Wally World Is The Best World

By Jesse Taylor
Tuesday, February 3, 2009 21:37 EDT
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imageSome guy decides to work at Wal-Mart for a few days in order to prove Barbara Ehrenreich wrong about how it’s really hard to make a living working at Wal-Mart. The guy, incidentally, is a senior writer at Wired Magazine with 41 books to his name, a teaching job and any number of other side gigs.

In short, the exact kind of person that normally goes in to Wal-Mart for a job.

I find this to be the best paragraph:

My standard equipment included a handheld bar-code scanner which revealed the in-store stock and nearest warehouse stock of every item on the shelves, and its profit margin. At the branch where I worked, all the lowest-level employees were allowed this information and were encouraged to make individual decisions about inventory. One of the secrets to Wal-Mart’s success is that it delegates many judgment calls to the sales-floor level, where employees know first-hand what sells, what doesn’t, and (most important) what customers are asking for.

Shockingly, Wal-Mart gives its salespeople tools to let them sell things. That seals it – they never told workers they couldn’t use the bathroom. I can’t believe such charlatans and fakers were allowed to push around this benign corporate behemoth for so long.

Platt’s story is one of a magical, low-wage wonderland where he was given breaks out the wazoo and all of his coworkers would hate to work at any other store that’s ever existed, pregnancy involves no pain or discomfort, and liver tastes like chocolate-covered potato chips. Fuck, I want to work at Wal-Mart after his description of it.

Even looking at his motivations for writing this article (which seemed to be proving Ehrenreich and labor unions wrong), I have to wonder – why no details of how long he worked there? Did he tell them he was a writer for Wired Magazine? Did his coworkers know they were being interviewed? You could be working as a quality tester at the Disease-Free Amazing Oral Sex Emporium for $150 an hour, and someone there is going to think it’s the worst job in the world because they couldn’t get off (heh) to go to Comic-Con. It just seems bizarre that people working low-wage jobs for a massive, faceless corporation are happier than woodland animals scampering through the morning dew.

Platt also compliments the fine work of Adam Shepard, author of Scratch Beginnings, who managed to take the temporary inconvenience of a college education, great health, whiteness, and credit cards with high limits and turn them, miraculously, into a comfortable lifestyle. It’s the exact kind of sociological observation that’s at work with Platt, where he attempts to prove that working at Wal-Mart while being a reporter with, likely, a large amount of savings, a safe job to go back to, the ability to quit whenever he’d like, the option to end the job and a journalist hat that lets him step back and hear whatever suits his preconceived notions and then declare it the gospel truth.

There’s nothing like being lectured about how to live life by someone who came very close to almost doing it…sort of.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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