Wherein I Hate on Wal-Mart Again

I was going to write about a post I saw recently that started an uproar in the “mommyblogger” community. I was going to write how I can’t stand the term “mommyblogger” and why—including the evolution of the term as I’ve seen it happen online. And I was going to explain that I’m against telling anyone what to write on their own blog and will just not read it if it doesn’t interest me. Then I was going to mention that I’m a mother and I blog which should make me a “mommyblogger” but this inclusive term refers to an exclusive club.

Then I caught site of a Twitter conversation that involved the hashtag #letsfixdinner. I have nothing against that specific hashtag, mind you. I was just paying attention to one blogger who happened to be using it.1

In response to things Deb on the Rocks was saying I retweeted:

RT @debontherocks Throw in a little child slave labor 4 ur chocolate, &Stouffers/Nestle adds up 2 #letsfixdinner on the backs of Africa kids

I think I picked up a follower with that because of the use of that hashtag. Well, I don’t ever blindly follow someone on Twitter2. If I did that I’d be following a bunch of SEO folks and some serious teabagging wingers. So, I checked this new follower and went to her website. She’s proudly blogging for Wal-Mart.

Now, anyone that has followed my blog knows that I hate Wal-Mart. With a passion. I worked there a number of years ago and learned enough about them to initially dislike them. Then I researched them more and that’s when the hate started. I have nothing good to say about the company or it’s practices. And I can in no way support what they’re doing, not even by following one of their “eleven moms” on Twitter. No way am getting suckered into clicking a link that might lead to a post in support of Satan’s favorite mega mart.

By the way, I don’t give a shit if any of those bloggers are paid by Wal-Mart or not. I don’t care if they’re doing it for free stuff or out of the goodness of their hearts. I am morally and ethically opposed to Wal-Mart’s business practices and the way they treat their own people.

Wal Mart doesn’t care about women and specifically doesn’t care about mothers. So why do women bloggers—especially “mommybloggers” support them this way? The reason they’re reaching out to bloggers is so that they can try to change their image, without actually changing their practices. You say “Well, they’ve got good bargains/prices/blah” I say “What’s the real cost of those bargains?”

What do you mean you don’t know? Or do you mean that you don’t care?

(This one’s a little long, folks.)

My Experience

I worked at Wal-Mart from September 2003 to June 2004. When I was in “orientation” I was told several things that alarmed me and made me want to run for the door3. First up was that unions were unwelcome and that unions would take my job, my money and the very store in which I was to be working. Unions, apparently, were not out to protect us, but to strip us of our employment. We were shown videos on how to behave if a union rep approached us. The videos always represented the union reps as evil and conniving and we were to be wary of them. Wal-Mart, we were told, was taking care of us and providing for us. We couldn’t do any better than we were doing with them. Wal-Mart was always portrayed as the “grandfatherly” company, looking out for their vendors and Associates.

The next thing that bothered me was their education policy. They would provide help for the Associates to send their children to college, but Associates themselves weren’t eligible for the benefit4. They went on and on about how we didn’t need to be college educated to advance within the company. That college was seemingly unimportant in a great company like them. Afterall, we were told, Sam Walton never went to college! Later I learned that they would refuse to work around a college schedule and if someone requested a specific schedule because of school their schedule would be changed to intentionally conflict with their schooling. At the time of my orientation, though, my only thought was “Wow, they want us to stay stupid”.

During the time I was there I noticed many things about the way management interacted with Associates—and that management was changed regularly so that they couldn’t get too comfortable and familiar with their employees. Home Office5 was always watching us in one way or the other. We were given limited breaks and told to help customers off the clock. I was pregnant at the time I worked there, but management had no problems trying to over work me and give me a hard time about my doctor’s appointments. But I did ok. It was those that were hurt on the job that were given a hard time. If an Associate was going to receive worker’s comp they had to continue to work either in the dressing room area or as a greeter—for lesser pay. And still Wal-Mart would fight them.

