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Yahoo Finance has a story saying that Walmart's efforts to reduce its labor expenses have resulted in having too few employees to to essential tasks like stock shelves, a problem that leaves merchandise "piling up in aisles and in the back of stores ... A thinly spread workforce has other consequences: Longer check-out lines, less help with electronics and jewelry and more disorganized stores ... Last month, Wal-Mart placed last among department and discount stores in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the sixth year in a row the company had either tied or taken the last spot.

"The dwindling level of customer service comes as Wal-Mart has touted its in-store experience to lure shoppers and counter rival Inc."

The story follows up on an earlier Bloomberg piece detailing the same issues, and suggests that it is a kind of vicious cycle: "Too few workers leads to operational problems. Those problems lead to poor store sales, which lead to lower labor budgets."

Reuters reports that Walmart conceded yesterday that its internal costs related to the investigation and defense of allegations that it committed systemic and systematic bribery of officials in Mexico will probably assure that it will incur financial losses.

The bribery of officials, report say, allowed the company to speed up its Mexican expansion. The investigation already has cost the company $157 million, and the number is growing.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that "online car-insurance retailer Esurance is launching a pilot program on Friday to market coverage within 150 Illinois Wal-Mart stores." According to the story, Allstate-owned Esurance "is setting up unmanned kiosks at which shoppers in the world's biggest retailer may pick up a savings card to buy coverage. Customers may then use a code on the card to get a discount on car insurance. They may either call a toll-free number on the card to speak with an Esurance agent, who will ask them a few questions and give them a quote, or they may go to the Web site mentioned on the card to complete the process." Policies will not actually be sold in Walmart stores.
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