If Walmart Paid its 1.4 Million U.S. Workers a Living Wage, it Would Result in Almost No Pain for the Average Customer
December 14, 2011
By Joshua Holland
“I try never to shop at Wal-Mart unless I need something really quickly. The minute I walk into the store, I am immediately depressed. I get in to get out – as fast as possible. Here is an interesting article though about Wal-Mart paying its people better wages. Would you mind paying a tad bit more at the checkout – less than 50 cents per shopping trip – if it meant the workers could earn a halfway decent wage? I know I wouldn’t mind.” –Chris Davis KTRN
A study released this week found that if the nation’s largest low-wage employer, Walmart, were to pay its 1.4 million U.S. workers a living wage of at least $12 per hour and pass every single penny of the costs onto consumers, the average Walmart customer would pay just 46 cents more per shopping trip, or around $12 extra dollars each year.
Consider that the next time you hear some corporate mouthpiece warning of massive job losses if some minimally progressive policy were enacted. You never see them arguing on the cable news shows that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Walmart’s or McDonald’s bottom lines; it’s always about the jobs that will be destroyed. According to the ubiquitous spin, large corporations, the embodiments of American-style capitalism, are so vulnerable to the meddling of no-nothing bureaucrats that any government intervention into the “free market” drives corporations away to sunnier locales or threatens their very existence. However well intentioned, it all ends up costing workers their jobs.
But the new study, conducted by Ken Jacobs and Dave Graham-Squire at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and Stephanie Luce at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, suggests that low-wage employers could pay their workers a wage that would afford them a dignified existence without threatening their profitability.
Paying a fair wage would only result in a price hike of around 1 percent for Walmart shoppers. The researchers note that the increase would be “well below Walmart’s estimated savings to consumers” – in other words, the big-box retailer could continue to offer “low prices” without impoverishing their workers. The study’s authors noted that the 1 percent price hike was the “most extreme estimate, as portions of the raise could be absorbed through other mechanisms, including increased productivity or lower profit margins.”
November 28, 2011
“There are two issues here. People need to calm down over Black Friday. It’s not worth it. And second, the cops need to back off. Yes, they are crazy shoppers, but is pepper spray really necessary?” –KTRN
Black Friday, the biggest U.S. shopping day, has taken unfortunate turns in some communities as harried shoppers seek out bargains — with at least two shootings and a pepper-spray incident that injured 20 shoppers.
Two men were shot and injured in armed robberies outside separate Wal-Mart stores, one in northern California and the other in South Carolina.
The pepper-spray incident happened at a Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart shortly after the store opened Thursday evening as shoppers prowled the aisles for discounts. Children were among those hurt by the woman’s pepper spray, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“This was customer-versus-customer shopping rage,” Los Angeles police Lt. Abel Parga said, according to the newspaper.
“She was competitive shopping.”
Police were looking for the woman believed to be behind the pepper-spraying, but haven’t been able to get a reliable description of her, the Times said.
Police in Fayetteville, N.C., were also searching for two suspects after gunshots rang out at a local mall early Friday. And a man was facing charges in upstate New York after two women were injured in a fight at a Wal-Mart.
But most of the crowds that gathered to hunt for Black Friday bargains were peaceful, with hundreds of people lining up at stores such as Best Buy and Target, which opened at midnight ET following the U.S. Thanksgiving.
November 28, 2011
“Watch how the cops in the video don’t even seem to care that the man is practically bleeding to death. They took him down so hard for allegedly shoplifting on Black Friday – it turns out he wasn’t shoplifting at all. Why would anyone be a part of Black Friday? The mobs of people grabbing bargains is beyond lame. Talk about a bunch of sheeple.” –KTRN
Black Friday turned into Red Friday for Jerald Newman, 54, who was out on Thanksgiving evening shopping with his grandson. Consumers prepped themselves for long lines in retail shops, but Newman didn’t think he’d have to brave for a police assault.
Newman was shopping at a Wal-Mart store in Buckeye, Arizona late Thursday night along with thousands of other Americans who congregate to celebrate consumerism in a post-holiday bargain hunting binge called Black Friday. Newman says he became overwhelmed by the crowds at the Wal-Mart he was shopping at, so he attempted to lift his grandkid into the air to avoid a mob of violent shoppers. To free his hands, Newman says he placed a video game into his waistband and tried to launch the youngster out of the crowd. Police suspected the man of shoplifting, however, and took him down. Hard.
Cell phone cameras began rolling shortly after a police officer swept the legs of Newman, dropping the man to the ground, where he promptly hit the concrete floor of the shopping center face-first. As he laid motionless and silent, cops mounted the man while a pool of blood began to spill out into the store.
“Get that on camera. See how fucked up that is,” a bystander is heard yelling at the cops.
David Chadd, 24 of Las Vegas, caught the whole thing on his iPhone 4S. He tells RT that hundreds of people were in the entertainment section of Wal-Mart for games that the store only kept six copies of apiece.
“People were getting trampled,” says Chadd.
“You would have thought there was a cure for cancer in this box,” shopper Skyler Stone adds to a local Fox affiliate. “I mean people were literally going insane.”
November 9, 2011
By Julie Appleby and Sarah Varney
“No need to go to a hospital when there is Wal-Mart. Hey, why not? After you’re done getting a colonoscopy, you can buy an air rifle.” –KTRN
Wal-Mart wants to be your doctor.
The nation’s largest retailer is planning to offer medical services ranging from the management of diabetes to HIV infections, NPR and Kaiser Health News have learned.
In the same week in late October that Wal-Mart said it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for partners to help it “dramatically … lower the cost of healthcare … by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.”
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl confirmed the proposal. She declined to elaborate on specifics, calling it simply an effort to determine “strategic next steps.”
The 14-page request, which you can read here, asks firms to spell out their expertise in a wide variety of areas, including managing and monitoring patients with chronic, costly health conditions. Partners are to be selected in January.
Analysts said Wal-Mart is likely positioning itself to boost store traffic, possibly by expanding the number of its in-store medical clinics and the services they offer.
The move would also capitalize on growing demand for primary care in 2014, when the federal health law fully kicks in and millions more Americans are expected to have government or private health insurance.
“We have a massive primary care problem that will be made worse by health reform,” says Ian Morrison, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based health-care consultant. “Anyone who has a plausible idea on how to solve this should be allowed to play.”
In-store medical clinics, such as those offered by Wal-Mart and other retailers, could also be players in another effort in the health law: collaborations between doctors and hospitals to streamline care and lower costs.
Such collaborations, known as accountable care organizations, might contract with in-store medical clinics, says Paul Howard, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He has studied retail clinics, some of which have recently expanded to offer services beyond simple tests and vaccinations, such as helping monitor patients with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Wal-Mart’s request goes even further, asking possible partners to provide information on how they would oversee patients with complicated chronic conditions, including asthma, HIV, arthritis, depression and sleep apnea.
August 25th, 2011
By: Seth Abromavitch
Late Friday afternoon, an employee of the Whole Foods Market in Toronto sent this epic resignation letter to the entire company. It’s an alternatingly amusing, enlightening, and occasionally infuriating read—but a good read, nonetheless.
The letter begins with a point-by-point evisceration of the grocery chain’s carefully calibrated image as an earth-and-body-friendly, organic foods paradise. Likening the chain to “a faux hippy Wal-Mart,” our disgruntled bulk foods buyer accuses the company of constantly mistreating and underpaying their employees. (Like Wal-Mart and Target, this corporate retailer is staunchly anti-union, though stores do offer American employees affordable health care.)
But for every compelling point our writer makes, there’s one that hurts his credibility. For example, on the subject of promptness, he writes, “Oh, you actually think being 20 minutes late matters?” Yes, actually, I do. Then the employee gets deeply personal, calling out individual co-workers by name, and devotes a paragraph to each in which he details exactly what he thinks their problem is. It’s all utterly uncalled for, but also pretty hilarious.
