Wal-Mart Shows Heart As Well As Muscle

Discussion
Sep 06, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Even its many critics must admit that, when it came to standing up for those who saw their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina, no person or group was more stand-up than Wal-Mart.


As the degree of the devastation was just becoming clear, Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott told company executives, “I want us to respond in a way appropriate to our size and the impact we can have.”


To date, reports The Washington Post, Mr. Scott’s marching orders have meant “an unrivaled $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers.”


The retailer has been setting up mini-Wal-Marts in affected areas handing out items such as diapers, baby wipes, toothbrushes and food. In New Orleans, it delivered truckloads of ice and water. The company is also sending 150 Internet-ready computers to shelters to help evacuees find loved ones or contact family and friends to let them know they are alright.


“Wal-Mart has raised the ante for every company in the country,” said Adam Hanft, chief executive of Hanft Unlimited, a marketing and branding consulting firm. “This is going to change the face of corporate giving.”


Wal-Mart’s Scott knows that the company’s effort to help Katrina’s victims will not end the criticism of the company.


“We have never claimed to be flawless. But on the other hand, we have always demanded that we as a company do care. If anything, this week has shown we do care,” he said, adding: “We can’t do any more than our own part. We are not the federal government. There is a portion we can do, and we can do it darn well.”


Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, indicated Mr. Scott might be selling his company short in the comparison to what Wal-Mart can accomplish versus the federal government.


“They were ready before FEMA was,” he said. 


Moderator’s Comment: Will Wal-Mart’s efforts on the part of the victims of Katrina improve its public standing and soften the criticism the company has
received from some for the way it treats employees?

George Anderson – Moderator

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14 Comments on "Wal-Mart Shows Heart As Well As Muscle"


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Mike ODaniel
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Mike ODaniel
15 years 5 months ago

It sure is a good thing that Bush’s college pal, “Browny,” is doing such a fine job running FEMA that they can turn away several trucks of bottled water that Wal-Mart was trying to donate THE DAY AFTER the storm. You know, when Bush was in San Diego, and Cheney was on vacation and Congress was patting each other on the back for “considering” a special meeting.

I’ve never been much of a Wal-Mart fan. However, last night my wife and mother-in-law spent about $400 on clothing and personal care needs to deliver to the Salvation Army. The cashier called a manager and told her what they were doing. She gave them a 10% discount. Maybe they have more class than I thought.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Thanks to Wal-Mart and others for their great works in responding to those in need. They are doing their part in proportion to their position; for that, it is admirable. However, so are the efforts of millions across the country in proportion to their ability. Each is taking up as much as is possible. No one source deserves any more accolade than the other. Even the smallest of help is necessary in the great tragedy that faces the gulf coast. Their response in proportion to ability is no greater than a poor family reaching out and taking in another family for the months to come.

May God speed all help to those suffering. It’s not a time for criticism, blame or complaint. It’s a time for each to pull together and respond in unimagined proportion.

The greatest gifts are those given by the least of us with no expectation in return. There will be plenty of time for shameless political rancor on a later day.

Bob Bridwell
Guest
Bob Bridwell
15 years 5 months ago

Regardless of the reason, W-M is standing tall. FEMA and others should consider future mobilizations by using/coordinating with W-M. They have the DCs and the trucks, and they are filling hundreds or even thousands of truck moments after orders are transmitted or polled from the stores. Plus, they have the contacts to obtain many truckloads of products. They have the infrastructure to make it happen.

Tip of the hat to them and all the other retailers who are responding to the tragedy.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Full marks to Wal-Mart for being ready, willing and able to help at extremely short notice and over a very large area. Their efforts, including the sensibility of what they are sending in (those internet ready computers for example), shows just how well an organisation that is organised and efficient can operate in extending its usual field of operations. BUT I would hate to see government throwing up its collective hands, admitting defeat and contracting out yet more of its basic responsibilities. Far better to get its act together and learn some invaluable lessons. There might be some lessons in all this for Wal-Mart to learn as well because there is still no way I would shop there unless they demonstrated some of these traits in their every day behaviour as well as their crisis management.

Alan Jennings
Guest
Alan Jennings
15 years 5 months ago

When one member of a community delivers benefits to the whole, the entire community needs to know what was done. WM has been a significant contributor to the community and has every right to gain as much positive publicity from these charitable acts as possible.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

WM got great PR for its direct aid to the victims. FEMA embarrassed itself by turning away some of WM’s trucks. In some cases, FEMA embarrassed itself by arriving well after WM. Rick’s suggestion of outsourcing aid by hiring WM and other retailers seems fine to me, since many retailers know how to react quickly and have the resources to do so. In the meantime, will the government use the same proven management techniques in the Gulf that it used to help Iraqi citizens after the war “ended”? It’s not too late to use Rick’s idea for outsourcing the Gulf recovery now. Or will we face domestic failure in the Gulf similar to the failure in Iraq?

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

When a hurricane forces you to lose your job on Main Street, you are out of luck. But if you work for Wal-Mart, they will place you in a store, where ever you end up. That is one of heck of an employee benefit.

Wal-Mart is like God. Sometimes we get mad at him over the little things but, in the end, we thank him after we see the big picture. Perhaps this helps put to rest all those petty issues we keep reading about.

I just heard from one of my clients who was trapped in his home until Thursday and left only with the clothes on his back. Luckily, he was able to buy clean clothes at 3am at Wal-Mart Supercenter as he evacuated to Texas

Kelly Ruschman
Guest
Kelly Ruschman
15 years 5 months ago

I agree with Rick. It would certainly make sense to contract with Wal-Mart to handle emergency planning because it is evident the Feds are clearly not up to the task. This is just another example where the private sector would most likely perform at a much higher level than civil servants.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 5 months ago

I, too, hope that they receive as much press for their generosity and quick response as they do for the negatives. Wal-Mart has a very strong base in the areas affected and has to have been hit very hard in their stores. I am particularly impressed by their support of their displaced employees, which can be a very difficult thing to do.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Underlying all the criticism being voiced about the Bush administration’s response to the crisis is the ideological argument concerning the role of big government: should the Federal government hand over more responsibility to local systems and the private sector or ramp up its own emergency services so it can be better prepared for these catastrophes?

The ability of the world’s most efficient retailer to step up so effectively is interesting in that respect. Should the Fed work out emergency plans with Wal-Mart in expectation of the next (inevitable) natural or man-made disaster? Hiring W-M to take care of things would undoubtedly save taxpayers millions and potentially save thousands of lives.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 5 months ago

A special thanks to Wal-Mart for all it’s doing! In this time of need may we all do what we can and a little bit more.

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

First of all – God bless anyone who helps out of genuine compassion and care. But we all know that when a significant external factor (be it natural like Katrina or man-made like a war or 9/11) impacts us we tend to unite and set aside grievances and disputes. That is – we unite until the factor has subsided or disappeared and then we go back to our self-destructive behavior, often with even more determination.

Wal-Mart people, corporate and otherwise, will unite around this cause but will pick up the old divisive agenda again once we’re all over the trauma.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 5 months ago

Nice effort by a company whose employees and stores have suffered as a result of the hurricane as well. Even though they are huge and very profitable, there was no mandate that they had to be this generous. It’s good to see the spirit of charitable giving and volunteerism is alive and well.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 5 months ago

Wal-Mart’s quick and effective response will certainly help the company; although I don’t believe it is enough to counter all of the gripes against it. Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, their efforts have only been minimally publicized, and, in too many cases, thwarted by the very organizations intended to help those in need.

This is a laudable effort. I do hope they get as much publicity for this as they have for the ways in which they’ve fallen short.

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