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Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).


July 30th, 2015
Filed under: Employees,Jobs,Recession
Everyone has known that the announced additional $1 billion in employee costs to be incurred by Walmart in the coming months would not be paid out of profits and shareholder value. Instead, Walmart has looked to make everyone but itself---suppliers, local governments and employees themselves---feel the pain. Now, according to Chris Bahn, writing in Firm preps staff for Wal-Mart layoffs for Arkansas Online, as much as five percent of Walmart head-office workers could be looking for new jobs.
Northwest Arkansas recruiting firm Cameron Smith & Associates is preparing its employees for "a surge of phone calls, emails and resumes" related to layoffs at the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. home office in Bentonville. Wal-Mart management, including CEO Doug McMillon, has publicly discussed being too bureaucratic at the headquarters level, and the company added $1 billion for employee wages and training initiatives to its budget this year with more raises coming in February. Cameron Smith & Associates employees, in an internal memo dated Monday, were given a plan of action in the event there are layoffs at Wal-Mart's Bentonville hub. "Please remember, these people are our neighbors and friends. You have a skill that will be very much in need when this goes down. You are experts in the job market and you know what it takes to get hired. This is a time for us to step up and do what we can to help," according to the memo obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Wal-Mart spokesman Deisha Barnett said the company is evaluating "our management structure as every high-performing company would. Speculating any further would be premature." As many as 1,000 employees could be laid off at the home office, according to Cameron Smith of Cameron Smith & Associates, which specializes in working with Wal-Mart vendors and suppliers. Smith said he sent the memo to his employees on the basis of conversations with people "inside Wal-Mart" and as a means of ensuring his employees are better prepared for assisting laid-off workers than they were in 2009 when as many as 800 Wal-Mart headquarters employees were let go. Wal-Mart employs more than 20,000 at its Bentonville headquarters.
I have to wonder how many of the 1,000 jobs under the microscope were filled with re-hires from the 800 put on street following the Republican-Wall Street Great Recession of 2008. In other Walmart news today: Flathead County offers to buy old Wal-Mart building for jail Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 29th, 2015
Filed under: Citizen Groups,Groceries,Vendors,Whole Foods
A week-ago Sunday, John Oliver schooled Americans on he obscene amount of food that we throw away because we don't think the fruits and vegetables are pretty enough. Earlier this week Jordan Figueiredo, founder of @UglyFruitandVeg and Stefanie Sacks, author of What the Fork Are You Eating? launched an online petition calling on Walmart and Whole Foods to sell cosmetically “less than perfect” produce in a fun public campaign in their U.S. stores. In Whole Foods and Wal-Mart Urged to Embrace Ugliness Investopedia reports that:
According to solid waste specialist Jordan Figueiredo and Stefanie Sacks, author of What the Fork Are You Eating?, French supermarket Intermarche launched an "Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign" last year to sell imperfect produce at a slight discount, while Loblaw Companies -- Canada's largest food and pharmacy retailer -- did the same here in North America. Other companies in Europe, Australia, and Canada are following suit, offering the "uglies" at an average of 30% off. Undoubtedly, there is resistance to selling produce that does not meet certain standards. Consumers have become so accustomed to seeing only row after row of perfect produce on shelves. Spoilage can also be costly for retailers. At Wal-Mart, some 56% of its $130.7 billion in fiscal 2015 net sales came from groceries, while perishables accounted for two-thirds of the $14.2 billion in total sales at Whole Foods last year. Cutting down waste remains an imperative for both. But a discount for imperfection would go a long way toward encouraging many people to overlook blemishes, and both companies have strong incentives to offer even more products at lower prices.
