BENTONVILLE, AR—Wal-Mart, the world's largest discount retailer, announced its biggest-ever rollback Monday, with employee pay cuts of up to 35 percent.
"Just in time for the holiday shopping season, we're rolling back the hourly wages of workers in every department—housewares, automotive, health and beauty, and so many more!" Wal-Mart president and CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. announced at a press conference. "From Baton Rouge to Boise, we're continuing our tradition of low, low prices and using our muscle to create unbelievable savings!"
"For us!" Scott added.
Scott then turned to a large projection screen on which the company's trademark yellow happy face whizzed through the aisles of a Wal-Mart, enthusiastically "slashing" the hourly wages of employees all over the store.
"Paying $7.75 an hour for a Class-2 cashier with fewer than two years' experience?" a cheery narrator asked in amused disbelief. "How about $6.50? And $8.45 an hour for a dockworker to unload boxes of bath towels all day? We think $6.75 sounds more like it!"
In addition to wage rollbacks, Scott said Wal-Mart will discontinue a number of shelf-stocking, warehousing, and sales-floor jobs that have been occupying valuable space on the payroll.
"Why, some of those old stockers have been collecting dust in our aisles and ledgers for five years," the narrator said as the smiley-face ushered reluctant ex-employees and their bloated wages to the parking lot. "It's time for a store-wide clearance! Out with the old and in with the new!"
The beaming smiley-face then placed a sign reading "Help Wanted—$5.15/Hour" in a window and welcomed in a long line of smiling job applicants bearing brand-new high-school diplomas, military discharge papers, and green cards.
"Wal-Mart is the place to find the latest of everything!" the narrator said. "The benefits of having long-time employees around don't add up to the benefits we have to pay them. It's time for newer, fresher, cheaper faces!"
As a result of the announcement, Wal-Mart's stock rose 20 points Monday.
"We're very excited," Wal-Mart stockholder James Seaton said. "After all, everyone loves a good value. And you can't beat the combination of low cost and high quality you find in good old-fashioned American labor."
According to Scott, employees at all 1,362 Wal-Marts, 1,671 Supercenters, and 550 Sam's Clubs will be notified of the rollbacks this week by greeters stationed at the employee entrance of each store. Greeters will address employees by their first names, shake their hands, and inform them of the store's special new wage plan. Those who remain on staff will find red "Wage Rollback!" stickers on their time cards in celebration of the occasion and in compliance with the scant federal regulations protecting minimum-wage earners.
"Wow! A 24 percent reduction!" said Harold Reis, who works in the garden department in a Marshfield, WI Wal-Mart. "I can't believe it! Why, I never saw cuts like this when I used to work at the family-owned Seubert Greenhouse!"
"But that was a few years ago," Reis added. "Nowadays, you can drive all over town looking for someplace to pay you more, but good luck. Wal-Mart is the single biggest employer in 21 states!"
In spite of the savings on labor, Wal-Mart director of human resources Lawrence Jackson said he isn't worried about incurring losses.
"What we might lose in terms of shrinkage of our work force, we'll make back almost immediately," Jackson said. "That's what's so great about being a part of so many small communities across the country—once we get a location up and running, people find out they can't afford not to work for us!"
In a related plan, Jackson said Wal-Mart plans to slash the prices it pays for manufactured goods in various Pacific Rim and South American countries by 20, 30, and even 40 percent.