Back To Work, Peasant!
Friday, June 27, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Slate has an interesting article up, looking at the employment practices of Walmart versus Costco. The general jist is, Walmart is generally held up as the villian of employment practices. Among other things, they've been accused of:
  1. Locking employees into the store at night, to make sure they don't leave/steal stuff. Which of course is crazy and also a major fire/safety hazard
  2. Sexual discrimination
  3. Abusing and exploiting illegal immigrant labor
  4. Union busting
  5. etc, etc etc....
Walmart also doesn't pay well and has incredibly high employee turnover as a result (along with the reasons stated above). On the opposite side you have Costco, with their generous benefits and high wages (after a period of time, see the article linked above for the specifics).

The main questions posed by the article are:
Costco CEO and founder Jim Sinegal repeatedly insists to Greenhouse that treating employees well is "good business."

That makes a pleasing sound bite, and assume for a moment that Sinegal's assertion is true. Why, then, wouldn't Wal-Mart do everything it could to make itself more like Costco? Now assume that Sinegal's assertion is false. Why, then, does Costco treat employees better if that's against the company's financial interests?

It's a pretty good read, so check it out. I do want to point out one thing that the article fails to mention - part of Costco's philosophy about treating employees right is the idea of The Golden Rule. Happy employees don't tend to do things like steal. Costco allegedly has very low inventory theft, compared to Walmart's high level of employee theft. This helps contributes towards keeping costs down.

In the end, I hope that Costco's model will continue to work, as it depresses me to think that Walmart's "Do Lots of Evil First" methodology might be the only viable way to make a profit these days.
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