Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Viva Walmart! Down with Duke!

I love Walmart. Sure enough, for its prices, but also because of the jobs it produces. You should have seen the opening week of the last Walmart here in Savannah: every employee was smiling. Many of the new employees had been looking for a job for a long time. I liked these smiles: I knew what they meant. I also liked the fact that Walmart carried the products of a nearby Alabama delicatessen. Their products were not sold here in summer because that small producer could not afford to buy refrigerated trucks. Now they got the strength of Walmart behind them. Good for them.
What I am less fond of is Walmart CEO Mike Duke. He kept the mentality of his mentors.
During the Cold War, bribery was a way of life, the cost of doing business abroad. I still remember how Queen Juliana of the Netherlands was led to abdicate after her husband accepted a million-dollar-bribe from the Lockheed Corporation. The minds were starting to change, not only in the US, but in many countries, realizing that paying bribes abroad was counter-productive. For Pete's sake, even the Russians signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention! Lobbying to water down our anti-bribery legislation is a sign of old age, and I'm polite about this (see details in the Washington Post).
The same Mike Duke, I heard, refused to follow the politics of McDonald who fights the terrible conditions met by pregnant pigs. There is no need to torture pigs, and the fight serves McDonald image. Burger King has similar pledges. See, the end of the Cold War: no bribery, cage free: signs of progress. Wake up, Walmart! Don't linger in past ideologies!

Nowadays, you need not only to sell cheap, you need an image. The image of Duke-Walmart is terrible.
Time for fresh air.

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