Thursday, November 17, 2005

On Wal-Mart & Other Entrepreneurs

I was running errands today when I caught part of Michael Medved’s radio interview with Robert Greenwald, the producer of WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price. Greenwald argues that Wal-Mart’s four percent profit is too high and should be controlled by the government like other socialist nations do.

I’ve heard Greenwald before and won’t watch his films for the same reasons I ignore Michael Moore, Al Jazeera, the Clintons, The Times, and CBS. Without wasting my time exploring Greenwald’s rooterspeak, I offer these experiences:

The Travel Agent

Carol was a high school graduate who’d hustled odd jobs as a cocktail waitress and door-to-door saleswoman before marrying a man who owned a small travel agency. Like many boutique agencies, he used the office for the travel benefits while Carol learned the business. When she acquired the agency after their divorce, the agency was little more than a lease, license, and four employees.

When she sold the company in 1997, Carol had grown her company into a $200 million success, employing hundreds of agents in offices from Tokyo to Paris and throughout the US. She has been honored as one of California’s top 100 business owners and top five women entrepreneurs.

Like most non-union companies, Carol rewarded top employees with better pay and incentives than her competitors. The key to her success was great service. She learned that by taking care of her employees, her agents took great care of her clientele. And although she charged higher prices, her clients were willing to pay for the best travel service in America.

The ex-Cop Convict

While I have explained here and here how and why the LAPD fired me in 1993, I never described how I paid bills as an unemployed ex-cop convict.

It wasn’t easy. After 13 years as a police officer, my career was over. No one wanted to hire me. I applied at dozens of convenience and retail stores and, as expected, no one called back. I couldn’t blame them; after all who would want to hire a bad cop convicted of beating up people?

After weeks of job searches made worse by the displacement of workers after the Northridge earthquake, I found work as a full-time (24/7) live-in caregiver for an adult autistic man for $2000/mo.

As the man’s primary caregiver, I read all I could about autism and developed a program that prepared him to move from his mother’s home to an assisted care facility. Other parents of autistic children and adults learned of my success and asked if I would enroll their own children into my program. Had my conviction not been overturned and my LAPD job returned to me, I would’ve earned at least as much as my LAPD career had provided – even with the stigma of being a disgraced ex-cop.

The Hardware Store

Koontz Hardware is a small family-owned business almost ten miles from my home. It’s pricier and more distant than the Home Depot and other big box improvement stores.

I have certain talents, but handyman isn’t one of them. I’ve wasted many hours at discount stores where employees are either too busy to help or, if they do, I feel like an idiot for asking dumb questions. More often than not, I bought things I didn’t want and forgot things I didn’t know I needed.

Unlike the other large retailers, when I enter Koontz Hardware, employees seem to rush from all sides; and after awkwardly describing the thingamajig I’m looking for, they offer a selection, instruction, and recommendations of which item would work best for me. I pay more, but I’ve never felt cheated by their great service or selection. Shopping there is well worth the price and I doubt Wal-Mart or Home Depot will ever dent their sales. Koontz offers service and expertise that Wal-Mart could only dream of.

Koontz Hardware, like Carol and me, never has to worry about billion dollar corporations moving in next door, for we understand hard work and customer service in ways that unions and federal bureaucracies never will. As union workers focus on their own personal benefits and are scolded if they become too productive, non-union workers are free to excel, grow, and prosper.

As we watch France’s inglorious suicide, it’s hard to understand why so many still accept the Democratic Party’s socialist schtik as third world immigrants are still coming to America to escape it. One needs only to glance at the results of Europe’s socialist experiment to dismiss it outright. But Democrats and their unions would rather destroy us all than lose their Cold War against America.

The next time you shop at Wal-Mart, try to imagine the employees all replaced by Teamsters, auto workers, federal employees, or the French. Ask yourself what kind of service you could expect from overpaid employees who can't be fired?