Charles Platt (picture above) is a journalist, computer programmer and author of over 40 fiction and nonfiction books and was a senior writer at Wired magazine.
Charles moved recently from being a senior writer at Wired magazine to an entry-level position at Wal-Mart, “a company reviled by almost all living journalists,” after he read the book “Nickel and Dimed,” in which Atlantic contributor Barbara Ehrenreich denounces the exploitation of minimum-wage workers in America. According to Charles, “Somehow her book didn’t ring true to me, and I wondered to what extent a preconceived agenda might have biased her reporting. Hence my application for a job at the nearest Wal-Mart.”
Here are some excerpts from his BoingBoing blog post “Life at Wal-Mart“:
The job was as dull as I expected, but I was stunned to discover how benign the workplace turned out to be. My supervisor was friendly, decent, and treated me as an equal. Wal-Mart allowed a liberal dress code. The company explained precisely what it expected from its employees, and adhered to this policy in every detail. I was unfailingly reminded to take paid rest breaks, and was also encouraged to take fully paid time, whenever I felt like it, to study topics such as job safety and customer relations via a series of well-produced interactive courses on computers in a room at the back of the store. Each successfully completed course added an increment to my hourly wage, a policy which Barbara Ehrenreich somehow forgot to mention in her book.
My standard equipment included a handheld bar-code scanner which revealed the in-store stock and nearest warehouse stock of every item on the shelves, and its profit margin. At the branch where I worked, all the lowest-level employees were allowed this information and were encouraged to make individual decisions about inventory. One of the secrets to Wal-Mart’s success is that it delegates many judgment calls to the sales-floor level, where employees know first-hand what sells, what doesn’t, and (most important) what customers are asking for.
Tags: Charles Platt, Nickel and Dimed, walmart