And insurance? Ha! Try paying the huge premiums on a Wal-Mart salary and then paying the outrageous deductible. That’s if you qualified. On average I worked about 34 hours a week. That was one hour short of what was needed to qualify for insurance. Most associates fell just below that threshold. Those that didn’t most likely didn’t have insurance because they couldn’t afford the premiums.

Then they changed the way they were giving raises. Used to be they would give a percentage-base merit raise, which was up to 5%. If an Associate made $10 an hour6 then they could potentially make $1 an hour more. Usually it was more like 5%, but that was still not too bad. They changed it from that to a scale from 5-25¢. The way they made it sound you’d have thought they were giving $1k bonuses and some people fell for it. They actually thought they were getting a good deal. Except they weren’t. When I explained the difference to some of the poor saps that were already spending their extra 50¢ an hour it was like I was stealing Christmas. The management actually counted on the fact that the majority of their Associates couldn’t do simple math. That’s when I decided I wouldn’t come back after I had Lil’lady.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle the work7 and it wasn’t that I don’t like working with the public. Wal-Mart sucked my soul. They tried to dumb me down and, in fact, wanted their employees dumbed down. Anyone who could figure out they were being conned wasn’t welcome at Wal-Mart—unless they had no other choice but to work there.

When I went to pick up my last check from there I was given a second check along with it. “What’s this?” I asked. My manager didn’t say anything (literally just walked away from me) so I asked a co-worker. She whispered that she’d heard women in our department were getting paid 60¢ an hour less than men so they got sued. We were getting paid our back wages, though it was only for the month prior to the settlement date. My check was all of $70.

We did get discounts, though. All of 10% and that didn’t include groceries or sale items. We were getting killer deals anyway, right? Most of us were making less than $6 an hour and had families to support. Some of us came to work there after our good paying factory jobs went overseas (See Rubbermaid, for instance). Not many people that worked for that store could actually shop at that store. That’s no lie. Not propaganda. It’s true even today. Wal-Mart keeps their employees poor and hopeless.

Since I left

Then Wal-Mart started changing more policies. They decided that they wanted to get rid of more than 70% of their full-time workforce8. This was to eliminate the number of Associates who were eligible for health benefits, even if they didn’t get it because they couldn’t afford it.9

Then they decided they were going to cap wages. Depending on where an Associate works in the store, they can only make as much as $14 an hour no matter how long they’ve been with the company. Associates get their merit raises every year until they’ve reached that cap and then no more raises after that. Been working as a Wal-Mart Associate for 20 years? Tough titties. Your loyalty is not adding to the company’s bottom line so is useless to them.

Then they began terminating the employment of long-time Associates. They would find reasons to fire them and then would offer them the opportunity to come back at base wage. They would lose all of their seniority10 and raises. They would come back as a new hires. New hires cost Wal-Mart less, because their wages are less—even including the costs normally associated with employee turnover. Wal-Mart wants that turnover. Turnover gets rid of the raises and the eligibility for insurance.

And then they changed their scheduling and call-off policies. No more would scheduling take place in individual stores. Now Home Office would take care of that.11 Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas—a far cry away from Bumfuck, Ohio. Need a little flexibility because of family obligations, doctor’s appointments or other personal reasons? Too bad, so sad. You go to work when someone in Arkansas decides you go to work. Need to call off to take your child to the doctor? You’re required to call Home Office and good luck with that.12 More than likely your request will be denied and you will face disciplinary action or termination. You won’t be able to plead your case with anyone that actually knows you and your situation because all of those decisions are left to someone who has never even met you.

Are you seeing how Wal-Mart is able to pass on such huge savings? Are you seeing the real-life costs of their low prices? Can you honestly, with good conscience, support a company that values their own employees and the employees of their vendors so little? A company that will fire a worried mother because she had the audacity to take her sick child to the doctor? They don’t need her, afterall. They’ve got thousands of people to replace her.

I try to support women who blog whether they are mothers or not. I usually don’t care if what they’re writing about13 as long as they’re being heard. I don’t think there are enough influential women in the blogosphere and am a sentimental about the way the mommybloggers have come together to conquer this outlet in the way they have. Where men dominate politics and tech related blogging, women soar in mommyblogging. That is something of which women should collectively be proud.

But I cannot in good conscience support a marketing campaign by this company that targets mothers as a specific demographic. Wal-Mart is trying to look pretty with this new face, trying to charm you. But the meat under their skin is still rancid. They are still dealing with the devil and stepping on the backs of families all over the world. Lee Scott would piss on his employees as soon as look at them. He would throw them and their children out in the cold and take the food off their table if he could make a couple of extra bucks doing it. Wal-Mart is anti-family regardless of what their slick adverts say. Sure, if you don’t actually work for Wal-Mart or it’s vendors14 or know anyone personally effected by Wal-Mart’s policies, you can save money by shopping there. But if you work there and are supporting your family with that salary you can’t afford to shop there. And by shilling for that company and proudly hyping their disgusting brand, you validate what they’ve done to become such a “profitable” company.

It’s one thing to shop there—especially since there may be no alternatives where you live. They’ve destroyed so much of their locally available competition that for some things it’s damned near impossible to go somewhere else. That’s where I would normally shrug and say “Meh. You know they’re evil right?” and then move on. But this whole thing with “mommybloggers” picking up their baton and running with it just makes my blood run cold. I abhor Wal-Mart because they are ultimately bad for the causes I believe in – women and their families and job creation and stability. Wal-Mart is antithetical to all of those, as it is to many other issues and causes15. The thought that there are women with talent and voices and platforms willfully and happily distributing Wal-Mart propaganda just really makes me sad. And somewhat angry. Here is a demographic that has the ear of Wal-Mart execs and can help convince that company to care about it’s employees. Instead of taking the company to task they join with them to help improve their image without improving their employee relations policies. I want no part of it. I don’t want to read it on a blog and I certainly don’t want to catch a whiff of it in my Twitter stream. I will gladly support another woman unless she is working against my interests.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will eventually write another post about this dreaded box-store chain. Probably more. None of them will be glowing endorsements. This company sets trends that other companies follow in hopes of mimicking their success. Wal-Mart is showing other corporations that it’s ok to shit on the heads of the lower-level employees because people will still flock to the store for those “low prices” regardless of the negative impact they have on the communities in which their stores spring up. That’s not good for anyone. Especially women who are demographically more likely to be lower-income, single parents struggling to pay the rent on wages from places that are emulating Wally World. They drive down competitive wages, encourage companies to cut or eliminate benefits and force other companies (their vendors) to cut costs by moving their operations out of the country. As large and profitable as that company is there is no good reason such a large number of their employees are forced to take food stamps to feed their kids while also getting the medical card to be able to take those children to the doctor. They set standards—and those standards are hurting American families.

Unfortunately, considering this new “social media”/blogging campaign that this damned company has engaged in, it looks like another post like this will pop up sooner rather than later. I certainly hope I’m not the only one to see this trend and be disgusted by it enough to speak out.

Full Disclosure:

I really hate Wal-Mart.

And now I’m off to see why it is I should hate Nestle too.

Popularity: 12% [?]


Sphere: Related Content

  1. I do have an issue with following a link to a website, looking for a list of sponsors, partners and contributors and finding blank pages. []
  2. Meaning follow back just because they follow me []
  3. I couldn’t, of course. Like many people I needed the job and the money. []
  4. I’ve yet to meet an Associate who was able to take advantage of the “benefit” even for their children. []
  5. Or Big Brother, as I came to think of them []
  6. Some that had been there for more than a decade actually did make that much. []
  7. Though while pregnant I was regularly asked to lift boxes more than 50 lbs. []
  8. In reaction to Maryland requiring them to have insurance on all of their employees. []
  9. InternalMemos Leaked []
  10. Which was really a myth. []
  11. Corporate does the shift scheduling []
  12. Read this comment from a disgruntled employee. []
  13. Though I am a little snobby as far as politics and range of language is concerned []
  14. They force companies out of business []
  15. Environmentally disruptive much, Wal-Mart? []
jennyjinx

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