Published on: November 12, 2003In a story yesterday about Wal-Mart, it was noted that about 90 percent of the company's associates are covered either through Wal-Mart or through a family member or Medicare…and we asked if being covered by Medicare qualifies as having company health insurance. We wrote, "Being covered by Medicare means that taxes being paid by US citizens are going to help cover the health costs of Wal-Mart employees not being covered in other ways."
This raised a few hackles. (We did a lot of that yesterday…)
One MNB user wrote:
Lots of Wal-Mart employees are older citizens, trying to augment their retirement, or just having something to do besides sitting home and doing nothing. They are over 65 -- many beyond 70. That is where Medicare comes in. Because I am over 70, my primary coverage is now Medicare, followed by a poor structure of Medigap that hardly picks up anything in medications, etc. For a company to cover me, the monthly costs would now run $1200 a month or more. Don't blame Wal-Mart for not wanting to pick up that kind of expense for its older workers.
This is where the BIG picture comes in and where all the fuss is about better care in our old age through Government help, etc. Today's Medicare doesn't begin to cover today's medical expenses for this countries older citizens. I can speak from experience.
Another MNB user - a Wal-Mart employee - wrote:
I've paid Federal taxes for, in the least, over 47 years.
Are you saying that just because I work for Wal-Mart I'm not entitled to Medicare just the same as any other 68 year old in the USA?
Sure sounds like that's what you are saying.
I think you better reword your thoughts on this. You appear to be getting too involved in the anti-Wal-Mart mud slinging to see the forest for the trees. I'll be the first to admit there are many things at Wal-Mart I would change if I was running the show, but overall, being what it is and where it is in terms of the primary business it's in, I'd have to say it's doing a much better than adequate job in conducting its business and business practices. Much better and in a much, much larger sense and under much different business conditions than many of its predecessors ever faced. And I believe it will be around much longer.
And, regarding the broader subject of Wal-Mart's business practices, MNB user Bob Vereen wrote:
Read your comments about Wal-Mart, wages, etc., and a few comments as a longtime observer of the retail scene:
(1) Many of Wal-Mart's employees are older people, some undoubtedly on Medicare. The greeters often are, and I know I have a retired friend who has worked there for half a dozen years, so she probably is on Medicare.
(2) There have been so many actions mentioned about Wal-Mart that I think Scott needs to publicly address them, simply to set the record straight and/or explain the company's position so the other side can be heard. But
they'll probably not do it.
(3) I read where their employee turnover is about 50%. With 1.4 million employees, I would think that is admirable. What do you think?
(4) Isn't a waiting period for employees common (especially in turnover-prone retailing) common for benefits? I know it was for the association for which I worked.
We got a number of emails on the subject of drug reimportation from Canada.
MNB user Rock Wight wrote:
I am really tired of hearing about drugs from Canada being unsafe. I saw a news report on MSNBC about a month ago where it was stated that only five drugs were found in Canada that did not have the exact same manufacturer that provides the drugs in the United States.
I don't know how much pressure the FDA receives from drug manufactures,
I am really having trouble believing any of them on this subject. The sorry truth is that we pay more for our drugs than any other country on earth, not just Canada. Finally, Canada is not some third world country and I believe the Canadian authorities when they say that their rules are just as stringent as ours.
Another MNB user wrote:
From a consumer perspective I would find it both helpful and interesting if the FDA and the drug manufacturers would somehow in a combined or individual effort,( I'll take it either way) tell the average US citizen purchasing drugs here in the United States the primary reasons drug costs are so much higher here than in Canada and Mexico too as I understand it.
I realize there are certain controls in effect in Canada not in effect here, like no advertising or promotions. But...what else is there to tell us, there must be a better way to communicate these cost/retail differences. I'm not at all sure we would want universal health care here as in Canada....But, the fact is ,I just don't know.
Is that one of the reasons Canada retails are lower?
A little communication might help.
We agree. There have been a lot of scare tactics, but precious little real information.
And another MNB user wrote:
People need to look at this word carefully - reimportation - as in bringing back what has already been imported (to the country which is now exporting it back to where it came from in the first place). This has no reflection at all on what may or may not be produced in the country from which it is reimported but every reflection on what was imported by them in the first place. If the drugs originate in the US, how can the FDA, drug companies or courts question their efficacy or quality without impugning the efficacy and quality of the drugs which are not being exported?
On the subject of Giant of Landover combining some functions with Stop & Shop (both are owned at Ahold, which is looking for efficiencies wherever it can find them), one MNB user wrote:
No mention of lost jobs does not mean that no jobs will be lost. Here's the history of the Tops/Giant (Carlisle) "Shared Services."
In October of 2000, "shared services" was announced. We were told that these were cost savings only and would not touch the customer. Tops accounting and IT departments were laid off...that's 250 people.
In January of 2001, the Pharmacy department was merged as well. That's another 10 people. Our merchandising department was also re-structured to bring us to a similar structure as Carlisle...that was another 30 people.
In 2002, Human Resources was also combined. No jobs lost then...but the big news shortly followed...
January 6 2003, the expansion of shared services to include marketing and merchandising...another 150 people from Tops.
That's almost 450 professional jobs lost to Buffalo. Not to mention the hundreds of brokers and vendors who also were affected. I also leave out the jobs lost by the sale of distribution to C&S and Ahold's centralized procurement of perishables.
The result is that Tops is starting to look more and more like Carlisle. The ad format has changed and the pricing structure is starting to look like EDLP.
Ahold has always preached that its chains are "A stable of thoroughbreds. They share benefits from being together, but they race alone." The mergers of Tops and Giant, Bi-Lo and Bruno's have already begun and now the "big guys" is not consistent with the foundations of Ahold's growth.
But really, this is just one more inconsistency that has been leading to their downfall. When the chains operated without influence from Ahold, they were profitable and productive. The scandals and poor chain performance should give Ahold a hint to back off. As long as they continue to manage the stock price and not the supermarket business, things will only get worse.
I know the people involved at Giant Landover are scared...they should be.
In a piece about a GEMCON presentation about Advertising, Promotions & Marketing (AMP) initiatives, we observed that it was sort of like having a lot of different companies holding different pieces of the puzzle…and nobody really knowing what the puzzle is supposed to look like at the end.
To which one MNB user responded:
Your observation on AMP solutions was dead on. Different companies do hold different pieces of the puzzle. The cost for these systems can be very
substantial and retailers should be wary of investing in a solution that promises to do everything.
We got the following email from an MNB user regarding some of the problems that Winn-Dixie is having:
The word among the vendor community is that most of the new stores Winn-Dixie has opened over the last two years are absolute duds with underwhelming sales and lots of red on their bottom lines. Many of the remodels supposedly have marginal ROI's. One can surmise that if the Save Rite banner was working then the Bargain Depot experiment would not be necessary. Management going mum on guidance is a disservice to stockholders - many of them current and retired employees. It's a shame that the Davis family has let their business get to this point. Is anyone steering the ship? Wish I had sold my stock years ago!
MNB user Trish Bellrose wrote:
So, Winn-Dixie thinks it can out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart by adding value oriented chains? This sounds like a hair-brained idea if you ask me. Why not be what Wal-Mart isn't? Quality, Service, Selection? I seriously doubt this will turn the tide on this troubled retailer.
And yet another MNB user wrote:
A couple of months ago, I went to a Winn Dixie/Save Rite store with the intent of purchasing a weeks worth of groceries. Instead, I got only enough items to get me through the next day because their fruits and vegetables were of such poor quality.
Last night, I stopped at a different Save Rite again intent on getting a large amount of groceries. This time, they were lacking several produce items I was looking for (grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, celery hearts, broccoli crowns) and what they had was not very appealing. I don't know what the rest of the store was like. I returned the two items that were in my cart and went to Kroger.
Service and price are important, but not as important as selection and quality.
We continue to get email about self check-out systems.
One MNB user wrote:
Not sure how common (or interesting!) this is, but I recently noticed that the local library now has self check-out. As well as the regular full-service option. The number of people in line for each was pretty equal. Didn't try it out myself. Afraid of scanning the book incorrectly and setting off the security thing at the exit.
You have nothing to fear but fear itself. It's a library, for goodness sakes…
Another MNB user wrote:
My local Home Despot is run by the Self Check Out Police, who try to herd the teeming masses into those two designated lanes, then stand there looking amused when things go wrong.
Often when I visit the Despot, I buy plants. Plants do not work well in self check out, because the weight varies by how much water they have been given, but do you think that they have adjusted the computer system to account for that? No. So I make a break for it, trying to get to a lane where there is a living, breathing person, and always I am intercepted by the Police, who want me to try self check out, herding me back with garden tools. Guess what? I've tried it, it stinks, so can I have a person take my money please?
The only thing I hate more than self check out is supermarket loyalty cards. Let's not even go there…
MNB user Denise Remark added:
To the reasons why some consumers are hesitant to use self check-out, I'd like to add embarrassing. I waited in the self check-out line for about 7 minutes while two customers, each at different lanes, attempted to check out. They each fit the demographic (at least in appearance) of the most typical user: younger (mid 30's), smarter (professional appearance), higher income (again based on appearance), white males. Each had problems with the scanner either recognizing items/prices or of telling them that there were unscanned items in the checkout area (assumption: you slipped an extra item into your bag with out scanning). The CSR was going between both resetting the system several times. They seemed to maintain a sense of humor about it, but you could tell they were flustered.
Now imagine that scenario with older folks who aren't techno-savvy. If they even do get beyond the intimidation factor, being embarrassed one time by a machine telling you that there are inappropriate items in the bagging area, or telling you to remove your bagged items while attempting put money/credit cards away, reinforces the desire to never use self check-out again! Not only do consumers have zero-tolerance for technologies that do not meet their needs, people do not like being made to look foolish & will avoid that situation in future!
And another MNB user wrote:
Personally I would like to see retailers take the labor money saved with self checkout and invest it in customer service in the selling space. I'll trade the warm fuzzys of personal contact at the register, which is usually not that warm and fuzzy, for in-store cooking tips, sampling, improved service sections for deli and meat... places where interaction really helps me. At Home Depot, give me more in store demonstration stations, more people in the aisles that know about DIY projects, more people at the planning desks (which are usually undermanned) .
Self check out. Bring it on. Just don't use it to make quick gains on the bottom line without adding anything back....which is what I have seen so far. Still, given a choice, I would shop at a store that has self checkout rather than one that does it the old fashioned way. I'll be on my way faster.
And yet more on self-checkout…
Just read your thoughts on self checkout and the need for personal contact in retailing as the reason you question the implementations.
Well, your experience, and your daughter's, at Home Depot must be different than mine. whenever i use the self checkout there i have a very personal experience with a person because the freaking thing always fails to work properly. from my observations, I'd say it malfunctions 30% to 50% of the time. and the most frustrated person is not the customer but the store associate who must handle the same problem minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day...sounds like a mental carpal tunnel syndrome to me.
- KC's View: