People are going to write me about this and say things like “Hey! Costco can’t be a patriot! It’s a business!” Oh, but my friends, as Mitt Romney used to say, corporations are people! So, once you get your head wrapped around the completely absurd concept of a bunch of crap lined up on some shelves being somehow human, the rest of the Orwellian idea will come a lot easier. Thank you, Supreme Court of the United States, for the silliest and most contrary decision of the nation’s judicial history.
But back to Costco. We live in times of dueling corporations, and they are dueling for every last nickel of discretionary income you’ve got in your wallet. Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walgreen’s, Kohl’s, ATT, Lowe’s, Piggly-Wiggly (couldn’t resist), and onward ad nauseum are those who vie for your cash.
But let’s compare Costco to Wal-Mart. It’s all the rage right now! Because it would appear that offering sub-poverty wages and manipulating the system so those poor souls you hire wind up working fewer hours and thus saving your megacorporation from having to foot the bill for their health care, isn’t translating into higher profits. In fact, Costco leads Wal-Mart by a significant margin. Wal-mart, only saw a 1.2% rise in year on sales, Costco’s most recent quarterly earnings report showed an 8% rate of growth in year on sales, a 5% rise in same-store sales, and an almost $70 million rise in membership fees.
Wow. So maybe screwing people isn’t actually the way to go.
Wal-Mart relies greatly on a concept called “externalization” to maximize their profits. Simply put, they take whatever they can get from whomever they can cajole, intimidate, crap on, or steal from to prop up their business plan of furnishing cheap Chinese trash for people who have almost no money. I haven’t bought anything from Wal-Mart that actually worked, and since I’ve only gone there like 3 times in my life, they are batting 100% for failure. I have almost cut off my fingers using other people’s flimsy Wal-Mart knives. I have seen people shred cheese on a Wal-Mart shredder and then have to pick pieces of broken plastic out of the bowl. Eesh. Virtually everything they sell has been produced in China at bottom dollar, and it shows. Yet people keep going there! Because they are BROKE! Why are they broke? Because if they work for Wal-Mart or some other corporation who has taken the Wal-Mart screw-everybody-you-can-including-your-customers path to glory and riches, they don’t make enough money to survive! I mean, there’s rent, there’s food, there’s bills, and there’s transportation.
If you are a schlub Wal-Mart employee, you average between $8 and $10 per hour. If you are an upper-tier Wal-Mart employee, you might climb into the $12 an hour average. If you are Mike Duke, Walmart CEO, you make over $23 MILLION dollar a year, which is over ONE THOUSAND AND THIRTY FOUR TIMES what the MEDIAN – not poorest, but MEDIAN – Walmart employee makes.
Half of Walmart workers made less than $22,400 in 2012, according to PayScale, which is below poverty level for a family of four. Which translates into this: the American taxpayer subsidizes the profits of low-wage/benefits employers like Walmart, through food stamps and Medicaid. Wal-Mart’s poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. As many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores use food stamps. This costs the American taxpayer about $1 billion per year!
And that’s some very cunning externalization of costs right there. You may never set foot in a scuzzy Walmart store, but you are paying them through the nose anyway.
So, what about Costco? Costco, for your info, is based in Issaquah, Washington. Yes, the very Washington State that hosts Microsoft and Starbuck’s. Washington State has this thing called a “gross receipt tax” (in Washington State it is called the “Business and Occupation Tax”. This means that companies based in Washington have to pay a tax on everything they sell, with different kinds of businesses paying different rates of the B & O tax. Example: standard retailer (which I would assume Costco is) pays a .0471 tax rate. But a service industry pays a LOT more – 1.8%. So Washington is not bad, but not that great, right? Whatever, because like most of the tax code, it is so completely and unnecessarily complicated that any conclusion is doubtless wrong.
So, let’s compare Costco to Walmart:
(These are workplace statistics as reported by the companies.)
|Employees covered by company health insurance|
|Costco – 82%
Wal-Mart – 48%
|Insurance-enrollment waiting periods (for part-time workers)|
|Costco – 6 months
Wal-Mart – 2 years
|Portion of health-care premium paid by company|
|Costco – 92%
Wal-Mart – 66%
|Annual worker turnover rate|
|Costco – 24%
Wal-Mart – 50%
|Costco – fourth-largest U.S. retailer
Wal-Mart – world’s largest retailer
|Fulltime employee’s average hourly wage|
|Costco – $17
Wal-Mart – s $9.68.
|CEO’s total 2004 pay|
|Costco – James Sinegal [Issaquah, Washington-based] $2.7 million
Wal-Mart – H. Lee Scott [Bentonville, Arkansas] $17.9 million
Wow! Kind of looks like Costco is doing some heavy lifting for the American way of life! Unlike Walmart, who is unrepentantly sticking it to the nation as a whole, and their own workers in particular. And remember, Walmart is the institution that was taking out life-insurance policies on their poverty-wage workers so if the unfortunate employee got run over by a bus while running to get to work on time, or got sadly killed by the manager of the local Walmart for attempting to unionize, or perhaps was crushed by a toppling pile of cheap Chinese imported crap, WALMART COULD STILL PROFIT OFF THE COLD DEAD CORPSE! I guess it is not illegal, but it sure is creepy. And we expect these sleazeballs to actually be good for us as Americans?
Oh, come on. Leopard, spots, you get the picture. How about if we all stop going to Walmart. It would be the patriotic, America-loving thing to do.