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Tag Archives: Wal-Mart

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As a shareholder in Pick n Pay I obviously would like to see the returns on my investment grow but unfortunately, since Nick Badminton took over, there seems to have been a steady decline in performance from the company.

As a shareholder in Pick n Pay I obviously would like to see the returns on my investment grow but unfortunately, since Nick Badminton took over, there seems to have been a steady decline in performance from the company.

 Now we read that more than 3000 workers are to be retrenched and I find myself wondering why this is necessary and how it will help solve the problems (Pick n Pay to axe up to 3000 staff as market share slides, July 7). One would assume that if they are on a growth path with more stores, then more people would be hired.

As a customer, my wife finds Pick n Pay much less appealing than ever before, although she has a “card”.

– Staff, at least in Johannesburg outlets, are surly and unfriendly, which will surely not improve now.

– In the large stores the additional space is not used to provide a greater range of product but to add more and more of the same.

Every Walmart store I have visited in the US has many alternative brands. In Pick n Pay if you don’t want Ricoffy you can have Nescafe and that’s it — but it will take 10m of shelf space to show you this.

– Since it uses external merchandisers whom it doesn’t manage properly, the aisles are often blocked by merchandiser trolleys with people busy on both sides of the same aisle.

– Products are often not price-marked. Shelf marking is poor and it is necessary to check the barcode to ensure that the price you see is the price you might pay.

– There is a serious shortage of floor staff to assist customers — those that are there seem to spend their time talking to each other, always at the expense of serving the customer.

– At bakery counters the quality of fresh product varies greatly from one outlet to another and there are not enough serving staff. Plenty of people, but limited servers.

– The aisle marking is poor and confusing. Products are not, from the customer perspective at least, logically grouped to facilitate a walk-through buying pattern.

In the Norwood store the shelves are so high one cannot get a general overview of the layout or find the correct aisle marking easily.

– Floors are cluttered with “stuff”, especially as you enter the sales area, adding to the sense of confusion and chaos. His biographic details show that Mr Badminton is a Bishops boy who went straight into Pick n Pay from school at a young age.

He was apparently turfed out of home by his dad but he does not seem to have learned from that experience. I assume he has had some formal management training, although this is not shown anywhere, neither is any work experience other than at Pick n Pay. He has apparently only lived the Pick n Pay approach to selling.

When I worked in the supply chain some 20 years ago Pick N Pay was our most arrogant of customers, but it had little competition then.

Now that there is competition it needs to learn that its customers are what it is all about.

Screwing suppliers is only part of the story. Getting customers into the stores is its part of the deal. Arrogance doesn’t help. You have to listen and live the experience.

In the meanwhile, Checkers are just up my street, which is a great relief to an old man, if not to my investments.

Henry Watermeyer

Lyndhurst

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Brain Sandberg has it wrong if he believes the Walmarts of this world are built on corporate human rights violations (Walmart threatens human dignity, Letters, May 19).

First, these workers have a choice — if they are coerced it is slavery and Walmart should be condemned unreservedly. Admittedly, for anyone to choose to work for a very low wage in bad conditions and for long hours, such a choice cannot be made out of a particularly good set of circumstances. By the standard of the average Business Day reader, it could even be called inhumane.

However, the alternatives in many poor developing countries are: scavenging garbage dumps, prostitution, begging, engaging in criminal activity, and trying to make a living of subsistence farming and informal street vending. The same applies to child labour. You cannot assume the alternative is going to school — as opposed to child prostitution or criminal activity. In fact, child labour in the West was fairly common until after the Industrial Revolution.
Contrary to middle-class sensibilities, studies have shown that people perceive “sweatshop” labour more favourably than agricultural work and street vending. It is not just that these “sweatshops” improve meagre monetary positions, they also contribute to increased job prospects for women, educational opportunities and intergenerational mobility.

Second, Mr Sandberg should add up the low hourly wages in “sweatshops” and compare it to the average per capita income. Working 10 or more hours in a “sweatshop” puts many of these workers in a better position than their fellow low-skilled workers outside the exploitative textile garment industry.

Finally, Mr Sandberg should look at China. Already some western firms are pulling out of China and looking for areas with more “competitive” (cheaper) labour. Chinese “sweatshop” workers are beginning to reflect some of the increased prospects mentioned above by demanding and justifying higher wages, moving into higher skilled sectors and continuing to break the poverty cycle. You have to start somewhere. In striving towards the noble goals of human dignity and social responsibility, we need to be cognisant of context-specific realities and the unintended consequences of well-intended policies.

Where and when Walmart behaves unethically, it should be condemned. Corporatist lobbying of politicians and undue government interference in the economy are two sides of the same corporatism coin. It robs us of real choices and is the source of many of the problems in today’s so-called “free market” economies. But we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. I suspect convincing Mr Sandberg of the human dignity and social responsibility inherently implied in a free (or should that be “freed”) market society would be a waste of time.

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