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We received the following email from a member of the MNB community on the subject of the discrimination suit filed against Wal-Mart. That suit, which we reported on yesterday, includes more than 100 depositions that allege, among other things, that female managers were required to attend strip clubs with male colleagues on business trips, and that they had to take business meetings at Hooters. The testimony also charges that top male executives at Sam’s club stores “referred to female employees in weekly executive meetings as ‘little Janie Qs’ and ‘girls,’ even after a woman vice president complained.

“Can you really be surprised that Wal-Mart has a law suit like this? If you know Wal-Mart employees, or former Wal-Mart employees, you'll know that behavior like this is frequent and routine. No matter what kind of caring persona they may choose to portray in the TV ads, the organization does not embody common decency or treatment of employees, let along embrace diversity or open-mindedness. It is one of the most oppressive, discriminatory, and downright mean spirited companies in America.

“About 5-6 years ago I was recruited and ultimately offered the job of Director of Training for the entire organization. After all the interviews and hoops, the offer was extended. And then I dropped the bomb on them: I am gay and my partner of many years and I would be open and honest about our relationship. The person who offered me the job was speechless, floored, surprised, and devastated! After some stammering and stuttering, he rescinded the offer and told me that I was not in keeping with Wal-Mart's core values and beliefs. He stated that he knew he was legally within the law to discriminate on the basis of sexuality since there is no legal protection in Arkansas, nor Federal Law, which put sexual orientation as a protected job class. I told him that I knew that already (Duh!) but had wanted to see what the reaction would be if I had been qualified enough to prevail in the search. I think ultimately they filled the job from within.

“The gay employees of Wal-Mart are terrified of being discovered and fired. The harassment and hostility are open and unchecked if their "secret" is discovered. It is a sad, mean place to work. Furthermore, since we know what great changes Wal-Mart can bring about when they put force and pressure on entities, vendors, state, federal and local governments, etc., we discern that if they cared one whit about fair and open treatment of women, people of color, gays, lesbians, or any other group, the world of Arkansas would be changed, and ultimately, the country could be changed. If they can through their size and clout bring about the changes we have seen in vendor policies and procedures (look at P&G, Coke, etc) then they could bring about changes in social issues as well. But they don't bring about those changes because they do not support such issues and progress.

“The charges against them are true, I'm sure, even if it can't be proven in the courts. Get to know Wal-Mart employees (or ex-employees) and see for yourselves. Very few who are not white and "mainstream" as defined by Bentonville, stick around very long. They do not embody the ideals of America as I believe them to be.”

Thank you for writing. There’s nothing we can add to this.

MNB user Gary Breissinger continues the discussion about a possible Tesco acquisition of Ahold:

“There are a lot of reasons for Tesco to be interested in Ahold. Things like: the ability to enter the North American market on a cost effective, low risk basis (important if your aspiration is to be a global retailer); the opportunity to finally gain a presence in Western Europe; ability to add critical mass in Central and Eastern Europe; the ability to add supermarkets to an existing hypermarket base in SE Asia etc.

“In the past, purchase or merger discussions between these two encountered irreconcilable differences over who would lead the business. Now that (deposed CEO) Cees van der Hoeven is out of the picture, that wouldn't appear to be such an insurmountable issue.

“Defining a reasonable purchase price and determining whether you could spin off the money-losing Latin American operation and make sense out of the Ahold mess in Spain would appear to be the largest barriers.”

We got several responses to yesterday’s story about Wegmans opening a store in the Philadelphia suburbs. MNB user Rich Glass wrote:

As someone who lives in the Philly area, I have a few thoughts about this market, and Wegmans likely success. I believe they will be highly successful as long as they do their market research and locate in the right areas. This area can be especially price sensitive, and as long as they are in areas that are less sensitive they will do great. I can relate a story that may shed more light:

“While working for Philip Morris, I lived in Richmond, VA and enjoyed the experience of shopping at Ukrops. In fact, I couldn't understand why everyone from my realtor to the my son's teachers kept telling us we had to try Ukrops when we first moved in. My dad used to come and visit, and came back to the Philly area one time and asked the local managers at his Genuardi’s (back in the good Genuardi’s days) if they ever thought of implementing some of the things he saw at Ukrops. He was told that they tried a lot of them, but in this market people were not willing to pay a little extra for the added services and conveniences, so they couldn't afford to do them. Given that, I'd say Wegmans can be wildly successful here, but still should have their eyes open as they come in to the market.”

Which is pretty much true for every store in every market, we think. But worth pointing out.

Another MNB user wrote:

“My love affair with Wegmans happened just 5 or so years ago, as my job started taking me to Buffalo. They are everything you've heard and more. They are a professional group to call on, they have enough autonomy in the stores to give incentive to the local sales reps and they execute. Their stores are pure entertainment (except for the center) and they constantly challenge vendors to make the center of the stores as exciting as the perimeter. There are so few good regionals left and they are one of the best.”

We received the following email in response to our Starbucks piece yesterday:

“I had to laugh.

“You mention "there are places where Starbucks is identified (in much the same way McDonald's is) as a symbol of US cultural tyranny...". I have to tell you that here in Seattle, Starbucks has been viewed similar to McDonald's for a very different reason - not because of political reasons, but rather as a reaction to the other assertion made in your article regarding "variety and options". Starbucks is fondly known in the Seattle area as the "green arches".

“For several years now, local baristas and even many of drive-through espresso stands in the Northwest have been whipping up HIGHER QUALITY and BETTER VARIETY in coffee-based beverages than Starbucks, and they continue to do very well. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before these type of options catch up elsewhere - if there's a demand for it (higher quality & more variety) I wouldn't be too concerned.

Otherwise, if the market is content with the quality & variety of Starbucks, who cares?”

And finally, regarding our story yesterday about the Boston Globe piece, “Pass The Ketchup, Hold The Radiation?,” about food irradiation, we received the following email:

“If that's the headline the Globe used, they aren't doing anything to dispel consumer concerns (fears) about "a scary sounding product that has generated enormous consumer confusion". I'm no expert on the product, but I do know radiation ISN'T used to make the ground beef irradiated. I think the Globe does a disservice in their choice of words because many people won't read beyond the headline. Maybe the Globe clarified what irradiated ground beef really is in the body of the article? I don't know. That does little to help a situation; though, that was already confusing and fearful to the consumer and only exasperated by their (poor) choice of words.”

Which reinforces our point about the need for real education on this issue.
KC's View: