Subscribe via RSS Feed

Leaders of the New Gilded Age

[ 142 ] November 18, 2013 |

Got to give it to Wal-Mart–like the Henry Clay Fricks and J.P. Morgans of old, it lays the system of inequality out for everyone to see:

A Cleveland Wal-Mart store is holding a food drive — for its own employees.

“Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner,” reads a sign accompanied by several plastic bins.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported on the food drive, which has sparked outrage in the area.

“That Wal-Mart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers — to me, it is a moral outrage,” Norma Mills, a customer at the store, told the Plain Dealer.

A company spokesman defended the food drive, telling the Plain Dealer that it is evidence that employees care about each other.

Maybe Wal-Mart is doing more to build worker solidarity with each other than any other institution in America. Because if employees don’t care about each other, they surely know their employer isn’t going go care.

Share with Sociable

Comments (142)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Linnaeus says:

    Another story that sounds like it’s from The Onion, but sadly is not.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      It’s really impossible to parody Wal-Mart.

    • SEK says:

      I was actually going to write it up, but my editor said I couldn’t because I work for The Onion.

    • blowback says:

      As they say, Americans don’t understand irony. There is a comic genius working at the Cleveland Wal-mart as an “associate”. Does Wal-mart offer its “associates” the choice of charitable subject for an annual food drive? Most likely. So how better to take the piss out of Wal-mart than get Wal-mart to conduct one for its employees and force its PR staff to attempt to justify it. It’s taken my breath away with its audacity.
      If I was a Hollywood producer of comedy programmes, I would be on the first flight to Cleveland to recruit the absolutely fucking brilliant comic genius concerned.

  2. A company spokesman defended the food drive, telling the Plain Dealer that it is evidence that employees care about each other.

    This has to be the dumbest spokesman of all time.

      • Trollhattan says:

        ZOMG, such delicious snark. Loved this one:

        Would you rather negotiate with 1 horse-sized Eric Holder, or 100 duck-sized Eric Holders? #AskJPM

        • Mitt "Mittens" Romney says:

          On a related note, if I understood the twitter, I’d be sorely tempted to respond to this with “What is it like knowing you have written the worst poem of all time?”

          • Malaclypse says:

            Also, I agree with Mittens. Dammit.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            I don’t know about “the worst poem of all time,” but that’s only because my reading is limited to English.

            So far as I know, that is the worst poem of all time.

            • Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz says:

              Take it from me – it cannot be surpassed.

            • rea says:

              The traditional pick is “The Tay Bridge Disaster” by William McGonegall:

              Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
              Alas! I am very sorry to say
              That ninety lives have been taken away
              On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
              Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

              ’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
              And the wind it blew with all its might,
              And the rain came pouring down,
              And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
              And the Demon of the air seem’d to say-
              “I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

              When the train left Edinburgh
              The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
              But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
              Which made their hearts for to quail,
              And many of the passengers with fear did say-
              “I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

              But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
              Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
              And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
              On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
              Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

              So the train sped on with all its might,
              And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
              And the passengers’ hearts felt light,
              Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
              With their friends at home they lov’d most dear,
              And wish them all a happy New Year.

              So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
              Until it was about midway,
              Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
              And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
              The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
              Because ninety lives had been taken away,
              On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
              Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

              As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
              The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
              And the cry rang out all o’er the town,
              Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
              And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
              Which fill’d all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
              And made them for to turn pale,
              Because none of the passengers were sav’d to tell the tale
              How the disaster happen’d on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
              Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

              It must have been an awful sight,
              To witness in the dusky moonlight,
              While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
              Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
              Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
              I must now conclude my lay
              By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
              That your central girders would not have given way,
              At least many sensible men do say,
              Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
              At least many sensible men confesses,
              For the stronger we our houses do build,
              The less chance we have of being killed.

              • Malaclypse says:

                You are a cruel man.

