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A 10% Discount Card

[ 106 ] November 20, 2012 |

Got to give CNN a little credit. Their reporters are actually challenging power for once. First you have Anderson Cooper providing quality reporting from Gaza, along with engaging in some seriously awesome (and I’m guessing stress relieving) pushback against critics who want the American media to push Gilad Sharon’s Kill ‘em All line. Then you have Carol Costello challenging Wal-Mart VP of Communications David Tovar on the company’s terrible wages. Great exchange here:

COSTELLO: The wage gap in this country continues to grow ever wider. you know, we hear from economists all the time, we need a strong middle class to make our overall economy stronger. Is it Walmart’s responsibility to make sure that its employees can support a strong middle-class lifestyle?

TOVAR: We’re working hard every day to provide more opportunities for associates. [...]

COSTELLO: But if a lot of them are making $15,000 a year, you can’t live a strong middle-class lifestyle on that. You just can’t. [...]

TOVAR: Our average rate is about $12.40 an hour far a full time associate. We also offer comprehensive benefit packages as low as $17 a pay period, which is very affordable and we also pay quaterly bonuses, which is something that not a lot of retailers do…. And we know that they appreciate that, they also get a 10 percent discount card. So you have to factor in all of those things when you’re looking for how we’re helping associates.

That 10% discount card is really raising Wal-Mart workers out of poverty……

As you may have heard, the United Food and Commercial Workers have organized pickets in front of Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Wal-Mart is freaking out, actually filing NLRB charges against the UFCW on spurious grounds, but the real reason is to intimidate its workers. Josh Eidelson is covering the actions for The Nation and I encourage you to follow his reports. Unless Wal-Mart buys you off with a 10% discount card.

Comments (106)

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  1. M. Bouffant says:

    Unbelievable. When I was a wage slave at Borders & then Kinkos the employee discount was 30% at both dumps, ‘though the pay wasn’t $12.00/hr.

    Hell, Borders even had two days a yr. (one before Xmas, one in the summer) where not only employees but family & friends of employees rec’d. a 50% discount.

    • ploeg says:

      Now you did it. Here come the accusations that you and your 50% discount drove Borders into bankruptcy.

    • CaptBackslap says:

      Not to defend Walmart in general, but it’s easier to give a generous discount at a store like Borders, where (a) the gross margins are higher; and (b) employees can’t spend thousands of dollars per year on basic needs. Walmart would get killed if they offered a 30% employee discount.

      As for that $12.40 average wage: Costello needed to follow up and get the median wage. Using “average” in income discussions is one of the top conservative tricks on innumerate TV viewers.

      • M. Bouffant says:

        This is true. At Kinkos it was probably self-defense, or the (would-be) musicians, actors, yada would’ve bankrupted them w/ unpaid flyers, posters, head shots, script copies & whatnot.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Arguably, Borders benefited from its employees – at least the ones who interacted with customers – reading a lot of books. One of the joys of shopping in a good bookstore is the literate clerks who have opinions and suggestions. Getting books to their employees at cost could be a sensible strategy for them.

      • Jestak says:

        Note that the average is also for full-time “associates,” and many Wal-Mart employees are not full-time, as Mr. Tovar is unquestionably aware.

    • AlexD says:

      Goddamn Moocher. No wonder Borders went Galt.

  2. fish says:

    Best part–

    The 10% applies to non-food items, as I recall. I guess once you can afford that flatscreen (10% off!) and mobile phone (10% off!) and miscellaneous other crap, you are officially middle class.

    It could be that they changed that within the past few years, but I sincerely doubt it.

    • Morbo says:

      This is what my facebook wingers would have you believe. The poor have no right to complain because they have refrigerators and X-boxes these days.

      • fish says:

        Yeah, I know.

        I just think if it was 10% across the board it would be a better benefit. As it stands, if you’re making $15k/yr, or even $20k+, the majority of that money is (or at least I hope) not going to miscellaneous things.

        I don’t remember if it applies to toiletries.

    • NonyNony says:

      Wal*Mart’s margins on food are ridiculously low anywhere where there’s still a supermarket to compete with them. (Not that food margins aren’t already ridiculously low for anything we should be eating – the high margin items in the supermarket are all the things in the middle of the store). So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if giving the employees a 10% discount on food would involve them walking out of the store with food below cost.

