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October 27, 2005

Wal-Mart Locks Up Employees, Reports Fast Company Magazine


The UnHappy Face of the
'Dark Side of
"everyday low prices"'

The November issue of Fast Company tells us that Wal-Mart incarcerates the night shift in some of its stores -- byline Charles Fishman:

We've read that in 10% of its stores, Wal-Mart locks its employees inside overnight, making it difficult even for people who are sick or injured to get out.

We've read? Mr. Fishman, read? You, ace journalist from Fast Company must use a secondary source? You can't pick up the phone, make a long distance call to Bentonville, Arkansas and ask for a comment, a reaction?

Even a supermarket tabloid would call Wal-Mart.

Or a blogger.

So I called Marty Heires, a company spokesman. He picked up the phone -- that's his job, answering calls from journalists bloggers -- and explained the lockdown:

For stores that are not open 24 hours, it is a normal thing to lock entrances for the protection of the associates. We don't want people to walk in [attracted by unattended] by the cash registers. The stores are locked from the inside and the managers have the keys.

Safety? Every Wal-Mart building is subject to, and in compliance with local fire regulations. Employees can get out; rescue can get in.

Please pardon the exasperation of Your Business Blogger. I am disappointed that Fast Company has now become, and is now behaving, like main stream media. Note the childlike scare quotes of "everyday low prices" that would not even be seen in a low-volume blog.

The Fast Company hit piece continued, insulting the Wal-Mart patron:

Shoppers, whether enthusiastic...or just uninformed, continue to buy what Wal-Mart is selling.

And just who would be the "uninformed" [stupid] shopper?

That would be me, Your Business Blogger. Kids, conservative, SUV and a belief in the right-to-work and wealth-creation capitalism.

Not Fast Company. The recent issue of Fast Company looks back to a decade-old cover about a Wal-Mart rant, "The Wal-Mart You Don't Know." The lefty-edgey mag cares little for the big retailer.

In an earlier post, "Why Elites Hate WalMart," I detailed 5 reasons for the discontent, but I left out technology elites in the Fast Company masthead and market segment in New York City.

Fast Company seems to be disappointed that Wal-Mart profits are up. Way up -- 30% in the past two years. Sales increased by a jaw-dropping $56 billion.

I asked Marty, the Wal-Mart spokesman, "Do people buy what Wal-Mart is selling?"

"They certainly do."

Selling at "everyday low prices" -- so low they are scary.


Thank you (foot)notes:

Full Disclosure: I am a Sam's Club Business Member. And you should be one too.

Don Suber has Wal-Mart wanting protection.

Pekin has Econ 101.

Penn doesn't shop at Wal-Mart.

Republic of Heaven wants Wal-Mart to do abortions.

The Merchant Account Blog has law suits.

Mudville Gazette has Open Post.

Outside the Beltway has Traffic Jam.

Basil's Blog has covered dish trackbacks.

Insults Unpunished explains why Wal-Mart wants increase in minimum wage.

Posted by Jack Yoest at October 27, 2005 08:43 AM

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Tracked on October 29, 2005 03:46 PM



Great post. One of the reasons why Fast Company has lost advertisers, influence and readers is because of this biased point of view which seems to dominate the editorial staff. I was hopeful the new ownership at Fast Company might return the magazine to its roots. We blogged more on the topic here:


Posted by: Mike Smock at October 28, 2005 04:48 PM

So, let me get this straight. These poor, disadvantaged employees can't quit Wal-mart because they ...? They are being locked in the store and they are putting up with that? Sound a little fishy to me. I think I would have just listened to how it sounded and edited it out without the phone call. And if it sounded fishy but the author thought there might be something to it, like you said, research is a wonderful thing. I have read that some journalists actually do research their stories.

Posted by: Terry at October 29, 2005 09:59 PM

Terry, You are right -- I missed that angle. Fast Company simply assumes that the employees are little more than children who cannot think nor reason for themselves. Why would any adult put up with the lock up if true as FC supposes?

No. Wait. The elites at Fast Company do think all non-elites are like children to be governed.


Posted by: Jack Yoest at October 29, 2005 10:37 PM

Terry and Jack: not everyone has the luxury to pick their job, and being "locked" in the store would be a low priority for me in quitting a job. I'm not going to dispute the locking issue; I don't care/know one way or the other. But I will say that there are those in this country who need a job but can only get one at Walmart. If you've tried to for six months to get any sort of job at all, would you quit b/c of something like that? Nothing short of outright harassment or a better job coming along would make me quit a job I sorely needed.

...I don't care so much about Walmart's social impact as their environmental impact. I suppose social impact matters when it influences environmental impact . . . but really, it's not about the people. Humans will keep on ticking long after the environment has been reduced to a shadow of its former diversity and beauty.

Posted by: Leah at October 31, 2005 12:40 PM

Leah, a careful reader would notice that Your Business Blogger is a Wal-Mart supporter.

But a more careful writer would have made that clear. (I'll work on focusing my Point of

I do not suggest that any Wal-Mart employee should quit. Most employees see the retailer as an entry level position to build skills, a work history and resume, then move on to better paying jobs if available.

Your article was most helpful in alerting readers that the Executive Director of the (anti-capitalist) Sierra Club actually said nice things about Wal-Mart.

Please join the people for the real American way and begin shopping at Wal-Mart for everyday low prices. You will when you have kids.

Then you can hug them instead of the trees.

Thanks again,

Posted by: Jack Yoest at October 31, 2005 05:55 PM

Jack -- I don't agree that shopping at Walmart will help promote better family values, and I certainly don't intend to start shopping there until they've radically turned their ship around. These potential environmental changes are a big step in the right direction.

I might point out that I try to avoid shopping at larger retailers when possible, altho the internationalization of chains makes this difficult. I do like to shop at local stores, as I've found better service and more knowledgable employees at many local shops rather than at big box stores (ex: I had a great experience purchasing my mom's digital camera from a local camera shop. I paid $50 more than I would have at walmart, but I knew I was getting the right camera for her, and the employees took extra time to show me exactly what I needed).

When (and if) I have kids, I hope to teach them that they don't need to shop often or a lot. When you don't buy much, you don't have to worry about getting the best deals. I hope to spend the majority of my time with them enjoying the outdoors, reveling in scientific discovery, enjoying good books from the library, and trying to make the most out of every purchase instead of needing to buy new things all the time.

Posted by: Leah at October 31, 2005 06:12 PM

Leah, well reasoned comments. I think many may think the same way.

If you buy milk by the quart.

But when purchases become bulk shipments, savings and perspectives do change. I now buy milk buy the gallon -- we consume 1.5 gallons/day, which makes my household rather price sensitive.

Again, thank you for your thoughtful ideas. A gentle word does turn away snark.


Posted by: Jack Yoest at October 31, 2005 09:22 PM

As far as the economics of milk go, have you ever considered powdered milk? I know that Amy Dacyzyn, of The Tightwad Gazette fame, suggests cutting milk with powdered milk to make it stretch further and save some money. Having never tried it, I can't vouch for it, but I've heard powdered milk tastes the same in cooking/baking and pretty much the same when mixed half and half with normal milk.

I understand your viewpoint, and, while it may seem strange to hear, I respect it too. I'm fully of the opinion that "to each his own" is a phrase to live by (within reason, of course). I firmly believe that the American way is allowing each person to decide their own path and be allowed to pursue that path.

Posted by: Leah at November 2, 2005 02:26 AM

Leah, thanks for the tip about powered milk for cooking -- I'll pick some up the next Sam's trip. (It comes in 50 lb crates.) (Tailgate delivery is optional.)

You indeed are a compelling writer to have a male take cooking tips.


Posted by: Jack Yoest at November 2, 2005 08:04 AM

you're welcome :-) glad to help. I'd suggest checking out The Tightwad Gazette for more frugal cooking tips (out from the library, of course, which I consider the most American of all innovations -- what better than a free way to educate yourself?). She's got a lot of great ideas.

Posted by: Leah at November 2, 2005 10:22 PM

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