                • It must have been an awful sight,
                  To witness in the dusky kitchen light,
                  While the Plumber did laugh, and angry did bray,
                  Knees down on the linoleum that day,
                  Oh! ill-fated sight on the linoleum that day,
                  I must now conclude my lay
                  By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
                  That some nice suspenders would not have given way,
                  At least many sensible men do say,
                  Had they been supported to hide his buttresses,
                  At least many sensible men confesses,
                  For the higher our pants, God knows,
                  The less chance our ass to expose.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                I’m just I don’t even…

              • Trollhattan says:

                Good lord that’s Vogon-class poetry. Would it have been so hard for the failed bridge to have been named Nantucket?

                • rea says:

                  For a poet who could rhyme “Edinburgh” and “sorrow,” not to mention “butresses” and “confesses,” “Nantucket” would not have been much of a challenge.

                • Trollhattan says:

                  It could at least have been a lot shorter.

                  The 4:20 departing from Phuket
                  Was hence crossing the bridge at Nantucket

                  If geographically challenged.

              • N__B says:

                It’s not even accurate. The girders were fine. The failure was caused by overloaded and improperly-braced cast-iron compression struts in the towers.

                Also, that’s truly awful poetry.

              • LeeEsq says:

                Your telling me this is a real poem? I thought they were just making a joke in the Murdoch Mysteries.

                • There’s more, including sagas of the rebuilt bridge.

                  But the Tay was surely cursed.

                  http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/an-excursion-steamer-sunk-in-the-tay

                  ’Twas in the year of 1888, and on July the 14th day,
                  That an alarming accident occurred in the River Tay.
                  Which resulted in the sinking of the Tay Ferries’ Steamer “Dundee,”
                  Which was a most painful and sickening sight to see.

                  The Steamer was engaged by the Independent Order of Rechabites,
                  And all were resolved to see some rural sights;
                  And the place they selected was the village of Newburgh;
                  While each heart was happy and free from sorrow.

                  And the weather was sunny, and really very fine,
                  And 900 souls had agreed to while away the time;
                  And they left the Craig Pier at half-past two o’clock,
                  Never thinking they would meet with an accidental shock.

                  And after passing underneath the Bridge of Tay,
                  Then they took the Channel on the south side without dismay;
                  And Captain Methven stood on the Steamer’s bridge, I do declare,
                  And for the passengers he seemed to have very great care.

                  And all went well on board for some time,
                  And the silvery Tay shone beautiful in the sunshine;
                  And the passengers’ hearts felt light and gay,
                  While they gazed on the bonnie banks of the silvery Tay.

                  To do justice to the passengers, they were a goodly band,
                  For their behaviour, ’tis said, was truly grand;
                  But to the eastward of Newburgh, the Steamer was too close inshore,
                  And on passing a boatman, he warningly to them did roar,-

                  Warning them not to come inshore so near,
                  But his warning voice the helmsman didn’t hear;
                  Neither the Captain or passengers his warning dreads,
                  Until the Steamer struck a number of boulders, known as The Heads.

                  And close to the point where the Pow falls into the Tay,
                  Which the people that escaped drowning will remember for many a day,
                  Because many of the passengers were thrown off their balance;
                  But, most fortunately, they were all saved merely by chance.

                  And owing to the suddenness of the shock, many women fainted away,
                  Which filled the rest of the passengers’ hearts with dismay;
                  But they soon regained their composure when close to the land,
                  Especially when they saw that succour was near at hand.

                  The engines were kept going at full speed,
                  And God helped His people in time of need;
                  And in a short time Newburgh was reached,
                  While many women wept bitterly, and loudly screeched.

                  Because by this time the forehold was nearly filled with water,
                  Which caused the passengers’ teeth with fear to chatter;
                  Because the Steamer was settling down forward,
                  While to land the passengers safe Captain Methven struggled hard.

                  But before one-half of them had got ashore,
                  The women and children were in a state of uproar,
                  Because the forepart of the Steamer was submerged in the Tay,
                  Which filled the passengers’ hearts with dismay.

                  But, thanks be to God! all the passengers were sent to Dundee
                  By the Steamers Renown, Forfarshire, Protector, and the Lass o’ Gowrie,
                  Which certainly was a most beautiful sight to see,
                  When they landed 900 passengers safe on the pier at Dundee.

                  Then, good people, away to the mountains, glens, and lakes,
                  And drink of milk and pure water, and eat oaten cakes;
                  And sit down on the margin of a little burn in the sunshine,
                  And enjoy yourselves heartily during the holiday time.

                • rea says:

                  William McGonegall had a rare talent–sort of the Anti-Shakespeare.

              • Warren Terra says:

                McGonegall makes for some absolutely hilarious straight-faced lugubrious readings, though.

              • Karate Bearfighter says:

                Submitted for the committee’s consideration: Papa’s Letter, by Anonymous.

                Papa’s Letter

                I was sitting in my study,
                Writing letters when I heard
                “Please dear mama, Mary told me
                Mama mustn’t be disturbed.

                “But I’s tired of the kitty;
                Want some ozzer fing to do.
                Writing letters, is ou mama?
                Tan’t I wite a letter too?”

                “Not now, darling, mama’s busy;
                Run and play with kitty, now.”
                “No, no mama, me wite letter;
                Tan, if ‘ou will show me how.”

                I would paint my darling’s portrait
                As his sweet eyes searched my face.
                Hair of gold, eyes of azure,
                Form of childish, witching grace.

                But the eager face was clouded,
                As I slowly shook my head,
                Till I said: “I’ll make a letter
                Of you, darling boy, instead.”

                So I parted back the tresses
                From his forehead high and white,
                And a stamp in sport I pasted
                ‘Mid its waves of golden light.

                Then I said, “Now, little letter,
                Go away and bear good news.”
                And I smiled as down the staircase
                Clattered loud the little shoes.

                Down the street the baby hastened
                Till he reached the office door.
                “I’se a letter, Mr. Postman;
                Is there room for any more?

                ‘Cause dis’ letter’s doin to papa,
                Papa lives with God, ‘ou know,
                Mama sent me for a letter,
                Do ‘ou fink at I tan go?”

                But the clerk in wonder answered,
                “Not today, my little man.”
                “Den I’ll find anozzer office,
                ‘Cause I must go if I tan.”

                Suddenly the crowd was parted,
                People fled to left, to right,
                As a pair of maddened horses
                At the moment dashed in sight.

                No one saw the baby figure-
                No one saw the golden hair,
                Till a voice of frightened sweetness
                Rang out on the autumn air.

                ‘Twas too late-a moment only
                Stood the beauteous vision there,
                Then the little face lay lifeless
                Covered o’er with golden hair.

                Rev’rently they raised my darling,
                Brushed away the curls of gold,
                Saw the stamp upon his forehead
                Growing now so icy cold.

                Not a mark the face disfigured,
                Showing where the hoof had trod;
                But the little life had ended-
                Papa’s letter was with God.

                • Also every other thing by Red Sovine:

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zoTLwrm9QE

                  And as I rounded the corner, boy, I got one heck of a shock–
                  Eighteen-wheelers were lined up for three city blocks!
                  Why, I guess every driver for miles around had caught Teddy Bear’s call
                  And that little crippled boy was having a ball.
                  For as fast as one driver would carry him in,
                  Another would carry him to his truck and take off again.
                  Well, you better believe I took my turn at riding* Teddy Bear
                  And then I carried him back in and put him down in his chair.

                  *The blink tag has a reason.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  What really strikes me about these poems is how much work was obvious put into them.

                  Those weren’t just slapped out without thought. You can’t write that badly without a great deal of effort.