So yeah, he’s a dick, but you could probably have figured that with his choice of opening quote — or his choice to open with a quote at all. Here’s the letter. All names have been redacted, and certain boring passages about wholesale prune purchasing have been omitted for your own good. And I’ll throw this out to Whole Foods employees — is there a quinoa of truth to what he’s saying? Email me.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Dear Whole Foods Market,
My experience at Whole Foods was like an increasingly sped up fall down a really long hill. That got rockier with every metre. And eventually, just really spiky … With fire, acid and Nickleback music. I was hired about five or six years ago. I appreciated and respected what the company said it’s philosophies were at that time. The “core values” essentially. However, it didn’t take long to realize what complete and utter bullshit they are:
- Oh, you don’t recycle properly? (Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, you throw out enough food to feed a lot of hungry university students. (Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, you’re asking me to put latex gloves on the sales floor so customers can throw a pair out for every handful of gummy bears they take? (Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, you’ve installed massive television screens all over the store, sucking up energy and polluting the environment with tacky advertisements. (Caring about our communities and our environment, Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you waste an absurd amount of energy, ink and paper in your offices for useless bureaucratic nonsense. (Caring about our communities and our environment, Supporting team member happiness and excellence, )
- Oh, you just write off 10-20% of the product that you buy for your bulk department because the bins look nice. (Caring about our communities and our environment).
- Oh, you sometimes intentionally order too much just to guarantee a full shelf, knowing full well the product will most likely be thrown out? (Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, you don’t actually audit or evaluate each product you sell? (Caring about our communities and our environment, We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available)
- Oh, you force team members to come in to work, on their day off, once a month, at 7 in the morning, knowing a lot of them live an hour away and the TTC isn’t completely running that early in the morning and then force feed them useless updates on the company and embarrassingly artificial pep talks ([Redacted] once compared Whole Foods Market to religion… had to throw that in there. That was definitely a “Did she really just say that moment.”)? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence, Caring about our communities and our environment)/
- Oh, you buy poorly made, ugly t-shirts for your employees that will just be thrown in the trash and pretend they’re gifts when they’re really just advertising tools? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence, Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, the food here is really quite awful on average? Almost everything that prepared foods makes is terrible. The pizza used to be pretty good but the slices have shrunk, the toppings are sparser and it’s usually extremely overcooked. The sandwiches are the stuff of nightmares. (It’s amazing what advertising can make people think. It can even trick their senses.) (We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available)
- Oh, you let some customers abuse your employees and then actually reward the customers for their behaviour and then trample on the integrity and honour of your abused employees? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you practice discrimination by offering “healthier” employees better discounts? And you think having different rules for new smoker employees versus old smoker employees is a good idea? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you purchase products from Israel (Or any distant country) if they’re slightly cheaper than local alternatives? (Caring about our communities and our environment)
- Oh, you’ve somehow created the worst computer program I’ve ever used to run your entire buying system? IRMA is some Windows 95 era stuff, guys. I could design a significantly better interface in 30 minutes on a pad of paper. I know several students who could create a superior program in their spare time. Was someone actually hired to create that thing? Was it the Realplayer dudes? Even Captain Picard couldn’t facepalm hard enough to express the amount of failure in that… that, thing… (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you push employees into greater responsibilities without compensation? Often having them essentially do all the work of a higher position without the pay? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you ambush employee’s using two managers when you want to write someone up? No warning. No representation. All reasons and excuses fall on deaf ears. (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you’d rather attempt to create some sort of fake “culture” with signs and forced meeting than let it happen naturally by letting employees socialize lightly as they work? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you like to manage “systems” instead of people? You don’t hold critical thinking and discretion in high regard? You encourage blindly following rules? I.e., no recourse in challenging write ups. Employees given cold shoulder when they attempt anything like this. (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you want us to politely call and let you know if we’ll be late… but you’ll still write us up when we arrive? Kind of a dick move, guys. (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you actually think being 20 minutes late matters? You know Whole Foods Market is just a grocery store, right? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
- Oh, you don’t believe inflation exists? Cost of living raises aren’t given here? (Supporting team member happiness and excellence)
I notice a trend… Honestly, I could go on and on and fill out the details but since most people will just dismiss this email I should probably not put too much effort into it. I should have kept a blog…
Now the employees have lost a lot of their former power and the store is being sucked into some centralized monster. Quality is being thrown out in favour of the people at the top having to do a little less work. Competition is being destroyed and you’re not even pushing that many healthy products. Every second endcap is potato chips or pop or some sort of salt filled snack (Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education). A lot of the stuff in Whole Body doesn’t even work or has absolutely no credible evidence to back any claims up. You’re kind a faux hippy Wal-Mart now. Great. Job.