      That said – if they paid their workers a goddamn living wage in the first place, the 10% discount would look a lot less like something Scrooge would cook up for some good PR.

  3. Akin/Romney 2016 says:

    I find the war on job creators – an assault fomented by this blog and others in the liberal cocoon – revolting and pathetic. All of the leftist commenters here have no idea of the burden of small business regulation and the threat that the social welfare state poses. AMERICA AMERICA GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE! CROWN THY GOD WITH BROTHERHOOD FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA!

  4. agua fruta says:

    here’s where you can support striking walmart workers by giving them grocery gift cards this holiday:

    https://www.wepay.com/donations/dont-let-walmart-silence-workers-support-worker-leaders-who-are-calling-for-change

    • bradP says:

      Is it common practice now for striking workers to use these online fundraisers?

      • NonyNony says:

        It’s common practice for everyone to use these online fundraisers.

        • bradP says:

          That’s what I was thinking.

          I wonder how imposing the barriers are for a nonprofit third-party to provide this sort of service particularly for a need like this.

          It seems like there would be very low overhead, and that 3% fee could come down.

          • malraux says:

            Most likely, that 3% fee comes from the online transaction. IE, that’s mostly the money that the credit card company charges to move some 1s and 0s around. 3% is pretty good in the grand scheme of things. IIRC, the kickstarter/ amazon payments cut is something like 10%.

        • Bart says:

          Brides routinely do it.

  5. e.a.f. says:

    Walmart is simply one of those “job creators” who must make more money or who else will ensure people have jobs. People at Walmart are paid so little many qualify for food stamps. This provides Walmart with an indirect subsidy, which taxpayers pay for.

    Walmart is only interested in increasing their profits. They don’t care at whose expense. They are not a good corporate citizen. They are the No. 1 “welfare queen” in american.

    • ploeg says:

      It’s not just the people who work directly for Walmart, either. Whenever Walmart looks to expand, Walmart feels the need to shake down the local government for whatever tax incentives they can get.

    • DrDick says:

      No corporation is interested in anything else besides increasing their profits. This is why capitalism always fails.

      • bradP says:

        The great thing about trade is that, for the most part, in order to increase profits, one must increase the value received by customers.

        I know you believe that greed is a symptom of capitalism, but its kinda a human thing generally. And the last thing you want to do in the face of greed is to legitimize violent takings over free exchange.

        The Walmart situation is too muddled with all sorts of subsidies to argue over, but you regressed to middle school debate class here.

        • John Protevi says:

          you regressed to middle school debate class here

          where you fit right in

          I know you believe that greed is a symptom of capitalism, but its kinda a human thing generally.

          • John Protevi says:

            Brad, I’m not a Graeber worshipper, but give Debt a try, and then read some more anthropology — which is DrDick’s field, after all — about egalitarian societies, where you will discover that greed is not “a human thing,” but a historically conditioned thing.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Hell, just read Weber, or, Cthulhu preserve us, Marx.

            • DrDick says:

              Something I have repeatedly pointed out to him, and even given him references to some of the work Graeber builds on. Human beings are complex creatures with many, often contradictory, tendencies. None of these, however, is imperative and human behavior is hugely plastic and malleable. While humans do have some tendencies toward selfishness (not actually greed, which is the desire for more than what we need for our survival and well being), we also have equal tendencies toward sharing and altruism. Indeed much of the history of our evolutionary divergence from chimps and bonobos has centered on increasing the latter and reducing the former.

              All societies actively encourage some of our tendencies while discouraging others. Capitalism clearly privileges selfishness and greed and discourages sharing and cooperation. In that sense, it is ultimately an inhuman system which denies that which makes us uniquely human.

              • bradP says:

                not actually greed, which is the desire for more than what we need for our survival and well being

                That’s a real workable definition since that judgment concerning “what we need for our survival and well being” is, in itself, a product of “greed”.

                Capitalism clearly privileges selfishness and greed and discourages sharing and cooperation.

                That’s funny.

                Would have Obama bailed out the auto industry if there weren’t billions of dollars worth of cooperation occurring between the auto workers and their suppliers?

                we also have equal tendencies toward sharing and altruism.

