Friday, March 30, 2007

Newsletter hoax is no joke to residents

Newsletter hoax is no joke to residents
Early April Fools' gag hits nerve near Worthington
Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:53 AM
By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch

Worthington Hills is a subdivision of 1,100 homes laid out around a golf course in Perry and Sharon townships north of Worthington.

Residents know one another by name, children play in the streets and people look out for their neighbors.

They also appreciate their privacy. "We enjoy limited outside access to our community," the Worthington Hills Civic Association Web site states.

So when residents learned that rock legend Eric Clapton and a Wal-Mart had plans to move in, some of them threw a fit.

The news, however, was an early April Fools' charade that proved all too effective.

"This has turned into an enormous debacle. You either thought it was hysterical or you were ready to kill somebody," resident Ann Ward said of the front-page stories in the quarterly "Views from the Hills" newsletter.

The publication was mailed to each homeowner last week. An apology quickly followed.

"In an effort to include some levity to an otherwise serious publication, a series of news articles and issues were included on the first page," association President Chet J. Chaney wrote.

The satire was written by Douglas Curran, the newsletter editor, and "resulted in some confusion and inconvenience for our community partners," Chaney wrote.

The newsletter also stated that Fairway Drive might soon be connected to Jewett Road in Delaware County, creating an influx of traffic, and that the Worthington Hills County Club would be downsizing its 18-hole golf course to nine holes.

A disclaimer at the end of the newsletter explained the joke.

Chaney received more than 100 e-mails and dozens of phone calls. About two-thirds were amused and supportive, he said.

The critics told him, " 'I read it. I believed it.' They were more upset that they actually believed it."

Others said, " 'What threw us off is that it's not April Fools' yet,' " Chaney said.

"We're volunteers," he said of the newsletter staff. "It's very easy to criticize someone who is trying to make the community a better place to live. Absent that first page, it's a wonderful newsletter."

©2007, The Columbus Dispatch, Reproduction prohibited

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wal-Mart's plan to conquer the world

Wal-Mart's plan to conquer the world

Failure in Germany, South Korea show the retail powerhouse is fallible. But as its home market shrinks, Wal-Mart has no choice but to find success overseas.
By Parija B. Kavilanz
, senior writer
March 27 2007: 5:01 PM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- Despite Wal-Mart's wobbly track record overseas, industry experts say it's becoming more crucial than ever for the world's largest retailer to get its international act together, and quickly.

Here's why.

* Wal-Mart and India-based Bharti Enterprises inked a joint venture this year to roll out a nationwide chain of supermarkets.

NEW YORK ( -- Despite Wal-Mart's wobbly track record overseas, industry experts say it's becoming more crucial than ever for the world's largest retailer to get its international act together, and quickly.

Here's why.

Wal-Mart (Charts) is running out of room to grow in the United States, its largest market, where it already operates about 4,000 stores. With each new store, it risks eroding sales at older stores.

Sure enough, sales growth at older stores open at least a year, known in the industry as same-store sales, have slowed considerably, growing 1 to 3 percent on average during the last three years from more than 5 percent previously. That puts Wal-Mart behind its archrival
Target Corp. (Charts)

Wall Street rewards expansion but not through cannibalization. Therefore, Wal-Mart's stock has languished in a trading range for the past few years, unable to break it's all-time high of $69.

Retailers hurt themselves with too many stores

As slower sales growth and other negatives started to accrue - Wal-Mart became a lightning rod for critics about its labor practices, among other things - Wal-Mart executives realized that they need a shiny object to appease investors. To that end, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott late last year announced that the company would ramp up international growth while
slowing domestic expansion.

"Think about it this way. The U.S. gives Wal-Mart some 260 million shoppers. The world gives Wal-Mart 6 billion shoppers. You do the math," said Edward Weller, analyst with Think Equity Partners.

Wal-Mart may rule the retail roost at home, but it hasn't met with the same measure of success abroad. In key markets like China, European competitors like Tesco, Carrefour and Metro have outperformed Wal-Mart and grabbed more market share.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart currently operates close to 3,000 stores in 13 countries outside of the United States. These markets accounted for about 23 percent of its total sales of $381 billion in 2006.

But last year it pulled out of Germany and South Korea after industry watchers said it realized that its low-price merchandise offerings and big-box, no-frills stores didn't really appeal to consumers in those markets.

"Many American companies have had a choppy history overseas because they assume they can replicate their U.S. business model in other countries," said Dana Telsey, a retail industry expert and founder of research firm Telsey Advisory Group.

