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We had a story yesterday in which we reported about how Wal-Mart was battling with a group of Jesuit priests in Guelph, Ontario, over the proposed construction of a 125,000 square foot supercenter.

The priests - led by the ironically named Father Jim Profit – objected to the store because it was adjacent to property that they had used to develop a sense of spirituality and solitude for almost a century.

However, the local zoning board ruled that Wal-Mart’s application for a rezoning of the property should be allowed, which will pave the way for the store to be built.

Our comment: We’ve always believed that there is a special place in hell for people who mess with the Jesuits. (We say that being the product of a Jesuit education at the wonderful Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.) Wal-Mart may have crossed a line here that it should have respected.

Ironically, this story ran as Wal-Mart was running a national advertising campaign designed to provide what CEO Lee Scott called an “unfiltered” view of the company’s labor policies, which have come under attack from numerous quarters.

One MNB user questioned our view of the situation:

What a diplomatic way to tell Wal-Mart to go to hell.

You still don't have a clue.

We’re not often described as diplomatic, so we’ll take this as a compliment.

One MNB user wrote:

I, too, am the product of a Jesuit education, Bellarmine College Prep, San Jose. I am certain the Jesuits would be ashamed to admit it as I doubt I am the best example of a Jesuit education.

That aside, I agree with you. I think a line has been crossed.

But I think Wal-Mart crossed it long ago. Despite the muscle it puts into its publicity machine to convince people what a benign and benevolent company it is, pushing priests around sounds more like the Wal-Mart of today.

Perhaps Mr. Walton did respect a community's wishes and would not build where not wanted. I see no evidence of that now. And when you are the world's largest company, it is not as if you do not have choices. The truth is Wal-Mart wants what it wants when it wants it, and it will aggressively pursue getting it if denied.

And, yes, I work for one of those annoying grocery companies that Wal-Mart is now trying to paint as the bad guys. But this isn't about Wal-Mart or my company. It is about priests still having a place to pray in peace. There is precious little left sacred in this world. It would have been a good thing to have kept this one place.

Another MNB user wrote:

Having lived in Guelph twice during the last decade, and seen the political struggle that split the city on this issue I can only shake my head.

It would seem to me that the citizens have turned on the merchants of this vibrant ‘little’ city, and in doing so themselves. The site that has been chosen is nothing short of offensive; wedged between two cemeteries and an organic farm, not to mention the Jesuit retreat. The proponents lobbied that the Super Center is necessary to keep the competitive environment ‘honest’ and that sales were being lost to the power centers in neighbouring Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. The site in question is already congested with commercial and commuter traffic at peak periods, and will only worsen.

I wonder how many $$ Wal-Mart will pony up for the needed road construction, allowances, and traffic lights? Not too many is my guess, and how many $$ worth of tax concessions will they wring out of the City of Guelph in the next decade as the hometown retail casualties pile up. Then who will have to pay more in taxes to maintain base services? The same people who wanted Wal-Mart so desperately in order to keep prices low. Could they not have stopped in to a Wal-Mart that they pass on their commute either from the East or West along the 401? The area is book ended by Sam’s Clubs and Wal-Marts presently.

And as far as Wal-Mart fighting so hard for that exact site - arrogance, nothing short of arrogance. Why not build in the south-end of Guelph amidst all of the new residential construction? That‚s right, because the impending Loblaws Real Canadian Superstore would eat their lunch. Nope, the proposed Woodlawn and Hwy. 6 site is nothing more than a decade old pissing contest. A flex of the mighty Bentonville Behemoth’s muscle.

Interestingly enough, Wal-Mart Canada was recently ranked the 8th Best Employer in Canada up from 14th the previous year in the Report on Business Magazine published monthly by the Globe and Mail.

Some reasons they stand out and I quote, “Profit sharing and share-purchase plans. Merit pay for strong performers. Grass Roots program for staff feedback.”

Who in the hell voted on that? Was it really the store level employees, some 35,000 plus of them - the ones who clerk at $7.85/hr.?

However it would appear that in their quest to maintain expectations for growth they have picked off most of the low hanging fruit, and these turf battles be they in small town Ontario or the Big Apple will take a toll. Did we ever learn more about the reasons for the recent dismissal of several executives? It would appear that was kept out of the spin cycle.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that Wal-Mart has a place in the retail industry and they serve as the benchmark standard for distribution efficiency, and from time to time I even visit them. When I am in the mood for a laugh - at the tracks of empty shelves, shop worn fixtures, checkout and customer service queues that stretch well back in to the sales area, and floors littered with discarded merchandise.

Ahhh, progress. Buy now, pay later!!

And yet another MNB user wrote:

As for Wal-Mart, they should watch Pet Semetery to get an idea of what happens when you mess with Sacred grounds.

Or Poltergeist.

MNB user Jamie Bradburn wrote:

The battle over Wal-Mart in Guelph has been a lengthy one, stretching back nearly a decade. Despite every obstacle thrown in their way by previous city councils (the current one is more amenable), the Jesuits and community activists, this has been one fight the company has never backed down from...even though there are large stores nearby in Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. One wonders if through all of their nasty battles in the Royal City, Wal-Mart is determined to build a store at any cost.

It should also be noted that the zoning board involved in the decision, the Ontario Municipal Board, has come under increasing fire over the past few years for usually bowing to the demands of developers in controversial projects such as this, leading to many calls for weakening or abolishing it.

As for the new ad campaign by Wal-Mart, one MNB user wrote:

I think Wal-Mart made a mistake mentioning that workers make twice minimum wage. The only person who will be impressed by that is someone who is unskilled, unemployed, and no other prospects for employment. Most likely the average person who reads opinion pages, USA Today, etc is probably not going to be very impressed by any company that brags they pay $10 an hour - or whatever is double minimum wage.

They should have found a way to tactfully mention that they provide employment for people who otherwise would be considered unemployable. Their health insurance plan is excellent. Most of us would kill to get a cheap plan like that. Their critics claim most employees can't afford the insurance. But the critics never mention all the other retail and fast food companies that operate basically the same way.

We mentioned casually yesterday that we might have to conduct a contest to see what the Official Beer of MNB World Headquarters should be.

Well, we got a couple of nomination.

One MNB user wrote:

Why don’t you check out the Sam Adams Black Lager I read about somewhere else today and let us know? All in the interests of full and accurate reporting, of course.

Of course. Gives us a goal for the weekend.

And another MNB user suggested the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York.

A brewery and the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Yikes. Talk about dying and going to heaven.
KC's View: