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banquo's_bumble_puppy
2005-Feb-15, 02:24 PM
Recently Walmart closed a store in Quebec because the employees joined a labor union. There are many stories in the media about the labor practices of this company. Do you think that a company such as Walmart should be allowed to treat it's employees unfairly in order to remain competitive? How do you feel about those "low, low prices"? Hope this isn't too controversial... ok with you Phil?

TravisM
2005-Feb-15, 02:26 PM
It should be fine here in babbling.
Yeah, Wally World kind of sucks. They out price everyone and even put Dupont out of business because they refused to cost cut anymore.

JibJab.Com - Second Term

"Privatization"

Bawheid
2005-Feb-15, 02:29 PM
We don't have them here but we do have a subsidiary "Asda" which is going down the same route. All supermarkets here try to arrange their suppliers so that the suppliers are dependent on the supermarket and then use that position to drive down their costs.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 02:39 PM
It should be fine here in babbling.
Yeah, Wally World kind of sucks. They out price everyone and even put Dupont out of business because they refused to cost cut anymore.

JibJab.Com - Second Term

"Privatization"

So what are they supposed to do, collude with their competitors to fix prices and be "fair"?

Wally
2005-Feb-15, 02:42 PM
Who's to say Walmart treats their employees unfairly, just because the mgmt wishes to remain non-union? They must be somewhat fair, or people wouldn't choose to work there.

That said, I think it's sad when a major corp. such as Walmart sets up shop and drives out the small town stores, but as a consumer, I can't argue about their prices and selection. We have a local Supermarket chain that is basically doing the same thing to smaller chains in my area. I still can't help but to go there when I need a variety of things, as I know they'll all be there.

Argos
2005-Feb-15, 02:43 PM
We have one of them here in my current mid-sized city. It´s ruined small rural producers and traditional storehouses. However, people seem glad working for them. And as a customer I´d say it´s handy, though I´m aware of the obnoxius effects on the economic chain.

I dont´have hopes that the labor relationships can get any better than the walmart way in the future. Everything seems to indicate that the sundown on the labor unions is a permanent reality.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 02:46 PM
First of all, Walmart is not having an effect on the "economic chain". Secondly, if the small companies were so great, people would keep going there.

We're just in the midst of an economic trend. Walmart is getting bigger and bigger, much like Microsoft. At some point, a small guy will come in with a better idea and the market will shift in the other direction.

TravisM
2005-Feb-15, 02:51 PM
Or, with the next *current american regime* induced depression, we'll jump back on the union wagon and WallyWorld will have no choice but to bend, even if just a little.
Now, don't get me wrong. Unions are why I can't buy a new american car. Them Honda's are lookin mighty nice. :)

sidmel
2005-Feb-15, 02:51 PM
I have to agree with the previous posts. Wal-Mart tends to drive out local retail shops, but they are so convient with their selection of items. I do try to shop at local stores when I can, but sometimes I need 5 different items and it's more convient to go to Wally Wolrd than to make 2 or three stops trying to find what I need. One problem I have with WM is that they will go into a small or medium sized community, build a Phase I store, close it, build a phase II store and many times close it to build the SuperWalmart. You end up with a lot of large vacant buildings that no one can afford to rent (not to mention all smaller vacant buildings where local stores have gone out of business).

Argos
2005-Feb-15, 02:53 PM
First of all, Walmart is not having an effect on the "economic chain".

Yes it is. On the local economic chain, without quotes.


Secondly, if the small companies were so great, people would keep going there.

I never said they were great. :)


We're just in the midst of an economic trend.

That´s what I said in my post´s last paragraph. :)

Bawheid
2005-Feb-15, 03:00 PM
What happened to the sex discrimination class action that was raised against them? I couldn't find a result from a quick google.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 03:00 PM
First of all, Walmart is not having an effect on the "economic chain".

Yes it is. On the local economic chain, without quotes.

Well, but I just don't think it's negative. :)



We're just in the midst of an economic trend.

That´s what I said in my post´s last paragraph. :)

Yes, but you said it's permanent, and I believe it's cyclical.

Moose
2005-Feb-15, 03:19 PM
The "sufficient innovation will correct the market" argument doesn't wash. No matter how clever and innovative, no matter how inexpensive and (relatively) practical to one's average homeowner, no matter how preferable, a cat cannot budge an elephant that doesn't want to move. Even a tiger would be hard-pressed to. [Edit: The cat only survives on the elephant's sufferance.]

Six local businesses, three of which have been here well over twenty-five years, closed since Christmas. All are within literal stone's throw of Walmart which arrived maybe two years ago. Every single mall in Northern NB (except perhaps Miramichi which IIRC doesn't currently have a Walmart) is struggling to keep stores. Ours has only half-tenancy. The one in Bathurst has perhaps three remaining stores.

Walmart has not been good for our local economy. It isn't good for its suppliers either. It does not have a good track record towards its own employees. Walmart can easily afford to lose money until its competition is dead, then consolidate stores so that communities have to drive further and further to a single location. It's happening right now in my community.

All of these things hurt the economy. Things that hurt the economy ultimately hurt the consumers.

I have never, not once, heard a convincing argument that the presence of Walmart has been good for a region, except perhaps in a very back-handed sense.

Andromeda321
2005-Feb-15, 03:23 PM
So it's very horrible yet people go there all the time? People don't go to places they hate... :-k

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 03:25 PM
Change always hurts someone. The local economy will adjust. At some point, either Walmart will change, or things will even out.

I think more and more people will begin shopping on the Internet.

Also, suburban sprawl is slowly giving way to a move towards cities.

There are communities springing up in which everything you need is within walking distance.

You can't just look at Walmart and a few local businesses. You have to look at the big picture.

Moose
2005-Feb-15, 03:30 PM
*shrug* It's convenient.

"Humanity" has an apparently unlimited capacity to ignore bad things so long as the bad things appear to be happening to other people (who probably deserved it... somehow...)

Out of sight, out of mind.

Predators of all kinds count on this. Even the most aggressive pride of lions couldn't stand up to the herd of gazelle if they ever decided, as a group, that enough was enough. This is as true for animal predators as it is for the corporate or dictatorial kind.

tmosher
2005-Feb-15, 03:34 PM
So it's very horrible yet people go there all the time? People don't go to places they hate... :-k

In large markets, the appearance of a Wally World does not have much effect. In small markets, it has a major effect.

For example:
In Greenville, Texas there are only three choices for groceries - Brookshires, SavOn, and Wally World. Before WallyWorld came into town, there were four grocery stores - Brookshires, A&P, SavOn, and Krogers. Krogers and A&P closed after Wally World opened.

Personally, I try to avoid the place except when I want to do quick shopping (there's one within walking distance of my apartment). Generally, the stores start to look a little on the unkept side after a year or two and it's usually a major pain in the butt to get through the check out lines.

Tom

Bawheid
2005-Feb-15, 03:38 PM
The economics of retailing are such that people don't always have a choice.

Add to that the lack of jobs once Walmart have a virtual monopoly of retail jobs in an area. You work on their terms or you don't work. If that means no unions then you take it or leave it. Is it Walmart that tells its staff at their inductions how to apply for welfare and food stamps, or is that an apocryphal tale?

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 03:46 PM
*shrug* It's convenient.

What's convenient?


"Humanity" has an apparently unlimited capacity to ignore bad things so long as the bad things appear to be happening to other people (who probably deserved it... somehow...)

Not sure why you put humanity in quotes. Also, I'm not ignoring that bad things happen to other people. Nor have I implied or inferred that they deserve it.


Out of sight, out of mind.

Again - I don't know what you mean.


Predators of all kinds count on this. Even the most aggressive pride of lions couldn't stand up to the herd of gazelle if they ever decided, as a group, that enough was enough. This is as true for animal predators as it is for the corporate or dictatorial kind.

I think it's a stretch to call Walmart predatory. The successful group always gets nailed on as evil, but I just don't see that with Walmart. I see them as consolidating supplies to meet demand.

If it makes you feel any better, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble are merging. This will give them more power with companies like Walmart. This means that Walmart may not be able to continue being the cheapest, and it opens the door to competition. I still don't see evidence from what you've said to think that Walmart is going to become an unstoppable monopoly.

Moose
2005-Feb-15, 03:53 PM
*shrug* It's convenient.

What's convenient?


What Andromeda had said just before you posted. I wasn't quick enough.



"Humanity" has an apparently unlimited capacity to ignore bad things so long as the bad things appear to be happening to other people (who probably deserved it... somehow...)

Not sure why you put humanity in quotes. Also, I'm not ignoring that bad things happen to other people. Nor have I implied or inferred that they deserve it.

I was speaking in general, SciFi Chick. Te sens-tu visé? (Do you feel aimed at?)


If it makes you feel any better, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble are merging. This will give them more power with companies like Walmart. This means that Walmart may not be able to continue being the cheapest, and it opens the door to competition. I still don't see evidence from what you've said to think that Walmart is going to become an unstoppable monopoly.

Just another elephant in the herd. Meh.

[Edit:] As for "evidence from what [I've] said", I haven't provided evidence nor have I claimed to. Only anecdotes and metaphors relevant to my local experience.

If you're serious about interest in evidence of Walmart's dodgy practices as a trend, it's out there for the googling. I'm not altruistic enough to have much inclined to research it for the disinterested.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 03:59 PM
What Andromeda had said just before you posted. I wasn't quick enough.

Yeah, I was lazy about quoting in this thread too. ;)


"Humanity" has an apparently unlimited capacity to ignore bad things so long as the bad things appear to be happening to other people (who probably deserved it... somehow...)


Not sure why you put humanity in quotes. Also, I'm not ignoring that bad things happen to other people. Nor have I implied or inferred that they deserve it.

I was speaking in general, SciFi Chick. Te sens-tu visé? (Do you feel aimed at?)

I did, because I didn't realize you were responding in general. I thought you were responding specifically to my post.



If it makes you feel any better, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble are merging. This will give them more power with companies like Walmart. This means that Walmart may not be able to continue being the cheapest, and it opens the door to competition. I still don't see evidence from what you've said to think that Walmart is going to become an unstoppable monopoly.

Just another elephant in the herd. Meh.

Quite a cynical outlook you got there. 8)

sidmel
2005-Feb-15, 04:10 PM
One thing I 'hear' and have never researched is that Walmart promises to reinvest in the local community. One example is by opening local bank accounts where they hold a certain percentage of net. But I've been 'told' by a friend that works at a local bank that most all money is transferred at the end of day.

Once, again, I can't really vallidate either statement and they both should be considered hearsay.

When I lived in Denver, the local Walmart did participate quite a bit in local charities. I've never seen this here in Henderson.

FYI - Boulder, CO has told Walmart that they will never be welcome and will not grant them any leases to build. :P

Moose
2005-Feb-15, 04:10 PM
[Edit: This time I am responding directly to SciFi Chick. #-o ]

Jaded, actually, and with reason.

I've mentionned this a few times when it's been relevant, but by christmas 2005, barring any other incidents, I finally break even from when I'd gotten ripped off by an american defense contractor. They bought my work, got paid for it from the Navy (and it's possible that some of our veterans have used my work), but decided not to pay their subcontractors. Just 'cause they can and we weren't big enough to fight them.

In the very same month, I discovered I'd gotten defrauded by a large financial institution. Again, no recourse, I was broke by then anyway.

I lost my house as a result, and at least two otherwise solvent companies had to close their doors as a result of having worked "at risk".

In 10 months, I will be exactly where I was when I left college a decade prior. Only ten years older, and ten years further away from being able to retire at all, let alone comfortably.

So no, I don't trust corporate elephants.

Doodler
2005-Feb-15, 04:45 PM
Walmart can easily afford to lose money until its competition is dead, then consolidate stores so that communities have to drive further and further to a single location. It's happening right now in my community.

Therein lies their downfall. You get to the point where you have so many of these "super" stores, you cannot possibly maintain them all. Then when you consolidate to restore profitability, you open niches where smaller chains can regain a foothold, which market themselves on convenience and accessibility. You can only lose money for so long before you have to restore a profitable balancesheet or fail. They may THINK they can crush competition by bloating their presence, but it will come to a diet or die time for them.

As far as their position on union labor, that one I'll cheer for. My opinion of unions hovers somewhere below my opinion of toxic waste. Talk about a bloated and overpriced operation. I've worked in non-union shops where 5 guys did in 7 days the same amount of work that a 15 man union crew said would take them a month. Job security breeds job complacency. And lets face it, if Wally World is such a rotten place to work, you do realize you don't have to work there, right?

jfribrg
2005-Feb-15, 06:32 PM
I occasionally shop there, but the costs to the community are rather great. Driving small shops out of business is not necessarily bad, but what I don't like is the fact that the quality of life changes rather dramatically when Walmart comes to a small area. Not only does the quality of life suffer because you have increased traffic, and congestion, but the public costs increase. There is the need for additional traffic signals, more police (where there is a large store, you will also find a wide selection of pickpockets, shoplifters and other assorted low-lifes), etc. Add to that the loss of revenue from the shops that close down, and you have a company town. After a few years, they have the leverage to demand tax breaks. I believe that in the long term, it causes increased taxes on the residents, not decreased.

Spacewriter
2005-Feb-15, 07:08 PM
One thing I 'hear' and have never researched is that Walmart promises to reinvest in the local community. One example is by opening local bank accounts where they hold a certain percentage of net. But I've been 'told' by a friend that works at a local bank that most all money is transferred at the end of day.

Once, again, I can't really vallidate either statement and they both should be considered hearsay.

When I lived in Denver, the local Walmart did participate quite a bit in local charities. I've never seen this here in Henderson.

FYI - Boulder, CO has told Walmart that they will never be welcome and will not grant them any leases to build. :P

Good for Boulder.

That being said, Boulder is hemorrhaging stores to nearby towns.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-15, 08:30 PM
Walmart can easily afford to lose money until its competition is dead, then consolidate stores so that communities have to drive further and further to a single location. It's happening right now in my community.

Therein lies their downfall. You get to the point where you have so many of these "super" stores, you cannot possibly maintain them all. Then when you consolidate to restore profitability, you open niches where smaller chains can regain a foothold, which market themselves on convenience and accessibility. You can only lose money for so long before you have to restore a profitable balancesheet or fail. They may THINK they can crush competition by bloating their presence, but it will come to a diet or die time for them.

As far as their position on union labor, that one I'll cheer for. My opinion of unions hovers somewhere below my opinion of toxic waste. Talk about a bloated and overpriced operation. I've worked in non-union shops where 5 guys did in 7 days the same amount of work that a 15 man union crew said would take them a month. Job security breeds job complacency. And lets face it, if Wally World is such a rotten place to work, you do realize you don't have to work there, right?

That's what I was trying to say. Thanks for making it clearer. 8)

I mean, people may disagree, and that's fine. I just don't want them to disagree based on a misunderstanding of what I was trying to say.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-15, 08:49 PM
one of the ways Wal-Mart saves in costs is, apparently (saw a news article on this, but cannot remember details like location), hiring illegal aliens. they also pay lower wages.

to those who don't like unions--I worked in the telemarketing industry for a while (incoming only; outgoing gives me anxiety attacks). the employees at the place where I worked are treated worse than your average medieval serf, and I've known more than one pregnant woman fired for taking too many bathroom breaks, though they always find another excuse. the Portland, OR branch of the company is unionized, and the employees are a ton better treated.

then again, we all figured that if we'd gone on strike for better working conditions (no working feminine hygeine dispensers in the bathrooms; constant fire code violations; more others than I can enumerate), they'd've fired the lot of us and hired a new set of employees.

teddyv
2005-Feb-15, 08:56 PM
one of the ways Wal-Mart saves in costs is, apparently (saw a news article on this, but cannot remember details like location), hiring illegal aliens. they also pay lower wages.

to those who don't like unions--I worked in the telemarketing industry for a while (incoming only; outgoing gives me anxiety attacks). the employees at the place where I worked are treated worse than your average medieval serf, and I've known more than one pregnant woman fired for taking too many bathroom breaks, though they always find another excuse. the Portland, OR branch of the company is unionized, and the employees are a ton better treated.

then again, we all figured that if we'd gone on strike for better working conditions (no working feminine hygeine dispensers in the bathrooms; constant fire code violations; more others than I can enumerate), they'd've fired the lot of us and hired a new set of employees.

I would venture that the issues you dealt with could have been possibly be dealt with a Labour Relations Boards (or whatever is the US equivalent). Most basic workers rights are covered under law and not exclusively the purview of a union. I agree though that standing up to a company individually can be risky business and that is the power of a union.

Candy
2005-Feb-15, 09:56 PM
I would venture that the issues you dealt with could have been possibly be dealt with a Labour Relations Boards (or whatever is the US equivalent). Most basic workers rights are covered under law and not exclusively the purview of a union. I agree though that standing up to a company individually can be risky business and that is the power of a union.
It's true here in the States, too. Both Union and non-Union have the same rights. The Union just over-stresses it.

The Union started a wonderful revelation for the workers in America way back when. The Union has, sadly, outlived it's purpose - like welfare. Just because a company doesn't fall to the demands of a Union, doesn't make it bad. Walton started a company out of a need to serve the under-priviledged people. I don't think he imagined the success he would accomplish after his death.

It's a company, people. It serves a purpose. If you don't like it, then find a better way to do business. This day in time, Unions are not the answer. Education is - technology is taking over the World! Think about it, how much do you have to offer this World?

Doodler
2005-Feb-15, 10:46 PM
I would venture that the issues you dealt with could have been possibly be dealt with a Labour Relations Boards (or whatever is the US equivalent). Most basic workers rights are covered under law and not exclusively the purview of a union. I agree though that standing up to a company individually can be risky business and that is the power of a union.
It's true here in the States, too. Both Union and non-Union have the same rights. The Union just over-stresses it.


Don't believe that for a second. Look up "right to work". Places like Philadelphia where the unions have the city government in their back pocket, you can't work in some fields unless you're a part of a union. They have that kind of political muscle.

Candy
2005-Feb-15, 10:56 PM
Don't believe that for a second. Look up "right to work". Places like Philadelphia where the unions have the city government in their back pocket, you can't work in some fields unless you're a part of a union. They have that kind of political muscle.
But you can fight the wrong based on the standards enacted from the Union's original principle. I am in a position now, management, that I am fighting a wrong (I feel strongly in my favor). I am not fired for doing this, yet. Instead, the company is actually taking me seriously and consulting their lawyers. Give me a week, and I will tell you the outcome. :wink:

paulie jay
2005-Feb-15, 11:29 PM
As an Australian (where things are just a little more socialist...) I find it utterly bizarre that a company would just close down one of it's stores to avoid having workers affiliated with unions. Even those over here who aren't particularly enamoured with the union movement will concede representation as a basic right of the worker. Mind you, from what I've gathered about the running of unions in the USA I can also admit that there is a vast difference in the way that they are set up and run.

Still, it strikes me as very odd (or perhaps rather sad) that in the "land of the free" your average worker has no real way of insisting on their rights. :-k The case of a major department store closing to avoid "union" workers just wouldn't happen over here - it would be an outrage!

Candy
2005-Feb-15, 11:39 PM
The case of a major department store closing to avoid "union" workers just wouldn't happen over here - it would be an outrage!
I don't think this is the case, either. But where the union can make the news... well, you be the judge. :roll:

Moose
2005-Feb-15, 11:42 PM
It's somewhat of an outrage here, as well. Union-busting is against the law in Canada. Walmart's attracting attention from our regulators. Apparently they're going to be required to prove that their Jonquière store had been losing money.

Candy
2005-Feb-15, 11:44 PM
It's somewhat of an outrage here, as well. Union-busting is against the law in Canada. Walmart's attracting attention from our regulators. Apparently they're going to be required to prove that their Jonquière store had been losing money.
Provide proof when you have it, please.

Moose
2005-Feb-16, 12:25 AM
It was mentionned on the CBC French (Québec/Gaspé) 8 am radio news reel. I'm pretty sure the story ran on Monday. Same news report said that Jean Charest, the Québec Premier, had said the province had no intention of intervening at that time.

CBC.ca mentions the store closure, and Walmart's claim of "precarious" finances at that store, but doesn't mention what I'd heard on the radio story, instead focusing on the five or six other stores seeking certification in Canada.

http://www.cbc.ca/story/business/national/2005/02/09/walmart-050209.html

It's entirely possible some Québec politician was speculating. Provincial politicians tend to speak off the cuff (and get away with it) a lot more than you might expect to hear, say, in Washington or Ottawa.

If I hear (or hopefully better yet, spot) anything more on it, I'll cite it here.

Andromeda321
2005-Feb-16, 01:21 AM
FYI - Boulder, CO has told Walmart that they will never be welcome and will not grant them any leases to build.
This just reminded me- wasn't there a push a year or so ago to make the entire state of Vermont a national historic site just so Walmart couldn't move in there? Not joking about that, they had perhaps 8 stores and wanted to expand to twentysomething but people were upset... and I read this in the guy's column on the last page of Newsweek so there's probably some truth to it.

Astronot
2005-Feb-16, 02:21 AM
FYI - Boulder, CO has told Walmart that they will never be welcome and will not grant them any leases to build. :P

Denying people the right to build stores on property is a use of the police powers of the government. What I don’t understand is using those police powers to deny its citizens the right to choose where to shop. They treat Wal-Mart as a racketeering operation. No one is forced to shop or work in WM; people make the choice based on there own pursuit of happiness. But I am one of those radical types that like to make my own choices and not let the government tell me what to do.

Like all individuals and companies WM is not perfect. But were the employees of those small shops necessarily treated better? Well probably yes and no, it is just that the problems are disbursed among many small businesses and doesn’t get headlines. Do small businesses hire illegals and treat them like dirt? You bet they do. Do small business fire employees for personal or non-performance reasons? Of course! In that case of WM persistent problems tend to make headlines and will get corrected to some degree. WM’s growth is no longer primarily derived from rural areas but in cities, where people will always have choices. To maintain the growth rates that keep the stock price up and the cost of capital down, they need goodwill with communities and must treat employees in a general since of fairness and at least correct systematic problems when they come to light. Consumers generally want to have a good feeling about the places they shop. With small businesses the problems may never be known.

WM has wrung costs out of almost every aspect of retailing through its incredibly well engineered distribution system and in doing so has added value to the lives of millions of customers. This is why it has been so successful and profitable over the years. When the business stops adding value to peoples lives, profitability will wane and WM well adjust or fade as the once dominant chains of Sears and K-Mart. WM however is continues to increase the quality of its merchandise and is riding a trend in retailing away from Malls that appears to be sustaining its revenue for the future.

{Edited for spelling}

Moose
2005-Feb-16, 02:41 AM
No one is forced to shop or work in WM; people make the choice based on there own pursuit of happiness.

Two months ago, the only non-Walmart music store in the northern half of my province closed its doors after at least twenty-five years of operation. The majority of my for-home entertainment purchases fall into three categories: music, video games, and DVDs.

To buy any of these things, I have to order online or drive a hard minimum of three hours, one-way.

Shoes are another thing I can't get locally anymore without going to Walmart. The only other shoe store closed a bit over a year ago. Again, there's a three hour drive or mail order (have you ever tried to mail order shoes for fit?) I'm in dire need of sturdy comfortable shoes for walking. I've been trying to plan a weekend to go shopping for them. A nasty flu kiboshed my last attempt, and I can only reasonably take so much time off in a month.

Sometimes there are no reasonable non-Walmart choices. We can't all live in places big enough to support elephant herds and cats. Sometimes there's only enough room for cats.

peter eldergill
2005-Feb-16, 04:10 AM
I try to avoid Walmart as much as I can. I've seen a lot statements saying that people don't have to shop or work there. This may be true in a large city like Toronto, but in a smaller town there very well might not be anywhere else to work or shop. Most jobs there are minimum wage. Not very good to try and live on that!

Walmart doesn't need my money, I'll take it elsewhere and pay the extra 20 cents and avoid the lineups.

I also think most of their merchandise is below the quality that I'd like (I'm referring to merchandise exclusive to WalMart, I understand that a DVD is the same no matter where you buy it)

As for the union thing, I'm in a teacher's union and I'm glad that I am. I never used to think that the government was capable of conspiracies until our own provincial minister of education (who was a highschool dropout :o ) was caught on tape saying "We need to create a crisis in education" so they could appear to fix it before the next election!

Well that's it

Later

Pete

Astronot
2005-Feb-16, 04:16 AM
Moose, as with all thing in economics, your dislocation, though obviously frustrating and perhaps painful to you, will not be permanent. If sufficient demand exists then another merchant will fill it. Or as WM increases product quality in search of higher margins they will carry shoes you like. And yes, I have bought shoes online from LL Bean and have found some better values than were available in Houston.

The closing of the shoe stores is because enough of that stores customers found more value in shopping at WM. My question is why does any one shoe or record merchant deserve government protection from competition and who is to decide who deserves that protection? That is the use of the police powers of the government to deny people choices, which is a step along the road to economic stagnation.

The shoes I purchased were a great value because LLB has the buying power to source quality products from overseas. Yes this has caused dislocation of workers in the domestic shoe industry, which like the textile business has all but disappeared from the U.S. Do the dislocated U.S. businesses have the right to force everyone to pay more for shoes to keep them in their jobs at the expense of the purchaser’s families and the lower cost overseas producers? The power to force others to make economic choices inevitably destroys wealth while people making free choices tend toward creating wealth.

Doe, John
2005-Feb-16, 04:43 AM
As an Australian (where things are just a little more socialist...) I find it utterly bizarre that a company would just close down one of it's stores to avoid having workers affiliated with unions. Even those over here who aren't particularly enamoured with the union movement will concede representation as a basic right of the worker. Mind you, from what I've gathered about the running of unions in the USA I can also admit that there is a vast difference in the way that they are set up and run.

Still, it strikes me as very odd (or perhaps rather sad) that in the "land of the free" your average worker has no real way of insisting on their rights. :-k The case of a major department store closing to avoid "union" workers just wouldn't happen over here - it would be an outrage!

btw PJ, the store closure occurred in Canada, you may have known this but your "land of the free" reference implies that you believed it happened in the USA. Walmart claims the store was scheduled to be closed anyway for non-profitablility, does any know of any other Walmarts closed anywhere? (and why they were closed?0

The Bad Astronomer
2005-Feb-16, 05:16 AM
If sufficient demand exists then another merchant will fill it.

I was going to stay out of this conversation, but now I feel I must step in.

Astronot, your statement would be true in a fair and even-handed captialist society. But we don't live in one.

I watched a documentary on Wal-Mart a few months ago. In it, they showed that Wal-Mart moves into a small town, lowers prices to the point where local small stores cannot compete, the local stores go out of business, and then Wal-Mart raises prices again. Wal-Mart is so big they can pressure distributors to lower prices for them, dropping their suppliers profit margin. Mom-and-pop stores go away, destroying small-town economies.

Another merchant cannot come in to fill a need if they cannot get their foot in the door, so to speak.

This is why we have unfair practice laws. Not all businesses are honest, or operate fairly. An interesting game to play sometimes in a debate is to do a simple word substitution and see how it affects your argument. Try replacing the word "Wal-Mart" in some of these posts with "Enron" and see how that changes what you think.

Makgraf
2005-Feb-16, 05:21 AM
Recently Walmart closed a store in Quebec because the employees joined a labor union. There are many stories in the media about the labor practices of this company. Do you think that a company such as Walmart should be allowed to treat it's employees unfairly in order to remain competitive? How do you feel about those "low, low prices"? Hope this isn't too controversial... ok with you Phil?
I feel pretty bad for these workers because it's clear they're been caught between Big Business and Big Labour. When they first had a chance to join the union they voted it down. But that was by secret ballot. So then the union decided to have a vote by "certification cards", where if you can get enough people to sign the cards you're certified. Of course this isn't secret at all. I think that secret ballots are essential for democracy, and thus for unions as well.

I think unions are still needed but they're going to have to change. A lot of unions have gotten complacent and corrupt and in this continent at least, they're shrinking.
1. All certification for a union must be made by secret ballot.
2. The leadership of the union must be elected, either by secret ballot or at a convention where the delagates are elected by secret ballot.
3. No union dues can be used for political purposes. Yes, corporations give lots of money to political parties. But they get lots of nice things, like tax breaks and tariffs from the government. Unions give lots of money to the leftist NDP and get... nothing. The last time the NDP was in power anywhere of significance (sorry Manitobans and BCers) the unions got what? The social contract (For those not familiar with Ontario politics, this was a decree over-ridding collective bargaining. In retrospect the unions should have rolled with the punch. Instead they torpedoed the government letting Mike Harris' Conservatives come to power, with the aforementioned John "Create A Crisis In Education" Snoblen). Even in the states, Clinton rolled over on striker replacements and then pushed through NAFTA. Unions especially shouldn't be giving money to various lefty causes that some of their members would not support.
4. Use union money (i.e. power) constructively. Buy stock in the company and use your power as a shareholder to give a voice to the workers.
5. Don't be seniority absolutists. We've all heard horror stories like the guy in New Brunswick who tried to murder his boss and co-workers, was arrested, served time in prison and now his union wants to get his job back. Or cases of the union telling the company to fire less senior workers over a pay cut for senior workers. Or a teaching system which priviledges bad but senior teachers over good but new teachers (there are of course, many good/senior teachers).

Even if they accept changes like this or not, unions are going to have to change. I don't agree with everything he's did (*cough* Howard Dean *cough*) but the Andy Stern of the SEIU has some really innovative ideas (like unionizing an entire sector of an entire city before demanding wage increases).

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 05:33 AM
If sufficient demand exists then another merchant will fill it.

I was going to stay out of this conversation, but now I feel I must step in.

Astronot, your statement would be true in a fair and even-handed captialist society. But we don't live in one.

I watched a documentary on Wal-Mart a few months ago. In it, they showed that Wal-Mart moves into a small town, lowers prices to the point where local small stores cannot compete, the local stores go out of business, and then Wal-Mart raises prices again. Wal-Mart is so big they can pressure distributors to lower prices for them, dropping their suppliers profit margin. Mom-and-pop stores go away, destroying small-town economies.

Another merchant cannot come in to fill a need if they cannot get their foot in the door, so to speak.

This is why we have unfair practice laws. Not all businesses are honest, or operate fairly. An interesting game to play sometimes in a debate is to do a simple word substitution and see how it affects your argument. Try replacing the word "Wal-Mart" in some of these posts with "Enron" and see how that changes what you think.

To combat this we need yet another union, a consumers' union. When Wal-Mart moves in and tries to break the local merchants with extra low prices the consumers would still buy at Wal-Mart but would use some of the money saved to keep the local merchants in business. That way Wal-Mart would have the choice of competing fairly, going away, or continuing to operate at a loss.

If public were organized and informed then they wouldn't need fair business laws.

Bawheid
2005-Feb-16, 10:30 AM
What happened to the sex discrimination class action that was raised against them? I couldn't find a result from a quick google.

To answer my own question: Presently on hold. (http://www.walmartclass.com/walmartclass94.pl)

sarongsong
2005-Feb-16, 10:55 AM
First of all, Walmart is not having an effect on the "economic chain"...
It is when you factor in where the majority of W-M products are made and the prevailing wage there.

...At some point, a small guy will come in with a better idea and the market will shift in the other direction.
Like unionizing Chinese workers. :D

Captain Kidd
2005-Feb-16, 12:55 PM
It's estimated that 1 out of 4 WalMart employees in Tennessee need the help of public assistance programs (i.e. Tenncare) to survive.

Yes, they could find another job, maybe. There are a lot of areas where there's just not that many job opportunities unless you want to drive an excessive distance. Now, ideally I'd think WM employees would be high schoolers and college students needing an extra buck. However, there are a lot of people that it is their only hope for a job and not a stepping stone.

As for what that BA mentioned, I know some people that live in a small town where WM did just that. They built a store, dropped their prices amazingly low (I’d almost hazard that they ran that store at a loss) until the small business competition closed and then they raised their prices again. A couple years later WM realized the area was too small for the store to be profitable and closed it. Now the town is devastated and has yet to recover. People have to drive to another town to shop and the population is going away.

Some say that if small businesses want to remain open then they should match WM’s prices. What they don’t realize is that WM is a massive retailer that buys items in enormous bulk purchases. When you buy in bulk you get discounts. Plus when the chain is as big as WM, it has all sorts of leverage against the suppliers with the treat to stop carrying their products. A small business doesn’t. How can somebody with one store hope to match the bulk purchases of a company with thousands of stores? One store doesn’t have the leverage to force suppliers to lower prices like big retail and I’ll bet you anything that the losses the suppliers take from big retail is passed onto the small businesses thus raising their prices even more.

Product Quality, one of the biggest reasons we stopped going. We use to go to WM pretty much exclusively, even for food. But their produce in all three nearby stores was plain awful. It would go bad amazingly fast. Checkout lines were another biggie. 20 lines, usually 5-10 open with longs waits.

So the easy thing for us is to just not go. Other stores, like Target, carry better quality items (like somebody else said, a DVD is a DVD, but when you get into home goods and clothing there’s a lot of suppliers and not all buckle under WM’s iron fist, the good ones find elsewhere to go) and we’re willing to pay the few cents to a couple dollars more for that. Plus the lines are nowhere near as bad as WM’s and even the employees seem to have better attitudes.

So far we’ve been over a year WalMart free. But then we also live in an area that can support multiple box stores and small businesses.

[edited to typo a correct.]

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-16, 01:13 PM
I watched a documentary on Wal-Mart a few months ago.

Was it on Frontline? If so, it's available in its entirety here:

Documentary (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/)

I'm going to watch it this evening, and then I will rejoin this debate. 8)

Wally
2005-Feb-16, 01:54 PM
When Wal-Mart moves in and tries to break the local merchants with extra low prices the consumers would still buy at Wal-Mart but would use some of the money saved to keep the local merchants in business. That way Wal-Mart would have the choice of competing fairly, going away, or continuing to operate at a loss.



A consumer-based, small business welfare system???

The guv'mint does something similiar with farms (using subsidies). Not sure it works, even in the long run. All it seems to do is encourage a person to remain in a line of work that will continue to not be profitable rather than moving on to one that is.

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 02:05 PM
When Wal-Mart moves in and tries to break the local merchants with extra low prices the consumers would still buy at Wal-Mart but would use some of the money saved to keep the local merchants in business. That way Wal-Mart would have the choice of competing fairly, going away, or continuing to operate at a loss.



A consumer-based, small business welfare system???

The guv'mint does something similiar with farms (using subsidies). Not sure it works, even in the long run. All it seems to do is encourage a person to remain in a line of work that will continue to not be profitable rather than moving on to one that is.

The idea isn't to keep unprofitable businesses going for their own sake. The purpose would be to keep Wal-Mart from becoming the only store in town. It would be more like insurance. The consumers' union pays a little to keep other businesses open so their members will have somewhere to shop if Wal-Mart raises prices.

The consumers' union could also appoint representatives to negotiate prices with Wal-Mart and threaten to have its members boycott the store if its demands for lower prices aren't met. To keep such a threat credible they'd need other places to shop.

Gmann
2005-Feb-16, 02:48 PM
One source to look up some of the practices that Wal Mart has pulled over the years can be found here (www.walmartwatch.com). On a more personal note, a good friend of mine was a night manager at a Wal Mart. Their policy on overtime was simple, it was not allowed. If they were coming to the end of their shift, and the store was not completely reset for the next day, the employees were required to clock out, and finish the job. Not only were they not paid overtime for the extra 1-3 hours they had to work, they were not paid at all. Anyone who complained about it, or tried to leave, was fired on the spot for "insubordination". He worked there for about 3 months, and told Sam's decendents to "take this job and shove it". Read your history! If Businesses had taken proper care of employees way back when, Labor Unions would not have come into existance in the first place. It may take a while, but their time will come. The current version of Wal Mart is not the same business model that Sam Walton created. When they started, "made in the USA" meant something. Now, you have to study the Supercenter with an electron microscope to find a product made anywhere near the USA. It's true that Labor Unions have been on the decline, but when large companies start taking their workforces for granted, and treat them like property, instead of people, the Unions will rise again. It is apparent that some business owners have not studied history. For them, I leave the following:

vvv

Astronot
2005-Feb-16, 03:01 PM
An interesting game to play sometimes in a debate is to do a simple word substitution and see how it affects your argument. Try replacing the word "Wal-Mart" in some of these posts with "Enron" and see how that changes what you think.


The Enron comparison is interesting, so lets have a look. Enron started as a sleepy natural gas company in a regulated market that became deregulated. This industry was in many ways similar to the airline business. In fact, many of the mathematical tools for load balancing that pipeline companies use were developed for the airlines. Without going into the history of natural gas deregulation, Enron, like many other companies attempted to give customers what the customer had been able to get in the regulation days, that is long term price stability for gas. A primary method of doing this was with the use of financial derivatives.

Enron embraced the derivative as a corporate culture. That is employees were compensated based on the value of deals when they were made not on the progress and profitability of business operations as they produced cash flow. However, no one minded the store as deals unfolded and cash flows lagged. Enron’s books were opaque for at least a decade before its collapse and the auditor, Arthur Anderson, had been co-opted for along time so no outsiders knew what they were up to. This was the recipe for the disaster that followed. To me the most telling part of the Enron collapse is that through at least one of the myriad of the special purpose entities, Enron was booking profits off the rise in price of its own stocks. This violates the fundamentals of accounting. Enron was a corrupt organization. The management engaged in a protracted fraud to deceive employees, clients, regulators, and shareholders as to the true nature of its business. That is why they are in jail or under indictment.

As an aside, despite the high profile bankruptcy and the loss of retirement funds invested in the companies shares through the profit sharing plan, these losses were primarily felt in Houston, and by management employees elsewhere and those losses were the result of criminal behavior. Employees covered under pension plans at the various pipeline companies, Portland General, or others subsidiaries did not loose their pensions because those plans were sufficiently funded and not heavily invested in company stock.

Now for Wal-Mart, there is noting unethical or illegal about squeezing your suppliers. This kind of shifting of economic power between businesses goes on all the time. Just look at the auto business, right now dealers are making a mint while Ford and GM are struggling in North America. There is no mechanism that can decide on what is a “fair” price that WM should pay that doesn’t result in some sort of price fixing or government mandating of prices. Another recipe for problems that will hurt consumers. The best thing is to let the parties work it out among themselves.

And yes, I am as passionate about free markets as Jay is about the Apollo program. However, objectively, there is vastly more room to disagree when discussing economics.

Bawheid
2005-Feb-16, 03:08 PM
Tangentially; "Anatomy of Greed" is a very interesting insiders take on the fall of Enron. Worth a read.

Wally
2005-Feb-16, 03:12 PM
On a more personal note, a good friend of mine was a night manager at a Wal Mart. Their policy on overtime was simple, it was not allowed. If they were coming to the end of their shift, and the store was not completely reset for the next day, the employees were required to clock out, and finish the job. Not only were they not paid overtime for the extra 1-3 hours they had to work, they were not paid at all. Anyone who complained about it, or tried to leave, was fired on the spot for "insubordination".

Really??? Not doubting your friend's account, but I have a hard time believing any company could get away with this type of thing for very long. It's completely illegal. Why in the world wouldn't someone report them for this, especially once they decided they were going to quit anyways??? :-?

Doodler
2005-Feb-16, 03:12 PM
If sufficient demand exists then another merchant will fill it.

I was going to stay out of this conversation, but now I feel I must step in.

Astronot, your statement would be true in a fair and even-handed captialist society. But we don't live in one.

I watched a documentary on Wal-Mart a few months ago. In it, they showed that Wal-Mart moves into a small town, lowers prices to the point where local small stores cannot compete, the local stores go out of business, and then Wal-Mart raises prices again. Wal-Mart is so big they can pressure distributors to lower prices for them, dropping their suppliers profit margin. Mom-and-pop stores go away, destroying small-town economies.

Another merchant cannot come in to fill a need if they cannot get their foot in the door, so to speak.

This is why we have unfair practice laws. Not all businesses are honest, or operate fairly. An interesting game to play sometimes in a debate is to do a simple word substitution and see how it affects your argument. Try replacing the word "Wal-Mart" in some of these posts with "Enron" and see how that changes what you think.

To combat this we need yet another union, a consumers' union. When Wal-Mart moves in and tries to break the local merchants with extra low prices the consumers would still buy at Wal-Mart but would use some of the money saved to keep the local merchants in business. That way Wal-Mart would have the choice of competing fairly, going away, or continuing to operate at a loss.

If public were organized and informed then they wouldn't need fair business laws.

Nice thought, but you're dependent on the altruism of the consumer. In a tight recovery economy like our is now, you stretch your dollars to the limit. Communities and business leaders might argue about fair pricing, but the (wo)man throwing money and plastic on the counter follows the almighty dollar as far as it will lead them.

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 03:39 PM
Today's consumers probably couldn't pull it off. It would require that people look at the big picture and be willing to plan ahead, and not just grab for the cheapest product on the shelf at the moment. We don't have such people now.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-16, 03:55 PM
Today's consumers probably couldn't pull it off. It would require that people look at the big picture and be willing to plan ahead, and not just grab for the cheapest product on the shelf at the moment. We don't have such people now.

A lot of people don't have a choice about that.

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 04:23 PM
That's why it's necessary to organize. With a union subsidizing individual merchants, Wal-Mart can't put them out of business and then raise prices. It would have to keep prices low. With no organization, the consumers don't make decisions that benefit them in the long run.

Doodler
2005-Feb-16, 04:34 PM
Today's consumers probably couldn't pull it off. It would require that people look at the big picture and be willing to plan ahead, and not just grab for the cheapest product on the shelf at the moment. We don't have such people now.

We never will, trust me. The ONLY thing I could potentially see as being the downfall of WalMart is if they were successful enough at crushing opposition and price fixing that someone wanted to take them on under the Anti-Trust Laws in the US.

Doodler
2005-Feb-16, 04:58 PM
http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/16/news/fortune500/walmart_tax.reut/index.htm?cnn=yes

Here's one I never thought to consider. Bravo, Montana. =D>

jfribrg
2005-Feb-16, 05:16 PM
This idea of a consumers union is too much of a socialist notion for my taste. I also don't think it would work. Subsidizing people and companies doesn't do any good to anyone. Simply keeping large box stores out of town is an easier solution and does not involve a whole new hierarchy of bureaucrats. The potential for abuse is also enormous. The union would control who gets the subsidy, and how much. It would not be long before the subsidy was based on political affiliation ( small town politics can get as ugly as big city politics), etc.

A few years ago I saw a story about a man who is very sucessful at convincing local zoning boards to reject Walmart applications. One of his arguments is that a small town would have no debate in rejecting a proposal to build a skyscraper on the propsed store site. He then argues that a Walmart is in fact a skyscraper on its side and would have the same negative effects on the quality of life.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-16, 08:23 PM
Really??? Not doubting your friend's account, but I have a hard time believing any company could get away with this type of thing for very long. It's completely illegal. Why in the world wouldn't someone report them for this, especially once they decided they were going to quit anyways??? :-?

speaking as a former oppressed worker, let me tell you--if the company says you were fired for cause, you can't (at least in WA) get unemployment benefits w/out a hearing. so if you want to pursue it, you have to have the savings to live on while your claim goes through. you would also need evidence of some kind that your side of the story was true. and your coworkers, who would have a pretty good chance of getting fired if they testified on your behalf, probably wouldn't.

the deck is stacked in favor of the company. this, I imagine, is because the workers would gladly lie in order to get their benefits. but the company I used to work for was pretty good at figuring out "cause" for firing people. just as an example--you could get fired for not wearing your name tag (verbal warning first time, written up second, suspension third, fired fourth), but they charged for new name tags. of course, it didn't go into your file as "not wearing name tag"; they called it something else that also covered breaking legitimate rules, and that's all it would go under in their files.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Feb-16, 08:46 PM
Bravo for Boulder CO for putting up a fence to keep the predator out. Walmart is predatory, growth for the sake of growth is their reason for existence, and unless they are willing to grow at the same rate as the economy as a whole, and no faster, then their growth must come at some other party's expense. Objectively, I would set judgement aside and say it is not bad, and it is not good. It is the natural outcome of our economic system.

Accumulation of wealth is what the capitalist economic systems are all about. And the fact that capital has no concerns about the results it generates (as long as the bottom line is positive and the wealth is growing), is the fatal flaw of capitalism. Unless people riot and revolt (or at least stop shopping there), the leaders of the organization will continue doing whatever it takes to undercut the price of every potential competitor.

What concerns me most about Walmart is not what has happened so far or their current power and status. What concerns me is how far it might go. They already have been shown to engage in some highly questionable business practices, all aimed at cutting costs. What else are they willing to do? What are we willing to tolerate for the sake of a few cents more off the price of a 12-pack of TP? Is this a race to see how low we can go? Are we engaged in a race to the lowest common denominator?

Personally, (this is the subjective part) I hate the place because of it's homogenizing effect on culture. Paying $1.86 instead of $1.94 for some sundry good is not worth having all the small to medium size businesses forced out of town. Instead of a choice of several different kinds of widget, I have to buy the version the Walmart sponsored supplier provides. And the bulk of what they sell is junk, but it allows everybody to own all the available widgets today, be they throwaway versions, rather than enjoy the slower but more rewarding accumulation of quality products that will not only last a lifetime, but very likely several lifetimes. Another whole discussion, and what I call the whitetrashification of America. Everybody can afford everything. It's all junk, but they can afford it.

Bottom line, if you don't like their practices, don't go there. If enough people keep flocking there, then capitalism and democracy have spoken. But just remember, and as I said to a co-worker who defends them: Don't complain when our business falls off and our jobs are eliminated because Walmart has created a world where retail price pressure dictates the end of employee benefits altogether (we work in health insurance). Is it all really worth saving 8 cents on a pack of TP?

And yes, I've noticed that the prettied up grand opening facade usually deteriorates to a K-Mart level environment within a couple years; which actually fits perfectly within their throwaway culture.

aurora
2005-Feb-16, 10:50 PM
It's estimated that 1 out of 4 WalMart employees in Tennessee need the help of public assistance programs (i.e. Tenncare) to survive.


Which is one of the big problems with Wal Mart -- they depend on local taxpayers to subsidize their operation, unlike many of the smaller stores that they put out of business.

Silent Knight
2005-Feb-17, 12:12 AM
First of all, Walmart is not having an effect on the "economic chain".
Yes Wal-mart has an impact. Since they are large enough they can tell their suppliers how much they are willing to pay. So the suppliers have to cut their costs. Apparently Du Pont couldn't handle it. P&G is large and will grow bigger with Gillette so they are more in balance with Wal-mart. It would hurt Wal-mart if P&G refused to sell to them.

The problem with unions, or the threat of unionization, is that they raise the wage above equilibrium. You have a lot of people who want to work at the higher wage, but not enough companies demanding their labor at that wage, which leads to higher unemployment.

I think it is good that Wal-mart offers low prices, but scary that they might run some suppliers out of business. Of course this allows more efficient suppliers to come in. It's also possible that by having goods cheaper the wage will go down. But it doesn't really matter as long as the two effects are equal.

Wal-mart will never become a complete monopoly and raise their prices. There is always the threat of a new competitor. Target seems to be doing well. I shop at Wal-mart occasionally, but I don't like the warehouse feel of it. I think Target has a much nicer atmosphere.

One thing that makes Wal-mart really successful is that they are good at letting the supplier know exactly what the consumer wants.

I saw a bumper sticker that read: Mall-Wart the source for cheap, plastic crap.

Gmann
2005-Feb-17, 12:52 AM
Really??? Not doubting your friend's account, but I have a hard time believing any company could get away with this type of thing for very long. It's completely illegal. Why in the world wouldn't someone report them for this, especially once they decided they were going to quit anyways???

I agree, what they are doing, or at least, what that particular store did at that time was very much illegal. The main problem with complaining about harsh practices commited by a large company is that you are one individual (usually not very wealthy) against an army of corporate Lawyers. It can be done, but it is not an easy process. The average person would simply try to find another job, and not bother. These kinds of cases can be dragged out for years before any decisions are made. The average person does not have the kind of money on hand to carry on a fight of that type.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-17, 02:45 AM
Let me clear one thing up. I did not mean that Walmart does not having an effect on the economic chain. I should have quoted Argos. I meant that Walmart was not having an obnoxious effect on the economic chain.

I realize lots of people disagree with me. I just want to be clear about what we're disagreeing on.





[edited for clarity]

farmerjumperdon
2005-Feb-17, 02:37 PM
Obnoxious is a subjective term, especially in this case. You may truly find WalMart not to be obnoxious, I truly find them to be downright toxic.

Neither of us are right, we just have a different vision of the future, or possibly a similar vision and different ways of getting there.

I still think the more critical question remains: To what ends will they go in the name of efficiency? In their ideal world all hourly employees work part-time, no employee other than management gets benefits, all of their competition leaves town, the environment is something to pave over and conquer, overtime pay is abolished, hiring illegal aliens is encouraged, women should systematically make less than men, employees are off the clock att lunch and breaks, an so on and so forth. Most of these things are not just anecdotes; they are behavior endemic to their culture - built into their systems.

I worked in semi-fast food many years ago. It was already standard practive there to not hire people full-time. It was not a written policy, that would have been dangerous. But if the manager of a store hired anybody full-time other than themself, the assistant manager, and the kitchen supervisor - there was big trouble. The district boss would be all over you. People were routinely asked to go off the clock during slow periods but stick around for when it got busy again. Actually, WalMart has hijacked much of it's business model from fast food. For a good read on how that industry has changed all the rules and definitions of success, I highly recommend Fast Food Nation.

IMO, regardless of what future you vision, or how you plan to get there; certain practices should not be tolerated because of their destructive effect on the quality of life. Efficiency does not equal quality. Adjusted for inflation, and based on buying power, real wages in the food industry have actually dropped over the past 25 years. Retail is headed in the same direction.

Capitalism is where man takes advantage of his fellow man. Communism is the other way around. - source unknown, could be from this board.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-17, 03:05 PM
Just out of curiosity - what economic model do you propose farmerjumperdon? I mean, you seem to have thought about it a lot, not to put you on the spot or anything. :D

Astronot
2005-Feb-17, 03:06 PM
Walmart is predatory, growth for the sake of growth is their reason for existence, and unless they are willing to grow at the same rate as the economy as a whole, and no faster, then their growth must come at some other party's expense.

