Anti-Walmart Groups Start Playing Nice?

The New York Times says that the two most enthusiastic anti-Walmart groups, Wal-MartWatch and WakeUpWal-Mart are starting to take a more subtle approach when it comes to protesting the big blue box.

“It’s fair to say we have been less in-your-face,” said David Nassar, the executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, which had hammered the company in stinging newspaper advertisements and provocative reports with titles like “Shameless: How Wal-Mart Bullies Its Way Into Communities Across America.”

The mellowing of the anti-Wal-Mart movement is an unexpected development for the retailer, whose public image and share price were bruised by the well-financed union campaigns. On Friday, when the chain holds its shareholder meeting in Arkansas, investors are likely to applaud Wal-Mart for fending off these detractors.

“It definitely has helped the company,” a retail analyst at Deutsche Bank, Bill Dreher, said. “Those attacks hurt Wal-Mart.”

Apparently, the groups think they can catch more flies with honey — and have started to draw up proposals for heath plans and are offering other free advice to Walmart. The NYT says Andrew L. Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union, which provides the majority of financing to Wal-Mart Watch, has been meeting with CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. to talk “heath care crisis” since 2006.

Weirder still, Walmart itself has been cooling down the counter attacks…

Over the last several months, the company has shut down a campaign-style war room set up in 2005 to do battle with Wal-Mart Watch and another group, WakeUpWalMart.com, which is financed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

And Wal-Mart has disbanded an advocacy group, called Working Families for Wal-Mart, intended to rally support for the company (and serve as a counterbalance to the anti-Wal-Mart groups). A company spokesman would not comment for this article.

Is this peace in our time?

Wal-Mart’s Detractors Come In From the Cold [NYT]
(Photo: yarnzombie )

Comments

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  1. 7thton says:

    I like Mal-Mart.

  2. 7thton says:

    Lol, Wal-Mart too!

  3. mc101 says:

    Haven’t shopped there for years…never will again…

  4. ARPRINCE says:

    In other words…. there was a pay-off?

  5. boomerang86 says:

    The war is over, Wal-Mart persisted and won over cost conscious consumers.

    Besides, the unions need every dollar this year for the upcoming elections. Something’s got to give.

  6. Angryrider says:

    It is peace, peace by complacency. Have we wussied out in our fights to end evil powers?

  7. katylostherart says:

    i never liked that phrase “catch more flies with honey” because honestly you’ll catch more flies with a pile of dogshit. so far, the way corporations in america go, a dogshit metaphor is closer to reality than the honey one.

  8. Ein2015 says:

    Now if only Wal-Mart would hire competent workers…

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    As anyone notice that every Wal-Mart seems to smell the same when you first walk in, no matter where it is located?

  10. morganlh85 says:

    I was in a Walmart the other day and noticed that in the freezer section they had sensors so the lights in the freezers were off until you approached them. I thought that was really cool.

    Also it was Walmart that forced all the detergent companies to stop adding water to their detergent and use the concentrated formulas and smaller bottles.

    I’m glad the started taking these steps. They really understand that environmental measures can help the environment AND company’s bottom line. I hope other retailers will follow suit. Walmart has its issues (poor healthcare, dim employees, etc.) but it’s something.

  11. so exactly how many Zeros did wal-mart have to print on the check(s) for these guys to “play nice”?

  12. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    Wal-Mart is ok, but Target has way more milfs.

  13. darksunfox says:

    In the age of $4.00/gal gas, it was a war that couldn’t be won.

  14. IrisMR says:

    Walmart’s fine. It’s a store like any other.

  15. Gann says:

    @morganlh85: Those motion-activated lights and the daylighting they’re doing in most of their new stores are going a long way towards winning me over. (they’ve got a long way to go still)

  16. crescentia says:

    I don’t shop there and never will. I would rather go dumpster diving if I am broke than give them a dollar.

  17. Kounji says:

    @Gann:

    Wal-Mart did a fine job trying to pull in cost conscious middle class folk in with the store design move.