                • Jay C says:

                  And if their communications technology had been just a BIT more advanced, Papa’s letter would have been emailed with a LOLcat picture attached, and all would have ended up well…

          • Anna in PDX says:

            What, no love for the cheese poem? That one has been renowned on the Internet for years.

            We have seen the Queen of cheese,
            Laying quietly at your ease,
            Gently fanned by evening breeze —
            Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

            All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
            To the great Provincial Show,
            To be admired by many a beau
            In the city of Toronto.

            Cows numerous as a swarm of bees —
            Or as the leaves upon the trees —
            It did require to make thee please,
            And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.

            May you not receive a scar as
            We have heard that Mr. Harris
            Intends to send you off as far as
            The great World’s show at Paris.

            Of the youth — beware of these —
            For some of them might rudely squeeze
            And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
            We could not sing o’ Queen of Cheese.

            We’rt thou suspended from baloon,
            You’d cast a shade, even at noon;
            Folks would think it was the moon
            About to fall and crush them soon.

            James McIntyre

  3. The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    I wonder if it would ever occur to Norma there that shopping at the place contributes to this very problem.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I don’t think blaming everyday people’s behavior is particularly helpful. If a place is cheaper, it’s where people are going to go, especially if they don’t have much money. The issue is to wrest those profits away from the rich, not pine for a day of people shopping at their corner store, giving money to shopowners who all would have wanted to be Sam Walton themselves if they had thought of it first.

      • DrDick says:

        All too true. The poor cannot to have strong consciences (actual hunger and eviction are high prices for moral principles) and will always have to shop at where ever it is cheapest. For that matter, Walmart is often no more rapacious than the local businessmen that they replaced (do not get me started on the old school store credit system).

        • GoDeep says:

          You’ve hit on a point that I often scratch my head abt: Why so many ppl think the local shop owners WalMart displaced were any better? I think the likelihood that Joe’s True Value Hardware pays anymore than WalMart is pretty low to none, much less the likelihood Joe offers health insurance. To me the only difference b/tn Walmart & Joe’s Hardware is that Walmart has more stores. During the “WalMart Specific Minimum Wage Bill” in DC the data indicated that WM wages was right abt the industry average for DC & the minimum wage local pols were trying to set for WM was right abt the 85th percentile!

          I’m all for unionizing Walmart, I guess assuming that they’re the Great Satan is baffling to me.

          • Malaclypse says:

            Except Walmart sets the price point for local retail just by being there, forcing Joe to cut salaries just to have a chance at matching prices. So they are exactly the same, except for all the distortions of monopsony power in the marketplace.

            • GoDeep says:

              Actually since they don’t operate in DC-proper, or even terribly close to its border, they actually don’t set the market price. You have to travel a good half hour or more to reach a WalMart from Capitol Hill.

              Even outside of DC, they’re pretty far from having monopsony power–as big as they are they only have 13% market share and prolly only 10% of retail workers. That’s nowhere near monopsony power. Perhaps in its rural markets in can exact monopsony power, but in urban areas & suburbs, not so much.

          • Hogan says:

            At least the local shop owners were probably spending their money locally, rather than airlifting it to Bentonville for people who already have more than they’ll ever spend.

            • JustRuss says:

              This. Local merchants not only spend locally but donate locally, whether out of ego or compassion, who cares, money’s money. But in Walmart’s case, all the money goes straight out of state.

              • Z. Hogson says:

                Hogan’s point is not obvious to me. True – a local store owner is going to spend their income locally while the Waltons will not. But Walmart would have to pay local taxes, and the large number of workers it employs would have to as well. So my beef with Walmart is not driving small stores out of business but paying their workers so poorly.

                • Joe Bob says:

                  The difference is a lot bigger than you think. Think of all of the things a business needs to run: wholesale goods, raw materials, advertising, legal or accounting services… Wal-Mart is sourcing those things from global networks or the home office in Bentonville. A small business owner is going to find a much larger proportion of those things locally or regionally.

