Wal-Mart: The Happiest Place on Earth

Science fiction writer and former Wired man Charles Platt goes grittily undercover at an Arizona Wal-Mart and finds that, as crappy jobs go, it's pretty darn great. He wrote of his experience at length in the New York Post. (The piece is from a few months back, but only came to my attention today. Its relevance in the modern job market has only increased in the intervening time.)

Platt "came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for," for everything from the level of autonomy (and yes, wages) available to its workers to the service it provides its customers. (He blames angry unions for its bad reputation.) His account isn't likely to make you want to quit your current job and rush to Sam's arms. But it might make you think it's not at all a bad option if you happen not to have a job.

For Reason magazine on the various wars on Wal-Mart, see Julian Sanchez from March 2006, Michael Moynihan from January 2008, and Nick Gillespie's alas still relevant May 1995 classic.

[Hat tip: Wirkman Virkkala]

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  • SpongePaul||

    while i dont personally like wal mart, i prefer to spend my money with local companies if at all possible, i do not have a problem with them, and will go there if i need hunting/fishing supplies. They seem to operate on a free market principle, with no union and thats a good thing. i vote with my dollar, you should as well, thats how free markets work, no gov. intervention needed.

  • alan||

    I still have the set of books Platt did of interviews with science fiction writers. One of those was with Phillip Dick where he first went public with his mental illness.
    That set also introduced me to William Burroughs. Hey, I was a ten year old kid at the time, so, no I had not heard of him until I read the Platt book.

    Burroughs was living in a bunker like dwelling in New York, playing with firearms, and talking at lentgh about writing cock eyed paste ups of detective stories. It sounded like the life.

  • ||

    I have a relative employed at a Wal-mart distribution center. It is a great job. The pay, for an unskilled laborer, is the same rate the union gets for an avionics tech at the army base next door. Cheap insurance, 401k, employee stock option, sick day accruement, generous holiday and vacations. A well run, well regulated workplace with very little employee/management politics.

  • LoonBoy||

    "But it might make you think it's not at all a bad option if you happen not to have a job."

    Not if your lazy like Mr Cynical.

  • ||

    A good article that debunks some (all?) of the slander directed at Wal-Mart from utopian dreaming fools who despise success in a free market.

    Thanks for the link,

  • LoonBoy||

    "A well run, well regulated workplace with very little employee/management politics."

    This is why we need card check.

  • ||

    He was guest blogging at boingboing when this came out, and was hounded off the site for it. Not a friendly or tolerant bunch if you happen to question some of their socio-economic assumptions, or if you express any skepticism about climate change ...

  • ||

    Hit & Run's Greatest Hits: "There's Safety In An Union"

  • ||

    Ah, the days of "Joe." Up there with his thread jacking to harangue Episiarch about "anarchists."

  • freeforall232||

    I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart when I became aware the company was influencing city governments to use eminent domain in order to acquire property for their stores.

    http://www.reclaimdemocracy.org/independent_business/walmart_eminent_domain.html

    http://walmartwatch.com/press/releases/wal_mart_plays_both_sides_of_the_eminent_domain_fence/

  • ||

    In case anyone wants to see what dbcooper is talking about.

    It's an amazing, almost textbook example of what it means to argue in bad faith, something joe did all the time...

    And it reminds me of why I miss Neu Mejican so much. (Yes, he's not totally gone, but it's still not the same.)

  • ||

    Wow, were those threads just a few months ago? Time flies. And one forgets just how much of a mendacious asshole joe was.

  • Jonas||

    I worked at a Walmart the summer following my sophomore year of college, and I found that it was a surprisingly pleasant place to work that paid better than many previous summer jobs. I wouldn't rush out to start a lifelong career at Walmart, but there are some men and women who have worked for more than twenty years at the one I worked at, so it can't be all bad. I enjoyed it, to the extent that one can enjoy being a cashier.

  • ||

    Ew. Thanks for the reminder. I take it back, joe. You can stay gone.

  • ||

    The police are experts at controling a crowd once they decide it needs to be controlled. They are not experts on whether a certain situation is dangerous, or what the likely behavior of people during a rush like that is.

    Wow. Just... wow. And to think he was serious.

  • ||

    I have known several people who worked at WalMart, and they all say the same thing: If you show any interest and initiative, and are reasonable smart, you will be noticed, rewarded, and promoted.

  • Paul||

    I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart when I became aware the company was influencing city governments to use eminent domain in order to acquire property for their stores.

    Folks at DailyKos thought this was a good thing.

  • ||

    On a lighter note...

    Serenity Through Haiku: Surviving the Obama Years

    If this is run by someone from Hit & Run, please speak up.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    man, j**'s departure deeply affected the psyche 'round here, didn't it?

  • Paul||

    man, j**'s departure deeply affected the psyche 'round here, didn't it?

    who?

  • ||

    Serenity Through Haiku: Surviving the Obama Years

    It worked! I am much more serene now.

    Sug, if one of your haiku gets posted there, be sure to link, plz.

  • ||

    "Remember when I had that searing cock pain? Sure glad that's over" is not really nostalgia, TAO.

  • ||

    I have a friend at Wal-Mart corporate. He loves the company.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    SugarFree - so it's like the vets who always talk about the war, eh?

  • Fascitis Necrotizante||

    Oh that ridiculous WalMart trampling thread. From back in my lurking days, I remember them well...

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "so it's like the vets who always talk about the war, eh?"

    It was hell back in the days of Joe, most of us barely made it out alive.

  • ||

    Yes, TAO. We talk about him to exorcise not invoke.

  • ||

    It's like group therapy for Post-Traumatic Joe Disorder.

