business news in context, analysis with attitude

• Wal-Mart opened its 100th Neighborhood Market this week, a 39,680 square foot store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is the first of the format that Wal-Mart has opened in the state, and is open 24 hours.

The retailer says that more than 400 people applied for the 83 jobs available at the store.

In the press release heralding the opening, Wal-Mart notes that it employs 14,341 associates in the state at 26 supercenters, three discount stores, five Sam’s Club’s and one distribution center. It also says that it “collected on behalf of the state of New Mexico more than $141.1 million in sales taxes in 2004 and paid more than $6.52 million in state and local taxes.”

Just in case you were wondering.

• As expected, former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin pleaded guilty to fraud and tax charges Tuesday, admitting that he embezzled more than $500,000 from the retailer. The Wall Street Journal reports that the 57-year-old Coughlin “faces a maximum of 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. He also could be fined $1.35 million.”

During the hearing, Coughlin admitted to what he called “serious mistakes in judgment” (as opposed to doing something wrong on purpose). He also said that pleading guilty “was not an easy decision,” suggesting an interesting relationship between Sam Walton’s former protégé and the notion of telling the truth.

• `Wal-Mart has been hit with a consumer class action suit filed by two California residents who say that the retailer consistently and routinely overcharges consumers at checkout with prices that do not match those advertised.

The consumers say that Wal-Mart overcharges 3.9 percent of the time, while the acceptable standard for accidental overcharging is two percent.

Wal-Mart disputes the number, and its spokesperson, Sarah Clark, told Reuters, "More often than not, the error is in the customer's favor. We encourage our customers to point out any discrepancies, and when they do, we compensate them appropriately."
KC's View:
Whether this is a frivolous lawsuit or not, we think that saying most errors favor the consumer is a non-starter. Nobody is going to believe it, no matter what the stats say.