Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wal-Mart..

Ah, good ole Wal-Mart to the rescue.  Cheap prices, crappy service, and for the worlds largest company, pretty damn sensitive to critical opinions.  So, I think it is safe to say that we have all heard the rumors.  Unjust terminations, Wal-Mart closing a store after it unionized, low pay, and jacking employees around on their pay.

There is no larger middle finger than to have your pay jacked around to keep overtime expenses down.  When I worked for minimum wage, I had to pull in as many hours as I could to make ends meet.  Something that minimum wage earners are painfully aware of.  So, lets look at dear ole Wal-Mart, and see just if the stories really add up?

So, where to start?  Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the United States with over 4000 stores, and 1.3 million employees.  Its annual income ranks it as the 26th to 31st largest economy in the world (out of 188 countries).  With what Wal-Mart makes in a year, you could run a country, and have 100% employment rates.  That is a lot of money, no way to deny that. 

So, Wal-Mart for its part says that it pays better than comparable stores and shops.  Certainly this is true if you factor in Mom and Pop stores, which are often family owned and operated.  But the pay is the same as working for Target.  That is for the cashiers, team leaders is day and night, with a Wal-Mart team leader earning nearly 20K less a year when compared to Target, and if you throw in K-Mart 10k less a year (from a store that has been on the decline for nearly two decades).  Actually it appears that the benefits packages from K-Mart and Target are far superior to that of Wal-Mart's offerings.  But to be honest, that all sounds nice, but the truth is, the average salary of a Wal-Mart employee is around 22k a year.  Depending on location that is hang on its going to be a bumpy landing to oh shit the worlds burning on the scale of how well you are doing. 

See, Wal-Mart loves to live in its self created fantasy world, you have hard numbers about many of our employees being on food stamps or some other social aid program?  We have a thirty second snippet of one employee saying they got off the government tit because of their job.  I can imagine, based on the stories I have heard from employees outside of the store, that that poor sucker was threatened with cement boots if they said anything but what the script said.  Of course, rounding up and arresting 110 of your employees who are peacefully protesting your stores policies is misguided.  On the employees behalf of course, I mean if I had been screwed that badly by my employer, I would be running around wearing a Guy Fawkes mask with a Molotov cocktail in one hand.  But, they went the peaceful route, and well it still got 110 of them arrested, which is a small number when you consider that there were 1500 protests nationwide, because  Wal-Mart said no go on personal time over the holidays. 

There is also that little deal about holding life insurance on employees, that pays the company, rather than the families.  Not it is claimed that Wal-Mart has ceased this "peasant insurance polices" practice, but I doubt it, that was easy money.  Your employee dies, you collect the insurance policy that is several thousand bucks free and clear.  Its bad enough to take out life insurance on your own employees (and Wal-Mart is not the only guilty one), but they still use child labor.  Here we are in 2014, and they are still using and abusing kids in other less developed countries.  All for the sake of cheaper crap.

Lets look at our local economy shall we?  Alright, I tend to gravitate towards the smaller stores in town, most of us do.  You would be surprised what you can find in terms of goods at those stores than you can at a Wal-Mart.  Twenty miles down the road I can buy things cheaper at Food City and Kroger than I could at Wal-Mart.  Both are large chains in their own right, but they are more community oriented.  But way back when I dealt with companies like True Value and Ace for hardware goods, locally owned co-operatives.  When Wal-Mart moved in our local hardware store which would deal in credit to the farm, went under.  It was a shame really, the guy would order automotive parts for you, anything you needed, he would figure a way to get it, even if it was money out of his pocket with a small mark up.  Wal-Mart moved in, his store closed, Wal-Mart brought in a McDonald's, the local dive closed.  The food was really good at that place, far better than McDonald's or Subway.  We had a small bank, but the Wal-Mart partnership bank practically killed it.  See, Wal-Mart in many regards is the harbinger of death for small businesses, unable to compete with third world junk at insanely cheap monetary prices.  Remember, Wal-Mart can out bid you on everything they want to carry, and when Wal-Mart moves in, other stores move in like buzzards circling a dead body.  All the scavengers do.  Sure for its part Wal-Mart brings in hundreds of jobs, but at what cost?  Small business owners going under, and not everyone involved directly with those businesses loose their jobs.  Sure the employees do, the vendors for those businesses do as well.  An economy is just like our environment.  When something becomes out of balance everything goes out of balance.  Some venders are far too small to deal with Wal-Mart, and the truth is they might not have the ability to get their products into a big box store. 

Yet here we are, Wal-Mart, a business that makes more than most countries do, pay their employees small stipends while screwing with their pay.  I was told that I could easily become employed with Wal-Mart, and this is probably true.  I could certainly use some of the perks they offer, I mean a ten percent discount on goods would be helpful.  But there is a price, and as I saw from the libertarian previously mentioned, we have at least one thing in common.  I won't apply there.  I would rather freeze to death, never eating again if it meant I had to play by their games.  I disliked telling people they had to work on holidays, even when I had to myself.  I always tried to make it fair for everyone, but Wal-Mart doesn't seem to care.  Sure Wal-Mart does good things, it helps with various charities that feed and cloth the homeless.  But there is this living wage deal that the owners and stock holders seem to ignore. I have heard that Wal-Mart could increase pay by 50-100%, and would still make the same amount of profit.  But, that doesn't go with their business model.  If you compare Sam's Club (also owned by Wal-Mart) to its only competitor Costco, the prices are marginally different, almost to the degree you might not see the difference.  Sure Costco makes less money, but not much less.  Remember that $466 Billion dollars ranking it number 26 in terms of being its own economy?  Costco being drastically smaller than Wal-Mart brought home nine billion dollars less.  Not bad considering that Costco pays around twenty dollars an hour when compared to what Wal-Mart and Sam's Club pay.  But to be nice to Wal-Mart...  You could always have it worse by working at BJ's Wholesale Club which is only half the size of the Sam's Club segment of the topic.