                That break down in very tragic ways when you achieve social development above the historical human norms. Trade can bind these natural rival groups with mutual benefit.

                • DrDick says:

                  I see logic and familiarity with reality still escape you. Do try to read Graeber and learn something real about the world and economic relations. While I have issues with some of what he says, he does an excellent job of summarizing the findings of economic anthropology over the past century or so. You will find it exotic reading since it bears no resemblance to your libertarian fantasies.

            • bradP says:

              Is it that they are not greedy, or is it that they have social traits that outweigh greed within smallish groups?

              Whatever the case may be, humans were raping, enslaving, and pillaging long before the advent of capitalism, or even before the first proto-farmer started storing his grain.

              • John Protevi says:

                Whatever the case may be, humans were raping, enslaving, and pillaging long before the advent of capitalism, or even before the first proto-farmer started storing his grain.

                Reference needed.

                • John Protevi says:

                  There’s some good stuff here, if you’re interested, and if you have access. But let’s hope your local communist public library has a subscription.

                  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6083.toc

                • bradP says:

                  Unless I am way off, I was under the understanding that rape and slavery were prevalent inbetween Native American tribes.

                  Another’s possessions, no matter how vital, were hardly sacrosanct either between tribes. There was just some major limitations on the amount of possessions one could expect to retain.

                  Thank you for sciencemag recommendation. I will certainly hunt that down.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Reference needed.

                  Unless I am way off, I was under the understanding that rape and slavery were prevalent inbetween Native American tribes.

                  Telling us about your “understanding” =/= a reference.

                  In any case, you really do need to do some Anthropology 101.

                  1. A single set of stories doesn’t = “humans.”
                  2. What is the critical status of these stories? Who tells these stories? Are these first contact tales by priests and explorers? Are the scientific reconstructions by professional anthropologists about pre-contact behavior?
                  3. Which “Native American tribes” do you mean? The historical circumstances and political economy of the large number of “Native American tribes” varies greatly.
                  4. See point number 1.

                • DrDick says:

                  rape and slavery were prevalent inbetween Native American tribes.

                  As usual, you display a profound ignorance. Those institutions were found in some tribes, but far from all. Also what Protevi says.

                • bradP says:

                  As usual, you display a profound ignorance. Those institutions were found in some tribes, but far from all.

                  That’s great. How many Native American tribes were capitalist?

              • DrDick says:

                Warfare and organized collective conflict do predate agriculture, but only by about 10,000 years and is connected to increased sedentism, population density, and competition for resources.

                • …as depicted in “Yogi Bear.”

                • bradP says:

                  Warfare and organized collective conflict do predate agriculture, but only by about 10,000 years and is connected to increased sedentism, population density, and competition for resources.

                  Competition for resources that is completely detached from any sort of “greed”?

                  Sedentism and population as a result of capitalism?

                  If we were to cast off the chains of this capitalism for the glorious social democracy, there would be no more scarcity and competition for resources to highlight our darker natures?

                  A nonargumentative question: What is your interpratation of the Atapuerca excavation?

                • DrDick says:

                  First off, I nowhere said that capitalism was the only society that did that, merely that it did so and that it is not anywhere close to universal among all human societies. Do try to work on your reading comprehension.

                  Secondly, as to the rise of organized conflict, some of the competition was likely in the absence of greed, but not all. Sedentism makes possible accumulation, a prerequisite to greed. Certainly some of these societies were characterized by emergent stratification (a byproduct of greed).

                  You are being a complete idiot here and not even pretending to argue in good faith, which is not normally like you. Cut the bullshit. Go read some economic anthropology and learn how the world really works.

                • Sedentism and population as a result of capitalism?

                  No. Sedentary agriculturalism began as a collective affair.

                • bradP says:

                  First off, I nowhere said that capitalism was the only society that did that, merely that it did so and that it is not anywhere close to universal among all human societies.

                  Neither of us said universal. I said violence was a human thing, generally. Even you are getting close to saying that peace only existed amongst those humans who could afford it. It seems the rest took to violence with aplomb, building entire social structures around it.

                  I will stand by my original point that, in the face of a human race that will easily become violent in their quest for their own self-interest (be that self-interest morally legit or not), societies based on exchange would be better than those based on coercion.

