business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

So Walmart creates 10,000 minimum wage jobs. So maybe not all the jobs will be minimum wage, but I would hazard to guess 90%+. I’m not advocating we pay people more than what the skill set requires, but it is hardly bragging rights to say, “We’ve just created 9000+ jobs which will pay people around the federal poverty line, Hurray for us!” We might as well brag that we created 10,000 babysitting jobs. Until the workplace environment changes, we will continue to have huge income gaps.

Let’s review the workplace. (Your experience may vary.)

• Stockholders – Make money, give us money, make more money, give us more money!

• Company Loyalty – You got a paycheck. We can let you go at any time. We have to answer to Wall street and the Stockholders. We don’t need to offer pensions, we can let employees put their money in the stock market (insert here Russian roulette). In fact, if we, C- Execs make wrong/poor decisions, we can raid the funds we set aside for employees who are vested in the company.

• Employee Loyalty – Why should we be loyal? We received your message about  your loyalty to us loud and clear.
Cynical, maybe, but very close to the truth.

Until we can curtail the financial damage Stockholders and Wall Street are doing, companies will always “try” to play the balancing game but let’s face it, the power currently resides on their side. To make matters more complicated, we are those stockholders, with our 401k, investments, etc. We, then, have those in charge of these giant “funds” demanding more money from the companies we actually work for. (We all want our investments to grow don’t we?)  Less free cash for the company means less to spend on upgrades, investments (including people), R&D, and keeping the lights on. When cash is pouring out to Stockholders, debt, and interest payments, there isn’t a lot left for those “normal” people who actually make the company go. (Sorry C-execs, you may get the big bucks and have golden parachutes, but without those below you, you wouldn’t have a company.)

Then to add even more pain, investment groups purchase companies and then either kill the company and sell the assets or put some lipstick on the pig and then throw it back into the stock market so they can “make a nice return on their investment.” Our investments purchase these pigs and a new round begins. Again, who does this hurt? The average Joe’s and Jane’s.

Our society seems to be built on debt. People who try to live financially like a company eventually go bankrupt.  Take a look at how much debt our fortune 500 companies have. (Including stocks). It’s crazy, but we believe that building debt for companies is good, yet we somehow hope that economist’s magic will somehow fix these financial death plagues. Yes, Walmart created 10,000 jobs. I would have been more excited to hear they had paid off their debt and repurchased all their stock back and became a private company. A man can’t serve two masters, much less the 3.03 Billion shares of outstanding Walmart stock.

Regarding another story we had on MNB:

My mom told me the news about Anderson’s closing Sunday and I couldn’t believe it.  If you haven’t been, and can make it before they close, you should – particularly the one in Maumee, Ohio.  Perhaps I’m biased.  I grew up in Toledo and going to The Anderson’s was always such a special treat.  They maintained the essence of a general store in the 21st century.  The produce was always mouth-wateringly fresh, you could get home improvement materials (and in my experience there was always a knowledgeable, friendly employee to help) and I distinctly remember going with my grandpa where he would purchase his jeans, light bulbs and screws while his minivan got an oil change.  So maybe the sadness that comes with hearing of the Anderson’s closing is a bit of nostalgia.

In recent years, whenever my husband and I traveled to Toledo to visit, we always made a trip to The Anderson’s.  I know my parents shopped there quite a bit still.  The reader who initially wrote in about the stores closing is absolutely correct – the food is always top notch, they were one of the first retailers I saw to have a self-serve olive oil bar, the beer and wine selections were always amazing (especially the local choices), the smells in the food department would make your mouth water, they carry quality products (probably why my grandpa purchased his jeans there ;)) and to echo the other reader – they carry items you cannot find anywhere else.  The staff was always friendly and when I went they usually had every cash register open (instead of 3-4 out of 17) making the wait to check out minimal.

I am shocked to learn that these stores were losing money.  The Maumee store we would visit was always bustling.  I live in Cincinnati now and I’ve routinely mentioned to my husband that I wish The Anderson’s had expanded down here.  He believes the Maumee store was always busy because of the emotional connection within the community there – it’s been the local general store for 65 years – and that perhaps those emotions don’t translate to the other locations.  It could be that it was people’s “grandparents store” and so they haven’t given it a shot in the recent years, believing the store to be irrelevant.  For me though, it’s a place that is forever tied to afternoons off school, spent walking the aisles with Grandma and Grandpa and more recently a place that I could get amazing food (no matter what I was in the mood for they had something to satisfy), a great bottle of wine, an uplifting experience and a friendly, helpful face upon checkout.
KC's View: