At Wal-Mart, the Welcome Mat Was Out
In "Wal-Mart without the window dressing" (Books, Jan. 11), Wendy Zellner states that my book, In Sam We Trust, borrows liberally from Sam Walton's autobiography and a biography by Vance Trimble, "mostly because the Walton family and most Wal-Mart executives declined to cooperate." In fact, I spoke on the record with scores of people at the company, including co-founder Bud Walton, President and CEO David Glass, Vice-Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Donald Soderquist, and many others at every level. I also interviewed more than 60 people who worked closely with or knew Sam Walton well, including current and former directors; Walton's personal secretary, Becky Elliott; and many early executives.
While I do quote from Walton's autobiography and Trimble's biography in places, my narrative, based on extensive firsthand research, is sharply and continually at odds with the portrait of Walton and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. painted in those books, and in many place directly contradicts their accounts.
Also, far from pointing the finger at consumers for Wal-Mart's failings, I place responsibility where it belongs: on the shoulders of the executives. There is a difference between blaming consumers and pointing out, as I do, that companies such as Wal-Mart will respond to public pressure to change their behavior. In fact, we've seen that happen: Public pressure led Wal-Mart to adopt a code of conduct for its suppliers and, more recently, to take steps to make that code more enforceable.
DenverReturn to top
A Rational Lack of Exuberance for the Roth
"Why the Roth needs a revamp" (Personal Business, Jan. 25) bemoans the low participation in this new program, despite the "obvious tax advantages." Perhaps people are simply reacting rationally to decades of broken promises from politicians in Washington. Why should we believe them now when they promise future tax benefits? We know those benefits can be removed with the simple passage of another "tax reform" bill in Washington. There's something to be said for grabbing that bird in the hand when it takes the form of guaranteed tax deductions today.
Hayward, Calif.Return to top
Where Al Gore Parts Company with the Techies
"Call me Al, Corporate America's pal" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 25) leaves the impression that the Vice-President supports the agenda of the high-tech community. He does not. He is generally at odds with high-tech people on the issues they care about most. Take just a few issues supported by the industry: encryption export, making the research and development tax credit permanent, and increasing the levels of high-tech worker immigration. Last year, forums in California and elsewhere were proclaiming these measures as the most important for the continued economic success of technology. Al Gore has opposed each one.
Bartlett D. Cleland
Policy & Technology Counsel
Americans for Tax Reform
WashingtonReturn to top
Telepests Need Not Fear the Law
"The $2,000 wrong number" (Up Front, Jan. 25), about fines for telemarketers who solicit unwilling customers, overlooked the Oregon experience. For several years, Oregon has had a law whereby people who want to avoid telemarketing calls can pay to have a black dot placed beside their names in the phone book. Businesses that call such people anyway can be fined $25,000. While the law has survived every court challenge, the state is reluctant to enforce it. Just last night, I received two telemarketing calls. Citing the need to "educate" business, Oregon refused to follow up on an official complaint I filed.
Kenneth W. Chard
Bend, Ore.Return to top