Loving Wal-Mart is Cool...Trust Me.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart.      

But they're good at what they do - damn good.

Sure, they may not sit atop the opinion polls as of late, but the folks at Wal-mart know how to run a business. Depending on who you talk to, Wal-mart hovers somewhere around a 60-75% general approval rating - but those numbers don't factor in the recent media nightmare associated with the Debbie Shank lawsuit. Wal-Mart learned the hard way that suing a former employee with brain-damage over medical coverage is not the best way to win a popularity contest.

A quick google search yields countless websites dedicated to the defamation of Wal-Mart - check out Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-up Wal-Mart!, and the always classy Wal-Mart Blows! for some pleasure-reading. Or, if you have any questions about why Wal-Mart is the worse for America than No Child Left Behind, just ask any college student - it's actually cool to hate Wal-Mart when you're in college...so much for the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.

But corporations like Wal-Mart will always be the subject of hyper-liberal criticism, regardless of how much money they pump into non-profits ($402 million) and green initiatives ($500 million) every year.

Everyone is too busy whining about Wal-Mart to notice Exxon Mobil stealing the shirts off our backs.

Exxon recorded the largest profits in history last year ($40.6 billion), shattering the previous record of 39.5 billion set by:


A year earlier.

I'm not a math major but,

a) Exxon gave $79 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2006 (compared to $39.5 billion in profits)

b) Wal-Mart gave $402 million to U.S.-based non-profits in 2007 (compared to 4.1 billion in profits)

c) 79m : 39.5b vs. 402m : 4.1b = Wal-Mart aint so bad after all.

But it's always good to have a healthy cynicism of big business - Wal-Mart's quest for public approval will ensure that more and more money goes to local communities.

But now, the moral of the story -

Wal-Mart is a well-oiled business machine. Without a doubt.

Its distribution network is arguably the most sophisticated in the world. Algorithms remove any human error associated with ordering and replenishing stock, while strategically placed distribution centers and varying store formats guarantee efficiency and protect against cannibalism. Whoa.

We decided to grill some burgers at the Bradley house tonight. But unfortunately, we were out of propane.

My dad gave a list of about 4 or 5 gas stations where I could swap the tank for a full one.

Every single gas station (and Hannaford) was out of propane. Apparently, grilling is popular when it's nice out. One clerk (at the Exxon station, ironically enough) told me that I was the "twenty-fifth guy to come in and ask."

Wal-Mart was the only place with propane in stock.

Think it was an accident that Wal-Mart stocked up on propane as soon as the weather got warmer?

Nope. Neither do I.

Hit Me.


Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Dave,

You'd have a difficult time tagging Rep. Paul Gillmore (R-Ohio) as a source of hyper-liberal criticism.


Jeff Hess

Anonymous said...

Having lived the four years prior to this one as a "token conservative" of sorts, I often got tied in as a presumed Wal-Mart supporter regardless of my actual beliefs. What I learned from that experience is that evenhanded dealings with subjects that are controversial within a limited environment (i.e., Wal-Mart in college discussions) are important and I think you did that well here. You stuck to your assignment (evaluating the behavioral-predictive marketing of Wal-Mart) and the results were insightful.

For contrast, in a future post I'd be interested to see your evaluation of an upstart company with relatively small market powers. For example: http://leoindustries.books.officelive.com/default.aspx

Paxton said...


You raise some good points about Wal-Mart. As a professional philanthropist (of sorts) I know all too well Exxon's view towards corporate responsibility (or lack thereof). I am not especially fond of Wal-Mart namely for environmental reasons (catagory busting big box development is wildly destructive), I will say that they have a good program called "Acres for America" that is an attempt to offset their massive footprint (their smallest store takes up 5 acres, without the parking lot). If a Wal-Mart were to move out of an area, what could possible take up that much retail space?

What I think you missed out upon, and maybe it is out of the scope of this blog, but, do we want to use economics solely as a measure of what is good? Your criticism of Exxon is duly noted, but expand your view a little bit, how interrelated is low density automobile dependent business and development and Exxon's profit margin? Perhaps not on the same level, but the success of both organizations is due in many ways to government subsidies and tax benefits.

I think that you did a good job with this post, it's always good to keep the smug in check and for your topic you presented an interesting and important argument about economic success and corporate reponsibility.

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