“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
State 34: Arkansas - April 8, 2018
Occasionally our cross country trip requires us to briefly cross over to adjacent states we are not yet scheduled to visit, or have already visited, to see points of interest not included in our path through a specific state. Since our path through Arkansas did not take us through the Northern part of the state, we went back into Arkansas while on route to Tennessee.
We woke up at a Walmart in Fayetteville, AR well rested and ready for a brand new day. We could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead. Today, we drive 26 miles North to the town of Bentonville to visit the Cross Country Couple’s "Made in the USA" tour; Walmart Museum. No, I am serious! Walmart actually has a museum!
Bankrupting Main Street America, use of foreign child labor, poor record on animal rights, deceptive public image, wage theft, poorly paid workers, anti-union practices, employee discrimination, and deplorable customer service are just a few of the well documented evils of Walmart. Headlines all across America read; “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices”, “Walmart: Can't Escape the Customer-service Doghouse”, and “Why We Love to Hate Walmart”.
There is no denying people love to offer up Walmart as a sacrificial lamb representative of the epitome of corporate greed, and a prime example of the consequences of capitalism unchecked. However, I wanted to dig deeper than the headlines and Walmart’s current corporate policies to explore a more eluding question. Was Walmart evil from its inception, or is Walmart the proverbial prodigal son who lost his way? Perhaps both of the aforementioned is true, and Walmart as we know the company today is nothing more than the product of the changing retail landscape.
Upon walking into the Walmart Museum, two employees saw us enter, and neither greeted us, provided a brochure or offered information about the museum. I approached the reception desk, and asked if pictures were permitted. One of the employees said “Yes”, and the other employee said “No” simultaneously. I stood there for 5 minutes while the two employees debated Walmart’s policy of photography, before they finally came to a general consensus. Photos are permitted providing there is no flash.
In 1945, Walmart’s founder Sam Walton purchased a Ben Franklin Five and Dime Variety Store Franchise in Newport, Arkansas, and in 3 years grew the store's annual sales from $80,000 to $225,000! After the landlord refused to renew the store's lease, he opened Walton's Five and Dime Store in Bentonville, AR on May 9, 1950, and in the first year of business, the store was doing $175,000 in annual sales. Today this store is now the home to the Walmart Museum. Walton expanded upon his business concept of offering a one stop shopping center, buying in volume, efficient delivery, and selling heavily discounted brand named merchandise made by American manufacturers, and the first Walmart as we know it today, opened on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. Today the original Walmart store in Rogers, is no longer in business, and is occupied by Locke Supply Co. Please see the pictures below.
The charts pictured below highlight Walmart’s growth over the decades. As a nurse, I could not help but notice the striking similarity between the displayed charts, and the appearance of a metastasizing cancer on a CT scan. As you can see from the last chart, it is evident the cancer has spread, appears to be terminal, and we are all doomed! Please see the pictures below!
Despite having a net worth of 8.2 billion, Mr. Walton was notoriously frugal, and displayed little interest in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Instead of traveling on a corporate Jet, Sam piloted himself on his personally owned twin-engine Cessna when traveling from store to store. Instead of staying at luxurious 5 star hotels, Sam would spend nights at budget hotels, or at the homes of Walmart store managers. Instead of a driving a Mercedes, Walton would rent subcompact cars to get around, and his daily driver was a 78 Ford truck. Sam was once quoted as saying, “If I drove a Rolls Royce, where would I put my dogs?” One noteworthy display in the Walmart Museum was Sam Walton’s actual office. Apparently, Walton seldom used his office as he was always traveling between his stores, growing his business and talking to his employees and customers. Please see the pictures below.
Also on display, was The Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Sam Walton by President George H. W. Bush for his strong commitment to service and to the values that help individuals, businesses and the country succeed. Two weeks after receiving the highest honor a U.S. president can bestow upon a US civilian, Sam Walton passed away on April 5, 1992 at the age of 74.
Overall, the museum was a shrine to Sam Walton, and not at all reflective of the company Walmart is today. However, the best part of the Walmart Museum was the 1940’s soda shop. They were running a special called “The Centennial Sundae” in celebration of Sam Walton’s 100th Birthday. The sundae featured Sam's favorite flavor of ice cream, butter pecan, which happens to be Lori's favorite flavor as well. Let me tell you, that was the best butter pecan ice cream I have had in my entire life. In addition to being a successful business man, Sam also had impeccable taste in ice cream. Please see the pictures below.
Please see the additional pictures below of our visit to the Walmart Museum.
In Sam Walton’s autobiography entitled “Made in America; My Story”, He highlights 10 simple rules to running a successful business, which helped Walmart grow into a global leader in retail. These 10 rules were displayed in the Walmart Museum, and are posted on the companies' corporate website where the retail giant claims to: “continue to apply them to every part of our business”. I thought it would be interesting to measure Sam Walton’s 10 rules against the Walmart of today. Each of the rules are given a pass or fail grade with supporting arguments from the Cross Country Couple.
Rule 1: Commit to your business PASS!!!
Sam Walton once said; “Believe in it more than anybody else. If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you – like a fever.”
The Cross Country Couple says, “Today's Walmart is the largest retailer, and largest private employer in the world. If there is one thing Walmart does well, it is commit to their business!”
Rule 2: Share your profits with all your associates, treat them as partners FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said: “In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.”
The Cross Country Couple says: “Walmart's annual sales exceeded $500 BILLION in 2017, resulting in an annual profit of $16 BILLION! While Sam Walton’s children build on their combined wealth of $150 BILLION, 2/3 of Walmart’s US employees earned less than $25,000 in 2017. Walmart's wages are so low, the company counsels its workers on how to apply for government assistance, which in turn raises everyone’s tax burden!”
Rule 3: Motivate your partners FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said; “Money and ownership alone aren't enough. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Don't become too predictable”
The Cross Country Couple says: “Although we have never worked for Walmart, below are a few comments of those who have.”:
“Go back to the company’s original outlook to treat people like family instead of slaves.”
Courtesy Clerk: Milwaukee, WI
“In order for Walmart to become a better place, it needs more organization & team work”
Overnight stocker; Porterville, CA
Rule 4: Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said; “The more they know, the more they'll understand. The more they understand, the more they'll care. Once they care, there's no stopping them.”
The Cross Country Couple says, “Although we have never worked for Walmart, below are a few comments of those who have.”:
“The management really needs to communicate with one another better. Their lack of discussion really affects all the associates that are working on the floor from day to day.”
Sales Associate; Alvin, TX
"Cut back on constant accusatory attitudes from management.
Practice employee motivation instead of constant tearing us down”
Dairy-Frozen Clerk: Franklin, WI
Rule 5: Appreciate everything your associates do for the business FAIL!!!!
Sam Walton once said, “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free – and worth a fortune”
The Cross Country Couple says, “Although we have never worked for Walmart, below are a few comments of those who have.”:
“Treat employees more equitably, with respect, acknowledge a job well done, get rid of laze-a-bouts, keep the hard workers, allow employee advancement based on
demonstration of knowledge and ability rather than favoritism,”
Sales Associate: Stockbridge, GA
“Appreciate associates that's been with the company for years much better”
Department Manager; Panorama City, CA
Rule 6: Celebrate your success FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said, “Don't take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm – always. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools competition”.
The Cross Country Couple says, “In 1983, Sam Walton danced the Hula in a grass skirt on Wall Street making good on a promise to associates after the company achieved a pre-tax profit of 8% for the previous fiscal year. After Sam Walton, Walmart has had 4 CEO’s; David Glass, H. Lee Scott, Jr., Mike Duke and Doug McMillon. I could not find a picture of any of them in anything other than stuffy business suits."
"Perhaps Walmart’s current CEO Doug McMillon's way of celebrating success is his $25,600,000 annual salary!"
Rule 7: Listen to everyone in your company FAIL!!! FAIL!!! & FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said, “And figure out ways to get them talking. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.”
The Cross Country Couple says, “Although we have never worked for Walmart, below are a few comments of those who have.”
“It would be nice if everyone would remember Sam Walton's 10 foot rule;
acknowledge every customer within 10 feet with a smile and a greeting.”
Customer Service Representative; Phenoix City, AL
“Stop quoting Sam Walton and try imitating him.”
Customer Service Manager; Rapid City, SD
“Close for the Holidays”
Assistant Manager; Pasadena, TX
Rule 8: Exceed your customers’ expectations FAIL!!!!
Sam Walton once said,“Give them what they want — and a little more. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses — apologize. Stand behind everything you do.”
The Cross Country Couple says, “If I walk into a Walmart and see more than one check-out lane open, they have exceeded my expectations! Poor selection, empty shelves, poor quality products, and horrible customer service by underpaid and unmotivated employees are what most can expect from Walmart. Even their claim of everyday low prices is no longer valid. In the digital era, the consumer’s ability to compare prices are easier than ever. Many of the staples I buy at Costco and Aldi’s are on average 20% cheaper and 100% better quality than at Walmart.
Rule 9: Control your expenses better than your competition FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said,“This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you're too inefficient.”
The Cross Country Couple says, “On top of our van, we have 2 clear roof vents doubling as skylights providing free illumination during the day. The solar panels on Rosie's roof charge a battery, which keeps the refrigerator cool and powers the LED lights we use at night. I have visited hundreds of Walmart’s on my cross country journey. I have yet to see a single skylight in any Walmart store. Furthermore, Walmart features florescent lighting verses LED, and Target is beating Walmart in the solar race. Walmart, look for ways to control your expenses other than exploiting vendors, and paying your employees less than a living wage”
Rule 10: Swim upstream FAIL!!!
Sam Walton once said, “Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction."
The Cross Country Couple says,“Today, Walmart operates 4,672 stores in the US, and 11,700 stores in 28 countries around the world. While the buying patterns of consumers have transitioned to e-commerce, Walmart continues to open more big box stores. Instead of leading the way with e-commerce, Walmart is still struggling to play catch up on the web to Amazon.”
The contrast between the Walmart of Sam Walton’s era, and the Walmart of today is staggering. Sam Walton was a motivator, an innovator, a visionary, a giant of industry, and genuinely cared for his employees and customers. None of the aforementioned can be truthfully said about the Walmart of today. If Sam Walton was alive, he would be impressed by the growth of his company, but I truly believe he would be disappointed by the means Walmart has used to get to where they are.
Due to Walmart’s evil corporate practices, harmful impact on the environment, poor quality products, and deplorable customer service, I have boycotted Walmart my entire life. I would rather pay more and travel farther than buy anything at Walmart! While preparing for our cross country trip, I knew Walmart was where we would be parking Rosie most nights. Therefore, for the next year of my life, I would be forced to shop at Walmart simply because in many instances, they are the only place in town to shop. For each upcoming state, we map out the Costco’s, Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocers and other ethically operated companies to ensure we shop at Walmart as little as possible. Unfortunately, in many states the aforementioned are nowhere to be found. After 10 months on the road, I still cringe every time I walk into a Walmart!
Despite Walmart's gargantuan size, they operate on a razor thin 3% profit margin. This is Walmart’s achilles heel! Remember, each of us votes by where we spend our money, and even a small decline in business would make a huge difference in changing Walmart’s unethical corporate policies. Hopefully, one day Walmart will once again embrace Sam Walton’s business rules and transform the company back into an ethically operated and environmentally friendly business offering quality products at low prices and treats their vendors, consumers and employees fairly. Until that day comes, I will shop elsewhere!
After departing the Walmart Museum, we drove 17 miles South to the absolutely last place in the world wanted to be, a Walmart in Springdale, AR where we spent the night.