A 10% Discount Card

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.

106 comments on this post.
  1. M. Bouffant:

    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.

  2. ploeg:

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

  3. CaptBackslap:

    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.

  4. M. Bouffant:

    I’d certainly like to think so. I did in a large bank too.

  5. fish:

    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.

  6. Akin/Romney 2016:

    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!

  7. Mourdock/Palin 2016:

    BELIEVE IN AMERCIA! TAKE IT BACK!

  8. M. Bouffant:

    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.

  9. Erik Loomis:

    Shouldn’t AMERICA be in bold?

  10. Morbo:

    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.

  11. M. Bouffant:

    I’ll “CROWN THY GOD” w/ pancakes.

  12. fish:

    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.

  13. Capitalist Fig:

    Romney actually spoke of Obama’s “war on job creators, natch.

  14. McAllen:

    Sadly, since Obowma’s president there’s nothing bold about America.

  15. agua fruta:

    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

  16. e.a.f.:

    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.

  17. Warren Terra:

    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.

  18. Warren Terra:

    It’s awful how soon people forget Amercia.

    (How great is it that the old pages of that Tumblr are in the Acrhive?)

  19. ploeg:

    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.

  20. Joel:

    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.

  21. Trig Palin/Tagg Romney 2044:

    Mr. Loomis, are you a left-liberal socialist or an American?

    Pick a side.

  22. Malaclypse:

    When I worked in the dearly missed WordsWorth in Harvard Square, you could borrow any book at all for free.

  23. bradP:

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

  24. Warren Terra:

    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.

  25. Informant:

    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?

  26. Craigo:

    Across-the-board, I’m quite sure. (My mother has unhappily been a Wal-Mart associate for 15 years.)

  27. David Mathias:

    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.”

  28. joe from Lowell:

    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.

  29. BigHank53:

    And the suppliers, too. The only people who get a great deal at Walmart are the Walton family.

  30. NonyNony:

    This was also the case with Waldenbooks, which was part of the Borders corporate brands before they all blew up.

  31. Colin:

    You could actually borrow books for free at Borders, too, for a 2-week period. I definitely took advantage of that option when I worked there.

  32. NonyNony:

    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.

  33. NonyNony:

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

  34. NonyNony:

    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.

  35. NonyNony:

    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.

  36. joe from Lowell:

    Thank God for dead Jews.

  37. DrDick:

    I am a true American patriotic socialist and I choose the left side. The right side is all hard, lumpy, and full of splinters.

  38. DrDick:

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

  39. bradP:

    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.

  40. Malaclypse:

    Jenny, your dumbprint is showing.

  41. bradP:

    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.

  42. Cody:

    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?

  43. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

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

  44. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    WALMARTINES!!

  45. malraux:

    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%.

  46. John Protevi:

    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.

  47. bradP:

    Yep.

  48. John Protevi:

    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.

  49. olexicon:

    By electing tow people who shouldn’t be elected dog Catcher, can’t you see that by electing idiots the terrorists win

  50. Malaclypse:

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

  51. olexicon:

    Is Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock’s favorite group Rapeman?

  52. DrDick:

    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.

  53. bradP:

    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.

  54. John Protevi:

    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.

  55. bradP:

    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.

  56. John Protevi:

    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

  57. Major Kong:

    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.

  58. bradP:

    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.

  59. Joe:

    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.

  60. AlexD:

    Goddamn Moocher. No wonder Borders went Galt.

  61. John Protevi:

    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.

  62. Amanda in the South Bay:

    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.

  63. Richard:

    At Trader Joe’s, the employees get a 10% discount.

  64. Johnny Sack:

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

  65. Jestak:

    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.

  66. joe from Lowell:

    Hey, JenBob, guess what got struck the fuck down in the last few days?

    Israel’s reputation among the American public.

  67. joe from Lowell:

    And that’s a great thing. The dumb kikes should politely march into the sea for daring to settle in the Dar al-Islam.

  68. bradP:

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

  69. Gus:

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

  70. Pestilence:

    http://www.amazon.com/Groucho-Me-Marx/dp/0306806665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353519449&sr=1-1&keywords=groucho+marx

  71. Johnny Sack:

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

  72. Johnny Sack:

    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!

  73. bradP:

    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.

  74. joe from Lowell:

    It’s not working this time.

    Your side is just getting shriller and shriller, but it’s not working.

    Keep it up. You’re going to burn out the clutch on this whole ugly line of slander, and it will never work again.

  75. DrDick:

    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.

  76. DrDick:

    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.

  77. DrDick:

    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.

  78. DrDick:

    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.

  79. DrDick:

    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.

  80. bradP:

    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?

  81. joe from Lowell:

    …as depicted in “Yogi Bear.”

  82. bradP:

    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?

  83. DrDick:

    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.

  84. DrDick:

    Or paints a target on his back.

  85. joe from Lowell:

    Sedentism and population as a result of capitalism?

    No. Sedentary agriculturalism began as a collective affair.

  86. bradP:

    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.

  87. Bill Murray:

    I believe the Marx Cthulhu is preserving us from is Richard Marx

  88. DrDick:

    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.

  89. bradP:

    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.

  90. bradP:

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

  91. bradP:

    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.

  92. bradP:

    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.

  93. DrDick:

    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.

  94. Substance McGravitas:

    Support them or not, taxes are violent takings.

    Where’s the violence?

  95. Ed:

    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.

  96. M. Bouffant:

    Only hardbacks, however.

  97. DrDick:

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

  98. DrDick:

    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).

  99. DrDick:

    In his head. He is a libertarian and his cardinal principle is MINE!

  100. Bart:

    Right. Borrowing books is best done at the library.

  101. Bart:

    Brides routinely do it.

  102. desertrat:

    I’ll send you the Internets you truly deserve, just as I wipe the coffee that just came shooting out my nose off the computer screen…

  103. desertrat:

    I believ this was ably articulated by Palin, M: “Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I’m being repressed! ” in that incomparable documentary of medieval life…

  104. desertrat:

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

  105. DrDick:

    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.

  106. Joe:

    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.

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