    I've a friend who works for Wal*Mart's Faded Glory brand. She's enjoyed a fabulous career.

  • ||

    Speaking of which, will ObamaHealth cover our therapy sessions?

  • Frank||

    I bought tires at Wal-Mart and saved a hundred bucks over CostCo prices. I had just got a pink slip for my teaching job and needed to reduce costs. Wal-Mart's groceries are often 50% lower for the same item sold in the New Seasons in my neighborhood. (For instance, a loaf of Oroweat bread costs $4.50 at the natural food store and only $2.00 at Wal-Mart.) While I've found another teaching job at a charter school, I've taken a 30% pay cut and plan on doing more shopping at the suburban Wal-Mart Super Center near my work.

    All the Wal-Mart bashers can bite it. They have no fundamental understanding of economics; they're often liberal urban elite who relish looking down on the working class poor who educate their children, fix their cars, or serve their meals.

  • alan||

    Wow, how did I miss that golden nugget of thread jacking that joe pooped out?

    It doesn't reflect very well on us that the former God Emperor of Hit'n'Run whose presense adorned the ultimate end of all paths was this guy.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I want our city to get one o' them sweet NY Wal*Marts where they have those cart-sized escalators.

    What if Wal*Mart started an "urban-oriented", differently-named store for cities? That make take the edge off of the liberal-bashing. you could name it something mysterious or Buddhist or something and get the hipsters on board.

    Like "Serenity" or "Karma"...

  • alan||

    I meant that guy, and not this guy. The day I'm made leader is the day we are all fucked.

  • Fascitis Necrotizante||

    All the people I know who hate Wal-Mart (source of much of my wardrobe!) won't shut up about how much they love Target.

    Because Wal-Mart is a huge, big box chain that rapes the land and terminates Moms and Pops execution-style with a bullet in the back of the brain, and peddles cheap Chinese crap to SUV owning philistines, etc... and yeah I guess Target does that sure, but their stuff is upmarket!

  • alan||

    What if Wal*Mart started an "urban-oriented", differently-named store for cities? That make take the edge off of the liberal-bashing. you could name it something mysterious or Buddhist or something and get the hipsters on board.

    They could hire the surly assholes and clueless waifs that got screened out when applying for Wal-Mart. The liberals would love the place.

  • Seward||

    Russ Roberts just did an interview of this gentleman at EconTalk.

  • snob||

    Wallyworld might be a greast place to work, but it's a miserable place to shop. Great prices, but a 20 minute wait in a 2 person line at the phsrmacy? Zero regard for patient privacy by corporate. No "wait here for patient privacy" signs. Just body mash up to the pharmacy counter and we can all listen in on easchother's consultations. No thanks. Should have made some nasty jokes about contageous pussy sores.

    The customer base makes me want to improve my financial situation asap just so I don't have to compare myself to the wretched masses. This elitist doesn't like driving to the bad part of town to save a few bucks when target is in a nice part of town with only moderately higher prices, and a prettier color. Red > Blue

  • ||

    Welcome to Costco, I love you.

  • ||

    Tan and red suck the life out of me. I've only been to Target once, when I was desperately looking for a cheap softball glove, and I felt like I was going to have a seizure surrounded by that demonic color scheme.

    Maybe it was the outgassing of arrogance coming off the regular customers, I don't know.

  • Chad||

    Fascitis Necrotizante | June 19, 2009, 1:56pm | #

    Because Wal-Mart is a huge, big box chain that rapes the land and terminates Moms and Pops execution-style with a bullet in the back of the brain, and peddles cheap Chinese crap to SUV owning philistines, etc... and yeah I guess Target does that sure, but their stuff is upmarket!


    I very much enjoyed your interpretation of my thoughts...except I don't buy much from Target, either.

  • ||

    I don't know why, but I always get really creeped out when I end up in a walmart for whatever reason.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    because you're a little girl?

  • Fascitis Necrotizante||

    I don't buy much from Target, either.

    Too bad. They've got great beach towels.

  • Winona Ryder||

    I don't buy much from Target, either.

    Me, either.

  • ||

    Fascitis, the local walmart has a clearance every fall on nice thick beach towels. Perfect for bath towels. Three bucks a towel. We get a dozen every year and use em in the house.

  • ||

    Wow.
    I got my B.S. in Economics, so I'm somewhat aware of the subject. And, I'm Libertarian, so I don't favor trying to stop Walmart from operating as it does, and going where ever it can make a profit.
    Having said thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat,............
    Just my experince, but, I worked in 2, and, in both employee morale was through the floor.Management was comprised of assholes, born and bred, who had zero respect for their subordinates. They were robbed blind. And (again, just my experience), ALMOST everyone I've ever talked to who work/ed there, hate the place with a passion. They've been sued for violating their own "don't work off the clock" policies. In short? Capitalism? YAY! Walmart? BURN, BABY, BURN!

  • ||

    And, BTW, their prices have gotten progreesively worse, since the founder, "Mr. Sam" died. Not that Target's prices are any better.

  • JB||

    He was guest blogging at boingboing when this came out, and was hounded off the site for it.

    Yeah, they whined and whined about how much he hurt their vaginas. BoingBoing often has items of interest, but it's run by a bunch of fascistic leftists and the commenters aren't much better. Group-think tards.

  • mark||

    I remember reading that Wal-Mart was responsible for 1/4 of productivity growth during the 90's. They invested in enough IT to allow for "cross-docking", where a trailer unloads goods from a warehouse and picks up excess inventory to be dropped at another store. Used to be that trailers would just leave the store empty. That change probably did more to save carbon emissions than all the Priuses on the road ever could.

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