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Friday, February 17, 2006

NY Times Makes Wal Mart Look Good

The New York Times spent a lot of page space trying to rip Wal Mart's CEO H. Lee Scott today for some postings on "Lee's Garage", and intranet web portal for corporate employees to communicate with the CEO.

While they tried to make things look bad, by using one rather snippy response to thousands of questions, they not only failed, they actually make Scott look pretty good.

So how did the Times come across three years of Scott's postings on a restricted company portal? Easy, a disgruntled manager gave them to Wal Mart Watch, a group run by unions who are ticked about Wal Mart taking market share away from their grocery store workers.

The Times does itself no real favors on this article. First, they basically admit to being used as lackey's for Wal Mart Watch. Any idea that this piece started as a "human interest" article, and ended up going into some hurtful territory is thrown out in this paragraph.

Copies of Mr. Scott's postings covering two years were made available to The New York Times by Wal-Mart Watch, a group backed by unions and foundations that is pressing Wal-Mart to improve its wages and benefits. Wal-Mart Watch said it received the postings from a disgruntled manager. While the existence of the Web site and Mr. Scott's participation in it have been known, transcripts have never been made public before.
Secondly, they post a large number of questions and answers from the site, but when it comes to any of the negative ones, they only use the editors sysopsis, not the actual question or answer.

I'm pretty sure the reason behind that is if taken in full context the questions and answers might not seem nearly as bad as they do out of context. If I remember yellow journalism 101, they taught if you couldn't make your point using all the facts, leave out the stuff that contradicts you.

What they ended up printing though, looks like a lot of good management quotes from someone trying to keep his company competitive, his employees motivated, and reminding his managers of their jobs.

Last time I checked that is called leadership, I guess the editors at the Times can't recognize that trait. Sometimes leadership means saying things people don't want to hear, or that don't sound nice, but that doesn't make them untrue.

For example, while the Times paints it as a bad thing, Scott answered a question about unions blocking access to New York City and othe cities, this way:

"that way its members' employers" — meaning many Wal-Mart competitors — "can continue to charge extremely high prices for food and tolerate poor service."
I've chronicled here how much I save per week shopping for one person going to Super Wal Mart instead of my local union grocer. It's not a small amount of money, and I'm a middle class guy.

He also makes a very true, but unflattering comment about GM, in the context of the bashing Maryland and other states are giving them about health benefits.

At several points, Mr. Scott addressed criticisms that Wal-Mart health plan was too stingy toward its employees. He said that Wal-Mart's health plan "stacks up very, very competitively" with other retailers. In a knock at companies that provide more generous benefits, Mr. Scott wrote: "One of the things said about General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits."

Can disprove his statement about GM? They are the second largest provider of health benefits in the US behind the government. The comment isn't complimentary, but it is explanitory, which is what his forum is about. It's also very much on the mark when it comes to Wal Mart benefits when compared to other retailers.

Mr. Scott does have a response for the New York Times, however, it wasn't given to them. Instead, it was posted on Lee's Garage, and it was e-mailed to a bunch of bloggers who have written about Wal Mart in the past, myself included.

Why he chose us, instead of writing another Op Ed piece as he did in the Washington Post? I believe the tone of the Times Piece had something to do with it. You can see he isn't going to get a fair shake from them, so why not use alternative methods to get the message out.

Here's what he had to say today about the Times Article :

Well, we had been looking for ways to promote Lee’s Garage, and it looks like the New York Times has done that for us. The reporters take issue with my tone in some cases, but as you all know, with me, what you see is what you get. I will respectfully tell it like it is. I think the story ends on an important point, quoting my advice to an up-and-coming leader: “The first thing you can do is make sure you treat your people well, and understand that your associates are what will make you a success.” I truly believe that and think you can’t go wrong in this business if you live by that. Feel free to check out Lee’s Garage on the WIRE and see what you think.)
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(Note: I'm no less a lacky in this than the Times, as I got my info from Wal Mart. However, I'm not trying to hide an opinion piece as a news item; read my header if you doubt that this is opinion. And, I've always been very candid that I'm pro-Wal Mart)


Blogger KEvron said...

"Reasoned debate is so much more fun and enlightening than name calling and mudslinging."

it can be enlightening, given the participants are honest with themselves and their opponents, but the mudslinging can be great fun. the readers on mahndisa's blog seem to enjoy it a great deal.


1:18 AM  
Blogger asacan said...

I was going to write something about Wal-Mart, but when I see Kevronius's upside down flag, I can't help but comment.
This is a free country, and the you have the right to express yourself freely, but using the U.S. flag in that manner, when not a dire emergency (and there isn't, except in the Philippines), is offensive. Probably what you want to do. Well, it's working.

At any rate, I don't buy a lot from Wal-Mart. As a matter of fact, I prefer to shop at Target. Now, before anyone gets their panties in a knot, I've researched the claims that have been made against Target, and I've found, at least corporate, are mostly baseless. They do provide benefits to "non-traditionals", but they're a private organization and they're allowed to do that, no one's forcing them.

But it isn't Wal-Mart that I don't like...not really. It's mostly the clientel. Go ahead, call me a snob, I don't care. I just think that people should put on something decent before going out in public, maybe take a bath.

I also believe that competition is good, and Target and K-Mart provide that. I would hate the day that there are no competition for Wal-Mart. Besides, when comparing like-quality items between Target and Wal-Mart, at least in my location, the prices are very competitive. In addition, Target's staff is much more responsive than at Wal-Mart. Seems over the past several years, at no matter which Wal-Mart I've been to, Customer Service has fallen dramatically.

However, I do hate the unions, especially the service unions like UFCW. I believe that employers should have the right to exist without unions. I also believe that employees should be able to choose not to join (or pay for) unions.

Not horribly long ago, I read a peice by a former president of AFL-CIO stating that employees living in "Collective Bargaining" states earn, on average 16% more than in "Right-to-Work" states. It didn't take me long to realize that between union dues and higher state taxes (collective bargaining states, on average, have much higher state taxes), that not only was that 16% entirely erased, it worked to the disadvantage of the workers. Not to mention that the Cost of Living in collective bargaining states are much higher, meaning a much lower effective wage.

I don't shop them often, but long live Wal-Mart.

12:04 PM  
Blogger KEvron said...

"....using the U.S. flag in that manner, when not a dire emergency....is offensive."


"....(and there isn't, except in the Philippines)"



2:16 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

KEvron, it can be fun, but it gets old. After a few years of the "flame wars" on usenet I decided that it wasn't worth the effort.

Asa, Wal Mart makes no bones that your economic bracket isn't really their target demographic. They are (as stated in the Times article) looking to sell to the lower end of the socio-economic scale. So, that's what you see in there.

I also shop their competitors, but when I can comparison shop, and find that I'll keep a chunk of change in my pocket by going to Wal Mart, I do.

6:24 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Here is news about another NYT piece that (at least) started out as a "hit piece" about how Wal-Mart has fed news tips and leads to sympathetic bloggers.




The Times guy got scooped by the bloggers he was going to report on.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

I know he did, he called me twice last night about info in his story, because he was going to have to go to press with it earlier than he expected :)

7:45 PM  

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