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Walmart encourages Grinch accusations

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted December 9, 2013

Walmart is a corporation that generates strong opinion. Unions — and their wholly–owned subsidiary the Democrat Party — view Walmart as a rapacious corporation run by brutal overseers whose overriding goal is exploiting the working class.

Many Republican officeholders view Walmart as a corporation run by a bunch of cheap so–and–sos who won't make large campaign contributions and hire refugees from the Clinton administration.

Unions hold annual protests just prior to Black Friday and attempt to convince millions of shoppers that the largest private employer in the US might have low prices, but it's only because the corporation harvests employee organs to sell on the black market.

The protests are held nationwide and union employees, rented homeless and liberal voyeurs demand the corporation pay full–time employees a minimum of $25,000 per year. Democrat officeholders show solidarity by attempting to pick the corporation's pocket with minimum wage laws that give government the power to tell business how much employees should be paid, without government having any responsibility for the bottom line.

It's vote buying through extortion.

In the Nanny's Republic of Washington, DC animosity toward Walmart was so high the city council passed a bill amusingly titled the Large Retailer Accountability Act. (I wait in vain for the Bad Leftist Ideas Accountability Act.) The bill would've required Walmart to pay 50 percent more than the city's current minimum wage. In fact the amount was more than the minimum wage the DC government pays its employees!

Fortunately for Walmart shoppers, the mayor vetoed the bill.

So one might ask at a time when Walmart is viewed as a penny–pinching, soulless exploiter of the down–trodden, why would a store manager in Canton, OH arrange a crèche of plastic bins in the breakroom with a sign that read: "Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner." I suppose it beats letting them dumpster dive, but the optics are bad.

When it comes time for the 2013 Bad Public Relations Ideas nominations, this will be hard to beat. Why not invite Occupy Wall Street to provide entertainment at the next stockholder's meeting?

This only feeds the narrative of Grinch–like exploitation that the MSM, unions and Democrats work so hard to tattoo on Walmart's corporate hide.

Even regular Walmart shoppers have mixed emotions. Just thinking about it conjures up associations with domestic drama in the parking lot, unfortunate fashion choices and dangerously high customer BMI.

Who hasn't experienced that all too common Walmart shopping experience? You can't find the item you want and you can't find an employee to direct you to it. (I just assume all the on–duty workers are either manning the cash register or in back passing the hat.)

Even cemeteries have a higher ratio of employees to customers than your average Walmart store.

Which brings us back to: When there is such a cultural divide in opinion regarding your business, why do something that reinforces the negative side?

In fairness to the manager, the charity display was in the employees–only section and not outside next to the Salvation Army kettle, but regardless of location once the media becomes aware the damage is done.

And sure enough, anti–Walmart organizer Norma Mills, quoted on Cleveland.com, observes, "That Walmart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers -- to me, it is a moral outrage."

When you compare this to Walmart's profit in 2012, $17 billion, and the net worth of the Walton family, $144 billion, even the most dedicated shopper can't help but wonder why the company can't toss a turkey leg to deserving employees.

Unfortunately, the majority of that profit has been used in recent years to buy back Walmart stock, which is essentially financial onanism that creates nothing and only serves to enhance the value of stock the Walton family owns.

The Washington Post had a story about a woman and her daughter who were struggling and homeless much of the time. The Post, as usual, ignores the choice the woman made that created the problem: having an out–of–wedlock child, a sure path to poverty. (This by the way is not blaming the victim. The victim is the child and none of it's her fault.)

After that bad decision, the woman worked hard to turn her life around. She finally landed a job with the YMCA and found an apartment she could afford on her salary, but she couldn't save enough for the security deposit.

Management at the Y heard about her problem and instead of asking the towel boys to hold a car wash for her, the Y gave the woman a salary advance and she got the apartment.

In the Cleveland.com story, spokesperson Kory Lundberg defends the company. "This is part of the company's culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships." But that is not completely true. It is part of employee culture, not management culture.

According to Lundberg the company has a program called the Associates in Critical Need Trust. Walmart workers can receive grants of up to $1,500.00 to "address hardships they may encounter, including homelessness, serious medical illnesses and major repairs to primary vehicles. Since 2001, grants totalling $80 million have been made."

Here's the problem: Walmart takes credit for the charity and the concern, but it's paid for by payroll deductions from the workers. Walmart needs to stop dunning employees for this money. The corporation should provide all the funding.

That way the company is really buying into Lundberg's "culture."

It is simply good business practice for management to demonstrate real concern for the staff. Putting the corporation's money where the corporate mouthpiece is will go a long way toward blunting future attacks on the company. And that will help everyone — management, employees and stockholders. ESR

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of the forthcoming book: "Funny Conservative" Is Not an Oxymoron. (Or any other type of moron).

 

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