Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has started to run a series of ads in media such as The New York Times. The theme of the marketing messages is that it is great to work at Walmart. “Opportunity, That’s the Real Walmart.” It is a wonder that Walmart has to run the ads at all. The benefits should be self-evident to the public. Apparently Walmart thinks otherwise.
The advertising campaign centers on Walmart’s opportunities and benefits for employees. In a 30-second video, the world’s largest retailer describes the advantages one by one — 401(k) retirement plans, part-time workers can become managers, the matching of charitable giving, bonuses for part-time workers, 400 people promoted each day, health care insurance for payments of as little as $40 a month and education benefits. “There’s more to Walmart than you think,” according to the company.
Of course there is “more to Walmart.” It is strange that the company has decided to say as much in The New York Times, which really is not the ideal medium to recruit Walmart workers. The message must be meant for someone else.
Walmart clearly has decided to continue to remain aggressive as it battles a tidal wave of claims that it underpays its workers, offers them substandard insurance and maintains a workforce that is primarily made up of people who make little more than the minimum wage. Walmart employees have taken their case into the streets, protesting, threatening to walk out on Black Friday and disturbing the peace to the extent that some have been arrested.
Walmart’s fight over how it pays its workers has moved from a battle with these workers to the court of public opinion. In a sense, public opinion does not matter and Walmart has already won where it counts. Its stock trades near its 52-week high. There is absolutely no evidence that the protests have hurt customer store traffic.
None of its multitude of successes with the financial world and with customers has quenched Walmart’s sense that it has to prove something about how it treats its workforce. “I work at Walmart,” the new ads say. Yes, more than a million Americans do. But for some reason a large portion of them are not satisfied with their jobs.