                  If you want to contrast exchange based societies with altruistic/communal societies, I would say the altruistic/communal societies would be vastly preferable on a relatively minute scale. But if we veer into that smaller scale, then we are starting to get into my support of free-market unions and agrarian communities that has garnered so much ridicule on this site.

                • DrDick says:

                  I will stand by my original point that, in the face of a human race that will easily become violent in their quest for their own self-interest (be that self-interest morally legit or not), societies based on exchange would be better than those based on coercion.

                  First off do not confuse spontaneous violence with organized conflict which are different and only tangentially connected phenomena. Human beings are indeed sometimes violent (though markedly less so than chimpanzees). War and related practices are recent.

                  Secondly, societies based on trade versus those based on coercion is a false dichotomy. Capitalism clearly employs economic force to compel workers to accept less than favorable conditions. It is also routinely deployed against smaller rivals to destroy them.

                  Societies based on sharing are far superior to those based on trade and the pursuit of personal gain at the expense of others, which is the real comparison here and at the heart of capitalism.

                • bradP says:

                  Societies based on sharing are far superior to those based on trade and the pursuit of personal gain at the expense of others, which is the real comparison here and at the heart of capitalism.

                  I did say “altruistic / communal societies would be vastly preferable on a relatively minute scale”.

                  As scale increases, societies must begin to substitute violence for the diminishing altruism.

                  I think there is a threshhold where that violence starts to be more costly than beneficial, and I think that threshhold is low (although it certainly varies from scenario to scenario).

                  And the term capitalism is going to be problematic for us. It is not a good descriptor of what I believe or support.

                • DrDick says:

                  You can indeed scale up societies who value sharing over personal gain. Again, the issue is that capitalism is grounded in greed, trying to get the most for yourself at the expense of others. Socialism is grounded in the belief that all people have the right to a good life, that no one has a right to live in luxury at the expense of others, and that we are mutually responsible for one another.

  6. Joel says:

    Forcing Walmart to improve wages is the right idea with the wrong approach. Their competitors are generally no better (Target is, somewhat). The correct approach is to force the government to impose a much higher federal minimum. Prices will rise some, but that would be a true equalizer.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Why choose? A re-energized labor movement that could extract concessions from Walmart at the bargaining table could also alter the makeup and agenda of state legislatures and the Congress.

    • NonyNony says:

      The correct approach is to force the government to impose a much higher federal minimum.

      Gah. No.

      The correct approach is to get the 800 lb. gorilla to buckle and raise their wages. Then that 800 lb. gorilla will go apply pressure to the Feds to raise the minimum to what they’re paying so they can relieve the competitive pressure from themselves.

      This ain’t rocket science. The only groups in the country with the financial chops to get Congress to do whatever the fuck they want are the big companies. So use that to your advantage.

      And actually the correct approach is to pursue about 10K different strategies all in parallel and all supporting each other, rather than just putting all of your money on black and spinning the wheel.

  7. Informant says:

    you have Anderson Cooper providing quality reporting from Gaza, along with engaging in some seriously awesome (and I’m guessing stress relieving) pushback against critics

    Should we start a pool on when CNN fires him?

  8. David Mathias says:

    Anderson Cooper’s twitter feed is less important than actual CNN journalism about Gaza, Israel or Wal-Mart, but some of his tweets that pushback against critics seriously are awesome.

    “‪ wow, tough words from an anon Internet troll. why not use your name and photo, coward? Have some more fritos and keep typing.”

    “.‪@Rabbi_Sykes‬ excuse me, but how am I apologizing for Hamas by reporting them dragging a body through the streets? That is deeply offensive.”

  9. It’s not just Anderson Cooper. The coverage of the latest Iraeal/Palestine blow-up has been quite different from previous episodes across the board.

    I think it’s part of a larger turn away from Israel among Americans. Netanyahu’s repeated disses of President Obama haven’t helped.

    • NonyNony says:

      I wonder if Netenyahu bought into the unskewed polls phenomenon himself.

      He sure did seem to be placing his bets on Mittens in the last few months.

      • Cody says:

        Didn’t Bibi say “I’m no friend of Mitt Romney” early on in the campaign when Mitt was claiming a close personal relationship with other foreign leaders?

      • Ed says:

        He sure did seem to be placing his bets on Mittens in the last few months.

