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We wrote yesterday about Wal-Mart looking to get into the liquor business, which we suggested might be a major threat to other liquor retailers. There is also the possibility that a move into the liquor business might be seen by some as contrary to Wal-Mart’s traditional social mores, which we addressed in our commentary:

Wal-Mart always has been inconsistent. This story just throws more light on it.

The Bentonville Behemoth has always sold guns, for example, but sanitized the products it sells from its CD and magazine shelves.

The question that will be asked is whether, faced with what appears to be a slowdown in its growth in profits, Wal-Mart will make moves inconsistent with its internal and external culture…which would end up having a deleterious effect on its image and prospects.

Not surprisingly, lots of reaction to this.

One MNB user wrote:

Before passing judgment on Wal-Mart doing this you might check to see just how many states allow liquor to be sold except through some type of licensing agreement with the state or local authority or thru state run stores. I know Virginia has its own state run stores and think that other states do also.

It may not be as easy as it appears.

Didn’t know we were passing judgment on Wal-Mart. Just pointing out the inevitable result of it getting into the liquor business…though the issue of state-run stores was not one we’d considered. Good point.

MNB user Sandra Hand wrote:

This is just another direction that reflects the Wal-Mart way of doing business by strangling the competition, thusly, by closing down small business districts throughout the United States.

As though that Wal-Mart hasn't done enough damage to small-town America with their inferior China-made products that the average consumer believes, that, they are somehow purchasing quality products cheaper by shopping Wal-Mart Stores.

There is nothing classy about Wal-Mart as they want a strangle-hold throughout the business world, they have done nothing short of selling out the American worker.

MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

I agree Wal-Mart is inconsistent. But the markets it serves are inconsistent also. Still Wal-Mart is consistent on giving its core customers what they want. It appears they want liquor and shotguns but don't want CDs with nasty lyrics. I read the article and it said Wal-Mart gives individual store managers some autonomy about how liquor is presented in the stores. The bottom line is liquor is big business and it is important that Wal-Mart dominate this industry for the benefit of its stockholders. Ever since Wal-Mart got into groceries they sold liquor. Every retailer I ever worked for did not allow liquor consumption at work. Getting a DWI meant you would be fired. Yet we always sold liquor in our stores. Wal-Mart is no different.

MNB user Art Turock wrote:

Kevin, you're right about Wal-Mart being inconsistent. Recall years ago when Sam Walton was in charge, Wal-Mart embarked on emphasizing products made in America. In fact, Walton's biography was titled, "Made in America." With the outsourcing of product to foreign countries in the demand for lower price points, the value of American-made is gone.

But there is one consistency. Do what best serves Wal-Mart's extraordinary sales growth goals.

MNB user Robert Dyer wrote:

I do not see how you equate Wal-Mart selling guns and sanitizing CDs with being inconsistent. The selling of guns is a legal activity that supports a protected "right" under our constitution, as is the "choice" afforded a retailer to sell what ever it pleases to sell to it's customer base. It seems to me that Wal-Mart is just being a good retailer by offering those products. I think a little "L*****" bias is showing in your remarks. Also, a couple of the national grocery retailers have established the Alcohol Beverage category as destination categories that they will use as proactively to compete and differentiate against Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, being the astute retailer they are, are responding ...

Secondly, Wal-Mart will not be able to severely, if at all, be able to undercut other retailers on pricing in the Alcohol Beverage Category due to the heavy state controls on pricing in this category. This is one of the few categories, such as Milk, that Wal-Mart is not showing the market share gains against competition.

Are we being accused of being a Liberal? Or a Libertarian? Hmmmm….

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

I have never chimed in on the whole Wal-Mart censors music and print argument, so I will start this rant with my own personal experience with this topic. Metallica is one of my favorite hard rock bands. My favorite CD is called S&M (Symphony and Metal), which is a body of work composed by Michael Kamen then with the San Francisco Symphony. The CD is a blend of the San Francisco Symphony and Metallica's speed metal and hard driving lyrics. So, I bought a copy, "F" words and all; listened to it and loved it. A year or so later, someone who knew I was a Metallica fan picked up a copy for me that they found in a Used Music store here in town. Turns out it was a Wal-Mart edition, wiped clean of profanity. It is my favorite CD. It is the one favor that Wal-Mart actually did for me.