                  There is a real benefit to keeping business profits in a community rather than, in Wal-Mart’s case, exporting them back to Bentonville. When it stays local at the worst you have a trickle down situation where well-to-do business owner buys a new car, a bigger house, or sends their kid to a private school. At best, the small business owner expands their business locally because, unlike Wal-Mart, they don’t have the same ability to send capital anywhere in the world they can find a better return.

                • brettvk says:

                  Walmart has negotiated with many local governments for property tax abatements, on the grounds of providing enployment. I think in some cases WM gets to keep some portion of sales taxes for the public service of opening a store in that locality. So, I don’t think WM can be characterized as a great contributor to local communities — money tends to flow away to Bentonville.

            • DrDick says:

              This is the most critical point to my mind. It is also the case that not all local businessmen are assholes and Walmart always is.

        • JoyfulA says:

          I’ve read Walmart’s lost a lot of business to the various dollar store chains.

          (And the last time I was in Walmart, their prices were higher than Wegman’s on the two items I might have bought there.)

          • Cheap Wino says:

            Wal-Mart’s business model is this: 1/3 of the items storewide are the cheapest in town, 1/3 are essentially the same price as competitors and 1/3 are actually higher. In a calculated manner they spread these discrepancies throughout the store so every department has about the same ratios.

            If you are buying everything at Wal-Mart you’re not really saving any money, you’re falling into their trap. I buy my cheap wine at Wal-Mart but I buy all my 100% juice at Schnucks (the perceived “expensive” store in town) because they have a huge selection of brands of which at least one is always on sale for much cheaper than the Wal-Mart brand.

            • John (not McCain) says:

              I was sort of shocked when I found out that a lot of the products at my local “discount” supermarket are actually cheaper at 7-11. Shocked and happy, because the 7-11 is right around the corner from my house.

          • Cheap Wino says:

            I should mention that the dollar stores operate in the same way — don’t buy food at Family Dollar, it’s a ripoff. Toilet bowl cleaner on the other hand. . .

            • Aimai says:

              Also, the dollar stores make ends meet (like Walmart) by literally stealing employee wages and forcing people to clock out before they finish their shifts.

              The reason to favor local stores over WalMart is primarily that definitionally many local stores will employ more people because no economies of scale. Also there is a tiny chance (not a huge one) that a local store owner will favor longevity of his/her work force because of efficiencies of trained personell and long term customer relationships. It matters more in a small store with 20 employees if everyone is doing their job well than it matters in Walmart, and turnover hurts more and training new people costs more.

              • GoDeep says:

                The reason to favor local stores over WalMart is primarily that definitionally many local stores will employ more people because no economies of scale.

                That’s really abt the best point on the merits. WalMart does staff abt 10-20% fewer workers than your average store.

                The only other reason that comes to mind, at least in DC & some other urban areas is that grocery stores are often unionized, so WM’s business model will overtime result in more non-unionized than unionized workers… But, yeah, having worked for a mom & pop retailer from high school through college & having friends who’ve spent their entire careers in retail, I just don’t see WalMart being much different than any other merchandiser.

    • The prophet Nostradumbass says:

      From reading the Plain Dealer article, the Business Insider article misrepresents who Norma Mills actually is. She is not, actually, a “customer”.

    • TT says:

      I shop at Wal-Mart on occasion and it’s because of two factors: prices and proximity. In rural areas it’s more often than not by far the best bargain that people with little money to spare can find, plus since it’s heavily focused on the rural demographic (though that’s changed to a large extent) it’s a centralized and highly convenient way to shop for all household needs (food, clothes, tools, electronics, etc.). It’s a real double-edged sword in that respect; however, it would be a lot less disgusting and a lot more socially and economically beneficial if the much sharper edge of that sword was not the one geared toward suppressing and mistreating its workforce

      • rea says:

        it’s more often than not by far the best bargain that people with little money to spare can find, plus since it’s heavily focused on the rural demographic

        People drive all the way from Lordsburg to Deming to shop in one, even why they have difficulty walking due to tight rear ends.

