesson so hard for the nation’s retailers to get?

(Note: this post has been updated to reflect that Walmart is no longer spelled with a hyphen between the l and the m. D’oh!)

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • Rufus on November 25, 2012 4:35 PM:

    They won't get it because greed overwhelms them.

  • bcamarda on November 25, 2012 4:48 PM:

    I love Costco and its legendary former CEO Jim Sinegal as much as anyone, but your quote "For example, Costco and Trader Joe's purchase products directly from the manufacturers and get them into stores via their own distribution centers" reminds me of something I read recently... your article on the beer industry: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/november_december_2012/features/last_call041131.php

  • Fess on November 25, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Excellent article!

  • Roddy McCorley on November 25, 2012 4:55 PM:

    Here's the thing: None of that actually matters. Abusing workers is not a means, it's an end.

  • c u n d gulag on November 25, 2012 4:56 PM:

    "Wouldn’t these employees be doing their job a lot better if their employers paid them more, trained them better, and treated them like human beings? And wouldn’t we as customers be enjoying a far more satisfying shopping experience, and be spending many more of our hard-earned dollars there as a result?"

    Yeah, sure, Kathleen - but that would take all of the fun of sticking to the feckin' workers!

    What's the point of being a Galtain Feckin' Overlord, if you can't 'lord' it 'over' the poor feckin' serf's?

  • dalloway on November 25, 2012 4:58 PM:

    And let's not forget that workers are also customers. The more disposable income they have, the more they'll spend and the higher sales will be, resulting in a stronger economy for everyone. Impoverish your workers and demand hits the skids. It's as simple as that.

  • Dr Lemming on November 25, 2012 5:11 PM:

    Kathleen's points are well taken, but I'm deeply resentful of how Costco effectively bought a recent election. Out here in "left" Washington, liquor used to only be available through state-run stores. Not anymore. Costco wanted in, and they were willing to spend as much money as necessary to change the law.

    Costco and its allies promised lower liquor prices but, at least so far, that's not happening. Why is that, Costco?

    I like Trader Joe's but hope it doesn't put our local food co-op out of business. The latter is an even better example of local economic democracy. We as members set the company's policies because WE OWN IT.

  • Roger Keeling on November 25, 2012 5:20 PM:

    I met Jim Sinegal once, while shopping at the Costco in Clackamas, Oregon (he used to tour the stores on a regular basis). I think I kind of annoyed him, because I felt like I was meeting a rock star of sorts ... and showed it!

    Costco's ethical standards go back years, and in a sense pre-date the store: Sinegal previously worked for the founder of Price Club, and they too adhered to pretty robust ethics.

    Interestingly, Costco's executives tend to give a lot of money to Democrats in election years (Sinegal was quite visible in his support of Barack Obama this election). You know where Walmart's executives put their contributions, of course. For me, another reason not to shop Walmart.

  • Roger Keeling on November 25, 2012 5:30 PM:

    Dr Lemming is right about the recent election (last summer, I believe) that eliminated state-run liquor stores in Washington State. Costco did drop a lot of money on it. If I lived over the line in Vancouver, WA., I would have been voting on that issue. And I probably would have said "yes" just because I think the very concept of state-operated liquor stores is imbecilic. I grew up in California where no such thing exists.

    Still, yes, it was a bit jarring to see Costco spending so much. On the other hand, they were very forthright about their involvement (unlike many elections where corporate money is cloaked to the extent they can get away with it), and also forthright about why they they were doing it. Also interesting to me (and a little distressing) is that this campaign occurred only AFTER Jim Sinegal retired. I hope it's not the first sign of big changes in the Costco corporate culture now that he's gone.

  • Frank Wilhoit on November 25, 2012 5:32 PM:

    Roddy McCorley gets it. The motivation is not economic but emotional.

    Trader Joe's is German-owned, is it not? Same company as Aldi's? What are Aldi's policies like?

  • jharp on November 25, 2012 5:45 PM:

    "Trader Joe's is German-owned, is it not? Same company as Aldi's? What are Aldi's policies like?"

    Yes, Trader Joe's is German owned. Yes same company that owns Aldi's. And don't know Aldi's policies other than they don't hire anyone under 19. They pay $10 per hour and provide benefits.

    And they have a very well run operation. Like to shop there a lot but not for everything.

  • James Wimberley on November 25, 2012 5:47 PM:

    I live in Spain and can confirm that Mercadona´s stores are pleasant and successful. The choices they make on lines to stock are always comprehensible; not stocking foreign comfort foods, having a fresh fish counter but only prepacked meat and delicatessen. The own brand products are very reliable.

  • jjm on November 25, 2012 5:51 PM:

    Interesting discussion over at Wonkblog at WaPo, with Ezra asking, "Has Wal-Mart Been Good or Bad?" http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/11/24/has-wal-mart-been-good-or-bad/

    Retailers old and recent, like the merchant princes of the 19th and 20th centuries, Trader Joe's etc., have often had excellent labor records, a great deal of philanthropy, and great value for the dollar. I recall the great Chicago merchants of Marshall Field, Julius Rosenwald, and Aaron Montgomery Ward who all managed great feats of philanthropy while becoming wealthy. (Field endowed the Field Museum of Natural History and was the first person in the nation to conceive of and have built public housing for the poor; Rosenwald, founder of Sears, gave the city the Museum of Science and Industry; and Montgomery Ward spent his entire fortune defending the Chicago City Charter up to the Supreme Court three times to protect the banning of real estate development from the lake shore--he won, and the charter provision that the lake front be for the enjoyment and education of the people of Chicago has held pretty well. In Philadelphia, John Wanamaker was considered a leading citizen.Field and Rosenwald were also strongly opposed to racial inequality.)

    The point is that these 'princes' felt obligated to those who had made them wealthy to return some of that wealth to the community that had provided it for them. It was a strong ethos. Today's 'business' community has no such ethos, and the world if much the poorer for it.

  • Helen Bedd on November 25, 2012 6:11 PM:

    The Walton family, who has worked tirelessly to end the inheritance tax, has a personal worth equal to 125 million Americans.

    http://article.wn.com/view/2012/07/18/Walmart_Heirs_Worth_More_Than_Entire_Bottom_40_of_Americans/

  • Thymezone on November 25, 2012 6:30 PM:

    You're a liar and have no idea what you are talking about. WalMart sells name brands in almost every category in every department in the store. The same name products you can buy elsewhere for higher prices. Thirty to forty percent cheaper in groceries ($2.36 for Thomas' muffins, vs $3.99 for the same package at Safeway). That fact right there saves me $150-200 a month on groceries alone. Name brands in appliances, bedding, cosmetics, paint, automotive, toys, pet supplies, electronics, sporting goods, office and school supplies, you name it. WalMart is not the dollar store. Look, I have seen your work here before, and this is not the first time you have tossed off completely false information as if you know the material. You do not. How you got this gig I have no idea but your work is the crap here, not WalMart's merchandise.

  • Thymezone on November 25, 2012 6:42 PM:

    And while we are at it, a simple net search of nationally reported salary averages at Target and Walmart show that the two stores are comparable, with Target coming in slightly lower in average clerk hourly rates. There is nothing unusual about WalMart's salary range. WalMart hires legions of disabled persons, deaf, wheelchair-bound, blind ... WalMart is the world's largest employer, providing jobs to well over 1.5 million in the US and another million worldwide. Again you have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

    If Americans want higher-paid store clerks (and, they do not, in case you aren't smart enough to figure this out) then they can vote for that by paying voluntarily higher prices for their goods. That's all you have to do. Just shop at Safeway, or Albertson's, and you can vote with your wallet every time you get the groceries. Meanwhile several times as many people are voting with their wallets at other stores. I'm a retired person who kept an application up to date and waited a year and a half for a call from potential employers until WalMart called me. I am proud to work there and I apologize to nobody for it, and I have no respect for lazy and misinformed reporters like you getting on the Bash WalMart bandwagon. And I assure you that 97% or more of the associates we work with feel exactly the same way. Your BS notwithstanding.

  • Califlander on November 25, 2012 6:52 PM:

    Didn't read the article, did you, Thymezone?

  • Tim Webster on November 25, 2012 6:52 PM:

    Last fall a year ago, my spouse and I drove cross-country from Baltimore to San Francisco and back. The purpose of our trip was a wedding celebration in SFO -- we had some four weeks or so to do this excursion. Essentially we planned our route roundtrip, the northern-tier states on the way out and the southern on the way home, by way of the Costco Warehouses along our route. Our budget, since we're both retired, was tight.

    Wherever we stopped, it was the Costco gasoline plazas that offered the best price around so at each we refueled our car; and in the warehouse we picked up our meal for the evening, usually one of Costco's $5 roast chickens: i.e., we ate a lot of chicken in our motel rooms at we made our progress on this adventure. Hell, it was a lot better than much of the food we encountered on our trek.

    In all of the warehouses, we found a kind of at-homeness that solidified our sense of familiarity with our country as we traversed its regions, and paradoxically at the same time, something of the flavor of the locality we were staying in.

