Chains Hire ‘Wal-Mart Killers’ on the Sly
It’s not unusual for businesses to quietly bankroll individuals
or organizations that advance causes supporting their corporate goals. One
such organization, Saint Consulting Group, has found willing clients in companies
like Ahold, Safeway and Supervalu. Saint Consulting, according to a Wall
Street Journal report,
is in the business of trying to keep Wal-Mart from opening stores.
such as labor unions usually top media depictions of opposition to the world’s
largest retailer, Saint Consulting takes pride in being a company of "Wal-Mart
In many cases, the goal is not to prevent new stores from being
built but delay them and drive up the cost for Wal-Mart. In one example cited
in the Journal report,
roadblocks thrown up by Saint on behalf of Supervalu resulted in it taking
three years for Wal-Mart to open one of its Supercenters in a suburb of Chicago.
typically sends in one of its managers under an assumed name to an area to
flood local politicians with calls of protest. The firm hires lawyers and a
variety of experts to challenge aspects of the project with the hopes that
Wal-Mart or the developer will look for a new location to build.
In some instances,
labor unions work with chains to fight Wal-Mart together. "The
work we’ve funded Saint to do to preserve our market share and our jobs is
within our First Amendment rights," Jill Cashen, a spokesperson for the
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), told the Journal. The UFCW
has joined with Safeway to contest over 30 proposed Wal-Mart Supercenters on
the West Coast and Hawaii.
Discussion Questions: Do you see any ethical issues with chains secretly
bankrolling companies such as Saint Consulting to influence public policy
such as zoning decisions? How do you think customers
of these chains would react if they understood the tactics being used against