  18. IrisMR says:

    @crescentia: Your loss. If I want something cheap that I can’t find anywhere else I know I’ll find it there.

  19. nedzeppelin says:

    wal-mart should have been organizing and mobilizing campaigns criticizing and railing against unions

  20. Juggernaut says:

    @morganlh85: “Also it was Walmart that forced all the detergent companies to stop adding water to their detergent and use the concentrated formulas and smaller bottles.”
    Not to rain on your parade or anything but they reasons behind those two changes were
    with regard to concentrates buyers don’t notice and use the same amounts
    with regard to smaller bottles it allows them to stock more product.

  21. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @morganlh85: The new Wal-Mart in a KC suburb is supposedly the most environmentally friendly one ever built.

    Check out articles by Stephen Pruitt to learn about the effectiveness/financial impact of union sponsored boycotts.

  22. acasto says:

    @dry-roasted-peanuts: My sentiments exactly. Whenever I go to Target in the middle of a weekday, I can just imagine those two guys from American Pie peeking down an isle chanting, “milf! milf! milf!”.

  23. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @Juggernaut: So there was more than one incentive? Big deal.

  24. gqcarrick says:

    Unfortunately for me, living in the country I am pretty limited, a lot of times its Wallymart or nothing. And thanks to the amazing government in NY I can’t even get tax relief online anymore! oh well, atleast someone is fighting walmart, and a bunch of towns in Western NY have said no to walmart many times when they have asked to put stores in the town.

  25. evslin says:

    I’ve seen more jailbait than milfs at my local Super Target. Then again I guess being across the street from the high school might have something to do with that.

    Wait, what was this thread about again?

  26. giggitygoo says:

    I’ve never understood why a blog called “The Consumerist” has so many Wal-Mart detractors. Whatever your politics and views on unionization, is there any doubt that Wal-Mart has been nothing but good for the consumer? Sure they sell lots of cheap things from China, but why is that worse than other stores that sell that same cheap stuff from China at higher prices? Is it Wal-Mart’s fault that globalization, the elimination of trade barriers, and China’s artificial devaluing of their currency means that we get more stuff from China? Why does anyone believe that this trend would end without Wal-Mart?

    Also, no other organization has done more to stop product companies from overcharging for their product. Some economists credit them as being a major factor in the low inflation rate over the past 15 years, particularly for food. (Of course that rate is now increasing, but historically speaking inflation in the US has been very low for many years) Look at cereal – Before Wal-Mart Kelloggs and General Mills convinced consumers that cheap corn flakes are worth $5 a box. Thankfully Wal-Mart has forced that price down to a more consumer-friendly $2.50-3.00. In addition, these lower prices disproportionally help the poor afford necessities like food, clothes, and prescription drugs.

    I understand the points made about small retail shops going out of business, and the historically bad treatment of employees; but strictly from a “consumerist” angle – isn’t Wal-Mart a good thing? Isn’t it smarter and better for everyone to push them to fix their flaws rather than spewing mouth-foaming hatred of everything they stand for?

  27. JasonKeiderling says:

    I love Walmart. I remember what it used to be like before Walmart. Whatever I wanted to buy (a table, TV, Air conditioner, jeans, detergent, anything) I could guess at and check three differet stores that I thought might sell that item cheapest and find a huge price disparity between them all. Now I can just go to Walmart and buy the darn thing knowing it’s probably 40% cheaper than the next cheapest place in town. What part of that am I not supposed to like? What part of that is anti-consumer? Please tell me.

  28. crescentia says:

    @IrisMR: @IrisMR:
    I’m not missing cheaply made goods. Thanks.

  29. CPC24 says:

    I just love hearing all the elitists bash Wal-Mart. Their main argument always centers around having to actually see lower-class people in person. Oh no, I might see some people who live in a trailer park, some Mexicans, or God forbid, a Negro!

  30. milk says:

    How is Wal-Mart environmentally friendly when all their useless, cheap products are being shipped from China?

  31. SacraBos says:

    @morganlh85: If you think they are doing it for the environment, you’re deluded. They do it for pure greed and money. Turning off the lights saves on electric costs. Smaller detergent bottles reduce per unit shipping costs, plus maximizes the profitability of their shelf space. Wal-Mart is one of those places where they will spend $1.00 to save $1.01. At their scale, all those pennies add up to big profits.

    Being good for the environment, while a good PR thing, is incidental.

  32. spinachdip says:

    @boomerang86: There’s a difference between cost-conscious and price-conscious. Wal-Mart won over the latter, not the former.

  33. Raziya says:

    @CPC24: OMG! *flee!*

    Seriously, I don’t think I am a redneck or anything like that, but I’ve done my fair share of shopping at Wal-Mart. I get my contacts there because it’s 22 bucks for a box of 6 that lasts me for 3 months (TY for inventing contact lenses that I can leave in my eyes and not take out!). The people there have generally been friendly to us and we can buy the cheap Chinese crap we want cheaper there than other places. Times are trying – it’s hard to be so elitist about something when there are people who can’t afford to live in their homes. Maybe that is what those groups finally realized? Who knows.

  34. It just means Wal-Mart bought off the Anti-Wal-Mart groups with low cost, low quality oil changes and cheap pressboard furniture.

  35. @Raziya: It’s got nothing to do with elitism, it’s got to do with 1) poor quality products, 2) horrible customer service, 3) borderline abusive employment policies, etc.

    Yeah, I’d pay more (and do) to shop somewhere else, but those three are the big problems I have with WM.

  36. Snarkysnake says:

    @giggitygoo:

    As much as it pains me to admit it, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    These WalMart bashers just need something , a “them” to get their undies in a bunch about. If it wasn’t WalMart it would be Kmart ,Home Depot…You get the idea.

    The fact is,WalMart is the school yard bully that you bring to the fight to do battle with the other school yard bullies (like Proctor & Gamble,Kellogs,Tyson etc…)that would have you for lunch if they didn’t have an entity bigger than themselves to discipline them.In other words,If WalMart didn’t exist,it would have to be invented.

    But there will always be the flat earth ,tinfoil hat nutjobs out there that ,instead of just shopping somewhere else,want to moralize to you about how Wally doesn’t provide the benefits that the nutjobs think that the Wallyworkers should have.It will continue until…Until the next better idea comes along and they start bashing them and demanding stuff for people that stay an average of 90 days in their jobs.

  37. RokMartian says:

    What a strange concept: Instead of complaining, they are actually suggesting possible solutions?

    That’s just crazy.

  38. drjayphd says:

    @SacraBos: And yet, they end up doing the right thing anyways. Funny how that works.

  39. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @SacraBos: Sometimes things have positive unintended consquences. Embrace it when it happens.

  40. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @Snarkysnake:
    /slow clap

  41. chilled says:

    I agree about the milfs at Target,but the economy has shifted some of them to Wally..I hate Wally as well,but they still have the best deals,so I’ll keep on shopping there,because I’m CHEAP!!

  42. thufir_hawat says:

    @SacraBos:
    I am not sure I see a difference. Even presuming the motiviation is greed, or PR, or whatever ill-motive you want to attach, isn’t the end result of motion sensors and cfls the consumption of less energy? Don’t smaller packages mean fewer trucks on the road? Doesn’t less packaging fall into the rubric of recycle, reduce, and re-use? Don’t we all benefit as a result?

  43. @giggitygoo: Maybe because consumerists cry everyday for customer service. That thing you used to get in mom and pop shops that were replaced by big box stores and their minimum-wage drones.

  44. nudger says:

    This is a good thing, given the enormous potential leverage Wal-Mart has relative to consumers, communities, the environment and society. Remember what happened to most of the European Green Parties. They split into “fundi” and “realist” factions, with the “realists” moving into actual negotiations with the powers that be. In the end, the “realists” had a much more positive and significant effect on the consumer psyche than the “fundis”.

  45. Farquar says:

    @SacraBos:

    I’m not sure I understand why this is bad. All companies make their decisions over how it affects the bottom line. Wal-Mart determined that they can save money by using less electricity. That’s good, right?

    I don’t run the water in my sink when I brush my teeth or shave. When I leave a room I turn the light off. I do these things because I hope it might have some minor positive affect on my utility bills. That this might also, in some tiny way, be environmentally sound is a bonus. I’m not sure that this makes me evil. It makes me normal.

  46. morganlh85 says:

    @Juggernaut: And?
    Does ANY company really make environmentally-friendly moves to benefit the environment? Of course not. 99% of the time they won’t do it unless it benefits them monetarily too.

  47. morganlh85 says:

    @SacraBos: Again, AND? That’s what all companies do. If it’s incidental, oh well. It’s still better for the environment. Using a Brita pitcher is incidentally better than buying bottled water, and Brita is cashing in on that fact. Does that mean I shouldn’t buy Brita pitchers?

  48. morganlh85 says:

    Hit submit too soon…

    But anyways, the only way these days to convince big companies to do right by the environment is to show them how it benefits them as well. It will be a long time before many companies voluntarily do good for the environment when it has no other benefit to them.

  49. courtneywoah says:

    This likely means that Walmart paid them off. The sad part is, these groups will still claim to be anti-Walmart and working for the good of the consumer, while pocketing Walmart dollars and working for them behind the scenes. These groups are called “greenwashing” or “astroturf”. It’s a huge win for a big corporation to get groups like these working for them, you can bet they will brag about this in their future meetings.

  50. dragonfire81 says:

    The economic situation being what it is, people need to stretch their money more and for a lot of them, that means getting more stuff at wal-mart.

    Sad but true.

  51. nedzeppelin says:

    you can’t pay off a union.
    when you give them some money, they’ll just demand more.

    the union leaders need to make money somehow, without holding real jobs

  52. milqey says:

    Wal-Mart did a great job in reducing the prices of consumer goods at the expense of outsourcing to other countries where slave wages, deplorable working conditions, and 16 hour workdays are the norm. Wal-Mart says they inspect the factories but the factories know when the inspectors are coming and put on a great big production for them in which hazards are swept away and workers are told what to say. Many jobs were lost in the North American manufacturing industry and many local businesses were shut down. These jobs were replaced by Wal-Mart jobs that pay $8.00/hour and avoid full-time workers whenever possible (to keep running costs down). Did you think the shareholders of vendors take a hit when Wal-Mart demands lower prices? The shit flows downhill.

    Economist point of view: Yay for Wal-Mart!

    Sociologist point of view: Fucking disaster!

  53. thelushie says:

    @CPC24: @

    href=”#c6048260″>morganlh85: Companies make money so it makes sense to show them how going green will be beneficial to business.

    WakeupWalmart and the like come off as emotional basket cases who have way too much time on their hands. It might be good for them to be less in your face and hysterical. Then maybe those who cherish reason and facts might actually take them seriously.

  54. thelushie says:

    CPC24, I meant to say that I agree with you. It is hilarious watching rich people (especially new rich who are typically also white trash), walk around Walmart with a look of disgust on their faces. Alot of anti-Walmart people don’t have a grasp on reality. There are alot of individuals in this world who can’t afford to shop at the “local corner market”. And what they don’t realize is that their “local corner market” also pays their employees minimum wage and doesn’t offer them many, if any, benefits. I think this beckoning for a “local downtown where everyone knows your name” is incredibly naive.

  55. Mr. Gunn says:

    courtneywoah: I’m with you on this one. Peace by backroom negotiation, more like it.

  56. LINIS says:

    @courtneywoah: Yes, this means that Walmart DEFINITELY paid off these groups. We know this because everything Walmart does is inherently evil. And I totally agree that it’s a huge win for Walmart to have gotten these groups to work for them – in fact, I bet Walmart created them in the first place so they could create a scenario where they could all of a sudden listen to interest groups and look like good guys! Then they’re going to use the dollars that pour in to start a war in Iran, just so their executives can laugh about it at board meetings! And after they finish laughing so hard, they’ll go out on the town and club baby seals! Of course, to do this they’ll have to pay off animal rights and environmental groups so that they can own them too!

    You may want to stop smoking the hippie lettuce so you stop thinking everything is a damn conspiracy.

  57. CPC24 says:

    @thelushie: Thanks. I love seeing the people who’ve never been anywhere but Whole Foods, Costco, or Publix step into Wal-mart. It’s like they’re from another planet. They’d probably faint if they ever went into Aldi or Dollar General.

  58. Brunette Bookworm says:

    I don’t shop at Wal-mart anymore. I used to, but I decided I would rather shop at a local grocery than get my groceries at Wal-mart. The local grocery doesn’t even cost much more and I know that they do pay their employees better wages. I worked at Wal-mart for a brief period when I was out of work. I would go back to workign at the McD’s I worked at in college than at Wal-mart. They paid the same but treated their employees better. Less discrimination against women at McD’s, too.

    I realize not everyone can afford to go to local places. However, I would ask how a company like Aldi’s can do things so that their prices are cheaper (and so their quality is better than Wal-mart on some things) but afford to pay their people good wages and give them benefits such as paid holidays, vacation and insurance. Why aren’t more companies looking to that model than to Wal-mart? Aldi’s is much cheaper than Wal-mart.

  59. nedzeppelin says:

    low cost stores often sell products near or at their expiration dates… at least that’s how the low cost store near my college did it, i noticed.

    what kind of benefits exactly should a bag boy “deserve”?

    in all my years of menial labor i wasn’t getting paid holidays, vacation, and insurance. i wasn’t even working regular hours. but it was money and i had no sense of entitlement so i was happy…

  60. @darksunfox: Exactly.

  61. David_Dawg says:

    @AlteredBeast: Having made four quick trips into local Wal-Marts across four states I noticed the exact same thing.

  62. newfenoix says:

    @giggitygoo: I agree. I don’t like Wal Mart but, they sell what I need and want. After working 10 to 12 hours a day, I am not about to drive all over the DFW metroplex to find what I want. I challenge the Wal Mart bashers to come up with a cheaper place to buy what the average, everyday working person needs to survive.

    As for the “local” market situation, let’s have a reality check. This is 2008, not 1908. Things have changed. The old, moldy corner market is a rapidly becoming a thing of the past and I thank God that they are. I grew up in a small southern town and that is all that we had and they were awful.

  63. courtneywoah says:

    @LINIS- Hey you don’t have to agree with me, but don’t be a jerk about it

    also, companies actually do start fake grassroots groups in order to trick consumers into believing they are concerned about important issues such as water, health, etc, an example of which is the National Smokers Alliance (created for Phillip Morris by a PR company) which trumps smoking as a right, Vets for Freedom (a well funded pro war group) works on behalf of George W. Bush, and Farmers for Clean Air and Water (funded by the major agricultural companies that is working to be exempt from the Superfund law and other as well as other atrocities). These are just a few of the front groups or astroturf companies that are funded by big corporations pretending to act on behalf of the people. What is most disturbing to me is the fake language they use to trick people into thinking they are something they aren’t.

    Anyways, I have to get back to my hippie-lettuce! Good night! :)

  64. thrillwill says:

    I’d just like to say that the store that fixes my weedeater is a quaint local shop.
    And it’s full of complete wankers and has some of the worst customer service I’ve ever seen.

    So to some of us out here in the sticks Walmart was a Godsend.

  65. Dakine says:

    Wal-mart is turning the world into slaves. Their workers, their communities, their customers. It’s already happened and you can’t even see it.

    How do you think it’s possible that you’re wearing a .23 cent sweater? Chinese slavery, that’s how. Wal-mart employees on welfare, that’s how. 24 hour propaganda and union busting…. that’s how.

    Time to wake up people. This company OWNS you.