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Saturday, November 1, 2003

the evil empires, spotlight on walmart

i’ve often joked that ticketmaster is the third most-hated company in the world – after microsoft and the united states federal government. people like to pick the nits in that statement, but i use it to make a point… and sometimes the point is made (sometimes not 🙂 ).

there are evil companies in this world, and some of them grow to be evil empires. many of these are transient, especially in the technology business. sco is collecting a lot of hate these days. and sunncomm got a quick dose too. i’ve got a heaping spoonful for diebold. history is full of them, and there’s probably a very tight correlation between monopoly (literal or perceived) and the tendency to abuse customers and create the hate, but someone else is going to have to do that study.

sometimes, however, an evil company or evil empire manages to spin their image just enough to avoid getting too much negative attention. i think this is getting harder to do, but my favorite example – and my personal most-hated-company is none other than walmart. it’s an amazing study. walmart doesn’t get my business.

a little over a year ago, martin kuz wrote a piece for cleveland scene which was, for me, all the confirmation i needed.

martin kuz

In the last six years, judges have slapped the company with at least 75 sanctions for destroying, altering, and hiding evidence, according to documents filed in numerous suits against Wal-Mart across the country. It has racked up millions in court fines for destroying photos of accident scenes, denying it performed safety studies, and concealing company records.

At first blush, 75 violations amid thousands of cases seems an irrelevant percentage — except that the number appears to represent more sanctions than those of all other Fortune 500 companies combined.

say what you will about their business acumen, about the economic impact of the “walmartization” of america, about their bullying tactics, about their economic power or about anything this company does, good or bad. for me, this falls into the category of “repeat corporate offender” – and an incredibly harsh sanction is in order. obviously the penalties levied against walmart aren’t doing enough to change behavior. for a company this size, it’s just a line item in the budget.

here’s my little bit of light on walmart. it’s time to demand better.

posted by roj at 7:18 am