Store executives, worried about recent bad sales figures and competition in the indigent consumer market from the Dollar Store franchise and Amazon, have hit upon a novel idea to suck every last bit of economic marrow from the emaciated public -- use desperate Wal-Mart shoppers to deliver online orders to the homes of other Wal-Mart customers -- and reimburse them not with a paycheck, but with store coupons that will barely cover the cost of their gas.
Just in time for Easter (and April Fools Day) Reuters has gotten the scoop on this truly rotten egg of an idea hatched in the vulture's nest of a retail board room. According to the reporter, though, the sociopathic plan is simply "radical":
Tapping customers to deliver goods would put the world's largest retailer squarely in middle of a new phenomenon sometimes known as "crowd-sourcing," or the "sharing economy."
A plethora of start-ups now help people make money by renting out a spare room, a car, or even a cocktail dress, and Wal-Mart would in effect be inviting people to rent out space in their vehicle and their willingness to deliver packages to others.
Such an effort would, however, face numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles, and Wal-Mart executives said it was at an early planning stage.
Wal-Mart currently uses carriers like FedEx Corp for delivery from stores - or, in the case of a same-day delivery service called Walmart To Go that is being tested in five metro areas, its own delivery trucks.
"I see a path to where this is crowd-sourced," Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com in the United States, said in a recent interview with Reuters.
Wal-Mart has millions of customers visiting its stores each week. Some of these shoppers could tell the retailer where they live and sign up to drop off packages for online customers who live on their route back home, Anderson explained.
Wal-Mart would offer a discount on the customers' shopping bill, effectively covering the cost of their gas in return for the delivery of packages, he added.Even though Joel Anderson lives inside a bubble within the rotten egg gilded with gold plate, Bloomberg News thinks he deserves credit for thinking outside the Big Box by using slaves with cars and rusted-out pickup trucks to augment Wal-Mart profits and his own multimillion-dollar pay package. Still, will Walmart shoppers be willing to work for nothing? Will they actually even deliver packages instead of stealing them?What if they cause an accident while clunking across town with loads of guns and ammo, tainted toothpaste, and Chinese dog food? The experts in Brooks Brothers suits with Harvard MBA degrees are at least admitting that their toxic germ of an idea is "fraught." How will people react, for example, when a random Wal-Mart shopper suddenly shows up at their door with their internet order?
Well, I guess if they're that scared of the Wal-Mart volunteers, they can always call 911, and a volunteer cop will show up at their door. Up in my Ulster County neck of the woods, the cash-strapped town of Saugerties is copy-catting Wal-Mart and and has just started advertising for unpaid police volunteers to write tickets, direct traffic, answer the phones and otherwise free the paid police from such humdrum scut work as minding an army of Wal-Mart couriers.
As I wrote in a previous post, the American plutocracy is yearning for the glory days of feudalism, if not downright slavery. Leave it to the world's largest retailer, whose heirs own more wealth than 40% of all Americans combined, to lead the charge back to the future.