Attracting customers is the reason for their existence. Growing at a rate faster than the economy is not a definition of predatory. It is the result of attracting customers that prefer your products and services. In fact, "predatory" is generally used by business people and politicians to describe a company that has a lower cost structure and undersells the competition. WM does have a lower cost structure and really does sell for less. Surveys conducted for analysts at brokerage firm Smith Barney show that on average WM offers customers about a 2% price advantage on comparable branded merchandise. In other words soap is cheaper at WM. Where WM makes its margins is the efficiency of its distribution system.


Accumulation of wealth is what the capitalist economic systems are all about.

No creating wealth is what the capitalist system is all about. Companies and individuals due this by adding value to customers lives.


Personally, (this is the subjective part) I hate the place because of it's homogenizing effect on culture.

This is a world wide problem that really bugs me too. I was in Paris last year and window shopping down the Champs Elysees was very little different than being in Houston. (Aside from the fact it is to hot here to window shop in June.) Most big cities have the same set of multinational stores in prominent gathering places. In Europe this used to be called Americanization but it is now really globalization. The disappearance of local cultures started with the automobile and radio and with the spreading use of English, world wide movie distribution, cheap air travel, and international television the process is likely to continue.


Paying $1.86 instead of $1.94 for some sundry good is not worth having all the small to medium size businesses forced out of town.

I frequent a local hardware store rather than its Big Box competitors because it offers service. The sales man in the plumbing department is a retired plumber and will put new washers on your valve stem if he is not too busy. The store also charges several times what Home Depot does for small parts but the service is worth the extra cost. But if I need 10 joints of PVC pipe its off to Big Box.


Bottom line, if you don't like their practices, don't go there.

We are in absolute agreement.

Spacewriter
2005-Feb-17, 03:19 PM
Really??? Not doubting your friend's account, but I have a hard time believing any company could get away with this type of thing for very long. It's completely illegal. Why in the world wouldn't someone report them for this, especially once they decided they were going to quit anyways???

I agree, what they are doing, or at least, what that particular store did at that time was very much illegal. The main problem with complaining about harsh practices commited by a large company is that you are one individual (usually not very wealthy) against an army of corporate Lawyers. It can be done, but it is not an easy process. The average person would simply try to find another job, and not bother. These kinds of cases can be dragged out for years before any decisions are made. The average person does not have the kind of money on hand to carry on a fight of that type.

My brother works at WalMart. He reports the same thing happening to him and his co-workers. What's worse is, the managers lie about how much work they give the employees to do so they can say the employees are simply lazy when, in fact, they're working without breaks and subject to unpaid overtime just to get their work done. For that reason alone I won't shop at WalMart. Ever.

sidmel
2005-Feb-17, 04:33 PM
Denying people the right to build stores on property is a use of the police powers of the government. What I don’t understand is using those police powers to deny its citizens the right to choose where to shop. They treat Wal-Mart as a racketeering operation. No one is forced to shop or work in WM; people make the choice based on there own pursuit of happiness. But I am one of those radical types that like to make my own choices and not let the government tell me what to do.

The major issue here, is that Boulder is extremely tourist centric. All power lines are buried, no signs taller than 2 ½” unless attached to a building, special permits for any buildings over two stories tall; basically anything that could mar viewing of the nearby landscape (if you want a cheeseburger you can’t just look for the Golden Arches). The idea here, is part of Boulder’s attractiveness is the combination of unique stores, café’s and walks. They don’t want to risk a Wal-Mart adversely affecting this.

Almost any resident you ask will say this is a good thing.

**Edited, this in response to a much earlier post regarding Boulder denying access to Wal-Mark

Doodler
2005-Feb-17, 04:45 PM
Denying people the right to build stores on property is a use of the police powers of the government. What I don’t understand is using those police powers to deny its citizens the right to choose where to shop. They treat Wal-Mart as a racketeering operation. No one is forced to shop or work in WM; people make the choice based on there own pursuit of happiness. But I am one of those radical types that like to make my own choices and not let the government tell me what to do.

Believe it or not, individual jurisdictions have a LOT of flexibility in determining what does and does not get built. Community associations, citizen's groups and whatnot can make a new tenant/owner's life absolutley miserable in trying to get approval to build.

As a part of my job description, I get to be one of the hired guns who works their proposals through the system in order to secure approval. Some of the obstinance I've seen on the part of county/city governments and the citizens thereof can be unreal, particularly if they perceive the new development as a threat to their little patch of grass.

sidmel
2005-Feb-17, 04:47 PM
On a more personal note, a good friend of mine was a night manager at a Wal Mart. Their policy on overtime was simple, it was not allowed. If they were coming to the end of their shift, and the store was not completely reset for the next day, the employees were required to clock out, and finish the job. Not only were they not paid overtime for the extra 1-3 hours they had to work, they were not paid at all. Anyone who complained about it, or tried to leave, was fired on the spot for "insubordination".

Really??? Not doubting your friend's account, but I have a hard time believing any company could get away with this type of thing for very long. It's completely illegal. Why in the world wouldn't someone report them for this, especially once they decided they were going to quit anyways???

Interestingly, this is not the first time I've heard this practice mentioned. I seem to remember a suit (can't remember the source though :-? ) placed against a chain of Wal-Marts that concerns this issue. I'll have to Google to see what I come up with.

** Edited to include both quotes and to add links:

http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/wal-mart/not_paid.htm

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/20/national/main533818.shtml

http://www.nwherald.com/MainSection/other/286253882127884.php

paulie jay
2005-Feb-18, 03:26 AM
As an Australian (where things are just a little more socialist...) I find it utterly bizarre that a company would just close down one of it's stores to avoid having workers affiliated with unions. Even those over here who aren't particularly enamoured with the union movement will concede representation as a basic right of the worker. Mind you, from what I've gathered about the running of unions in the USA I can also admit that there is a vast difference in the way that they are set up and run.

Still, it strikes me as very odd (or perhaps rather sad) that in the "land of the free" your average worker has no real way of insisting on their rights. :-k The case of a major department store closing to avoid "union" workers just wouldn't happen over here - it would be an outrage!

btw PJ, the store closure occurred in Canada, you may have known this but your "land of the free" reference implies that you believed it happened in the USA. Walmart claims the store was scheduled to be closed anyway for non-profitablility, does any know of any other Walmarts closed anywhere? (and why they were closed?0

Oh, I do realise that! I sensed a shift towards (or at least and inclusion of) USA unions from some of the other posts. It did make for a confusing read now that I look back on it! :oops:

Doodler
2005-Feb-18, 02:58 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33568-2005Feb17.html

From the WashingtonPost.com website's OP ED page.
Registration is free, if it comes up. But interesting commentary on the beast.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Feb-18, 03:30 PM
What alternative do I propose? Very good question. I'm torn on this one. Need to think about it more.

I'm not a fan of more regulation and constraints, but left to their own devices, the giants of industry would run amok. It's obvious they can not self-govern. I mean look at what they get caught at even with the current laws on the books. What would happen if they were given free rein to police themselves and the only rule was to let the buyer beware and the market vote with their wallet?

So we have to have rules and regulations in addition to market forces. Maybe the limits on size and influence need to be more specific. We already have anti-trust laws, and being a monopoly is supposed to be illegal, so why not just tweak those rules a bit to discourage what I call overconsolidation?

Is anybody hurt by putting rules in place that guarantee multiple players in a market? What's the point of WalMart, or other companies like them becoming even bigger? What is the benefit of them adding 10 more stores, or 100, or doubling their number of outlets?


I know, not a good answer to the question, and I'm not sure there is one.

Doodler
2005-Feb-18, 03:47 PM
No new rules would be needed, I'm almost surprised WalMart has made it this far without some kind of attempt at anti-trust or union discrimination law suits.

What's happening, though, is that people are voting with their wallets, and in a lot of precincts, WalMart's winning with one hand tied behind its back.

Suppliers may chafe at the costs demanded by WalMart, but they could always say "no". Consumers could recognize the beast for what it is and not shop there, but with so many living on shoestring budgets, what can you do? Suppliers see WalMart as guaranteed capacity to move product, with the all but guaranteed volume moved keeping even the tighter profit margins stable. Everyone wants a beefy margin, but when you're faced with the choice of guaranteed, but lean cash flow versus economic feast or famine like other stores less immune to consumer confidence indecies, you go with what you know will be there.

What is really surprising to me is the fact that these stores can still attract hordes of employees. At least in the Maryland area, the job market is actually wide open in the service sector. You can't find people willing to work some jobs, and they aren't all menial, either.

sarongsong
2005-Feb-20, 02:06 AM
"...As of January 31 2005, the Company had [in the U.S.]
1,353 Wal-Mart stores,
1,713 Supercenters,
551 SAM'S CLUBS and
85 Neighborhood Markets...
Internationally, the Company operated units in
Argentina (11),
Brazil (149),
Canada (262),
China (43),
Germany (91),
South Korea (16),
Mexico (695),
Puerto Rico (54)
United Kingdom (282)..."
Finfacts (http://www.finfacts.com/irelandbusinessnews/publish/article_1000357.shtml)

paulie jay
2005-Feb-20, 02:33 AM
Wow - and not one down in Australia.

I'm probably wrong - but most Australians seem to see Walmart as a kind of K-Mart clone (probably the "mart" thing). Is this an accurate or entirely wrong assumption?

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-20, 02:44 AM
Wow - and not one down in Australia.

I'm probably wrong - but most Australians seem to see Walmart as a kind of K-Mart clone (probably the "mart" thing). Is this an accurate or entirely wrong assumption?

It's taken the K-Mart concept to the next level, but, yes, you have the right idea.

And to everyone wondering why they build one store, then abandon it to build another - it turns out they get some fabulous corporate tax breaks for doing so, and I find that highly disturbing.

sarongsong
2005-Feb-20, 02:51 AM
...most Australians seem to see Walmart as a kind of K-Mart clone (probably the "mart" thing)...
Pretty close (the 'K (http://www.sdreader.com/php/ma_show.php?id=020305B)' is for Kresge, 'Wal' for Walton), tho W-M seems to be on entrepreneurial steroids. :lol:

farmerjumperdon
2005-Feb-21, 02:38 PM
Ah the memories. I remember Kresge and other stores of a by-gone era from my boyhood days in Chicagoland. We had the Ben Franklin Five & Dime and my favorite name - Goldblatt's. I like that one because of it's use in the old Yardbird's tune I Ain't Got You. (I got a charge account at Goldblatt's, dum, dum, but I ain't got you, (wailing harmonica)).

sidmel
2005-Feb-21, 08:38 PM
This thread reminded me of my business courses in college and sparked a memory that had to do with a class on Business Ethics.



One of the points it tries to drive home is that, yes, a corporation is considered an individual under the law with the same rights of ownership, tax liability and everything else implicit in our constitution. But in same vein, as a citizen, a corporation should have a mandate towards Social Responsibility just as you or I should towards our local community. So if a corporation doesn’t take responsibility for itself in the community, I personally believe that it is quite right for that community to create social pressure towards that organization to remind them that “You live here just as we do, and you need to show the same respect and care towards the local culture.”

Doe, John
2005-Feb-22, 03:40 AM
Wal-Mart is neither good nor bad. It just is. Sometime in the future it will be overtaken by another company, just like Woolworths was and K-Mart and Sears are.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-22, 11:13 PM
just read Nickled and Dimed, a book about getting by on low-income jobs, yesterday. just depressing. the author worked low-income jobs in three different cities, using pretty much only what she earned in each. and, yes, she worked in a Wal-Mart.

even though I never did, a lot of it was pretty familiar from the lousy jobs I've had. apparently, though, Wal-Mart plays you a video during orientation about the evils of unions. one woman had been working there for two years, and her hourly wage had gone up from $7 an hour to a whopping $7.75 an hour. even the evil telemarketing place where I used to work gave better pay raises than that.

my boyfriend's mom has also read this book. she knows just as much about Wal-Mart's evils as I do. but she buys supplies for her home cleaning business there sometimes anyway, simply because she can't afford not to. and that's one of the ways that Wal-Mart wins. she also pointed out to me that she only buys the advertised special in most cases, because anything they're not pointing out as cheaper than anywhere else probably isn't. but I doubt most other people notice that, because no one on Earth spends as much time searching ads as she does.

Brady Yoon
2005-Feb-22, 11:23 PM
Wal-Mart is neither good nor bad. It just is. Sometime in the future it will be overtaken by another company, just like Woolworths was and K-Mart and Sears are.

I agree. If word gets out that they are using bad business practices, they'll lose customers. Other companies will take advantage of this, and Wal Mart will decline. It's a cycle.

As for me, I don't really like it. My family shops at Costco, but we hesitate to step in Wal Mart for some reason.

Captain Kidd
2005-Feb-24, 05:17 PM
New York City denies WalMart's attempt to build it's first store there. (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050224/ap_on_bi_ge/wal_mart_expansion_1)

Doodler
2005-Feb-24, 06:11 PM
New York City denies WalMart's attempt to build it's first store there. (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050224/ap_on_bi_ge/wal_mart_expansion_1)

Any chance we're seeing the high water mark with the major cities?

Chip
2005-Feb-24, 07:02 PM
...As for me, I don't really like it. My family shops at Costco, but we hesitate to step in Wal Mart for some reason.

I've never shopped at Walmart for political reasons. I don't support the red companies.

Wally
2005-Feb-25, 03:16 PM
Surprised no one's post this (http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/24/news/fortune500/walmart_suit/index.htm?cnn=yes) yet. . .

Doodler
2005-Feb-25, 03:19 PM
Surprised no one's post this (http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/24/news/fortune500/walmart_suit/index.htm?cnn=yes) yet. . .

I had seen that one, but I figured we'd about flogged the old nag's corpse enough. Still nice to see there are limits being put forth on this monster.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-25, 10:45 PM
Surprised no one's post this (http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/24/news/fortune500/walmart_suit/index.htm?cnn=yes) yet. . .

I had seen that one, but I figured we'd about flogged the old nag's corpse enough. Still nice to see there are limits being put forth on this monster.

Oddly enough, I just sat through an English class on the subject of a moral economy versus a market economy. If we had a moral economy, Walmart would definitely be considered bad, as would most large corporations.

So far, in looking up 'moral economy' for myself, it's been difficult to split it from religious propaganda, but it's basically taking what was best about the feudal system and trying to rework it for the modern world.

Just thought I'd throw it on the table for people wondering about an alternative to capitalism.

Van Rijn
2005-Feb-25, 10:58 PM
Oddly enough, I just sat through an English class on the subject of a moral economy versus a market economy. If we had a moral economy, Walmart would definitely be considered bad, as would most large corporations.


What constituted a "moral economy" as presented in that class? The definition of "moral" can vary quite a bit. Was this similar to the Pat Buchanan anti-import position, was it about possible market domination issues, or something else? I'm not sure how feudalism would be applied.

SciFi Chick
2005-Feb-25, 11:03 PM
Oddly enough, I just sat through an English class on the subject of a moral economy versus a market economy. If we had a moral economy, Walmart would definitely be considered bad, as would most large corporations.


What constituted a "moral economy" as presented in that class? The definition of "moral" can vary quite a bit. Was this similar to the Pat Buchanan anti-import position, was it about possible market domination issues, or something else? I'm not sure how feudalism applies.

It was about humans being responsible for one another. The landowner had the responsibility to take care of and protect the commoners. The commoners had the responsibility to perform their function, be it baker, cleaner, etc.

It's a History of English Literatures class, and we were specifically discussing the rise of the middle class based on a market economy which functioned by producing goods in order to enrich the country of England through the slave trade.

It was a lecture to put John Gay's The Beggar's Opera as well as the engravings of Hogarth into context. Both of these men attacked institutions rather than humans. They believed the market economy was evil.

sidmel
2005-Feb-26, 01:31 AM
The problem I have with that is 'who decides what is best for the people'? In a feudal system, even if it's a Moral Economy, it will be the landowner, which totally defeats the representative society we have attempted to create in the US. Taking this a bit further, if the only person that decides for the masses is the landowner, then the landowner has absolute power as to the meaning of what is moral. And what was that saying...absolute power absulutely corrupts...

So to me, in the long run, a Moral Economy would seem to much more unstable in regards to the welfare of the general public. Instead of a Wal-Mart, we have the Royal Company Store.

sarongsong
2005-Feb-26, 02:42 AM
February 14, 2005 (http://www.nynewsday.com/ny-vpmcc144145015feb14,0,7685624.column)
"...Wal-Mart, which wants to open its first New York City store in Rego Park..."
New York City!---astounding.

Captain Kidd
2005-Feb-26, 03:07 AM
It was denied.

Check the link in my earlier post.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-26, 06:08 AM
isn't locking people in a building really, really illegal? can anyone else say Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?

Kizarvexis
2005-Mar-06, 05:22 PM
Here is a funny comic from Sunday's (March 6th) 'The Boondocks'. (http://www.ucomics.com/boondocks/)

You just gotta love Pinky and the Brain.

Kizarvexis