Wal-Mart Hopes to Educate Press

Discussion
Apr 05, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Wal-Mart is hoping that after two days at the company’s first ever media summit that journalists will walk away more educated about the retailer and its way of doing business.


Specifically, said Wal-Mart spokesperson Gus Whitcomb, the world’s largest retailer is trying to dispel the accusation that it is a bad employer.


Critics of the company contend it pays its people poverty-level wages and shifts the responsibility of health-care costs for its employees onto taxpayers who pick up the tab
through state programs covering low-income residents.


About 50 of the 100 newspaper and magazine reporters invited to the media summit expect to attend the event starting today in Bentonville, Ark.


Moderator’s Comment: How does Wal-Mart compare to other retailers when it comes to compensating its employees? What does Wal-Mart need to do over the
next two days to “set the record straight” about its employment practices and impact on local communities?

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Wal-Mart Hopes to Educate Press"


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John Rand
Guest
John Rand
15 years 10 months ago

Rightly or wrongly, the issue of what are “fair” wages and benefits in retailing hinges on Wal-Mart. Sure, there are retailers who don’t need to follow WMT’s business model, Costco most prominently. But as long as the biggest and fastest growing retailer pays XX, everyone else will treat that as the de-facto ceiling.

So no matter what Wal-Mart does for PR, they are the benchmark. The real question isn’t WMT, it’s the general value of working at retail. If a 40 hour worker can’t pay the bills and live a decent life, that’s a more general social question. We used to answer that one with a minimum wage law, which is now more or less 20 years out of date relative to costs. WMT may contribute to that by lobbying in Washington, but they are hardly alone there either.

I don’t blame WMT. I blame us.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

They just need to be more open and candid, and available. As for me, a trade press journalist who has been a Wal-Mart cheerleader for years… I get blocked by PR every time. They say they want to work with you, but then there are always 5 reasons why they can’t let you talk to anybody. It’s always “try us again.” I have good friends at Wal-Mart, and even they get embarrassed by the “you can’t talk to anybody” routine that always comes out of public relations. I still admire and respect a lot of what Wal-Mart does, but not their PR “effort.”

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 10 months ago

My suggestion to the folks at Wal-Mart: if you don’t want to see any more stories about poor pay, poor benefits, union-busting and labor law violations, then stop offering poor pay and benefits. Stop busting unions and stop violating labor laws.

All the PR spin and soft-focus commercials about what a swell company Wal-Mart is cannot change this basic reality. They are a media target not merely because they are big, and not merely because the unions dislike them. They are a media target because they behave badly and because they are emblematic of the “race to the bottom” that we seem to be waging in America.

As they say at the Aspen Daily News: “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.”

David Mallon
Guest
David Mallon
15 years 10 months ago

I hope they do better than the press release they put out a few weeks ago that simply didn’t make a strong case for Wal-Mart as a good employer. Frankly, I wonder if the facts are on their side.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 10 months ago
I think Wal-Mart has comparable pay and benefits to other discount department store retailers. Wal-Mart needs to communicate to the press that the reason so many people who work for them are on public assistance is simply because Wal-Mart is the largest employer, particularly of part-timers. It is certainly true that Wal-Mart leads the country in having employees who use taxpayer funded health care plans. However, the press never mentions that the health care plan offered by Wal-Mart is similar to what other discount department store retailers offer their employees. The only reason why Wal-Mart has more employees using taxpayer funded health plans is because Wal-Mart has the most employees overall. We could just make up a special law that only companies with over $288 billion in sales be required to offer free full coverage health insurance to every employee at the time of hire. I find it odd that if Wal-Mart is such a bad company to work for, then why, in this country of bountiful opportunities, would someone work for them?
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 10 months ago

The Lion (Wal-Mart) has been increasingly attacked in the media, by “agended” unions and by a growing number of other players in the marketplace jungle, for its practices and incessant growth. Their programs and practices have produced the largest sales company in the world, which in turn has provided employment for more people than anyone else in the world. Wal-Mart has a right to defend its record of achievements, whether we personally judge them as being good or bad for society. Would such a PR program be necessary if Wal-Mart wasn’t so huge, so effective, so successful, and such a large employer? No one is clamoring about Kmart’s or Sears’ employment practices.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 10 months ago
I’m sure Wal-Mart will do its best to straighten out the press. The problem is that the press has already made up its mind when it comes to Wal-Mart and all the glad-handing in the world isn’t going to change it. Wal-Mart is the story. It’s not about wages, benefits and the state of healthcare in this country. It’s about Wal-Mart having a big fat bullseye on its back, making it a target (no pun intended) for every reporter who’s looking to please his editor and come up with a by-lined story that runs above the fold. I am not chastising my brothers and sisters in the Fourth Estate. Were I in their shoes, I’d be aiming for the same thing. The solution? Change the story! By no means am I defending Wal-Mart’s practices. However, do you think the rest of the retail or foodservice industry–discounting, department stores, fast food, restaurants, etc… etc…could withstand the scrutiny of good investigative reporting? Do you think the H-R practices of these or other businesses are any better than… Read more »
Marie Mize
Guest
Marie Mize
15 years 10 months ago
David Livingston, BrainTrust Panelist wrote: “I think Wal-Mart has comparable pay and benefits to other discount department store retailers. Wal-Mart needs to communicate to the press that the reason so many people who work for them are on public assistance is simply because Wal-Mart is the largest employer, particularly of part-timers.” Maybe Wal-Mart is correct in not allowing the public access to its executives. Strange things happen when they speak, i.e., the truth. According to Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach (a member of the state House of Representatives), “To the extent that Medicaid is in crisis, Wal-Mart is a significant part of the problem. It does not just shift health-care costs onto taxpayers, it does so at a level well beyond that of any other employer.” Five employers in Florida account for 29,000 Medicaid-eligible individuals (employees or dependents). Wal-Mart’s share represents 42 percent of that group. Wal-Mart sees no problem with this. For evidence, you can go straight to the top. In a two-day ‘open house’ with the press at Bentonville, Ark. headquarters earlier this… Read more »
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