Now, having said that, the majority of the time that I am in a Wal-Mart, it is to check groceries not guns, so I do not know what types of guns they carry. I assume they sell shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. so I do not see an inconsistency between selling guns and prohibiting offensive language or pictures in the media that it sells. My guess is that the people who buy the sanitized version of "cop killer" aren't the people who would then go to the sporting goods department to pick up a new TEK 9. However, a hunter who needs a new shotgun, might stop by the music department to pick up the new Willie in front of the palm tree, and not mind that the pot plant has been removed from the package.

Now, when we see the Jack Daniels / Remington Shotgun Shell bonus pack, I will be on your bandwagon. I'm more concerned about the rumor that Wal-Mart is getting ready to self-distribute Budweiser. Must be a lot of smaller distributors out there loosing sleep these days. It would certainly add fuel to the pending price war on beer.

Thanks for what you do....keep fighting the good fight. Whether I agree with you or disagree with always generate great discussions.

And another MNB user wrote:

What exactly does selling guns and not selling pornographic or other unsavory material have to do with each other? You’re a pretty smart guy so I am very interested in the answer.

We knew when we wrote that line that it probably would irritate some folks. Which is fine.

First of all, we recognize that different people from different regions may have different reactions to this. We were born in Greenwich Village, in New York City…and are almost certainly going to have a set of perceptions different from, say, someone born in Arkansas. Doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. Just different.

That said, while we acknowledge Wal-Mart’s right to sell what it wants, we’ve always had a bigger problem with the sanitizing of products. It strikes us as censorship, pure and simple.

We also would quibble with the characterization of things that Wal-Mart sanitizes or decides not to sell as “porn” or “unsavory material.” Jon Stewart’s “America: The Book” certainly wasn’t, in our humble opinion. It just expressed irreverence and satire that some folks found uncomfortable and unsettling.

We would argue that ideas should never be censored, because ideas never hurt anyone. Even unsavory ideas.

And it always intrigues us that some people who don’t necessary take all the provisions of the First Amendment seriously tend to take very seriously the provisions of the Second Amendment.

And finally, we didn’t say that Wal-Mart was wrong. Just inconsistent. And the Wall Street Journal story on the subject said the same thing – noting that Wal-Mart was trying to be sensitive about how its decisions were seen by its core constituency.

Regarding trans fats vs. other fats, MNB user Jane Andrews wrote:

Sure seems like trans fat confusion is running rampant among your readers. It shouldn't take a doctorate in nutrition to decide what to put on your popcorn. Whether you're using butter or hard stick margarine, bacon grease or tallow, solid fats (hard at room temp) are not so good for you. They clog arteries and increase inflammation.

Those who say your body can't digest trans fats are goofy. Unfortunately our bodies absorb both saturated fat and trans fats just fine. What to do? Use liquid oils instead, especially the ones like olive or canola oil. But when a liquid doesn't cut it, I agree with the FDA: add together the trans with the saturated fat to make comparisons between products. So, butter with 6 grams of saturated plus trans fat is more damaging than a soft margarine with 3 grams saturated plus trans fat. Or, have butter but use half as much. But don't cut back on trans only to have more saturates. If you care about preventing heart disease, choose less of both.

We love the taste and texture of our cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, fries and crackers. Getting rid of trans fats won't be a piece of cake. And even if we did, these foods won't suddenly become health foods.

Moderation is still the message.

Regarding former Kmart CEO Charles Conaway being absolved of criminal guilt in the company’s bankruptcy, one MNB user wrote:

If Chuck Conaway can get a pass from the arbitrators in his defense from the Kmart Creditors Trust, and keep all those millions in retention bonus, and if Coughlin was armed with a “release” signed at his retirement, then how can Wal-Mart go after his retirement benefits? Sounds like they should leave this one up to the feds to prosecute.

What a mess when the guys at the top get greedy.

Always is.
KC's View: