Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dell to sell computers at Wal-Mart

Attention elitist snobs; start your boycott of Dell. After all, Wal-Mart only buys from sweatshops and only sells junk to undesirable elements of society.
DALLAS — Dell Inc. plans to sell personal computers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, in a departure from Dell's approach of selling machines only directly to customers.

A Dell spokesman said Thursday that the computer maker will begin selling two of its Dimension desktop computers in about 3,000 Wal-Marts beginning June 10.
Dell spokesman Dwayne Cox said the Wal-Mart deal "represents our first step" into global retail.

"Customers want more and new ways to buy our products, and we plan on meeting their needs on a global level," Cox said. "Offering Dell Dimensions in Wal-Mart is a great example of this approach."

Cox said Dell will announce additional moves into retail in the coming quarters, but he declined to give specifics.

The desktops will be sold at Wal-Marts in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Since its founding in the 1980s, Dell has relied on selling PCs and other products directly to consumers and business customers over the phone and Internet. It viewed direct sales as an important cost advantage over competitors who sold computers through retailers.

The strategy worked, helping Dell become the world's leading PC maker. But recently, the Round Rock-based company has lost its lead to a revitalized Hewlett-Packard Co.
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Tom Forbes said...

Thanks for pointing that out Barenjager. The "cheap Chinese crap" meme is getting old. Wal-Mart sells many, many name-brand items just like other retailers.

As for off-brand items made in third world countries, sure they have those too. But so does ShopKo.

I was stuck in the kids clothing section at ShopKo a while back and started looking at the labels. I saw plenty of "Made in (fill in the third world country)" labels, but no "Made in the USA" labels. Yet, I don't hear any howls of outrage over that.

To call an item "cheap crap" denigrates the person that purchases it. Perhaps the person that buys it could afford better but is just a tightwad. But maybe the buyer can afford nothing better.

"Cheap Chinese crap" is just another code word for racism/classism and I find it morally repugnant.

Truth said...

The difference between the two stores, and the reason I at least don't like Wal Mart, is the record they (Wal Mart) has of mistreating its workers. We've been over this a few times recently so I won't reiterate the points, but I think you know as well as I do that it is still possible to buy from Dell without buying from Wal Mart, which is liekly why people will not be boycotting Dell.

For those who choose to shop at Wal Mart, thats fine, it is only you who this will really affect.

Tom Forbes said...


How do you know Wal-Mart "mistreats" its workers? Oh wait, I know, you read a paper on the Internet by Human Rights Watch.

How do you know Dell doesn't mistreat its workers? How do you know anything for sure? You're perfectly willing to accept a paper lock, stock and barrel from a liberal organization, yet you would never accept similar allegations from a conservative organization. It's intellectually dishonest and shallow.

I'm going to give you the "Nathan Alford" challenge. Have you actually ever talked to anyone that worked at Wal-Mart to see if they are being "mistreated?" I have. Dozens and dozens of them. I've yet to find anyone that has been "mistreated" by Wal-Mart. That's because, in the real world, if you are "mistreated" badly enough, you find another job.

But if you want bellyachers, backseat drivers, get-over artists, and malingerers, I can guarantee that you can go to ANY company in America and find someone who isn't happy and feels "mistreated" by his or her bosses.

By the way, Dell does "mistreat" its workers, at least according to a few of them. Back in February, a group of Dell call center employees down in Roseburg, OR filed a lawsuit against Dell alleging that sales reps were forced to work "off the clock," and that Dell failed to provide proper rest breaks and improperly recorded their lunch periods. They are currently seeking class action status.

I'm just waiting now for Human Right Watch to weigh in.....follwed by your inevitable boycott, right?

Tom Forbes said...

And while we're at it, New York state is suing Dell for deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices.

Tom Forbes said...

Truth, a bit of warning. I have been receiving complaints from regular readers that your puerile polemics are growing tiresome.

