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February 08, 2009

Undercover at Wal-Mart

I am an unabashed lover of Wal-Mart, especially the Supercenters. A place I can buy a tube of toothpaste without having to get a mortgage first? I'm there.

So was Charles Platt, a writer doing an undercover stint at a Supercenter in Arizona:

A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.

Why? Gradually the answer became clear. Imagine that you are young and relatively unskilled, lacking academic qualifications. Which would you prefer: standing behind the register at a local gas station, or doing the same thing in the most aggressively successful retailer in the world, where ruthless expansion is a way of life, creating a constant demand for people to fill low-level managerial positions? A future at Wal-Mart may sound a less-than-stellar prospect, but it's a whole lot better than no future at all.

In addition, despite its huge size, the corporation turned out to have an eerie resemblance to a Silicon Valley startup. There was the same gung-ho spirit, same lack of dogma, same lax dress code, same informality - and same interest in owning a piece of the company. All of my coworkers accepted the offer to buy Wal-Mart stock by setting aside $2 of every paycheck.

As the man says, read the whole thing. Not that much of it will be new for AOSHQ readers, but there is quite a bit about basic economics. Though it isn't mentioned, the spectre of EFCA hangs over the whole thing.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:16 PM

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