      • DrDick says:

        And they often have better selections and goods not available elsewhere. That has certainly been my experience living in rural areas.

      • Blanche Davidian says:

        And many a small town business district became a ghost town when Walmart moved in. Sam Walton wanted to bring the big city discount houses to rural America. And he wanted to sell American too. Now the Walmart buyers are haggling with the Chinese and Siamese and Indonesians for a hundredth of a penny savings on manufactured goods. The Walton Family are now worth $100 billion and we’re feeding many of their full-time employees with SNAP. Pass a $15 per hour minimum wage and let’s make good ol’ convenient and cheap Walmart pay a living wage.

        • Karen says:

          This. When Walmart started it wasn’t the Cthulu it became. Remember that in the 70′s many small towns had lost things like the Sears catalog stores to the cities. It was either go to Walmart or drive to Dallas for us for many things. They only sold stuff made in the US, which was a big deal. Later, of course, things changed.

          • cpinva says:

            “Later, of course, things changed.”

            yes, they did. sam Walton died, and his skeezy offspring took over the joint. not that old sam didn’t mind making a buck (and for all we know, he told his skeezy offspring to do exactly as they have done), and had no use for unions, but he did seem to treat his employee’s just a tad better than the current crop of mgmt. does.

        • Murc says:

          Pass a $15 per hour minimum wage and let’s make good ol’ convenient and cheap Walmart pay a living wage.

          Hell, I say a 15 dollar minimum wage and mandatory 35 hour workweek.

  4. somethingblue says:

    Why are the employees being encouraged to donate to one another rather than to deficit reduction?

    Some seriously misplaced priorities here …

  5. wengler says:

    A 15 dollar an hour sign would look mighty good next to that donation bin.

  6. joe from Lowell says:

    A company spokesman defended the food drive, telling the Plain Dealer that it is evidence that employees care about each other.

    So, those who make sure Wal Mart employees have enough food care about them.

    And Wal Mart employees aren’t able to get enough food on the wages that Wal Mart pays them.

    Soooo…lessee, carry the two…and…um…

  7. LeeEsq says:

    During the First Gilded Age, workers could at least depend on the local Democratic politican handing out food during the Holidays in exchange for votes. It was a corrupt system but the local politicians knew that they had to give something to get the votes. In the Second Guilded Age, the oligarchs figuered out away to not even do this.

    • Joshua says:

      Yea, because the pols are going to get votes anyway.

      As it was pointed out here last week WRT Boeing, Mitch McConnell is out there talking about bringing the living standards of the entire US down to Kentucky standards, and if anything that is a pander. He faces primary challenges from people who probably think Kentucky’s standard of living is too high!

  8. If Wal-Mart’s prices were REALLY that low its employees could shop at the company store.

  9. Shakezula says:

    I think you missed the best part.

    “This store has been doing this for several years and is for associates that have faced an extreme hardship recently,” spokesman Kory Lundberg told us.

    So if you’re just poor, it isn’t enough, or everyone would be eligible. But this indicates someone gets to decide who will receive the help. Cute. Maybe they can make it into a contest.

    Next employees will be invited to have money deducted from each paycheck to cover the healthcare bills of very sick coworkers.

  10. lumpkin says:

    Looks like someone in management figured out that they could increase revenues by encouraging people to buy stuff at Walmart to give to underpaid Walmart employees. Fucking brilliant.

  11. Trollhattan says:

    As I was in the unfamiliar land that is “Business Insider” I looked at a few more articles, including “3 Reasons Why Costco Is Beating Wal-Mart And Target”

    They list customers want deals (duh), strong local market focus (true), and frequent brand turnover (don’t ever fall in love with a brand there unless you like being jilted).

    What they scrupulously avoid is a peep about Costco’s pay scale and low employee turnover, which Wall Street openly hates. But, gosh, I wonder whether a fourth reason Costco is doing well is that people prefer shopping where the employees are actually happy and high-performing? Are they teaching that in bidnez school these days?

    http://www.businessinsider.com/three-reasons-costco-is-beating-wal-mart-2013-11

    • mds says:

      But, gosh, I wonder whether a fourth reason Costco is doing well is that people prefer shopping where the employees are actually happy and high-performing? Are they teaching that in bidnez school these days?

      In fairness, I’m not sure they’ve ever taught that one in business school, except possibly in some variation along the lines of “High morale enhances productivity. Therefore, the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I’ve been inside Wal Marts maybe four times in my life, and was creeped out by how dirty and depressing they were every time.

      Why would I go back if I have any options?

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        It was aspirational shopping at first, at least up here in the Pine Tree State, where K-Mart and Bradlees and Ames were pretty thick on the ground to begin with.

        People drove from all over the state when the first WalMart in Maine opened, in Scarborough 15 or so years ago. It wasn’t the money that could be saved — the gas probably cancelled that out — it was the chance, finally, to buy what real Americans in the South and Midwest were buying.

      • CaptBackslap says:

        It’s just a terrible atmosphere, like what a K-Mart would be like if it was literally managed by Brezhnev.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          There’s a feeling there that I don’t get from even the most run-down block in the worst part of Lowell, because there’s a sense of somebody wanting it this way in Wal Mart.

          • CaptBackslap says:

            They don’t want you to linger in there. They want you to get your substandard produce and your furniture with a shorter lifespan than said produce and get the hell out.

        • Karen says:

          I am soooo stealing “a Kmart managed by Brezhnev.”

          • Aimai says:

            Reminds me of a great quote about an ugly modern building in a new modernist city “By Stalin out of Shopgirl.”

          • Karen says:

            And I am so happy that so many of you are old enough toget why “managed by Breznev” is funny.

            • Bill Gascoyne says:

              Maybe Wal-Mart is doing more to build worker solidarity with each other than any other institution in America. Because if employees don’t care about each other, they surely know their employer isn’t going go care.

              Those who are old enough to remember Brezhnev perhaps remember Laugh-In?
              “In Russia, ve have group t’erapy program. Called Siberia.”

        • efgoldman says:

          like what a K-Mart would be like if it was literally managed by Brezhnev.

          Every K-Mart I’ve been in looks like it was managed by Brezhnev.

        • Murc says:

          It’s just a terrible atmosphere, like what a K-Mart would be like if it was literally managed by Brezhnev.

          Tangent: running your stores like that is a really bad idea, because you’re just begging to be sniped by someone who sells stuff at the same or similar price point but presents a much nicer atmosphere.

          Remember the meteoric rise of Target? Target doesn’t really sell anything that K-Mart wasn’t already selling, and at similar prices, maybe a bit more expensive. But people felt low-class walking into a K-Mart in a way that walking into a Target did not; I still know people who think pronouncing it ‘Tar-zhay’ is the height of hilarity.

          There’s a midwestern department store chain called Von Maur that, unlike practically every other mid-list department store chain, has actually been expanding recently and doing very well for itself. It doesn’t actually stock anything you can’t find in a Macy’s or a JC Penney or a Bon-Ton or whatever, and the prices are the same or more expensive. But it feels much, much fancier. All of the employees there, from the guy cleaning out the fitting rooms on up, are dressed in full suits. (I don’t know if they require their minimum wage peons to buy their own suit which is going to have the shit kicked out of it doing manual labor, but I wouldn’t be surprised.) There’s a live piano player in the store. It presents as a much classier place than it actually is.

          Wal-Mart is just begging for the same thing to happen to it.

          • ADHDJ says:

            Target invests heavily in design of their products. They cheap stuff that doesn’t look like cheap, depressing stuff.

