Friday, August 25, 2006


Everyone Picks on Wal-Mart

Poor Wal-Mart! They just can't please everyone. An article in the Los Angeles Times for Friday, August 25, describes the reactions to a decision by Wal-Mart management to
conduct workshops for gay and lesbian business owners on how to break into the Wal-Mart supplier ranks ....

According to the article, Wal-Mart
is joining the corporate advisory council of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. But not all of its usual supporters — nor some gay activists — welcomed the announcement.

Members of the American Family Association of Tupelo, Mississippi, have decided to stop shopping at Wal-Mart because the firm has shifted away from a "pro-family" policy. Wal-Mart has been trying to widen its appeal beyond it's base in the rural South. It carries products of interest to a wide spectrum of groups who live in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. It has been trying to attract people who are favorable to environmental groups, unions, and people in various homosexual and bisexual relationships as customers. It has been more "relaxed" in the kinds of products offered for sale. On the other hand, it has acquiesced to complaints from the AFA and has stopped selling racy magazines and in 2002 it removed a pregnant Barbie Doll from its inventory because it was thought that the doll might encourage teen-age pregnancy. The doll wore a wedding ring.
Wal-Mart's attempts to appeal to different interest groups might be more palatable to Wall Street than some other changes that critics demand, [Professor] Lichtenstein of UC Santa Barbara said. "It's easier to open their arms to the enormously divergent aspects of American cultural lifestyle," he said. "It's cheaper and easier than trying to satisfy their critics who are looking at their wage and health-benefit policies."

Now let me reveal my own bias, or my addiction to what my friend H calls "group-think." I think that Wal-Mart's wage and benefit policies toward its employees are abysmal. As the nation's largest retailer, these policies set a bad example for other retail firms that must compete with Wal-Mart. I am appalled that the AFA, an organization based in the tenets of the Christian religion, would support the firm with no objection to its wage and benefit policies but turn against it because of a pregnant Barbie Doll and some racy magazines, along with a decision to add gay and lesbian firms to its list of suppliers.
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