I love a vigorous debate of the issues as much as anyone else, but stick to issues you know well, not talking points from liberal web sites.

It is obvious you have no experience of the world of work, so I advise you to stay away from that subject. One reader shared with me experiences of being horribly mistreated by the organization you support with your tuition dollars. If you are outraged about worker mistreatment, don't look to Bentonville. You need look no further than College Hill.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Tom: "But if you want bellyachers, backseat drivers, get-over artists, and malingerers, I can guarantee that you can go to ANY company in America and find someone who isn't happy and feels "mistreated" by his or her bosses..."

You're exactly right, Tom, and this little bit of truth (as opposed to poorly choosen monickers) reveals much that is wrong with the "mistreated workers" mantra. There are always going to be people who claim to be "mistreated" simply because they get jobs and then are expected to work (it's not unlike college students who think they should get an 'A' for a course simply because they signed up for it). When I was in the Army infantry, one of the places where one should expect a certain share of discomfort and hardship, we had people screaming "mistreatment!" every time they were ordered to do something they didn't enjoy. Not something that actually harmed them, just stuff they didn't want to do.

The Amnesty paper on Walmart is chock full of that kind of crap in the form of quote after quote of a handful of former Walmart employees (or so they claim - did anyone verify their employment records?). How about the other 1.3 million or so current employees, and millions of former employees?

(On a side note, that paper brings to mind something I've been thinking of lately in regard to Walmart, what I'd like to call the "2006 effect" - all of the crap printed about Walmart as of late seems to rely on pre-2006 information, before Walmart rolled out their new benefit packages; is it that the bashers have to rely on old news to keep up the rhetoric now that the situation on the ground doesn't lend itself to all the wailing and posing?)

Tom Forbes said...

Thanks Paul.

I certainly don't mean to imply that employee mistreatment doesn't occur and shouldn't be punished. God knows, I've had my fair share of petty tyrants, megalomaniacs, and borderline psychos for bosses in 22 years of work.

But to believe that mistreatment of Wal-Mart employees is any way systemic or part of a corporate design is supremely naïve. What would motivate the #1 Fortune 500 company to deliberately expose itself to lawsuits, punitive legal action, bad publicity, and ultimately lower stock values, knowing so many critics are watching its every move? It's absurd.

Mistreatment of workers is not generally a board room decision. It is conducted by individuals. Corporations are just collections of individuals. And since people are not perfect, neither are organizations.

Does one "Distinguished Professor" sexually harassing a student mean that WSU as an organization mistreats students and employees? I don't think so. That was 1 faculty member out of about 3000. Wal-Mart has 1.6 million workers. The chances of some bad apples being among a group that large are astronomically greater. Have individual Wal-Mart managers been guilty of cutting corners, being racist, being chauvinistic, or simply being jerks? Without a doubt. Wal-Mart gets all the attention because it is the biggest target and has the deepest pockets. Do the vultures circle above the elephant's carcass or the gnat's?

But let's suppose for a moment that WSU was the subject of every high-powered ambulance chasing attorney and a annual multi-million dollar smear campaign run by full-time political agitators. What if every secret WSU memo was leaked to the New York Times? What if every gaffe or negative aspect was discussed endlessly on websites and blown out of proportion in a Hollywood documentary? What if every disgruntled student and employee with an axe to grind was interviewed by an international "human rights" organization? Does anyone think the university could long stand that kind of scrutiny? Would it be fair?

Speaking of human rights, how is a voluntary contractual relationship involving remuneration between two parties a "right?". Disgruntled former Wal-Mart employees are a far cry from victims of genocide in Darfur.

Truth said...

Tom, seeing as how neither of us have presented any facts in this post, except the HRW report I noted I don't think you can really bash me for my sources when you aren't using any. As for Wal-Mart reports using 2006 data, thats becasuse that is (or was at the time of the report) the most up-to-date data available. Nobody deliberatly uses out of date information, they gather all they can and then use what they have to complile the report which as we both know takes a degree of time.

Also (and this is for everybody here) if I use information from a website I cite it. Anything else is what I have learned from reaserch throughout life and from classes, and despite what you would think that is not a bunch of liberal websites (in fact you may recall I deliberatly avoided using things like walmartwatch.com for their obvious bias). That people here believe the NYT, PBS, Human Rights Watch, and any other source that seems to disagree with them is a liberal source cannot be helped. If you have a problem with and issue I am bringing up I invite you to bring it up in that post, I try to check them for several days. Also, I do my best to check for as non-biased sources as possible, but I do consider large news organizations unbiased and then look at the article in question, with the belief that some bias is inevitable but if facts are backed up by several large and globaly respected news organizations then I will post and defend it.

And yes, people can always quit Wal-Mart, unless they have no other job. Let me present a scenario. Wal-Mart moves into a small town bringing much-needed jobs, thats good. Someone takes one of these badly needed jobs in order to support themselves, they are qualified but haven't been able to find work anywhere else. Wal Mart supervisors tell these people they will work 30 minutes off the clock or they will be fired, what does that person do? Yes they can leave, but that leaves them unemployed and possibly homeless, or they can stay and work in illegal conditions but at least make a living. That is the problem that I have with Wal-Mart, and seeing as how such allegations have been backed up by organizations which are globaly respected as non-biased and very accurate (the NYT, PBS, HRW, etc.) I will continue to defend them. If new evidence from such a respected source comes out that is contrary I will take it into consideration. However, as I recall, the only conflicting source I ever saw was a website run by Wal-Mart. I invite people to present alternative sources, indeed I welcome it, but until that time we are just going around in circles with these posts.

Oh, and as for your claims of authenticity with the Human Rights Watch Report (such as were the people quoted actually employees) there is no proof to back up your claims, and Wal Mart has not come out saying that the people quoted were not ever on the payrolls (which they likely would have done if they werent real employees). Again, show me proof that is true.

Tom Forbes said...

Facts? Okay, here are some facts:

- Up to 3,500 applicants for 270 job opening at a new Wal-Mart in Lewiston, Idaho, 1993

- 8,000 applications for 525 jobs opening at a new Wal-Mart in Glendale Arizona, 2004

- 25,000 applications for 325 job openings at a new Wal-Mart in Chicago, 01/2006

- 8,000 applications for 350 job openings at a new Wal-Mart in New Jersey, 6/13/06

- 11,000 applications for 400 job openings at a new Wal-Mart in Oakland, California, 8/17/2006

- 960 applications for 276 job openings at a new Wal-Mart in Rush Township, Pennsylvania, 02/2007

The statistics imply it’s harder to get a job at Wal-Mart than to be admitted to Harvard. If Wal-Mart were the slave-driving hellhole Human Rights Watch says it is, why would this be?

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Wow... I will never, ever, take a job in HR.

Truth said...

What you have proved Paul is exactly what I said previously, Wal Mart brings jobs which is good.

What you have failed to address however is the working conditions. If anything your numbers back up exactly what I am saying, specifically the theoretical example I provided above; namely that employees are always free to leave a job, but if its working an hour off the clock or becoming unemployed and possibly homeless which do you think people will choose? The issue has never been that Wal-Mart doesn't provide jobs, the issue has been that to cut costs Wal-Mart is willing to engage in unethical and illegal practicies in order to make a little more money.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


No one owes anyone else a living.

You don't have a point.

Take the advice that Tom gave you earlier.

Truth said...

Paul, I've made my point, and backed it up with a number of sources. Wal-Mart doesn't owe anybody else a living, but they are require to follow the law, and that is something I have demonstrated that Wal-Mart seems to systematically avoid doing.

That you have been either unable or unwilling to do so with your point seems to indicate that there isnt any information to substantiante their claims. In the future could we please base our discussion around facts rather than making it a shouting match?