        He was, but as he’s in the process of demonstrating (again) he can push Obama around with relative impunity.

  10. Thank God for dead Jews.

  11. 10% off cheap shit from China?! Oh my gosh, will this glamorous time never end?!!

  12. Major Kong says:

    I’m a little wary when they talk about an “average” wage of $12.40

    Averages can be very misleading. If Bill Gates walks into the room, I have an “average” net worth of $2 billion.

  13. Joe says:

    I work at a somewhat similar retail chain outside the US that also gives employees a 10% discount card. It’s no substitute at all for a higher basic wage, and it only really works for you if you have the time and determination to plan your grocery shopping very carefully. Otherwise, it probably benefits the company a lot through employees buying stuff they wouldn’t have bought without the discount.

    One other thing about discount cards is that companies watch their use like a hawk. If you misuse your card, lending it to a colleague who’s left their own card at home, for example, you’re in big trouble. Even letting your parents buy your groceries on it can be a fireable offense if they’re not the registered second user of the card. It might be a perk of the job, but it’s also a covert form of employer surveillance.

  14. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    At Whole Foods we got a 20% discount with our card. Up to 30% off if you were willing to give WF some biometric info (which I believe has been covered here already). If you shopped carefully, it could actually help you in your groceries-like getting 20% off a 1.99 bottle of wine. Also, I (carefully) but liberally allowed others to use it.

  15. Johnny Sack says:

    “Legitimize violent takings”? Way to argue in good faith.

    • bradP says:

      That is good faith. Taxes are gathered under threat of violence. The compulsory nature is what makes them taxes.

      • Johnny Sack says:

        Sorry didn’t know I was talking to a glibertarian. Carry on.

        • Johnny Sack says:

          I guess it was better when, back in the day, companies broke up strikes by force. I guess “violent takings” don’t count when you’re: taking labor instead of money, and a company does it. No state action! Free market!

          • bradP says:

            No. It was better when workers won their battles by proving their worth through direct economic action and did so so well that they won in spite of decided government antipathy.

            • DrDick says:

              Cthulhu, but you are an ignorant sod. Workers gained nothing “by proving their worth through direct economic action.” They got everything you take for granted in your job (including the right to expect that your employer will not kill you), by political and physical force. Every right and benefit workers have was won with the blood of labor activists against the brutal suppression of capital.

              • bradP says:

                They actually scared big business into coming to the negotiating table in the thirties. That’s how progress was made.

                • DrDick says:

                  Not through economic action. Capitalism and markets do not work the way you think they do.

                • Joe says:

                  Businesses weren’t scared into recognizing unions, they were forced to by the Wagner Act. Lots of companies resisted even then. The Kohler Company in Wisconsin refused to reognize the UAW until 1965, despite 30 years of strikes and legal cases. Scared doesn’t come into it.

      • DrDick says:

        Bullshit. There is no good faith argument against taxes. They are quite simply the price you pay to live in a civilized society (the more civilized it is, the more it costs). If you do not want to pay taxes, your are not entitled to the privileges and protections of civilization.

        • bradP says:

          There is no good faith argument against taxes.

          It wasn’t even an argument! I was just calling taxes what they are.

          Support them or not, taxes are violent takings. Otherwise this discussion wouldn’t be happening.

        • bradP says:

          They are quite simply the price you pay to live in a civilized society

          And just to throw on a little irony, a huge chunk of our taxes are devoted to the police, prison, and military industrial complexes that are working feverishly to destoy our civil society.

          • DrDick says:

            But which originate in the need to protect its members from those who would harm them. The fact that market forces invariably distort civilization to protecting the interests of elites does not negate the fact that the police, fire department, army, schools and all the rest do benefit us in various ways (trying living in Somalia by way of comparison).

          • DrDick says:

            Also, I would point out that markets, which you fetishize so much, cannot exist in the absence of coercive state power. Somebody has to enforce the contracts, weights and measures, courts and laws. No coercive state, no markets. They are built on coercion.

  16. Gus says:

    I wish I could threaten to boycott them, but I don’t buy anything there now, so it’s kind of an empty threat.

  17. desertrat says:

    We can only hope that CNN has shaken off it’s nearly fatal case of “FoxSnews” and will continue to get better.

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