Monday, February 9, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different - A Journalist LIkes Wal-Mart!!!!

The guy in the picture is Charles Platt. Mr. Platt went undercover from his usual gig at Wired magazine to work at Wal-Mart, an experience he wrote about for The New York Post.

Some people, usually community activists, loath Wal-Mart. Others, like the family of four struggling to make ends meet, are in love with the chain. I, meanwhile, am in awe of it.
With more than 7,000 facilities worldwide, coordinating more than 2 million employees in its fanatical mission to maintain an inventory from more than 60,000 American suppliers, it has become a system containing more components than the Space Shuttle - yet it runs as reliably as a Timex watch.
Mr. Platt obviously didn't get the memo. Wal-Mart is supposed to be 100% evil, right?
....Considering this is a company that is helping families ride out the economic downturn, which is providing jobs and stimulus while Congress bickers, which had sales growth of 2% this last quarter while other companies struggled, you have to wonder why. At least, I wondered why. And in that spirit of curiosity, I applied for an entry-level position at my local Wal-Mart.
This will be the good part. Here come stories about employees being chained in the back rooms, forced to work off the clock while Simon Legree wannabes spit on their Bibles.

Getting hired turned out to be a challenge. The personnel manager told me she had received more than 100 applications during that month alone, chasing just a handful of jobs. Thus the mystery deepened. If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited? And after they were hired, why did they seem so happy to be there? Anytime I shopped at the store, blue-clad Walmartians encouraged me to "Have a nice day" with the sincerity of the pope issuing a benediction.
Yeah, well, in some places with new stores, there are more than 20 applicants for each job. But that's because the masses don't know better, and haven't been exposed to the blessings of giving their pay to union bosses.

.... I sat at a table that was covered in untrimmed fabric under a protective layer of sticky transparent vinyl, like a couch cover. I'd seen better-looking decor at firehouse bingo evenings. Was Wal-Mart going out of its way to emphasize its commitment to cost-cutting? I guessed that the utilitarian ethic was so deeply embedded, it was just taken for granted.
I've been to the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas three or four times. I've been to the Canadian headquarters in Toronto about as many. This guy, Charles Platt, has definitely been in some Wal-Mart offices. The furniture makes the North Sunflower Academy cafeteria look like Tavern On The Green. If they had nicer furniture in their offices, I bet they'd be unprofitable enough to qualify for some bailout money. The Fools ! !

....A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.
These employees simply don't know better. They've been brainwashed. They were graduates of the American school system, and of course weren't qualified for..... oh, never mind.
The article is excellent, and worth reading. I can promise you've never read a Wal-Mart piece like this one. When you get a chance, please read the whole thing.
But I've got to include Platt's closing paragraph:

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

Charles Platt is a former senior writer for Wired magazine.


Fester said...

I caught his article about Wal-Mart on Boing Boing a week or two ago.

Growing up in a very small town in western Kansas, I looked at Wal-Mart as a godsend. For all of the bitching about them "destroying America", I think people just don't know or remember what it used to be like in small town America. Everything was extremely overpriced and our standard of living was very substandard because of it. There was no selection at the local stores. The nearest city to where I lived was 4 hours away (Wichita). Wal-Mart came in and equalized prices. Suddenly shopping at or nearby your home was a cheap as driving for hours to go to the city. The selection on the things most of us needed the most was there and at a good price.

Anonymous said...

I liked his description of the interview room...reminded me of the home office in Bentonville. For the headquarters of the world's largest company, the place just looks like a really big elementary school.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

What gets me is the whining and moaning that WM doesn't have a good benefits package, and that WM doesn't have a career path for all of its employees.

Well what kind of benefits and career paths did all the Mom & Pop places have?

There are lots of reasons not to shop at Wal-Mart, but those two don't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

More than one Wal-Mart corporate officer started on the receiving dock at some store. Similarly, I would be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of the people wearing gold 20-year badges are millionaires, regardless of their position in the company, due to the stock option and stock purchase plan.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

My son was his High School Newspaper's Editor-in-Chief. One issue his editorial was a piece praising Wal-Mart. He said that he got more crap from students and teachers because of that article.

He said something to the effect that through the savings they've given the poor and working class not to mention the jobs to the hundreds of thousands, they've done more to solve the problems of poverty than any welfare program.

Robert Maplethorpe could've sold photos at The Vatican before his 'educators' would've given him some credit for doing research and not just falling for their line of garbage!

I wish I could find that article he wrote! I'm proud of my boy for that one!!

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

literally 10 minutes after I write that comment, my son changes his facebook status to Cameron is mad at Wal-Mart.

Oh well...

Anonymous said...

Walmart's UK arm is Asda. By all accounts they're a very nice company to work for. And they're cheap

wv: whines

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Next time we see each other, remind me to tell you about the infamous purchasing rooms.

They're about as far as you can get from the Washington D.C. Lobbying scenario.

Do a bit o' Googling, on the words "Sam Walton" and "Nobel Prize". Heh heh heh....

The company I work for supplies some of their non-U.S. stores. We're about to do a LOT more of it.
The resulting regulations, paperwork, delays, etc. are one of the things that set me off on my current Libertarian Obsession.

Stephen (above) does the same kind of work, and has the same frustrations. I'm working on a post that I hope will live forever, and will be the final word on the topic, as long as people read English. (About 30 more years.)