I’m quite scared. This Friday is Black Friday, the biggest single day in American retailing and the start of the lucrative Christmas shopping season. It also might be the day a bunch of my employees go on strike. There are picket actions planned around the country to protest my stores treatment of workers including practices like wage theft, discrimination, abuse, and retaliation. I’m concerned that this activity could hurt sales at a very important time for my company. What should I do?
-Mike Duke, President & CEO, Walmart
My first suggestion, and this is going to sound cynical, is to do nothing. Let them picket and watch as hundreds if not thousands of customers at every store happily cross those picket lines for a $350 computer or a $25 video game. That’s just an unfortunate casualty of American callousness and the poor economy. If you called people on the phone and asked them if they supported Walmart workers you’d probably get a pretty decent percentage of people saying they did. None of them would probably be willing to pay more for Christmas gifts.Also, maybe come up with a retail strategy that isn’t some disgusting race to the bottom for one day a year. It used to be Black Friday sales, then Black Friday sales with midnight openings, now what seems to be a massive majority of your stores are open Thanksgiving night with sales. Most other big box stores are open Thanksgiving now too. What a horrible thing to do to your staff but also to your customers. Customers have to choose between spending time with their family and saving money on gifts. I would go off on a rant about how hopefully this would be a chance for us all to realize that it’s the thought that counts and not the gift itself but for fuck’s sake we’re Americans and we’re horrible materialists. I’m even writing a column about the evils of materialism while updating my Amazon wish list.
You could also, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to this, stop abusing your employees so badly that they feel the need to start picketing your stores. I don’t think any of these employees are getting up in the morning and thinking “You know what’s probably a lot of fun? Standing outside in the cold for hours for no pay.” But that’s what picketing your stores on Black Friday entails. Working for you has become so bad that doing something worse for free has become an enticing option. You’re making money hand over fist. You decided to pay dividends earlier than usual this year so your shareholders would miss any potential tax increases that might come from the dreaded “fiscal cliff” and you still can’t pay your workers a decent wage or, at the very least, not then feel compelled to not pay them all the shitty wages they’re owed? Get your house in order and stop being so profoundly shitty and then get back to making a fortune selling crappy computers to people at slightly lower prices.