In the meantime, I have some more Wal-Mart links to share since my last post. Midwestern Progressive pointed me toward conservative Kathleen Parker and her recent column about Charles Fishman's new book, The Wal-Mart Effect. (Coincidentally, Fishman is also the author of the two articles I shared below.) Parker points out that "Wal-Mart isn't just a company. It's a global market force - a nation unto itself."
Ah well, we say, so it goes in love, war and business. Competition is the engine that drives a capitalist society. But Fishman argues that Wal-Mart's power and scale hurt capitalism by strangling competition.Fishman believes we - the consumers - are responsible for this lack of choice. "We vote with our wallets, and we're the ones who choose Wal-Mart over local stores. Wal-Mart, in that sense, is the ultimate model of democracy."
"It's not free-market capitalism," he says. "Wal-Mart is running the market. Choice is an illusion."
An example of just how much power Wal-Mart yields was provided by the Mayor of Simpleton:
Wal-Mart and the United States Department of Defense have published requirements  that their vendors place RFID tags on all shipments to improve supply chain management. . Due to the size of these two organizations, their RFID mandates impact thousands of companies worldwide. The deadlines have been extended several times because many vendors face significant difficulties implementing RFID systems. [...]Wal-Mart AND the US Department of Defense mandate the use of the RFID tags? That's a lot of clout. Or, as His Honor says, "Wal-Mart says "jump", and the market asks "how high?"
Since January, 2005, Wal-Mart has required its top 100 suppliers to apply RFID labels to all shipments.
Finally, here's a link to the Fast Company Blog where I learned a couple other interesting tidbits of information from Charles Fishman. Wal-Mart's frugality extends beyond lawn chairs in the V.P.'s office.
Last fall, addressing a conference of American magazine editors in Puerto Rico, Scott [CEO] finished his speech with a little story. He said Wal-Mart staff members who travel on business for the company -- literally thousands are on the road all week, Monday to Thursday -- are asked to take the pens from their hotel rooms and bring them back to the home office, to use as office supplies. [...]Last, but not least, check out this shocking tidbit:
They ask their employees to systematically collect the free pens from hotels and use them for work. Wal-Mart could easily be harvesting 200 dozen free pens a week -- 125,000 pens a year, or more. The company might be saving $10,000 or more on the cost of office pens. [...]
But the thing Lee Scott doesn't understand is how weird a practice that is. When I tell that story at public events, people are amused and appalled. Most of us would happily offer a friend -- or a visiting Wal-Mart executive -- a pen. [...] Indeed, shouldn't Wal-Mart buy its own pens? And heck, if you employ 1.3 million Americans, I'm betting the nation's pen makers will give you a good price.
Wal-Mart's U.S. employee turnover is 50 percent. [Emphasis mine.] That means that 650,000 Wal-Mart employees quit in the U.S. every year -- Wal-Mart needs to hire 12,000 employees a week just to keep its current stores staffed -- 12,000 people a week!What an incredibly high turnover rate. It not only costs Wal-Mart millions of dollars each year in hiring and training, but it also speaks volumes about them as an employer. The only real happy faces at Wal-Mart are apparently the ones on those bright yellow signs!