Just how much of a discount would Americans need to buy ugly fruit? In other Walmart headlines: Wal-Mart Warns Its Suppliers Over Labeling Laws. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 28th, 2015
Filed under: Customer Satisfaction,Doug McMillon,Employees,People
How do you lay off employees without laying off employees? Well, shrinking hours can help. By whacking off 25 percent of the hours they are open, Walmart Supercenters reduce the number of employees they need to operate. The reduction will be less than 25 percent, the store will still have stocking personnel working behind the closed doors, but when pressure on profits looms, every little bit helps. While the present list of 64 stores represent just under 2 percent of the Bentonvile Behemoth's 3,275 supercenters, this is a trend that is all win-win for Walmart. Kim Souza reports in Wal-Mart eliminates 24-hour operations in 64 supercenters, list could grow for The City Wire that:
This move did not surprise Jason Long and retail experts who agreed that all retailers have to constantly re-valuate operations in this evolving sector. “I don’t think Wal-Mart loses here. Few competitors are open overnight now. Wal-Mart stores shaving hours probably weren’t justifying their overnight sales to begin with. Taking a few extra hours to restock shelves, etc. combined with the labor savings will probably be a net positive,” said Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group. He said it also could signal to those Walmart stores not affected that they need to ramp up sales or potentially see their hours cut as well. The new management inside Walmart U.S. has made it clear that they intend to clean up stores, improve customer service and in-stocks and reallocate the store labor as its needed. Nick said most of the overnight workers will be retained for stocking and prepping the store for daytime hours. He said overnight cashiers will be offered other positions, those not accepting other positions will be offered severance if they are full-time and have worked there for at least one year. Retail expert Max Goldberg said that Wal-Mart should do what's best for its bottom line even if that means discontinuing some 24-hour openings. “Some shoppers will be inconvenienced and there will be complaints, but this should not be a large factor in the company's decision,” Goldberg noted on a RetailWire discussion on this topic. Retail consultant David Livingston said any supercenter grossing under $60 million per year is likely a prime candidate for closing overnight. He doubts this has little to do with re-stocking shelves and is more likely an effort to rein in costs. He said stores in areas where there is a propensity for violent crime or theft is also a good reason to close in the overnight hours.
Goldberg is perhaps nearly the most honest analyst I've come across of late. I say nearly only because he used the word should when he ought to have written must. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 27th, 2015
Filed under: Amazon,Customer Satisfaction
Of course, Mac McClelland nailed this story more than three years ago, but to be fair to Walmart, the company does sell sex toys online, although in a slightly more discreet manner.
And dildos. Really, a staggering number of dildos. At breaks, some of my coworkers complain that they have to handle so many dildos.
Just as pornography is the elephant on the Internet, are sex toys what drives Amazon? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 26th, 2015
Filed under: Amazon,Internet
walmart v amazon 150726 When the world's No. 1 and No. 2 retailers butt heads, Wall Street pays attention. We may be witnessing a tipping point here but I'm not willing to predict which way the market will fall because the of the bricks-and-mortar vs. shipping costs equation is not yet decided. How the government finally settle the issues surrounding sales tax may be the final straw.
When markets closed on Friday, Amazon had a market cap of $246.54 billion versus Wal-Mart's $230.53 billion cap. Although Wal-Mart's overall sales are much bigger than Amazon's, this unprecedented value swap underscores the fact that the 53-year-old retailer is getting smoked when it comes to ecommerce. In 2014, Wal-Mart's online sales were $12.2 billion compared to Amazon's $89 billion. Even though Amazon has about one-twentieth of Wal-Mart's total scale, its online business is growing faster overall.
Walmart is chasing Amazon on the technology front, but can technology be sufficient for Amazon to triumph?
Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told Business Insider that she expects Wal-Mart will eventually achieve an online shopping experience that's as good as Amazon's, even if it never catches up in dollars spent online. Although it's not uncommon for brick-and-mortar retailers to get 20% of their revenue from online these days, she wouldn't bet on Wal-Mart reaching that level. "I don't think Wal-Mart will hit that because its core customer isn't the most wired or tech savvy shopper out there," she said via email. "But to expect 10% I think would be reasonable."
