Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why I don't buy my kid toys at Wal-Mart

When Ben was home sick for a few days last week, he watched a lot of TV (because I'm a good parent!) and thus saw a lot of commercials. One of his favorite advertised items was a big green car that kids can drive on their spacious suburban lawns, and the car is a Wal-Mart exclusive (doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?). Every time the ad came on, he said he wanted to buy that car at Wal-Mart, and every time, I told him we don't shop at Wal-Mart (aside from the fact that we don't have room for a car that size and he wouldn't have a good place to ride in it, us being urbanites and all).

Why don't we shop at Wal-Mart? Because when I read this NYT article, my eyebrows were often arched sharply upward and my mouth was agape in response to what I was learning. Wal-Mart's executive VP for benefits, M. Susan Chambers, wrote a memo to the board of directors with her suggestions for ways to minimize benefit costs. Chambers had a lot of creative ideas to convey. Like adding physically strenuous work to every job description to keep those expensive unhealthy people from even applying for jobs. (Cashier? Excellent job for someone with limited mobility. Cashier who also is required to gather up carts? Those with a bad back, bad knees, or mobility problems need not apply.) I'm sure Wal-Mart could find a way to get around the Americans with Disabilities Act, but could they be bigger assholes?

As at most employers, people with more seniority get paid more than new employees in the same job. Many employers like to reward loyalty and minimize turnover. Wal-Mart's Chambers points out that someone with 7 years of experience costs the company 55% more than a new employee, but is no more productive a cog in the Wal-Mart machinery. Sacre bleu! At least, the NYT reports, "she stopped short of calling for efforts to push out more senior workers."

In the memo, Chambers did acknowledge that "our [health] coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance," and that 46% of the children of Wal-Mart employees are uninsured or on Medicaid.

How about that new health plan Wal-Mart ballyhooed this week, the one that costs the employee as little as $11 a month? Keep in mind that employees signed up for this plan could face $2,500 or more in annual out-of-pocket expenses, on an income of $17,500. But whatever plan the employees manage to afford, "The memo noted that 38 percent of Wal-Mart workers spent more than one-sixth of their Wal-Mart income on health care last year."

I do feel fortunate that my closest Wal-Mart is a lot farther than multiple Target stores and Costco, and that I can afford Target prices. Makes it a lot easier to be a pollitically correct shopper...

15 comments:

DoctorMama said...

I'm feeling sad because I recently read this: http://grabapple.net/entry/83
Tell me, do I have to avoid Target now too, or if I scratch the surface will I find that most places have an evil side and I might as well go wherever makes me happy?
Next will be Ikea, I fear.

Charlie said...

Ditto, DoctorMama. With crap like this going down at Target, I'm not sure I'm comfortable going there anymore either.

Pebon said...

Yeah....the Walmart heirs are worth a couple billion dollars apiece. Walmart is the largest company in the country and likely makes a pretty hefty profit. Of course they can't afford a little health care for their employees, that would just make too much sense.

Orange said...

"La la la la la I can't hear you." (Don't take my Target away from me. At least here in my blue city in a blue state, it's less likely that a Target pharmacist would pull that shit. And I don't use the Target pharmacy. Can I just boycott their pharmacy?

Wal-Mart's shareholders (including those heirs Pebon mentions) gotta have their earnings—can't have those profits slipping just to be more humane to the workers and their families. I just wish I had the storage space to go nuts at Costco, but I really can't buy eight rolls of paper towels or 24 rolls of TP at a time...

the nut said...

Uh, Target is far from pc and it goes deeper than denying a woman EC.

How about sweatshops in Mexico? I don't think they are as bad as Wal-Mart, but we didn't know Wal-Mart was this bad in the beginning either. Target also builds in more heavily populated areas with other stores attached. I don't think they try to corner a market.

Most, if not all, of the large corporations in America are corrupt. I'm tellin ya, read this book and it will change your mind forever. It's an easy read too, written for the common citizen without a lot of academic hyperbole.

I just read that appx 570 corporations were charged with some type of fraud in 2002: shrub and cheney's companies were 2 of them.

Charlie said...

Can I just boycott their pharmacy?

I was going to ask that question too.

Piece of Work said...

Yet another reason to stay away from Walmart. Though I too, cringe at the thought of giving up Target.

Bella Sultane said...

I'm pretty upset about the new news about Target, too. I wrote them a nasty note and in response got their form letter that included:

"Target has a policy that ensures a guest’s prescription for emergency contraception is filled, whether at Target or at a different pharmacy, in a timely and respectful manner. This policy meets the health care needs of our guests while respecting the diversity of our team members."

Eyeroll.

kathie said...

Depressing news abounds...Nut, I love your reference to the Shrub...I need to use that more...Disgusting and stupid is all I can say about the wal mart bennies info...i didn't have time to click on the target stuff...I can claim denial if I'm too busy, right?

JT said...

The thought of shopping at Wal-Mart makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

I adore Target. I actually switched my prescriptions to Target because I used to use Walgreens and their willingness to treat some of their pharmacists like shit while protecting those unwilling to provide EC really pissed me off. My friend Molly is a Target pharmacist (fired by Walgreens during her maternity leave; she sued them and won) and she is really pleased with how they treat employees.

Plus, diapers at Target are really well-priced.

the nut said...

It seems that Target's only wrong-doings are sweatshops (which I heard they are trying to fix - right) and now allowing their pharmacists to deny dispensing EC to women.

Wal-Mart is so bad on every single account. Ever.

So maybe we can choose the lesser of 2 evils?

Maine said...

The way the markets are going, we may not have a choice someday. Walmart, Target and the like are closing all alternatives out of the competition.

Soon, you'll have to shop there whether you like it or not. As of now? I just avoid them where I can.

fireangel said...

There is a (Super Sam's) WalMart in the "happy resort valley", a place where a Target is 1 hour away. I read the WalMart article in the New York Times and realize that Ms. Chambers is full of caca. I'm sure she's making a salary witih 6 fiugres. She has a stupid sense of what physical activity requirements are in a work area. She is ignorant and probably has had everything given to her. She is a fake. This is an example of corporate America taking advantage of its employees. This behavior is handed down from the very top of authority.

Krupskaya said...

We don't shop at Wal-Mart for union reasons and we've made a big point of talking about that with our kids.

My son John came home one day and said sadly, "Devon shops at Wal-Mart." We had to have a big talk about how he didn't have to pick his friends depending on whether their parents shopped at Wal-Mart or not.

Blue Cross of California said...

I hope walmart will work to provide health coverage for employees as they deserve health benefits.