Friday, March 30, 2007

I Make It Rain

Strap on your Compton hat for this crazy amazing Jeffrey Goldberg piece on Wal-Mart.

How great is Goldberg? You can drop him into Kurdistan to report on terrorists or Arkansas to report on the world's largest retailer and he gets the goods either way:

It became clear to me in Bentonville that Wal-Mart’s senior executives had been tightly scripted. When I talked with John Menzer, a company vice-chairman, a spokeswoman named Sarah Clark, my official escort there, told me that the conversation would be limited to the company’s new Jobs and Opportunity Zones concept, which is designed to help smooth the arrival of new stores in urban areas. (A company source told me that the Zones idea was intended by Edelman as a public-relations maneuver to soften Wal-Mart’s image among minority communities; the entire budget for the program is five hundred thousand dollars over two years.) Menzer, a slender man with a thin smile, explained the company’s attraction to underemployed inner-city residents, saying, “One of the biggest opportunities a person has at Wal-Mart is to be part of this growth company. There are always opportunities for promotion, learning, and education, and people know they can build a career here.”

When I asked about the “open availability” policy, Clark interrupted, while Menzer stared at me. “I can certainly take that one,” Clark said. “I’ll make a note of that. We’ll talk about that later. We don’t have ‘open availability.’ ” Menzer continued as if the question had not been asked. “Now we’re expanding outside our four walls to invest in the community, so let me add that in as another step we’re taking,” he said. (Sometime later, Clark suggested that I interview an employee about flexible scheduling, and she provided the name and number of one who would talk to me: Latoya Machato, a cashier at a Texas Supercenter. I called the store and asked for Machato, but was told that “cashiers can’t come to the phone during work.” I called later and was told that Machato could speak to me on her break, but would not be allowed to call long-distance from a company phone. I asked Clark if Machato could talk to me after her shift, but Clark said that that would be impossible, because the store would have to put her “on the clock,” and thus file the paperwork to get her paid an extra hour’s wage.)

Go read it all. It only gets better.

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