retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Continued reaction to the Walmart bribery scandal.

One MNB user wrote:

Great point regarding the implications for other companies. Let's face it, Mexico doesn't exactly have a reputation for clean sheets where various levels of corruption are concerned. This can't be any different. It's all a matter of how far American entities ride that wave.

From another MNB user:

What's more troubling than the reports of wrongdoing and malfeasance at Walmart, Lehman Brothers--and probably 75% of other corporations--is that we are all tasked with the chore of pretending that American capitalism is some sort of ideal that everyone in the world should aspire to. In addition to having worked with many Fortune 100 firms, I've taught college kids in business school and I can guarantee you that the vast majority of folks out there know that the idea of the free market reigning supreme is simply that--an imagined ideal perpetuated by our culture that we are supposed to pretend to worship. Free markets work well until they don't, at which time it's necessary to cheat, bribe, conspire, fix prices or figure out some other creative means of destroying the competition.

Anyone who has taken an introductory course in economics should know that the only way a human could ever beat a monkey or a rooster in equities markets would be via insider information. Yet we continue to regard stock-brokers and investment bankers as honorable professions. But this is all okay because we have little choice in these matters. That's just the way things are. It's when these big incidents happen that we get depressed and rant because we are loudly reminded of the fact that we are forced to live a regular life of delusion. And if you don't think Millennials understand –and believe—this, you don't know Millennials.


From another MNB user:

Couldn't help thinking about the irony of your earlier comments in MNB about Wal-Mart giving gift cards to the Democratic National Committee and the NYT's article where Wal-Mart de Mexico also used gift cards as a form of their alleged bribes.

If I were at the DNC, I would turn down that particular donation. Immediately.

From still another reader:

You pay roughly five bribes to get into the airport in Kabul. We bribe people we are supposedly helping. Since we have such high regard for our soldiers perhaps we should have asked some tough questions once we had to pay the first bribe.

Do you honestly believe we are not paying bribes in China? Thats why we have business "partners".

I gather you are not aware of Congressional business "breakfasts" at $15k a pop.


And from another MNB user:

Since I live in Mexico about 6 mo. out of the year and have built two home down there I know it is not the US and one cannot use our supposed values there as they do not apply .... Mexico is like the wild west and a lot of the world really is. Everyone cheats and steals as much as they can until they get caught. We had to pay off politicians to get permits to build a house, everyone has to, it is all a matter of how much you can negotiate or how good your connections are. Politicians spend their last two years in office taking as many bribes as possible to pad their retirement since they cannot get reelected. There is evidence of roads being blocked and sold the the construction of a big hotel that is now bankrupt and a stark skeleton, and a bankrupt condo project on the ocean, or 4, 5, and 6 story buildings when the previous limit was 3. Funny how all these things happen and get accomplished, like Carlos Slim owning the telephone company and building a HUGE RESORT and Marina.

Since when did we become such saints here in the US? How many instances can we name?

The whole world is full of crooks with their hands out for money and if you want to do business there you have to play the game.


I have to be honest here.

These emails - and others I have received - represent a level of cynicism about how the system is supposed to work that I find alarming. It seems that perhaps they are willing to accept value systems that are selective, and ethics that are conditional and convenient.

Does rule of law mean nothing? Do the idealized virtues of capitalism mean nothing? Have we gotten to the point where graft and corruption are simply accepted as a cost of doing business?

If so, how exactly do we speak of “American exceptionalism”? How do we trumpet American values?

And if this is how the adults feel and think, what the hell are we teaching our children?



We had a piece yesterday reflecting on the tough economic times and rough job prospects being faced by the class of 2012.

To which MNB user Renee D. Thorne responded:

I have a 22 year old as well.  Luckily she worked a paid internship last summer – and was hired by the same company this year.  When she graduates in May – she’ll have a full time job with a national employer and excellent benefits.  Pay is decent/fair at $35K for the Midwest.   I think all the media doom and gloom doesn’t help these kids.   My daughter isn’t an A student – didn’t attend a large university (rinky dink school in the Midwest no one has heard of) mom and dad are not linked to the “right people” . But, what she does have is a very positive attitude, she’s neat and clean w/ great people skills.   I  think employers are just as tired of employee attitudes of doom and gloom or “woe is me” …and looking and waiting for people that are baggage free.  My number one rule for all my girls has been “be still mentally …stay outta’ the muck. Be happy and the rest will fall into place.”  “What you focus on expands”…  Amazing how something so simple can become so complex.

Another MNB user wrote:

Given the government obstacles to hiring in the private sector (regulations, Obamacare, taxes , etc) the situation probably won't change anytime soon in the US. There also seems to be a sense of entitlement to unemployment payments. I've heard several instances where people have been offered jobs and they asked to defer the start date to " use up" their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. 

One answer is to work in Asia. My 23 year old niece teaches English in Viet Nam . She didn't know Vietnamese when she started but that didn't matter. Her job is to teach " American style" English . Apparently the Vietnamese government has mandated that all workers know English or they won't have jobs. That has created a lot of demand for English teachers.


From another reader:

Having graduated in 2004 with a business degree, I now work in information technology,   doing work I never imaged I would do while in college. The problem with today's graduates is the fact that they get their mind so focused on their major they don't fight for other job opportunities. Being a young work requires flexibility, willingness to learn, and desire to work in areas outside of your comfort zone. A word of advice for 85% of graduates who think they will get a job within their major.....the world only needs so many people with BA's in Ancient English Literature or BS's in Film Studies.....if you are in an impractical "career" major, get used to the following phrase..... "Would you like fries with that"?

MNB user Connie Montgomery wrote:

Interesting subject.

I am a boomer, as I've mentioned before.  I am a stubborn one, too.

At age 48, the company I worked for suddenly thought I needed to get a degree, or some college in finance, although at that age, I had been doing financial work since my late 20's. When I went to the classes, the professor did not understand why I was there; I knew it.  He instead left me in charge of the class to assist other students when he had to leave, and I did not go to classes at all for the last 3 weeks, until finals; which I aced. No, I do not have a degree, but 40+ years of experience is the best education I believe I could have received. I've started at the bottom 3 times only to move up as I proved to the employer what I knew; the last time in 1997 when I came to my current job. I now have a good job that I intend to retire from in 6-7 years, provided the economy does not get any worse than it is now and my job does not get eliminated.

The problem I see with today's graduates:  just because they have a degree, they expect to start at the top.  That "piece of paper" does not buy them a job or even guarantee a job.  They have to prove themselves to earn it.  Something I believe our Educators do not instill into their students.  They do get paid at a higher rate, but usually not at the rates they are expecting.

I believe everyone should have a good education.  "We" were fortunate to grow up in an age in which "public schools" actually taught something.  Schools now only work to teach students towards the "Taks" or whatever local areas are using for "a test they believe shows a student's knowledge".  What happened to the good old IQ tests we took in the 60's & 70's?  Those were tough.  Common sense and real life situations need to be taught not only in 1-12 but also in college.  What I saw and experienced in college, was not a substitute for "real life experience".  I have nothing against those who have degrees; but I do when they have never worked a day in their life and believe they now know more than those who have done the job for years and have experience. The younger generation of workers I have met, have little or no respect for their elders in the work environment.

When you work towards a goal; it will come as it is earned.  

Do not expect it to be given to you because you had the opportunity and the means to get a "piece of paper" that says you should know it.  It must be proved.


One note. The vast majority of young people I have met in the workforce, or ending their college careers and looking forward, are hard-working, respectful, ambitious, tech-savvy ... and a little anxious about their futures. But they are by and large good people with great ideas.
KC's View: