Monday, February 2, 2009

Walmart FTW!

OK, I've read as much negative about Walmart as the next guy, and as a result was not a fan and don't shop there.

However, I read an interesting post in their defense (kinda) by Charles Platt, who is guest blogging over at BoingBoing. He recently opted to spend some time working at Walmart to see if his experience echoed that he'd read in Nickel & Dimed or heard elsewhere. It didn't:

The job was as dull as I expected, but I was stunned to discover how benign the workplace turned out to be. My supervisor was friendly, decent, and treated me as an equal. Wal-Mart allowed a liberal dress code. The company explained precisely what it expected from its employees, and adhered to this policy in every detail. I was unfailingly reminded to take paid rest breaks, and was also encouraged to take fully paid time, whenever I felt like it, to study topics such as job safety and customer relations via a series of well-produced interactive courses on computers in a room at the back of the store. Each successfully completed course added an increment to my hourly wage, a policy which Barbara Ehrenreich somehow forgot to mention in her book.

Interesting, but the kicker for me was this snippet (emphasis mine):
My standard equipment included a handheld bar-code scanner which revealed the in-store stock and nearest warehouse stock of every item on the shelves, and its profit margin. At the branch where I worked, all the lowest-level employees were allowed this information and were encouraged to make individual decisions about inventory. One of the secrets to Wal-Mart’s success is that it delegates many judgment calls to the sales-floor level, where employees know first-hand what sells, what doesn’t, and (most important) what customers are asking for.
In how many ways can I count the awesome?

First, educating employees on the margin made on each product is awesome. 

At a higher level though, is this not indicative of how they really treat employees? The trust and empower them. They may underpay, but this is a function of supply and demand. If you get past that, if they were really the abusive people-eating machine that people made them out to be, they wouldn't be someone that trusts and empowers employees to make decisions.

1 comment:

cbloom said...

"I was unfailingly reminded to take paid rest breaks, ..."

.. umm, I'm quite sure all this was a direct response to the several suits they have lost about labor law violations.

I wonder how long these policies have been in place.