            The atmosphere is better, sure, but I think it’s the quality/design of their products that makes it more appealing to shop there.

        • GoDeep says:

          K-Mart is so sad now. I was back in my hometown & I picked up some things for my father. I’ve never seen a sadder, unhappier, more lifeless place in my life. I swear half the lights were out & it was dirty, dingy, and unkempt. As a kid I used to run to the toy section as soon as we entered & so I actually had quite fond memories of the place. I’m totally aghast at what Ed Lampert has done to that place. And Sears ain’t far behind I fear. A KMart managed by Brezhnev is exactly what my parents have.

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        They’re the exclusive purveyor of licensed Duck Dynasty™ merchandise?

    • jmauro says:

      Costco’s pay scale and low employee turnover

      I think they are unhappy with the first but ecstatic with the second. They often don’t realize that the first leads directly to the second.

    • Jeremy says:

      What they scrupulously avoid is a peep about Costco’s pay scale and low employee turnover, which Wall Street openly hates. But, gosh, I wonder whether a fourth reason Costco is doing well is that people prefer shopping where the employees are actually happy and high-performing? Are they teaching that in bidnez school these days?

      Never fear. If you ever need someone to throw up a bunch of numbers to justify the prerogatives of the powerful, Megan McArdle has you covered.

      • Malaclypse says:

        One way to think about this is Thanksgiving dinner: how come you, who are capable of getting a meal on the table 364 nights of the year, suddenly find yourself burning things, forgetting the creamed onions in the microwave, and bringing the mashed potatoes to the table a half an hour late?

        How much more McMegan can this sentence be? And the answer is none – none more McMegan.

    • Mike G says:

      I think it’s more than economics. MBA ideology is authoritarian — treat your workers like crap and pay them as little possible is an end in itself. Especially in the plantation-mentality South — anything with a whiff of egalitarianism is dangerously “communist”. Even if it’s shown to cost them money in the long term they’ll find a reason to justify it.

      Like cops, a lot of assholes are in management because they like the power to bully and punish people.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      JFC, the pieces of shit commenting on that article. “I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart because of all the poors in there” (paraphrase). Definitely Blodgett’s crowd.

  12. GoDeep says:

    Damn, I often agree w/ WalMart on debates in the Progressive-sphere but I have to admit that this takes chutzpah.

  13. Has everybody seen thiscommercial Malwart is running right now?

    Seems so shiny and pleasant. Must be a delightful place to work.

  14. Walt says:

    I’m going to hitchhike on your fame by coming up with the definitive quote that everyone will use when discussing your work, the way Ben Jonson always gets quoted about Shakespeare.

    My first try:

    A pre-Raphaelite for a post-modern age.

  15. e.a.f. says:

    Perhaps Wal-Mart could take the first charitable step and pay their staff a “living wage”. Then they wouldn’t have to have food stamps or go to food banks. Everybody who works at wal mart is short on money. It is about time Wal Mart paid its own way in society. They are a very bad employer and corporate citizen. Number One welfare queen in the country though. Welfare subsidizes Walmart. They want huge profits so they don’t pay their staff enough, so they qualify for forms of welfare.

  16. Gone2Ground says:

    Oh, but the best news from the article on Wally World is that WalMart actually DOES have an employee grant program for emergencies. Employees can get up to $1500 free and clear to help with unexpected expenses..(I can only imagine the soul searing horror gauntlet of paperwork and snitty supervisory stares that cash must cost….)but of course, the kicker is that said grant program is paid for, wait for it, out of voluntary payroll deductions from other WM employees.

    I think Atrios once asked if the entire mission of WM’s executive team is to sit around all day and think up even more ways to be shitty.

  17. [...] guess souls go for cheap these days at Wal Mart headquarters. More from Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Leaders of the New Gilded Age, do you know who Henry Clay [...]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.