Charles Platt: Walmart Isn't The Enemy

Sci-fi author and journalist Charles Platt (he's an editor of our pal Make magazine) decided that he's going to find out once and for all whether Walmart is evil or good ... so he applied for a job there!

Here's why he thinks that despite its bad reputation, Walmart is actually a good company to work for:

A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.

Why? Gradually the answer became clear. Imagine that you are young and relatively unskilled, lacking academic qualifications. Which would you prefer: standing behind the register at a local gas station, or doing the same thing in the most aggressively successful retailer in the world, where ruthless expansion is a way of life, creating a constant demand for people to fill low-level managerial positions? A future at Wal-Mart may sound a less-than-stellar prospect, but it's a whole lot
better than no future at all.

In addition, despite its huge size, the corporation turned out to have an eerie resemblance to a Silicon Valley startup. There was the same gung-ho spirit, same lack of dogma, same lax dress code, same informality - and same interest in owning a piece of the company. All of my coworkers accepted the offer to buy Wal-Mart stock by setting aside $2 of every paycheck.

Read the rest of what Charles wrote for The New York Post: Link

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I loved working at a gas helped me pay my way through a bachelors, masters and doctorate. Plus, no one is watching your back.

Sure Walmart employs a lot of people, but those people worked at other places before walmart ran those places out of business. Having seen firsthand (four times) what a Walmart does to a small town's businesses, self-esteem, natural resources and citizens, I can't help but feel extremely contemptuous towards the company. I don't think it's a case of "doing something better" than those small, locally owned businesses it out-competes; I think it's a case of undercutting, shortcutting and short changing. The worst part is that Walmart is all-consuming--they pay employees so little that they can only afford to shop at the place they work...nothing gets filtered back into a community, it's a weird little terrarium of an economy that's self-propegating and self-feeding.

Is there any truth to the suspicion that Walmart hires differently abled and older employees at reduced wages, or in exchange for tax credits? I heard this and find it hard to believe, even given my distaste and distrust for the megastore.
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Isn't that exactly what the Taliban does? Dictates morality to everyone else??

That's what Wal-Mart is TRYING to do - just because they aren't as successful at it, doesn't make it right.

They seem to OK with selling guns, which COULD be used for murder. But they worried that somebody might hear a dirty word.
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American Taliban? That seems a little harsh, but I understand your point of view. However, I stand by my original statement. Many artists have refused to make "clean" versions of their albums available, which they know means Wal-Mart won't carry them. Their recordings still sell very well at all of the other retailers, and even though selling through Wal-Mart would certainly make their recordings more readily available to the average consumer, those who want to buy it still pick it up somewhere else, so there really is no financial loss to the artist. In fact, it is Wal-Mart who actually loses potential profit by not carrying the artists music. Not that they really care about it...they certainly make enough profit on everything else to not bat an eye over not carrying anyone's new release.

Bottom line...I still say they are doing the right thing, and the artists who make family-friendly versions of their releases are not being "forced" into anything. The only way Wal-Mart could be considered the "American Taliban" would be if they were the only place ANYONE could buy music and THEN they forced artists to edit their music.

Since that isn't the case, I think your comparison to the Taliban smells more like anti-Wal-Mart propaganda than actual fact.
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