How you haven’t been fired by now is a massive mystery to, not just me, but many people. You probably belong in a psychiatric ward. If you didn’t have such a constant negative impact on everyone around you I might just feel sorry for you. BUT, you’ve hurt too many people. You create a hostile work environment with your flashes of insane anger and passive (I hesitate to use the word passive…) aggressive behavior. Please, just leave and piss all over the patio at [REDACTED]‘s again. Maybe [REDACTED] will help this time. Her childish, two-faced personality suits you quite well. The fact that you still have a job is also a massive failure by your department’s leaders as well. I’d be ashamed of being such push-overs who refuse to support good people if I were them. Quite ashamed.
I don’t think you could calm down enough and become a happy, tolerable person if you were to do yoga in a hot spring while high on ecstasy. Daily. For the rest of your life. Just wouldn’t happen. I haven’t met a single person working under you or who has worked under you who doesn’t loath the way you treat people. Your job doesn’t matter AT ALL. Get over it, relax and start treating people with a shred of respect. Chances are, you’ll improve a lot of lives. Possibly even your own. I do have a suspicion that you’re a sociopath though. Especially now, after seeing your reaction to you-know-who’s hospital visit. If that is the case, this was futile. May I suggest some acting classes? You’re not very good at pretending to be a complete, emotional, sincere human being.
You win a lot of awards in my book. Best at being a chauvinist. Least likely to realize he’s about to walk into someone. Just another sign that shows how inconsiderate and egocentric you are. Or, if you do realize you’re plowing through people… well, I won’t get into that… Best at ruining the entire meat department vicinity by blasting terrible music. Do you ever think about the people around you? By the way, how did you manage to spit on the back hallway’s floor with your head so far up your ass? I guess I can at least forgive you for never learning employee’s names because of that. It’s probably difficult to hear up there.
For the love of god, learn to respect women. You have no idea how insulting and aggravating it is to be around someone who is so condescending to all the women you work with. Stop calling them “mamma” don’t refer to them as “beautiful”… for christs sake, just keep all pet names off the table. You are NOT complimenting women, you are being open about not knowing knowing their names, and lazy enough to not read a name-tag. Lazy, or you are just that self centered? You have no clue. Take notice of people around you. If you are dumping work on them without real communication we are going to think you are a dick. Take the holiday table for example. You have nothing to do with it, take credit for it and can barely remember the people who run it so smoothly. Who do you think you are?
You confuse the hell out of me. Sometimes you seem like a reasonable person and then sometimes you refuse to support your employees and in some cases even treat them quite terribly. Unfortunately, you’ve been hanging out mostly in Terrible Person territory lately. You’re not welcome there! [REDACTED] owns it. You show little to no support for your team members and turn everything into a boy’s club. You rant and bitch and moan to the wrong people, because it always get back to the people you rant and bitch and moan about. Quit rolling your eyes and let people speak. You might actually like and understand more of your employees this way. Respect your employees and the precious time that they are giving up to work for you. Perhaps take some time yourself and relearn the core values you are supposed to hold so dear. Stop taking your personal life out on everyone and have some compassion for the team members you disregard so much.
Your dot idea was a really, really stupid idea. Try to learn how an operation works before trying to “fix” it. All of your suggestions so far have been outdated, time consuming, poorly thought out nonsense. You aren’t impressing anyone or increasing your chances of moving up in the company with these terrible attempts at seeming proactive and full of “ideas.” You’re just frustrating to work with. Also, I think you should stand a little further back from people when you talk to them.
