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

Personally I've never understood the hate far Walmart thing. Target does the exact same thing that Walmart does but no one screams at them.
I wouldn't work at a place that required me to be a Union Member. After the way the Union treated my father. After being a Union Member for over 40 years he didn't get a pension that he had paid into for those 40 years.
I went out of my way to find jobs where I didn't have to deal with the Union BS.
BTW I've worked at both Target & Walmart. Except for the dress code they are almost exactly a like. They treat their Members/Employees with respect. And expect you to treat their Guest with respect.
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Don't forget though, those same unskilled jobs also existed at the factories and small shops that Wal-Mart helped closed by demanding prices that are too low and thus going overseas.

Wal-Mart is helping nobody. There are countless stories of many SKILLED people losing their jobs because their factory can't compete with Wal-Mart's demands.

Losing a factory of skilled workers is NOT worth a store of unskilled jobs.
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I too was one of the many people who hate Walmart, but Mr. Platt has made me see the other side of the coin. I get it. We complain about our workers not being paid enough. Well, the truth is that many of our workers are not very skilled. With education so readily available in this county, why should these people have to settle for such low wages?

I will say, however, that Walmart sells a lot of cheap crap! They also sell quality items. What it all boils down to is: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

Seriously people, lets invest in education and stop being such big consumers of cheap garbage.
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From an inexperienced employee's perspective, Walmart is not the "enemy". Obviously it's different for those that have had their businesses driven out by the Wall, but from my experience I'd rather work in a Walmart than a sandwich chain or gas station anyday. Smaller places can be run by people who just don't give a crap about their employees. No health insurance, lax payment ("I'll just pay you next next week. I don't have cash on me"), or even a certain degree of abuse. At a certain sandwich joint I worked at, the employer was constantly doing a crap job and tried to slap around my co-worker. Because there's no strict enforcement of corporate rules against harassment and such, anything went. But of course, the tip-jar was a huge corporate no-no.
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I believe the "enemy" of Walmart is not so much the employer practices as the 'sell so cheap it puts local stores out of business' practices and the 'sell cheap crap that creates jobs overseas, taking US jobs away, and all that crap ends up in our landfills' practices. And yes, Target does it too. And while Target has a bit more American brands and gives more back to local communities, the lesser of 2 evils is still evil. Just saying.
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You shouldn't be embarrassed that you got this mixed up with boingboing. After all, since this is a repost of an article that was already on boingboing, it is neatorama that should be embarrassed.
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Walmart has, Actually, gotten better about some of this... And also moved away from the 'We don't give you benefits - So go apply for low income social support from your local government' routine.

But, this article really didn't put me at ease about the biggest problems I've had with walmart - The fact that WalMart is the single largest importer from China, and that their practice of holding the market share that companies who sell through them hostage for lower prices tends to drive companies to outsource. Walmart so widely distributes their suppliers products that they rely on Walmart for double-digit portions of their sales, and then tells them to lower prices for Walmart next year, or see those sales disappear and be dropped as a supplier...
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Walmart is just a symptom of our excessive consumption, and the importance we place of low prices over quality an sustainability. That emphasis has been slowly leading to the decay of our economy for 30+ years. No reason to fault Walmart. We did it.
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@philliposophy - @airinn
You shouldn’t be embarrassed that you got this mixed up with boingboing. After all, since this is a repost of an article that was already on boingboing, it is neatorama that should be embarrassed.

Um, we don't coordinate postings with the great Boing Boing, y'know :)
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It's the NY Post.

Here's the PBS take:

Wal-Mart employs more people than any other company in the United States outside of the Federal government, yet the majority of its employees with children live below the poverty line. "Buy American" banners are prominently placed throughout its stores; however, the majority of its goods are made outside the U.S. and often in sweatshops. Critics believe that Wal-Mart opens stores to saturate the marketplace and clear out the competition, then closes the stores and leaves them sitting empty. Freedom of speech issues also come into play. Musicians are at the mercy of Wal-Mart's stringent content rules, forcing many to create "sanitized" versions of their albums specifically for the discount chain.

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I'm with mikerm19 & BlackTiger; the bigger problem with Walmart is their tactics with their vendors. At a former employer, I saw the fallout from Walmart Purchasing's heavy-handedness almost daily. They were ruthless in demanding ever-lower prices for goods, with the ever present threat of getting dropped as a vendor. The company I worked didn't sell directly to Walmart, but manufactured components for products that Walmart bought, and we were the secondary victims of Walmart; that heavy-handedness was passed on to us, and we ended up selling a lot of product at a loss just to keep the business. The Co. I worked for was one of the bigger players in our industry, so we were able to absorb the hit to a degree, but I know a lot of smaller competitors that ended up as roadkill as a result of Walmart.

That said, I do buy a few select things at Walmart, but am careful about what I buy, and avoid the cheap Chinese crap. They aren't making any money off of me.
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Dave's comment supports what I've heard from other vendors thave worked with Walmart. They demand you sell your product to them cheaper than the other guys so that they can sell it cheaper than Target (or wherever else). The vendor, not wanting to get dropped, makes the product for WM with cheap plastic parts that break when originally, they manufacturer/vendor would use something more durable, like metal. Vendor can't call shenanigans on WM for fear of being dropped, so the illusion that you get the same thing at WM as at Target is BS. It's not. People tout WM's streamlined supply chain and all that as being the reason for the low prices, when, more often than not- it's just the world's larget retailer using strong-arm tactics on the people they buy from.

I don't like WM, but it's not "just because". I believe that you get what you pay for in both product and service and WM does not cut it for me. When I do shop there, I stay the freak away from their great value crap because that's what their store brand stuff is- crap. Walmart should be dying as a result of the ineptitude of its workers the pc term is "unskilled", but I call them brainless. From my own experience: I had to have a cashier approval for my Sudafed at the self checkout. Employee walks up after I waited for a good minute or rwo, keys some stuff in and walks off halfway through to go help some lady by walking into the middle of the store, leaving me on this employees only override screen and with no explanation of what she was ding or if she was planning on coming back. I had to wait for someone else to come and complete the cashier approval. Complete and utter idiots. No other explanation.
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MOON wrote:

"Musicians are at the mercy of Wal-Mart’s stringent content rules, forcing many to create “sanitized” versions of their albums specifically for the discount chain."

...let's get real here. If the best you can do lyrically is to fill your songs with cursing, violent thoughts and sexual innuendo, then perhaps your music isn't worth being listened to in the first place. As a country we've stooped way too far to accommodate these so-called "artists" and their verbal garbage under the banner of "free speech."

It is Wal-Mart's right as a family-oriented business to require "sanitized" versions of an artist's works. This is why so many people who are actually good parents purchase their kid's music there.

If you are someone who enjoys the non-sanitized versions there are more than enough places to purchase them.

I'm thankful that Wal-Mart has this policy!
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Doesn't the very fact that they have to publish an article likes this tell you something about Walmart?

BTW, have you seen the bunkers the owners have, and do you know the obscene amounts of money they make while paying very little to the average worker?

Go ahead, buy cheap crap if you want to. I like something a little better in my life, and in the companies around me and how they care for their employees. If it is better now, it is because people like me have pushed them to become better.
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@ donna: What the hell are you on about? WM managers make far less than their oil, pharma or banking counterparts. Corporate profits are $.03 on the dollar.

@ Moon: That PBS piece contains information that is old as balls. Walmart hasn't advertised "American Made" in over 16 years. @ the person saying factory work is "skilled". If kids in Taiwan can do it, it's not skilled. We need to get honest as a country and blame the unions for killing off American manufacturing just as much as wanton consumption.
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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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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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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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