“Everybody does it, so why pick on me?,” is not a viable defense for the alleged actions by Wal-Mart executives in Mexico. As you may have heard since The NY Times ran an expose last Sunday, Wal-Mart allegedly bribed officials in Mexico to pass or expedite approval of building plans for its network of stores south of the border. Moreover, when these alleged violations of law were reportedly brought to the attention of corporate executives, they were swept under the rug, according to The Times. Now, the world’s largest retail company, and the largest retailer in Mexico, has been engaged in major face-saving activity.
I have no direct knowledge of the allegations beyond what has been reported, but I can tell you with fairly good authority it has not been uncommon for retail and shopping center companies with aggressive growth strategies to engage in activities that are questionable at best, illegal at worst, including favors (okay, bribes) to secure necessary permits or negative action to block competitors from entering a market.
In other words, Wal-Mart is no more guilty than other companies. It’s just bigger. It’s the same reality whether it’s building permits or low wages or no health care for workers or an anti-union bias—Wal-Mart is no worse than other large (and small) chain store retailers. Which doesn’t excuse or explain away what happened in Mexico.
This corporate black eye is the latest in a long string of image-blackening revelations about the way American companies exploit their interests in foreign lands. Apple, as well as other technology firms, has had its reliance on Chinese suppliers and their labor practices put under the magnifying glass. Nike did, as well. Half a dozen years ago my magazine co-sponsored a one day conference, “Making it Right,” on the business implications of fair labor standards throughout the worldwide supply chain. Though progress has been made, exploitation of workers persists.
Sadly, it seems significant progress occurs only when the media spotlights egregious conditions.
Food for Thought: I’m married to a foodie. Now, some of you might know Gilda is a good, even great, cook. I am fortunate to enjoy many a good meal she whips up, even after she works a long day in Manhattan.
But being a foodie means her taste buds work differently than mine. Whereas I enjoy foods that are generally sweet, Gilda prefers foods that are bitter, sour and something called umami, a Japanese word for pleasant, savory. It hasn’t been easy meshing our different tastes, but now Gilda has reason to believe she is a trend setter. Read for yourself: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2012-04-25/food-snobs-tastes-wired-differently/54540652/1
Wrong Number: Just had a most interesting phone call from the Republican National Committee. Seems I’m on one of their “conservative” lists, thus would I be willing to join the RNC with a pledge of $300, $200, or $100 so the ultimate goal of removing Barack Obama from the White House could be realized?
After telling the woman on the other end of the line I was “fascinated” to find myself on such a list, she embarrassingly fumbled her way through the rest of our short conversation, apologizing for bothering me. I guess the RNC doesn’t read my blog.