We get it, we get it. You go to the gym. Nobody is impressed. In fact we all just laugh at your inferiority complex.
Stop being such a cowardly weiner, hiding behind your emails and that awful hallway grin. Try communicating with people under you. Face to face when it’s possible. If you’re overworked you need help. Especially if your lack of time is affecting other people’s jobs and the store/company.
Dear [REDACTED]/[REDACTED]/Anyone else who visits our store,
Do you guys realize that the store NEVER looks as good as it does when you arrive? When word spreads that you’re coming to inspect the store almost every team leader begins running around like Brampton teens on PCP. They whip their employees into a frenzy. They sweep anything under the bed that they think you won’t like. They attempt to make the store look like nobody ever shops there. This stops us and them from doing actual productive work which in turn impacts sales and creates a lot of pointless stress. Then you arrive, hand out your almighty advice. The team leaders grovel at your feet and follow your advice. Then you leave and they put everything back the way it was. Undo a lot of what you suggested. Oh, I’m sure there are things happening that I don’t see. But you really do waste a lot of time. Even making our efforts regressive sometimes. Meanwhile, if I’m awesomely efficient at my job and take a moment to chat with a fellow employee, I’m bitched at. Seems to me a costly double standard.
Consider checking some of the “stats” and “facts” used in your in store education. They’re often faulty logic, myths, misconceptions and lies used by so-called “environmentalists”. I agree we’re currently destroying our environment and I’m quite liberal and all for natural living. But evidence and credible sources very often disagree with the propaganda spouted to us at Whole Foods. It’s just a little too extreme and biased sometimes which I believe just discredits the environmentalist movement in general, sadly.
Dear everyone else,
As I’ve said above a few times: you work at a grocery store. Go ahead and relax. Also, Whole Foods will try to make you feel like they are doing you a huge favour by employing you. It’s really a mutual agreement or transaction. Don’t fall for the guilt trips. Call in sick if you need to, etc.. There are laws in place to stop them from taking advantage of you. And if you’re thinking “This is just the way it is. Suck it up!”. You’re the biggest part of the problem. I’m afraid we can’t be friends.
Just enjoy life. It’s pretty short, you know?
June 27th, 2011
By: Mike Adams
Ask somebody about sunscreen and you’re likely to receive an earful of disinformation from a person who has been repeatedly misinformed by health authorities and the mainstream media. Almost nothing you hear about sunscreen from traditional media channels is accurate. So here’s a quick guide to the 7 most important things you need to know about sunscreen, sunlight and vitamin D:
#1) The FDA refuses to allow natural sunscreen ingredients to be used in sunblock / sunscreen products
It’s true: If you create a truly natural sunscreen product using exotic botanicals with powerful sunscreen properties, you will never be able to market it as a “sunscreen” product. That’s because the FDA decides what can be used as sunscreen and what can’t, regardless of what really works in the real world. And there are really only two natural ingredients the FDA has allowed to be sold as sunscreen: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Any other non-chemical sunscreen ingredients, if sold as “sunscreen,” would be considered mislabeled by the FDA and result in your products being confiscated… even if they offer fantastic sunscreen protection!
Not surprisingly, this whole monopoly over sunscreen chemicals is designed to protect the profits of the chemical companies while marginalizing the natural product companies which could easily formulate far better solutions. I have personally spoken to the founders of several health product companies who have figured out amazing sunscreen formulations using nothing but natural botanicals, but the FDA won’t let them market their products as sunscreen products!
It’s just another example of the FDA standing in the way of health innovation.
#2) Nearly all conventional sunscreen products contain cancer-causing chemicals
Read the ingredients list of any sunscreen product sold at Wal-Mart, or Walgreens, or any other mainstream store. I dare ya!
You will not be able to pronounce most of the chemicals found in the ingredients list. That’s because most sunscreen products are formulated with cancer-causing fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemical solvents and petroleum oils. A typical sunscreen product is actually a chemical assault on your body. That’s why research shows that using sunscreen actually causes more cancer than it prevents.
#3) In a nation where over 70% of the population is vitamin D deficiency, sunscreen actually blocks vitamin D production
Vitamin D deficiency is perhaps the most widespread vitamin deficiency in North America. According to the research, 70 percent of whites are deficient in vitamin D, and up to 97 percent of blacks are deficient.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency promotes cancer, winter flu and infections, depression, osteoporosis and hormonal imbalances. Depending on whom you believe, vitamin D alone can prevent anywhere from 50% to nearly 80% of all cancers.
By blocking vitamin D production in the skin, sunscreen products actually contribute to cancer-promoting nutritional deficiencies.
This doesn’t mean you should never wear a sunscreen product, of course. If your skin is really pale and you’re planning a day on the beach in Hawaii, you will obviously benefit from some level of sun protection using a truly natural sunscreen product. But an informed health-conscious person would try to allow their skin to achieve a natural, healthy tan (yes, a tan truly is healthy if it’s combined with good nutrition, see below) through sensible exposure levels that activate vitamin D production in the skin.
#4) You can boost your internal sun resistance by changing what you eat
Here’s the real secret about sun exposure that no one in conventional medicine is talking about (because, as usual, they are woefully ignorant about nutrition): You can boost your internal sunscreen by eating antioxidant-rich foods and superfoods.
The supplement astaxanthin, for example, is very well known for boosting your skin’s natural resistance to sunburn. Its fat-soluble carotenoids are actually transported to skin cells where they protect those cells from UV exposure.
The more natural antioxidants you have in your diet, the more sunlight your skin will be able to handle without burning. Nearly everyone mistakenly believes that a person’s sunlight burn response is purely a genetic factor. They’re wrong. You can radically improve your resistance to UV exposure through radical dietary changes.
I’m a great example of this, actually, as I used to burn in just 20 – 30 minutes of sunlight when I was on a junk food diet years ago. But now, as someone who eats superfoods and high-end nutritional supplements every day, I can spend hours in the sun and will only turn slightly red (which fades a few hours later and does not result in a burn or skin peeling).
Except for one time on an all-day visit to a water park, I have not worn sunscreen in over 8 years. I spend a large amount of time in the sun, and I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever about skin cancer. My skin, most people tell me, looks significantly younger than my biological age. That’s not from sunscreen; it’s from nutrition. Sun exposure does not make your skin “age” if you follow a high-nutritional density diet.
Today, Kevin explains exactly how the government, media and big corporations are deceiving you and what YOU can do to turn things around!
Doctors & Patients Misled Over Drug Trials
Tylenol Recalled AGAIN!
The Happy Meal Experiment
McDonald’s Response To The Happy Meal Experiment
FDA Warns That Bone Drugs May Cause Fractures
Do Not Give Your Children Cough Syrup
Take Trudeau on the Go! Click here to download this show to your iPod, mp3 player, or PC through iTunes!
July 27, 2010
By: Anne D’Innocenzio
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) is putting electronic identification tags on men’s clothing like jeans starting Aug. 1 as the world’s largest retailer tries to gain more control of its inventory. But the move is raising eyebrows among privacy experts.
The individual garments, which also includes underwear and socks, will have removable smart tags that can be read from a distance by Wal-Mart workers with scanners. In seconds, the worker will be able to know what sizes are missing and will also be able tell what it has on hand in the stock room. Such instant knowledge will allow store clerks to have the right sizes on hand when shoppers need them.
The tags work by reflecting a weak radio signal to identify the product. They have long spurred privacy fears as well as visions of stores being able to scan an entire shopping cart of items at one time.
Wal-Mart’s goal is to eventually expand the tags to other types of merchandise but company officials say it’s too early to give estimates on how long that will take.
“There are so many significant benefits in knowing how to better manage inventory and better serve customers,” said Lorenzo Lopez, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “This will enhance the shopping experience and help us grow our business.”
Before the rollout, Wal-Mart and other stores were using the tags, called radio frequency identification tags, only to track pallets or cases of merchandise in their warehouses. But now the tags are jumping onto individual items, a move that some privacy experts describe as frightening.
Wal-Mart, which generated annual revenue of a little more than $400 billion in its latest fiscal year and operates almost 4,000 stores, has huge influence with suppliers. That makes other merchants tend to follow its lead.
“This is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system,” said Katherine Albrecht, director of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
Albrecht worries that Wal-Mart and others would be able to track movements of customers who in some border states like Michigan and Washington are carrying new driver’s licenses that contain RFID tags to make it easier for them to cross borders.
Albrecht fears that retailers could scan data from such licenses and their purchases and combine that data with other personal information. She also says that even though the smart tags can be removed from clothing, they can’t be turned off and can be tracked even after you throw them in the garbage, for example.
Wal-Mart officials said they are aware of privacy concerns but insist they are taking a “thoughtful and methodical approach.”
Dan Fogelman, a Wal-Mart spokesman said that the smart label doesn’t collect customer information.
“Wal-Mart is using it strictly to manage inventory. The customer is in complete control,” he said. Fogelman added that Wal-Mart’s readers identify only inventory it has in the store.
To placate privacy concerns, Wal-Mart, which is financing some of the suppliers’ costs, is asking vendors to embed the smart tags in removable labels and not embed them in clothing.
Wal-Mart plans to educate customers with the new program through in-store videos and through signs posted in the stores that educate customers about the program.
July 23, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Miguel Bustillo
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns.
Starting next month, the retailer will place removable “smart tags” on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart’s more than 3,750 U.S. stores.
“This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business,” said Raul Vazquez, the executive in charge of Wal-Mart stores in the western U.S.
Before now, retailers including Wal-Mart have primarily used RFID tags, which store unique numerical identification codes that can be scanned from a distance, to track pallets of merchandise traveling through their supply chains.
Wal-Mart’s broad adoption would be the largest in the world, and proponents predict it would lead other retailers to start using the electronic product codes, which remain costly. Wal-Mart has climbed to the top of the retailing world by continuously squeezing costs out of its operations and then passing on the savings to shoppers at the checkout counter. Its methods are widely adopted by its suppliers and in turn become standard practice at other retail chains.
But the company’s latest attempt to use its influence—executives call it the start of a “next-generation Wal-Mart”—has privacy advocates raising questions.
While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can’t be turned off, and they are trackable. Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers’ homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.
They also worry that retailers will be able to scan customers who carry new types of personal ID cards as they walk through a store, without their knowledge. Several states, including Washington and New York, have begun issuing enhanced driver’s licenses that contain radio- frequency tags with unique ID numbers, to make border crossings easier for frequent travelers. Some privacy advocates contend that retailers could theoretically scan people with such licenses as they make purchases, combine the info with their credit card data, and then know the person’s identity the next time they stepped into the store.
“There are two things you really don’t want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that’s where we are seeing adoption,” said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering and author of a book called “Spychips” that argues against RFID technology. “The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors.”
Smart-tag experts dismiss Big Brother concerns as breathless conjecture, but activists have pressured companies. Ms. Albrecht and others launched a boycott of Benetton Group SpA last decade after an RFID maker announced it was planning to supply the company with 15 million RFID chips.
Benetton later clarified that it was just evaluating the technology and never embedded a single sensor in clothing.
Wal-Mart is demanding that suppliers add the tags to removable labels or packaging instead of embedding them in clothes, to minimize fears that they could be used to track people’s movements. It also is posting signs informing customers about the tags.
“Concerns about privacy are valid, but in this instance, the benefits far outweigh any concerns,” says Sanjay Sarma, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The tags don’t have any personal information. They are essentially barcodes with serial numbers attached. And you can easily remove them.”
In Europe some retailers put the smart labels on hang tags, which are then removed at checkout. That still provides the inventory-control benefit of RFID, but it takes away other important potential uses that retailers and suppliers like, such as being able to track the item all the way back to the point of manufacture in case of a recall, or making sure it isn’t counterfeit.
Wal-Mart won’t say how much it expects to benefit from the endeavor. But a similar pilot program at American Apparel Inc. in 2007 found that stores with the technology saw sales rise 14.3% compared to stores without the technology, according to Avery Dennison Corp., a maker of RFID equipment.
And while the tags wouldn’t replace bulkier shoplifting sensors, Wal-Mart expects they’ll cut down on employee theft because it will be easier to see if something’s gone missing from the back room.
Several other U.S. retailers, including J.C. Penney and Bloomingdale’s, have begun experimenting with smart ID tags on clothing to better ensure shelves remain stocked with sizes and colors customers want, and numerous European retailers, notably Germany’s Metro AG, have already embraced the technology.
Robert Carpenter, chief executive of GS1 U.S., a nonprofit group that helped develop universal product-code standards four decades ago and is now doing the same for electronic product codes, said the sensors have dropped to as little as seven to 10 cents from 50 cents just a few years ago. He predicts that Wal-Mart’s “tipping point” will drive prices lower.
“There are definitely costs. Some labels had to be modified,” said Mark Gatehouse, director of replenishment for Wrangler jeans maker VF Corp., adding that while Wal-Mart is subsidizing the costs of the actual sensors, suppliers have had to invest in new equipment. “But we view this as an investment in where things are going. Everyone is watching closely because no one wants to be at a competitive disadvantage, and this could really lift sales.”
Wal-Mart won’t disclose what it’s spending on the effort, but it confirms that it is subsidizing some of the costs for suppliers.
Proponents, meanwhile, have high hopes for expanded use in the future. Beyond more-efficient recalls and loss prevention, RFID tags could get rid of checkout lines.
“We are going to see contactless checkouts with mobile phones or kiosks, and we will see new ways to interact, such as being able to find out whether other sizes and colors are available while trying something on in a dressing room,” said Bill Hardgrave, head of the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas, which is funded in part by Wal-Mart. “That is where the magic is going to happen. But that’s all years away.”
April 29, 2010
by Mitch Lipka
Hundreds of thousands cribs are being recalled after they were connected to reports of infants becoming trapped in them, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is announcing today. The recalls are for cribs sold under the Graco and Simplicity brands.
About 217,000 Graco brand drop side cribs made by LaJobi Inc. are being recalled after nearly 100 reports of hardware failure that allowed the drop side of the crib to detach. Six children reportedly fell through the resulting opening and two others became trapped, the CPSC said.
Drop side cribs, once the industry standard, are on the verge of being banned. That style of crib has been blamed for well over a dozen infant and toddler deaths and is no longer being carried by the biggest children’s product retailer, Toys R Us/Babies R Us. This is just one in a long string of crib recalls.
The recalled wood cribs came in cherry, espresso, natural and white finishes. The name “LaJobi” and the crib’s model number can be found on a sticker on the stabilizer bar or on the bottom rail of the crib.
The China- and Vietnam-made cribs were sold nationwide from February 2007 through March 2010 for $140-$200.
If you have one of the cribs, you are asked to stop using it until you receive a hardware kit from LaJobi that will immobilize the drop side.
For more information, call LaJobi at (888) 842-2215 or visit the company’s website.
In a separate announcement, now-defunct Simplicity cribs are once again being recalled after the death of a child. Simplicity cribs are being targeted by the CPSC as a particular danger. A Massachusetts toddler suffocated in 2008 after getting stuck between the mattress and the frame. Another 13 incidents have been reported involving the tubular metal framed cribs bending or coming apart.
The cribs were sold under the Aspen, Chelsea, Graco and Simplicity brands.
The CPSC is urging anyone with one of these cribs to stop using them and find another place for their infant or toddler to sleep.
The safety agency said it does not know how many of these metal-framed cribs were sold. The China-made cribs were sold at chain stores nationwide including Walmart and Target for $150-$300. Consumers can return these cribs to the store where they were purchased for a refund, credit or replacement crib.