In Wal-Mart's Image
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Basic Information

September 11, 2009: Wal-Mart has engaged in business practices designed to exploit its employees from its very start. These included:

  • When the United States Congress introduced a $1.15 hourly minimum wage for businesses with annual sales above 250,000 dollars, the Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton split up his company into independent businesses which made less, and thus allowed him to only pay $0.50 per hour.
  • When a federal court ruled this to be a violation of the law, Sam Walton had to cut the full checks, but also threatened to fire anyone who would check them in.
  • Traditionally, men at Wal-Mart are the store managers and women are the store clerks - allegedly a clear case of gender discrimination.
  • It prohibits overtime pay and offers a health care plan that fewer than 50% of its employees opt to take.
  • Annual turnover of employees is currently 40%, though it was more than 70% in the late 1990s.

It can also be argued that the overall business practices and political influence of Wal-Mart strongly shaped the low-skilled labor market of the United States, depressing wages for the lower classes across the board. Furthermore, they played a part in the deindustrialization of the nation as well as boosted the exports of China which took over much of the required manufacturing business from American companies. Judging by its experiences elsewhere, Wal-Mart cannot thrive in a nation where prosperity is broadly shared, and it will do all it can to keep that from happening.

More pragmatically, it's worth pointing out that Wal-Mart has more or less followed the logical conclusions of free market economics - that, all other things being equal, the value of any given good is precisely what the customer is prepared to pay. Wal-Mart buy low on inputs - labour and goods alike - and sell low in places and at times that suit their customers … and if the going rate for unskilled labour is $0.50/h, then why pay more? If it's more than that … how come they can get staff? Of course, that's all real world thinking - and the shades of grey can easily be ignored for RPG use.



Game and Story Use

  • Wal-Mart makes a great template for an evil Cyberpunk Megacorp which everybody loves to hate.
    • And its founder Sam Walton makes a great template for a Corrupt Corporate Executive
    • Likewise, it illustrates the ability of a (new) media blackwash to transform a company into a hate-sink. Some, or all, of the noise quite possibly being astroturfed by their competition.
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