Proud to Be at the Top

Question: What obligations does Wal-Mart have as the biggest company in the world, and are you meeting them?

Answer: We have an obligation to give back to the community, and I think we are. We do not have a sense that we have to make corporate donations to rebuilding monuments or supporting operas or the arts or any of those things. We think our obligation is to give back in that individual community. That's where that money came from, that's where it ought to go back to.

Founder Sam Walton said that Wal-Mart wouldn't go where it wasn't wanted. Is that still true?

I think that is true.

How do you define 'where it's not wanted'? Is it not wanted by those people who would like to not see lower prices? I don't think we're going to let them define whether or not we come. Is it going to be those people who do not want to compete with Wal-Mart? I don't think we're going to let them define it.

What services or products can Wal-Mart add?

Well, I think financial services is one we would like to be in. We're already offering money orders. We've dramatically lowered the costs of wiring money. There's probably a place for us in mortgages. I think the dot-com is going to be a very powerful tool.

How big can Wal-Mart be?

We are 8% of the nonautomotive, nonrestaurant sales in the U.S. I'm not sure why it couldn't be 24%. We've really done a great job for our customers, lowering prices, lowering the cost of living, raising the standard of living. Is it really unhealthy for us to be 32%? Could we be four times bigger right here? I don't know why not.

Tell us about plans for expansion in California. When will people see that?

I think they're going to see it very quickly.

Our goal is to roll out Supercenters as we get the permission from individual towns, and to roll out Supercenters fairly aggressively in California.

What is your response to critics who say Wal-Mart is replacing high-paying supermarket jobs with inferior ones?

I think it's interesting that people think that they can legislate what the world is going to look like. That they can set up a process of protections that doesn't reward efficiency.

We went through the lowest period of unemployment we've had in years, and yet we staffed our stores. We hired people. We trained people. So, if our jobs were so poor, when you had 2% unemployment, 3% unemployment, how did we get a million people?

Do you think your wages and benefits should be better?

No. But I think one of the goals would be to pay people as much as you can pay them. I think that's obviously anybody's goal, so that you can have a balance between what the prices should be [and] what the pay should be.

I think health care is a huge issue for all of us and whether it's buried in the costs of the product or whether it's in your paycheck, I think there's something that we as a country are having to address as we see these costs going up.

Are you proud of the wages and benefits you provide?

Yes, I'm proud. I think it's very competitive, but I'm particularly proud of the careers we provide. I see associates who like us and appreciate what the company has done for them and who know that the company appreciates what they have done.

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