Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hold That Monkey!

I read about a study done some time ago, I don’t remember all of the details but it involved monkeys. If memory serves me, they took a group of monkeys and put them in a caged environment. A step ladder was placed in the middle of the cage and some bananas were placed on the top of the ladder.

Every time a monkey would climb the ladder and attempt to get at the bananas, one of the scientists would spray the monkey with cold water. The monkeys soon learned to ignore the bananas on the ladder.

Variable One. Remove one monkey, and introduce a new monkey who knows nothing about the cold water treatment. The other monkeys watch in amused fascination as he goes up the ladder to get the bananas.

But! This time the researchers spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. Guess what happens. Next time new monkey goes after the bananas, the rest of the monkeys grab him and beat the shit out of him. He soon learns to ignore the bananas.

It doesn’t take long to get the monkeys conditioned to stopping a new monkey from going for the bananas. After a period of time, one by one, you have removed all of the original monkeys and replaced them with new monkeys. Yet, the monkeys, none of whom have ever seen anyone sprayed with cold water, will violently interfere with any monkey who goes after the bananas.

One or two generations and it ain’t the man that’s holding you back, brother monkey.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about Wal Mart. Yeah, the Wal Mart that we all love to hate. You’ve heard the stories, “no single entity has done more to destroy rural America than Wal Mart.”

“Wal Mart discriminates against women and minorities.”

Big bad Wal Mart. All they think about is profits. And, at the expense of the employees. Yep, they pay them minimum wage, hold them to 32 hours so they can’t get benefits and they don’t stand a chance of advancement unless they’re male and white.

I gotta admit, I’ve participated in this Wal Mart bashing. And I live in Arkansas!

Well, there’s an article where Wal Mart has decided to fight back. The author points out that they have never seen a Wal Mart employee refute any of the articles that point out the good things Wal Mart does for their employees. I guess when you get big enough, folks are only interested in hearing the bad things about you. President Bush is a good example.

Thinking back, I realize the only thing I ever read bad about Wal Mart that was written by an employee (either current or former) was an article a fellow wrote about his miserable experience working there right out of college.

But the striking thing about what made his experience so miserable was not what corporate Wal Mart was doing to him. It was his fellow employees. People who may or may not have completed their high school educations. They were jealous of him and set him up for failure. They got him fired eventually by playing a mean series of pranks on him where they would scan an item from his department so that it deleted from inventory, then replace it later so that his inventory levels would always be off.

Is this a classic case of monkeys holding the other monkeys back from succeeding, just because they’re afraid of what might happen to themselves? How bad is Wal Mart really? Check out the website, look at the benefits and the pay scale. I think it’s better than what the company I work for offers to most of its employees. I know our insurance costs more. And, we don’t have a 401K…


EarlW said...

It's envy.
WalMart does a good job of selling what people want for less money than the competition. There are thousands of happily employed people.

The jobs are not exciting, but all jobs in the Retail sector are pretty much the same. Long hours, evenings, weekends. It's still a lot better than being unemployed.

Certainly they squeeze their suppliers. That's what business is all about. The more they squeeze, the more their suppliers work to be more efficient.

Millions of consumers benefit.

Works for me.

Nixon Casablanca said...

I've been the "new monkey" lots of times, and it's not just Wal-Mart employees that do this. With a college degree, I got set up and beat down while working at a radio station,a State prison, a welfare office, and a youth rehab center. I've always been the type to encourage and be happy for those who want to advance beyond me in a place of business, because that just makes them them the new monkey in the next cage.

BillyBudd said...

Thank you for the inspirational post!
Thank you for setting the record straight!
I still hate Walmart