Friday, October 21, 2011

On the Chopping Block I


So remember how a few days' back I was on a rant about people being angry that corporate America is raping and pillaging the general public but these same angry people keep buying into corporate America and perpetuating the cycle?

And remember how I also said Lex and I were challenging ourselves to be aware and responsible consumers?

It really should not come as any surprise to you that the first corporation who will not ever get another voluntary dime from me is Wal-Mart. If you know me, you know that I have not, in fact, spent a penny willingly at Wal-Mart in about five years1 after having watched Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price. (Seriously, check out the website for the film. They've got a TON of information on there that's fascinating.)

However, Wal-Mart's back in the news and I'm here today to try to convince YOU, Dear Readers, why Wal-Mart, in fact, sucks and does not deserve one more penny from you.

Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced they'd be cutting health benefits for their associates. Why are they doing this? Because sales are flat and have been flat for the last 7 quarters. Plus, prices are rising on goods. So they have to cut costs to continue seeing a profit and they're cutting those costs by, in effect, gouging their employees' already threadbare pockets.

Why is this such an outrage?

Because even though the CEO of Wal-Mart, Mike Duke, would like YOU, Dear Reader, to feel sorry for him because his overall compensation for 2010 was cut 2.6% (mine was cut 3%, fine sir), he still took home 18.7 MILLION DOLLARS! His hourly wage is more than many of Wal-Mart associates make in a year.

But it's not just that, Folks. Duke took a pay cut because his profit margins weren't what shareholders had hoped. Guess who the top shareholder of Wal-Mart (WMT) is?  Christy Walton, wife of the late John Walton and daughter-in-law of the late Sam Walton. She is also the richest woman in America.

Her net worth?

26 Billion Dollars.

I would just like to take a brief moment here to address the Waltons and Mr. Duke and the rest of the Wal-Mart shareholders. I'll be quick.

Ladies and Gentlemen of Wal-Mart,

The reason why your sales are flat and profit margins aren't what you'd hoped is because the people who actually shop at Wal-Mart don't have any money. The people who are likely to shop at Wal-Mart are people who can't afford to shop anywhere else...namely your very own employees. Taking money out of the pockets of your employees to make up for those losses in sales then will only serve to reduce your sales further. And, while you, and your like-minded corporate cronies, do own the federal government, I'm fairly certain slavery will not be an option for you stateside in my lifetime.

As an aside, have any of y'all watched that show on the television, Hoarders? Aren't those people just disgusting?

Jane, in her infinite wisdom

OK. I feel better getting that off my chest.

Anyway! So while the shareholders of Wal-Mart are playing Squeeze-the-Water-Balloon (you know, that game where you take a water balloon and try to squeeze most of the water down to one end without popping it? Fun game.), I've got just one last thing to say to you, Dear Reader, about what is likely your #1 reason for continuing to shop at Wal-Mart even though you know they're evil and blah blah blah.

I suspect you are likely thinking, "But Jane! I don't have much money to spare and I've got to cut my own expenses down so why shouldn't I buy toilet paper at Wal-Mart rather than pay twice as much for it anywhere else?"

You guys! I totally get that. Believe me, I do. We like it when we can get a bargain for something and we've liked Wal-Mart for so long because THEY ARE CHEAP.

But, by buying in, we're skinning pennies off the backs of people even poorer than we are so that people much much much richer than we are get even richer. People who already have 26.5 billion dollars they can't ever spend in their own lifetime but who think they NEED even more and will scrape pennies off everyone in order to get it.

One final note: Schmutzie wrote a blog post - Poor People Cannot Afford Cheap Things - the other day and I challenge you to read it yourselves. It's really quite rich:

Poor people cannot afford cheap things, and no one can afford the hit they take when they accept lesser quality for short term gain, whether it be through our consumption, the quality of our work, or how we allow ourselves to be treated.

Do better, even when doing less might seem more feasible. You're worth it, both now and in the future.

1. Caveat: In January, 2010, while on a trip to Albuquerque - a town I had never been to before - my traveling companion became extremely ill running 103.4º fever. The Wal-Mart was the only store anywhere close by I could find. When faced with life or death, sometimes Wal-Mart does get to win.


Diva said...

They're raising the insurance premiums and cutting benefits for new employees who work 24 hours or less during the week. The main reason we don't hire? Insurance coverage. Most of the folks in our business require it as a benefit (they'd get it anywhere else), but we can't afford to give it. Yet.

I want to add that I was surprised Walmart offered benefits to employees who work less than 30 hours/week, because that's not standard in any industry. However, they're not doing it anymore, which means students or retirees who can't work as many hours as needed will end up suffering the most by this plan.

You know, the people who need coverage the most. Meanwhile, 26 BILLION is probably invested on Wall Street, making dividends, and only paying about 15% back into the system.

In other words, I completely agree, but you know I don't go to Walmart unless it's under duress. The good news is that after 10 years of trying, I *finally* got the Maestro to stop going there, but it had less to do with their business practices than it did proving to him Target's prices are commensurate and their stores are generally tidier.

Whatever it takes, I suppose. *smile*

Diva said...

P.S. Re: your footnote: Thanks again. *smile*

Teresa said...

Jane - Thank you for sharing this. I WILL NOT be shopping at Walmart again. They are closer to my house, but I'll plan better and stop by Target on my way home from work when I need to shop.

Shame on you Walmart!