The digital divide may actually save Walmart. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 25th, 2015
Filed under: China,Internet
People who might not be caught dead walking into a Walmart store may choose to shop at Walmart online because no one but their postal worker would ever know. As Amazon has shown, bricks and mortar are no longer the path to retail riches and in the world's most populace nation, Walmart has secured a major e-commerce beachhead.
It took four years, but Wal-Mart has finally fully gobbled up Chinese e-commerce company Yihaodian. The world’s largest retailer on Thursday said it acquired the final outstanding shares of Yihaodian, taking full ownership of the company after an initial investment began back in 2011. Wal-Mart WMT -1.28% had previously boosted its stake in the company in 2012, when it took a 51% majority control position. Terms of the latest acquisition weren’t disclosed. “Yihaodian has excelled as one of China’s top e-commerce businesses,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Global eCommerce. He said the investment is part of Wal-Mart’s “long-term commitment to grow in China.” With full ownership of Yihaodian, Wal-Mart plans to invest in both accelerating e-commerce and also an easier experience for customers to shop online, via mobile and in brick and mortar stores. Yihaodian, which was founded in 2008, will continue to operate under its existing name. Wal-Mart touted the Chinese company’s swelling business: it now stocks 8 million product items and serves 100 million registered customers. Those figures are up from 50,000 and 4 million, respectively, back in 2010.
What better way to source cheap plastic crap from China, and potentially grab back the retail crown from Amazon, than to actually own an online retailer awash in CPCFC? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 24th, 2015
Filed under: India
Before there was a Walmart there was another super giant corporation that strode the Earth crushing kingdoms, peoples and economies for the financial benefit of shareholders and the queen who granted the company's directors a royal charter---The Honorable East India Company---and the principle victims of that rapacious entity were the peoples of South Asia. Those people, primarily the citizens of what is today India, the world's second largest consumer market, learned hard lessons from that nearly 400-year-long pillage and they're not likely to let the 'onourable's successor, Walmart, fool them again. Shashank Bengali writes in Wal-Mart, thwarted by India's retail restrictions, goes big: wholesale for The Los Angeles Times:
The cavernous store is painstakingly familiar, from the diminutive blue-vested woman greeting shoppers to the pictures of the company's founder outside the administrative offices. Wal-Mart has kept many things the same as it spreads into India, one of the last major global frontiers for the behemoth Bentonville, Ark., company. But its customers are themselves owners of businesses, including the mom-and-pop traditional groceries that sell most of India's food. Two years after scrapping plans to open retail outlets across the world's second-biggest consumer market, Wal-Mart is recommitting to India as a wholesaler. In August, Wal-Mart will open its first new Best Price Modern Wholesale store in India since 2012 as part of a plan to expand from 20 stores to 70 within five years, company executives say. Needing to boost revenue overseas to offset flagging U.S. growth, Wal-Mart is one of the few international retail chains to brave the challenges of operating in India, a tantalizing market with 1.2 billion consumers but onerous limitations on foreign investment. Even as it liberalized its economy in the last three decades, India has kept tight control over its food and grocery sector, which accounts for more than one-third of consumer spending. Foreign companies are barred from opening supermarkets, shielding domestic companies and small businesses from competition, and can own at most a 51% stake in local chains. But with no restrictions on foreign ownership of wholesale stores, Wal-Mart, which has long fought the charge that its superstores harm small businesses in America, has fashioned itself a partner to India's traditional mom-and-pop grocers. The ubiquitous neighborhood shops known as kiranas sell 98% of the country's groceries, according to Euromonitor International, a consulting group.
We've written much about Walmart and India before. I think the Indian people have much more sense, and longer memories, than many others that Walmart has trodden into the ground. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.Walmart, Wal-Mart
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July 24th, 2015
Filed under: Amazon,Wall Street
For years I've told people I write about Walmart because, while the Bentonvile Behemoth is certainly not the only retail monster on the block, Walmart has been the biggest monster. No longer.
