The Wal-Mart Pickle

Fast Company explores Wal-Mart’s strong-arm tactics, best exemplified in a gallon jar of Vlasic pickles sold for $2.97. Making less than a penny in profit, the uber-jars devalued the premium brand and undersold their other products. And most famililes can’t come close to finishing a gallon of pickles before they get pruny.

Wal-Mart’s enormous size — the world’s largest company, doing more business than Target, Sears, K-Mart, J.C. Penney, Safeway and Kroger combined — enables it to demand whatever it wants. In some cases that power can force bloated companies to trim the fat and streamline operations. But often that power forces overseas outsourcing, plant closures and bankruptcy.

Fear pervades any business’s relationship with Wal-Mart, as a Dial executive interviewed for the article proved: “We are one of Wal-Mart’s biggest suppliers, and they are our biggest customer by far. We have a great relationship. That’s all I can say. Are we done now?”

In the midst of the mostly anti-Wal-Mart article is a glimmer of the company’s honesty: “They are tough people but very honest; they treat you honestly. It was a joke to do business with most of their competitors. A fiasco.”

As the Wal-Mart debate continues it becomes clear there’s a difference between price and cost. As Fast Company noted, “it is we as shoppers who have the power, and who have given that power to Wal-Mart.”

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