Nearly two years have passed since the release of Saving the Corporate Soul. In my book I made a strong critique of Wal-Mart, particularly the way it mistreats its employees. At the time, Wal-Mart employees in 28 states were waging legal battle, accusing their bosses of cheating them out of overtime pay. In numerous independent incidents, supervisors ordered Wal-Mart workers to continue working after they had punched out on the time clock.
I recall two strong responses to this section of my book. Agents from Wal-Mart informed me that I had gravely misrepresented the facts and unfairly besmirched a proud company legacy. Social justice activists, on the other hand, let me know what a waste of time it was to apply business ethics with the likes of Wal-Mart. The retail giant, they said, was impervious to change.
A lot has happened in two years to change the terrain. Wal-Mart has come to terms with the fact that its public image is taking a nose dive. According to The New York Times, Wal-Mart hired a top-notch consultancy to gauge the consumer impact of its poor reputation. The results reportedly show that anywhere from 2 percent to 8 percent of Wal-Mart shoppers have stopped visiting its retail stores due to “negative press they have heard.” That trend, along with the prospect of Robert Greenwald’s hard-hitting documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, reaching into a mass market, pushed Wal-Mart into a counteroffensive.