The retail king has lost its crown. Amazon.com’s market value whizzed past that of Walmart in after-hours trading Thursday, as investors increased their bets that the future of the US retail sector will be dominated by Jeff Bezos’ online behemoth. There’s no guarantee Amazon’s market value will stay above that of Walmart. During the thinly traded after-hours session, Amazon’s stock price leapt by over 14% to more than $550 a share after the company reported strong quarterly earnings results. That added more than $30 billion to Amazon’s market value, pushing it above $250 billion. (Walmart’s market value ended the day’s trading a bit above $230 billion, with little movement in the after-hours trading session.) Here’s a look at the long saga of Amazon and Walmart, taking today’s share surge into account.
What makes this particularly troubling is that Amazon is invisible. A few clicks on your computer and the package is delivered to your doorstep. The odds that anyone reading this, hell anyone in the universe, has actually engaged in a retail transaction with an Amazon employee, face-to-face, are astronomical. Amazon can, and does, get away with egregious behavior that would have the tumbrels rolling if Walmart followed suit. I can't immediately find how long Barbara Ehrenreich lasted at Walmart, but I expect her time might have been much, much shorter at Amazon. Do I have to change the name of the blog now?
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July 23rd, 2015
Filed under: Employees
During my college years I worked the over-night stock shift for a small regional retailer and I can't imagine the chaos, great loss of work, that might have ensued, if the store had been open and even a handful of customers were walking about. That experience always caused me to wonder how Walmart handled this challenge in those stores open 24-7. We all need some down time. Now Walmart seems to be pondering the same question and shortening the hours in select round-the-clock locations. From a wire story in The Chicago Tribune:Wal-Mart Stores will start closing some of its 24-hour supercenters for at least a few hours each night, aiming to use the time to better stock shelves and organize stores for the peak shopping rush. The move will affect about 40 stores, including those in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Maryland, beginning next week, said spokesman Brian Nick. About two dozen 24-hour locations already had their hours reduced this spring, and more stores are slated to go through the process later, he said. The change is a sign of retreat for a company that helped bring convenience and all-hours shopping to many parts of America. Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon is taking the step as part of his drive to improve the shopping experience at Wal-Mart's U.S. stores, where customers have complained about empty shelves, long checkout lines and poor-quality produce. McMillon has already raised starting wages and cut a layer of management in stores to try to improve the situation. "Based on a recent review of our customers' shopping patterns, we have made the decision to adjust hours at some of our stores," Nick said. "This is the kind of decision we make on a store-by-store basis and will allow us the ability to reallocate resources to serve our customers during peak shopping hours." Rolling back hours as a way to concentrate customers makes good sense when you're looking for every penny you can. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 22nd, 2015
Filed under: Despoilment
In reading yet another story about Walmart battling local governments, this time the matter involved on-again, off-again, on-again liquor permits in Pomona California, I came up short at in the third paragraph:
On May 28th, I sent a letter to the City asking for the withdrawal of the alcohol conditional use permit for the (Walmart) Neighborhood Market,” the letter from Wal-Mart attorney Alicen Wong said. “Walmart submitted the withdrawal in an attempt to focus exclusively on the entitlements [emphasis mine, JH] for the expansion of the store at 80 Rio Rancho Road” referring to the unsuccessful effort to expand the south Pomona Wal-Mart.
Here I thought entitlements was a bad word in the world of business. I guess when corporations use the word, the connotation is a good one. Note to self: corporations always play by their rules. Case in point: Texas, Wal-Mart waiting on judge’s decision to dismiss suit over ‘irrational’ liquor ban. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 21st, 2015
Filed under: Amazon,Competitors,Jet
Just when the grudge match between Walmart and Amazon is heating up, a third contestant, Jet, dives in swinging. Sarah Halzack, in Jet is here. Let the price wars begin for The Washington Post writes:
After months of testing and tweaking, the e-commerce start-up Jet.com opened its digital storefront on Tuesday, marking the official kickoff of the company's ambitious effort to battle Amazon and Wal-Mart for budget-conscious customers. Jet is taking a new approach to pricing. Its algorithm doesn't simply look at the price of each individual item in your online shopping cart. It looks at all the items you want to buy, as well as your Zip code, to determine which retailer or warehouse can ship that unique combination of items to you the cheapest. Shoppers can only buy things on Jet if they've signed up for a $49-per-year membership. While there are plenty of nascent e-commerce businesses making lofty pledges to disrupt the shopping landscape, the retail industry and Silicon Valley are watching Jet particularly closely because of the brains and the money behind it. Jet's chief executive, Marc Lore, is the founder of Quidsi, an e-commerce business that was seeing soaring growth when it was bought by Amazon.com in 2011 for $545 million. That deal was struck after Amazon reportedly had waged an all-out price war with Quidsi's successful Diapers.com site. Since Lore has had Amazon running scared once before, some analysts and investors believe he is especially well-positioned to compete with the e-commerce Goliath once again. (Amazon's chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
Where's my popcorn? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 20th, 2015
Filed under: Technology
In reading about Walmart Labs---Igor not included---I discovered the tidbit that Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King is a fan of Objectivist and Libertarians’ sociopathic pixie dream girl, Ayn Rand. Matt Weinberger, writing in How Wal-Mart hired 2,200 developers and made 'magic' for Business Insider tell us that:
Walmart.com sees "millions of transactions" every day, [King] says. And when you give smart people access to the data and resources they need, you get "magic," King says. It's not a word he uses lightly. "I'm a big Ayn Rand fan, and magic is a bad thing in that world," King says.
Walmart is already infamous for the company's data bunker in Missouri, but now King leads a team tasked with spinning the data straw into gold. So, what does Walmart's Rumpelstiltskin see as his mandate?
In the end, you need to build a team that has daily access to the life of the customer.
Is there an Edward Snowden lurking somewhere in the bowels of Walmart Labs? We can only hope. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 19th, 2015
Filed under: Amazon,Competitors,Internet
If there is a company I dislike as much as Walmart then the winner of that distinction is Amazon. So, I take perverse delight when the two monsters face off in grudge matches.
Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the world with $482 billion in annual sales, making it five times as large as its closest rival. But there's one area where the retailer is perpetually beat: ecommerce. Wal-Mart's online sales are a tiny fraction of the size of Amazon's, even though Wal-Mart is five times bigger — and a lot older — than it's ecommerce rival. Wal-Mart's online sales were $12.2 billion in 2014. By comparison, Amazon's were $89 billion. The world's largest retailer is tired of losing to Amazon when it comes to web sales, so it has been pouring billions of dollars into its online operations in recent years. This year, Wal-Mart plans to invest between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in its ecommerce business, Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told analysts in February. The company will spend even more next year, he said. Wal-Mart has been using the money to make its website more user-friendly, open additional ecommerce fulfillment centers around the US, and expand the number of products available for purchase on its website. Wal-Mart also recently began authorizing store managers to match prices found on Amazon and other websites to better compete with its rivals. And Amazon's growth continues to outpace Wal-Mart's, meaning the retailer is a long way from catching up.
Ah. Poor, poor Walmart. I'm not rooting for Amazon, mind you. I hope the battle gets bloodier and the Bentonvile/Sevil behemoths trash each other, saving Americans billions in the process. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 18th, 2015
Filed under: Competitors,Mexico
San Antonio, Texas-based grocer H-E-B has long competed with Walmart in Texas, but 18 years ago, after Walmart took a six-year lead by forming an alliance with Mexican retailer Grupo Cifra, H-E-B followed the Bentonvile Behemoth into Mexico and got a taste of a more free-style kind of competition. Neal Morton in H-E-B takes battle with Wal-Mart south of border for the San Antonio Express-News writes:
H-E-B suspected hardball tactics were at play in the weeks after the "gran inauguración" in 1997 of its Chipinque store---named after the mountain peak that overlooks the San Pedro Garza Garcia suburb. With waves of customers flocking to the store, H-E-B struggled to keep enough products on the shelves. "There were very long lines in and out of the store. The parking was full all day," said Rebeca Clouthier Carrillo, a state legislator who was a municipal alderman at the time. To meet the unexpected demand, H-E-B sent trucks speeding from Texas across the border, as company officials in San Pedro scrambled to find warehouses to fill with backup merchandise. But every time they scouted a suitable site and prepared to close on a lease, the landlords suddenly backed out. Many said they had received higher bids for their space at the last moment.