    And golly, I still have on my bar a souvenir bottle of absinthe that I bought in one of the California warehouses we stopped at enroute....

    In sum, we were grateful for the kind of kind of purveyor that Costco is. It made our trip as easy and enjoyable, and inexpensive, as could be expected for someone on a short timeline, and simultaneously gave us a view of the USA that was as variegated as its many parts.

  • Ennis on November 25, 2012 6:57 PM:

    @Thymezone

    You compared Walmart to Safeway rather than Walmart to Target or Sam’s Club to Costco, which is not a very honest comparison.

    It’s nice that you save so much money shopping at Walmart. Unfortunately, they do not pay their workers a living wage.

  • low-tech cyclist on November 25, 2012 7:01 PM:

    Some of the posters upthread have beaten me to the punch: an unhealthy number of people in charge of big corporations are more motivated by control than by a better bottom line.

    For instance, we're already aware that even though they'd have higher profits under full employment, most of them prefer to live in a world where there's enough unemployment so that their workers are more concerned with keeping the jobs they've got, rather than thinking about jumping to a better employer.

    So the problem is that their self-interest is a different - and much more repugnant - one than what merely considering the bottom line would tell us.

  • 14All on November 25, 2012 7:53 PM:

    I work in retail and I can tell you, it's all about the people. Sure, it's not rocket science, but there's a surprising degree of complexity and knowledge involved in doing it right, and it takes a certain personality type: outgoing, optimistic, good at multi-tasking and problem-solving, and patient. A poor pay rate or work environment will quickly sap those employees of these positive qualities, however; or it may simply drive them away. And nothing keeps a customer away from your store like a bad experience with an employee. The greatest products in the world cannot make up for lousy customer service.

    Do Americans want better-paid store clerks? Well, a fairly significant number of Americans either are or were at some point a store clerk--but let's leave that point for now and just ask: do Americans want better service? Do they want a pleasant and easy shopping experience? Do they want to shop somewhere clean, neat and organized, and get assistance when they need it? Furthermore, would they like their local economy to get a boost from the increased buying power the store employees would get? What do you think?

  • exlibra on November 25, 2012 8:58 PM:

    For some of us, shopping at Trader Joe's or Costco instead of WalMart is not an option. Trader Joe's that's nearest to me is a 60 minutes drive, one way. The Costco nearest to me is a 4hr drive, also one way. WalMart is 8-10 minutes and, even so, it's almost never the ultimate aim of my trip; most of the time, I plan my trips so that I stop there on my way home from volunteering at the Free Clinic.

    I do try to shop there as little as possible; if a grocery store (though they're both chain stores and none to friendly to their labour force, either) starts carrying a product I want and which had, previously, been available only at WalMart, I buy it at the grocery store (though not, if the price is more than 150% of what it is at MW).

    BTW, Kathleen. Can't say what the WalMarts around DC (where you obviously must be, if you have easy access to Costco) are like, but ours is neither dirty, nor is the the labour force in any way unpleasant; indeed, they're almost pathetically eager to please (provided you don't "come all over lady" over them; nobody likes to be patronised), and universally helpful. I've never encountered a sullen, "don't bother me" kind of attitude there, the way I have in other places (even within our very small community).

    Thymezone. Don't know about Albertson's - we don't have one around here any more than we have Coscto or Trader Joe's -- but you can't assume that shopping at WalMart will always save you money. You have to watch them and compare, same as with any other store because, like any other store, they'll have a few "come hither" items as bait, for which they make up with higher prices on other items. Quite often, the prices for the items I need/want are the same, or with just one cent difference, at WalMart and at Kroger or Food Lion. In which case, it pays me to wait till Tuesday (senior citizen discount day) and buy at Kroger, especially when it comes to fresh produce, which is almost always inferiour at WalMart.

    Craptch suggests that WalMart's practices are driven by the desire to "maxtdow storms". Not sure about that; at least half of me is in agreement with the commenters above who think that keeping the populace depressed and "in their place" is the whole aim of it, rather than any stock market calculations.

  • cay on November 25, 2012 9:01 PM:

    You should have your own political blog, Kathleen.

  • James M on November 25, 2012 9:47 PM:

    Kathleen,

    Excellent Article! Concerning some of the comments:

    @jjm on November 25, 2012 5:51 PM:

    "The point is that these 'princes' felt obligated to those who had made them wealthy to return some of that wealth to the community that had provided it for them. It was a strong ethos. Today's 'business' community has no such ethos, and the world if much the poorer for it."

    That is the biggest problem with Walmart. You might call it 'Too Big to Succeed'!Walmart is a not a positive social actor on par with its enormous economic impact. When you become as big and influential as Walmart, just offering 'every day low prices' is not enough. Also, Walmart unfailing supports every non-progressive policy.

    @Thymezone on November 25, 2012 6:42 PM:

    "I'm a retired person who kept an application up to date and waited a year and a half for a call from potential employers until WalMart called me. I am proud to work there and I apologize to nobody for it, and I have no respect for lazy and misinformed reporters like you getting on the Bash WalMart bandwagon."

    No disrespect to you sir(?), but I am assuming that you have some pension or other income as well and that Walmart is not your sole source of income. You don't have to worry about supporting a family while working as a Walmart 'associate'.

    @Helen Bedd on November 25, 2012 6:11 PM:

    "The Walton family, who has worked tirelessly to end the inheritance tax, has a personal worth equal to 125 million Americans."

    Indeed. The Walton family has always struck me as one of the most puzzling stories in American business. As far as I can see, they are just boring Arkansans who have no particular interest in either culture or the arts (or anything really...)and whose only goal seems to be increasing their wealth, although they are already as 'rich as Croesus'.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge on November 25, 2012 9:51 PM:

    Two things:
    1. What low-tech cyclist (and others) said: control is an end in itself. As a good little brain-dog in corporate America, I can assure you that management hates losing control even more than it hates paying workers a living wage or treating workers fairly. IIRC, even Costco is anti-union. If the threat of unionization were greater, non-union management would treat its employees a lot better. Better decent treatment than a union. Of course, the threat of unionization is low, so management doesn't have to treat employees well.
    2. I remember that Sinegal once said that the stock market punished Costco for its worker policies, even though Costco is a very profitable firm. Equity investors seem to have the strangest preferences.

  • Tricky Buddha on November 25, 2012 10:38 PM:

    Funny you should mention the ladies giving out samples. At the Costco's in the NM area they're all employees of a contractor and don't work for Costco itself. They are nice, though.

  • docdave on November 25, 2012 10:48 PM:

    re Helen Bedd's observation: to give the devil his due, I note that Alice Walton has put significant piles of her cash and that of her family into opening up a cracking museum of American art--and located it in Bentonville AR. She seems to have done it with the approval and support of her family, though she's the most philanthropically-inclined of the lot. No, it doesn't make me feel too much better about patronizing the nearby WallyWorld, but it's a worthy achievement.

  • Grover Gardner on November 26, 2012 12:00 AM:

    @Thymezone--

    You know, WalMart prices aren't all that. Our local Winco has amazingly good food prices and is employee-owned, offering bennies and stock in the company. And you can get comparable deals on electronics and other things if you watch the sales. The quality of goods is pretty mediocre, too. I've bought things there that don't last very long and weren't worth the "bargain basement" price I paid, in the end. I just bought some beautiful flannel shirts at JCP for $12 each, and they're far better than anything at WalMart. But more than that: at some point you just have to ask yourself if it's worth saving $20 on a TV or $2 on a shirt in order to support a miserable labor situation. If you, in particular, are retired, you probably have other sources of income, not to mention Medicare and SS. I would venture to guess that you are not the typical WalMart employee.

  • Adventuregeek on November 26, 2012 12:45 AM:

    I'm reminded of the story I read about a vendor visiting Walmart headquarters and the VP's office was furnished with lawn furniture that they obtained as samples from another vendor. Sam Walton was simply a pathological cheapskate. He had a nihilistic belief in low prices at above all including his employees or even his customers. The stories about him driving around an old pickup truck even after becoming wealthy is not a sign of someone with a well balanced outlook on life. Unfortunately American has become trapped in the Sam Walton mentality as we race to the bottom at the cost of our workers, our retail experience and our economy. Unfortunately for all the Costco's and T.J.'s out there there's many more Walmart and Target stores.

  • Grover Gardner on November 26, 2012 1:00 AM:

    Also, Thymezone, do you really want to compare employee compensation at Target with WalMart? Health care, paid vacation, child care allowances, etc. The wage might not be much better but the benefits certainly are.

    As for people voting with their wallets, I think a lot of Americans would vote if they understood the hidden costs WalMart brings to their community.

    Finally, you should be careful who you call a liar. Kathleen never said WalMart doesn't carry "name-brand" products. She said Trader Joe's and Costco carry higher-quality merchandise, which in my experience is true. I shopped for groceries once at WalMart and will never do it again. The selection was poor and the prices weren't any cheaper than our local Winco or Food-4-Less.

    I don't have any use for Albertson's but Safeway is actually a pretty good place to shop if you watch the sale items and don't go nuts.

  • Leopold von Ranke on November 26, 2012 2:30 AM:

    Somewhere, sometime, I read that Walmart assisted their employees in applying for food stamps and Medicaid. If true, it seems to me that we pay Walmart workers a "living wage" one way or another, even if we don't shop there. Haven't darkened the door of a Walmart for two decades. I prefer to shop locally, and keep my money circulating in my communityrather than travelling to Bentonville, even if it costs a bit more.

  • Susan K on November 26, 2012 2:44 AM:

    Good news. But one quibble. You cite letting employees make "small decisions, such as how much of an item to order for their store."

    From my experience with retail management, predicting exactly how much of each thing to have, and when, and getting it there, right then, is the biggest decision of all.

    Wrong decisions there mean unsellable stock, wasted money. Right decisions drive gross sales and repeat customers. These decisions are not even in the bottom half, let alone "small" ones.

  • Cranky Observer on November 26, 2012 7:28 AM:

    = = = I'm reminded of the story I read about a vendor visiting Walmart headquarters and the VP's office was furnished with lawn furniture that they obtained as samples from another vendor. Sam Walton was simply a pathological cheapskate. He had a nihilistic belief in low prices at above all including his employees or even his customers. The stories about him driving around an old pickup truck even after becoming wealthy is not a sign of someone with a well balanced outlook on life. = = =

    Sam Walton was a tough but fair businessman who should not be confused with his children and their business practices (several companies I have worked for did business with him in the day). The small-town Wal-Marts of the 1980s are not the interstate-exit mega WalMarts of today, either.

    Cranky

    one ssistyf - 1st try

  • square1 on November 26, 2012 7:35 AM:

    @Thymezone:

    Please pass my compliments on to the Waltons regarding the quality of their sock puppets.

  • zandru on November 26, 2012 10:46 AM:

    I was more than a little relieved to find that some of my favorite stores have the best employee compensation practices. Others are now shifting into the "formerly favorite" category...

    This process actually started when I saw a list of which candidates the big chains contributed to. Surprise, surprise - Democrat-favoring businesses treat their workers better.

  • matt w on November 26, 2012 10:55 AM:

    I don't know that anyone has spelled this out for thymezone yet, so: Kathleen Geier did not assert that WalMart carries a restricted selection of brands. She asserted that CostCo, Trader Joe's, QuikTrip, and Mercadona don't. Brush up on your reading comprehension and try again.

  • ComradeAnon on November 26, 2012 11:04 AM:

    I avoid them like the plague. The idea of going to lower Alabama to shop does not appeal to me. And ours is probably one of their best. But by stocking up on BOGO and sale items at the Publix down the street, I ALWAYS save at least 25%. But the videos of people fighting over a Wii or whatever at Walmart on Black Friday shows what control they have over many.

  • Fred on November 26, 2012 11:43 AM:

    I think there are two dominant images in retail marketing.
    1) Upscale and pricey
    2) Downscale and cheap
    Thing is they are often just images. The downscale looking store often has prices as high as the upscale shops. But the customers think it's cheap because it looks cheap.
    My point is that Wallmart probably gets a lot of buyers because everybody knows they pay dirt wages. Everybody says they are cheap but I've done some comparison shopping and don't see much difference when comparing like quality items. I think it's all a scam.

  • steverino on November 26, 2012 2:16 PM:

    The stuff you get at Walmart is often custom-made for them: the Levis jeans at Walmart, for example, are of poorer quality than you would get elsewhere. This is due to the demands of the store to keep prices down. There is a lawnmower manufacturer that famously refused to do business with Walmart because in order to meet the required price the product would have to be cheapened and the manufacturer would not do it. Here it is, Snapper (and the linked article includes the lawn-furniture anecdote):
    The Man Who Said No To Walmart

  • Beanie on November 26, 2012 3:54 PM:

    @Thymezone: The lower prices you see at Walmart could be due to less product. They routinely engage in practices like asking suppliers to package smaller amounts in similar packaging (My most recent example was Krylon Spray Paint, which was 79 cents cheaper at Walmart than the local hardware store, but also contained two ounces less product than the local store, in the same size can. Per ounce, I paid more).

    And Americans absolutely want their shop clerks to earn a living wage. People who make a living wage contribute more back to their community in taxes, volunteer work and local spending than those who have to supplement with multiple low-wage jobs. You are mis-informed, Thymezone.

  • Beanie on November 26, 2012 3:57 PM:

    @square1: LOL You nailed it!