Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh, what the hell, one more Wal*Mart story

Even I am tiring of this topic, FWIW. But sometimes an example of what I'm talking about comes along and proves so good as to be irresistable.

Accroding to this newspaper editorial, John Edwards righteously refused to give a reading of his new book at evil ol' Wal*Mart that treats its employees so badly, choosing instead to read at a nearby middle-class-approved Barnes & Noble.

Why do I care?

Because that Barnes & Noble starts it's employees at $7.00 per hour.

The Wal*Mart starts at $7.50.

Could somebody tell me again about how dislike of Walmart is based on concern for the underpaid workers?

I'm sorry, it is all about pandering for the votes of middle class people who think Wal*Mart is tacky and, consciously or not, use "The poor don't know what's best for them, we do" as an excuse to keep that big ugly store out of their backyards.

who doesn't want a big ugly Wal*Mart in her backyard either, of course, but is at least honest with herself about why.


Early Riser said...


Anonymous said...

I don't know about this whole situation, and from what I understand, those were the hourly starting differences for the two stores in that particular town (not across the board).

But other things I would take in consideration are: do they offer health insurance, dental, child care, tuition reimbursement, life insurance, vacation time, 401K, and other benefits? For part-time employees, too? How much does it cost? What is the pay scale? Are the work hours livable, and permitting of having a life outside of work? Is the work environment stressful or accommodating?

I don't think big box retailers are necessarily bad. I shop at Costco, for example. From reports I have read (not from Costco sources), the employees are well compensated for the work they do and the company's retention rate is quite high.

I care more about employee satisfaction than how big or small the store is. Another important factor for me is overseas business practices - are we eggregiously exploiting people with fewer rights than US Americans in order for US Americans to save a few bucks?

I don't know what B&N's practices are. Maybe Edwards feels or believes that B&N is a better company overall.

Anonymous said...

Certainly Edwards should do his research before claiming that he's doing this as a moral stand. However, if Wal-Mart doesn't carry his book anyway, it doesn't make sense for him to make an exception in his general policy of avoiding Wal-Mart because of its poor treatment of workers for a particular Wal-Mart that pays at the level he prefers. (I don't know if B&N ever has been found liable for forcing unpaid overtime from its workers, settled for $11 million for hiring undocumented workers, or has been accused of discriminating against women, but I'm guessing not.)

Also, because Wal-Mart only will reveal the average salary for full-time workers (this include executives, and is $10.11) but not for part-time workers nor starting (as opposed to average) salary, it's difficult for Edwards to compare. Moreover, the $7.50 may have averaged in the starting wage for an overnight worker, which position doesn't exist at B&N because they're not open 24 hours.

Moreover, I assume Edwards set the sites for his book tour some time ago, whereas Wal-Mart raised wages in a third of its stores, in response to public pressure, just in August.

And to give Edwards some space to put his foot in his mouth (as I'm assuming this blog's repeated assertions that Edwards does tell people not to shop at Wal-Mart are true):

'Edwards countered that unlike Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble offers a comprehensive health care plan to even its part-time workers.

'"I've never asked anyone not to shop at Wal-Mart," he said. "I understand people need to buy inexpensive goods... But there are other companies, like Costco, who can do it and pay a decent wage and provide health care coverage, and I don't think that responsibility should be passed to taxpayers."'

Of course, now that the American Family Association has told Christians to boycott Wal-Mart because it carries books that say it's OK to be gay, I feel obliged to shope there.

Incidentally, in my elitism I hadn't realized that the Vault guide (which assumes near-biblical status around job interviewing time) also covers regular companies, and they have lots of info from people in various positions at Wal-Mart about what they make.

Anonymous said...

I agree with lareinacobre: you have to factor in benefits and such, not just salary. For example, I have a lower starting salary than some of my friends, but I have a great work environment (mostly! certainly not perfect) and an extremely flexible leave policy. This is important to me. Nothing is ever black-and-white.

That said, I agree that perhaps Wal-Mart gets bashed a leetle too much.