So, who was snatching up those warehouses?
A former H-E-B employee who helped launch the store---the company's first in Mexico---and another source familiar with the situation asserted that Wal-Mart blocked H-E-B from warehouses in the area. It was H-E-B's introduction to stiff competition in Mexico, where global retailer Wal-Mart had a six-year head start and later became embroiled in a bribery investigation over construction permits for new stores in the country. One Wal-Mart store involved in the scandal was built a block away from the Chipinque store.
H-E-B survived.
H-E-B... has earned a national reputation for tailoring its markets to the socioeconomic levels of each location's customer base. From ethnic food items and beer and wine selection to store layout and even exterior design, H-E-B spends months studying each community before opening a store there.
An H-E-B spokesperson elaborated:
Much like our stores in San Antonio, stores in Mexico are diverse and tailored to the neighborhoods they serve. We invest a significant amount of time learning what our customers want and tailoring the store to their needs.
Is that enough? Competing against Walmart is never easy, especially when you start from behind. In the years since that 1997 opening, H-E-B has grown to more than 50 stores employing nearly 10,000 workers and generated in excess of $1 billion in sales. Walmart's Goliath position in Mexico---more than 2,500 stores and Sam's clubs---grants the company a market dominance to be admired, and feared. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
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July 17th, 2015
Filed under: Despoilment,Litigation,Taxes
A sales tax of one percent means buyers pay a penny on the dollar, a dime on $10 and a whole dollar on $100. Is that enough to make customers shop elsewhere? Does such a tax confer an unfair disadvantage on a retailers? Perhaps. Walmart seems to think so, or perhaps the Bentonvile Behemoth is simply standing on principle.
A sales and use tax dispute in a portion of Fountain that includes a newly opened Wal-Mart store could be headed to a lawsuit. The disagreement between the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, Wal-Mart and the developer of a retail center on the southern edge of Colorado Springs, stems from the PPRTA board's request to collect tax revenue generated there. In January 2014 a 432.5-area section of land, which includes the approximately 99-acre South Academy Highlands retail center, was annexed by Fountain. It was previously part of unincorporated El Paso County. Thirteen months later, the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which collects a 1 percent sales and use tax inside its district boundaries for transportation and transit projects, requested that the annexed land fall under its authority and be subject to the tax. The PPRTA argued the land remains in the authority's jurisdiction, even if it is annexed by a non-member government. Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Ramah make up the PPRTA. The new 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store is part of the retail center, northwest of Interstate 25 and South Academy Boulevard, being built by UTW Academy Development of St. Louis. A Sam's Club is planned to open in the center in early August. "Currently, no patron of any business in Fountain is subject to the 1 percent PPRTA tax," Anne Hatfield, a Walmart spokesperson, wrote in an email. "Wal-mart and Sam's Club believe strongly that our Fountain customers should be treated the same way." But customers at the Wal-Mart are paying the additional PPRTA tax in the meantime, said Don Yucuis, finance director for the city. That would change, he said, if the PPRTA were to lose the disagreement.
In an April 2011 study the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education reported that:
Using Walmart's figures on U.S. sales and customers, we find that the average customer spends $43.95 per shopping trip, and makes 27 shopping trips per year, spending $1,187 annually at the store.
While the actual figure may be marginally higher allowing for inflation, I do not think asking the average customer, who might very well also be a regular customer of the transportation services of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, to pay an additional $12 or so a year ($1 per month) is outrageous, or even onerous. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.Walmart, Wal-Mart
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