Instead of rushing into a new market, she said, companies would be better off first learning the local tastes, scouting good locations and tailoring their merchandise accordingly.

At the same time, Telsey said Wal-Mart is learning from its mistakes. For instance, in China where it operates 73 stores, the discounter has started selling live seafood in its stores.

In February, Wal-Mart struck a $1 billion deal to acquire Chinese rival Trust Mart by 2010, challenging French chain Carrefour's dominance as the largest operator of the huge grocery and retail outlets known as "super-centers" in China.

In India, from where Wal-Mart already exports about $1.5 billion worth of merchandise to its stores, the company last year set up a liaison office to study the Indian market.

Wal-Mart may have an India problem

It subsequently entered into a joint venture with an Indian company to open hundreds of stores across the subcontinent.

"As a Wal-Mart investor, China and India excite me. These are two very large markets with growing middle-class populations with disposable income. These are ideal Wal-Mart consumers," said Steven Baumgarten, an analyst with PNC Advisors, a Philadelphia-based investment firm that manages $54 billion in assets, including Wal-Mart shares.

Think Equity Partners' Weller also pointed to Wal-Mart's ongoing success in Mexico where Wal-Mart de Mexico has become the country's largest retailer.

And a recent note Goldman Sachs said Wal-Mart plans to open 10 Wal-Mart supercenters in Canada, adding to its base of 289 stores in the country.

As it gradually irons out its wrinkles overseas, Wal-Mart is reaping the financial benefits to both its top and bottom line.

For its recently completed fourth quarter, Wal-Mart's international sales soared 30 percent versus a 10.9 percent increase for its U.S. operations, which included its Wal-Mart discount stores and its Sam's Club Warehouse division.

Still, PNC's Baumgarten said, Wal-Mart has more challenges ahead. "In order to drive down expansion costs, it has to drive up efficiencies in those markets. It's not there yet," he said.

Both Baumgarten and Weller also shot down suggestions that instead of gambling on international growth, perhaps Wal-Mart is better off giving money back to investors or buying back shares in a bid to reignite its stock.

Earlier this month, Wal-Mart approved a 31 percent increase in its annual dividend to 88 cents share, yielding about 1.8 percent.

Said Baumgarten, "Wal-Mart has consistently paid out dividend to shareholders and bought back shares, but the stock still hasn't done much. So I don't buy that argument."

Meaning international growth for Wal-Mart is now more crucial than ever.

--Analysts quoted in the story do not personally own shares of Wal-Mart and their firms do not have an investment banking relationship with the company.

Critics launch 'terror' attack ads against Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart withdraws industrial banking push
Wal-Mart, union push universal health care
Wal-Mart may have an India problem

© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wal-Mart's snooping case exposes a hot area: corporate intelligence

Posted on Fri, Mar. 16, 2007
Wal-Mart's snooping case exposes a hot area: corporate intelligence

NEW YORK (AP) - Wal-Mart's disclosure that an employee was tapping phone conversations and text messages is drawing attention to a growth industry within corporate America: the business of keeping things secret.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fired the employee, Bruce Gabbard, maintaining he acted alone and didn't receive authorization to eavesdrop. Federal authorities are investigating.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gabbard said he worked in an amply staffed unit whose mission was to shore up the walls around Wal-Mart's internal data and communications, protecting them not just from Internet hackers but from leaks to company critics. He declined further comment when contacted this week by The Associated Press.

Corporations are increasingly using James Bond tactics and employing security specialists with FBI, CIA or private eye backgrounds in an effort to safeguard proprietary information and any internal dealings that, if made public, could hurt a company's image and stock price, said Ken Springer, a former FBI agent and president and founder of Corporate Resolutions Inc., which conducts character and integrity checks.

In the past, Springer said, the biggest fear in corporate America was theft, but now the concern is anything that poses a threat to a company's reputation -- including having information leaked to outsiders such as the media and, in the Internet era, bloggers. Wal-Mart said Gabbard, a systems technician, had monitored phone calls and text messages of employees and nonemployees, including a New York Times reporter.

The growth of the corporate intelligence business is no secret. Last month, Cofer Black, vice chairman of the security company Blackwater USA and a former CIA counterterrorism expert, announced he had formed a new company called Total Intelligence Solutions, which focuses on providing intelligence gathering to companies. Its services will include rooting out insiders who are causing harm.

``With all this new technology, there are new challenges. Companies need to take proactive steps to protect trade secrets,'' Springer said. ``Reputation is everything. Companies have to use technology to stay ahead of employees' hurting the company or outsiders who gain access to proprietary information.''

Russell Corn, senior managing director of intelligence broker Diligence LLC, whose advisory board member includes former CIA and FBI Director William Webster, agreed, saying the corporate intelligence business is fast expanding. He estimated that it's about a $500 million industry now; it was about one-fifth that amount back in 2000.

Diligence's business, meanwhile, has tripled to $20 million over that time. ``It used to be a hard sell,'' Corn said, adding that Diligence's focus is on intelligence gathering for companies seeking to do business in emerging markets like Khazakstan.

Diligence has been caught doing its own spying: The accounting and consulting firm KPMG sued the company in 2005 for allegedly sending people posing as government spies into KPMG's Bermuda office to coax an employee into giving up proprietary data about an ongoing probe. The suit was settled in 2006.

At Wal-Mart, the head of corporate security is Kenneth Senser, a former FBI and CIA agent. In the interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gabbard said he was a member of Wal-Mart's Threat Research and Analysis team, and that Senser instructed him and another team member to find the source of the leaks of internal memos. Gabbard said Senser told him he was tired of telling Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott Jr. that he didn't know the source.

It's not known yet whether Gabbard's orders ultimately came from the upper levels of Wal-Mart management. But if snooping did involve top management, Wal-Mart conceivably could find itself in a position like that of Hewlett-Packard Co., whose ill-fated effort last year to find the source of boardroom leaks to the news media led to the indictments of Patricia Dunn, the company's former chairwoman, another executive and two private investigators. A California judge dismissed charges against Dunn Wednesday and the other defendants pleaded no contest, but the episode remains an embarrassment for H-P.

Wal-Mart, which has been under pressure to change its employee and other policies by union-backed groups like, is perhaps more anxious about leaks than other companies these days. Over the last year and a half, internal memos have been leaked to the media about a range of issues from health care benefits and wages to attendance policies. Negative headlines have depressed its stock -- which three years ago traded at $60 but is now in the $45 range -- and harmed the retailer's reputation.

Patricia Edwards, a portfolio manager and retail analyst at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich in Seattle, said she doesn't know whether Gabbard acted alone, but she said: ``I am getting the feeling that Wal-Mart is becoming more sensitive and more paranoid. I understand their paranoia.''

Wal-Mart has declined to comment further on the eavesdropping case after it announced on March 5 that Gabbard recorded phone messages between Times reporter and members of the retailer's public relations team. He also intercepted pages and text messages from other employees and non-employees, using his own personal equipment.

The company fired Gabbard last week as well as his direct supervisor, Jason Hamilton. A third person was put on disciplinary action.

Gabbard declined to comment in a text message sent Monday to an AP reporter. Hamilton said at his home in Springdale, Ark., on Tuesday that he hadn't been contacted by any federal investigators. He declined to comment further.

Wal-Mart's uneasiness about security also follows years of being shrouded in secrecy in the backwoods of Arkansas. This is a company that has a reputation for gathering sophisticated information about its consumers -- and lets employees know it is monitoring their computer and Internet usage.

Senser, whom Wal-Mart hired in 2003, had helped create a new unit at the FBI focusing on security. The Threat Research and Analysis team, where Gabbard worked, is relatively new, and focuses on overseeing security of Wal-Mart's information systems; it's still unclear whether it was also charged with finding the source of leaks, as Gabbard said. Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, declined to give out any information about the team.

Wal-Mart said it believes the unauthorized recording of telephone conversations by Gabbard did not violate any applicable federal or state laws because Wal-Mart policies subject all employees' communications to possible monitoring or recording. Still, the company said that Gabbard's recording of the calls was against company policy; Wal-Mart has maintained that it only records associate phone calls in compelling circumstances and with written permission from the company's legal department.

Federal law prohibits intercepting wireless communications without a court order, according to Jim Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert with Counterpane Internet Security Inc., said the situation is complicated, adding that ``we don't know a lot of the details of the (Gabbard's) motivation.''

The real reporting relationship between Senser and Gabbard and whether Senser knew of Gabbard's activities aren't clear.

Schneier said it may be difficult to prove that Gabbard had pressure from superiors -- if in fact he did. In the HP case, board member Thomas Perkins and his attorney demanded information from HP about the methods used to identify another board member as a leaker.

``One of the board members said, 'this will not stand,''' Schneier said. ``That is how it broke.''


More technology news and opinion at


© 2007 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wal-Mart Sends Warning Letters

Wal-Mart Sends Warning Letters
This article was published on Friday, March 16, 2007 10:11 PM CDT in Business
By Anita French
The Morning News

A law firm representing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sent two warning letters to Wal-Mart Watch of Washington and an Internet site called The Consumerist, demanding they remove from their Web sites copies of an internal document that reveals market research the Bentonville-based retailer carried out on consumers.

A letter dated Thursday was set to The Center for Community and Corporate Ethics, the organization behind Wal-Mart Watch, by Neil P. Kearney, an attorney for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis in Pennsylvania.

In the letter, Kearney said his firm represented Wal-Mart and that the market research document Wal-Mart Watch posted was copyright-protected.

"Publication of this presentation infringes on Wal-Mart's intellectual property rights. Further, it is clear from the post itself that your organization recognizes the infringing nature of the post," Kearney wrote.

He told Wal-Mart Watch it had until noon Friday to remove the posting.

Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, said his group complied with the letter's demand.

"It was pulled," he said about the posting.

The document, titled "Wal-Mart Shopper Segmentation," shows the results from a June 2006 study of what Wal-Mart calls a "nationally representative pool of 4,565 male and female shoppers, ages 16 to 75, with access to a Wal-Mart."

In the study, shoppers are broken down into such categories as "price-sensitive affluents, convenience seekers, brand aspirationals, trendy quality seekers and price-value shoppers."

There is also a category called "conscientious objectors," which makes up 14 percent of potential Wal-Mart consumers, as identified by the company.

Wexler opined that this last category may be one reason why Wal-Mart didn't want the documents posted at Web sites, even though some of the information was published by the media last week.

"The fact that their marketing department describes non-Wal-Mart shoppers as conscientious objectors was embarrassing to the company," Wexler said.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar told the Associated Press, however, that the term "conscientious objector" meant consumers who base purchases on a company's practices, such as charitable giving or environmental measures.

Tovar said the term was not synonymous with Wal-Mart boycotters.

The Consumerist, which also posted the market research at its Web site, said it had received a warning letter from Kearney on Monday to remove the posting. Editor Ben Popken told The Morning News in an e-mail Friday that his organization had complied.

"The documents were sent to us by an unconfirmed source," he said.

The Consumerist is a blog aimed at informing consumers about various issues, Popken said.

All content © The Morning News. Unauthorized distribution prohibited.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wal-Mart CEO gets $22M in stock as reward

March 11, 2007
Wal-Mart CEO gets $22M in stock as reward
The Associated Press

BENTONVILLE, ARK. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has awarded its chief executive officer a stock bonus worth $22 million for reaching revenue targets, the retail giant disclosed Friday in a regulatory filing.

The compensation committee of Wal-Mart's board voted Wednesday to make the award to Lee Scott and also grant shares to other executives.

Scott's salary and bonus for 2006 was $5.23 million. His total compensation for that year was, excluding restricted stock awards, was $15.7 million. The $22 million bonus was for Wal-Mart's 2007 fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31.

The filing Friday says Scott was awarded 459,348 Wal-Mart shares, which will be 50 percent vested in three years and fully vested in five years. The award brings Scott's total Wal-Mart holding to 1,185,002 shares, worth $56.8 million, based on the share price of $47.93 listed in the filing.

©2007 The Clarion-Ledger

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Neptune Reluctantly OK's Wal-Mart Settlement

Neptune Reluctantly OK's Wal-Mart Settlement
2/26/2007 11pm report
By Kyle Meenan
First Coast News

NEPTUNE BEACH, FL -- Neptune Beach spent $100,000 trying to keep retail giant, Wal-Mart, from building a Superstore on Atlantic Boulevard. But Monday night the City Council reluctantly OK'd a mediator's findings, knowing a legal challenge could cost millions.

"I wish I could say, 'NO! I'm not going to support this,' but for my community, I don't feel like I have any other choice," said Neptune Vice Mayor Harriet Pruett.

"I love this community too much to place us in jeopardy of a million or two or three million lengthy lawsuit in litigation."

For nearly two years residents cried out to the council to reject Wal-Mart, citing increases in noise, traffic and crime.

The matter went before a magistrate, who found the store's arguments for building in Neptune Beach were supported by state law.

It was not welcome news to the City Council.

"All in all this is a discouraging conclusion to a long contest between Wal-Mart and another community that objects to its 'one-size-fits-all' business strategy and slash and burn legal tactics," said Councilor John Weldon.

But in the end it was a 4-to-1 vote to approve the mediated agreement for a small WalMart Superstore.

The Council has until April 2nd to work out details like trucks coming in after 10 p.m. and other issues like noise and traffic.

"We're pleased and excited about the opportunity to serve the residents of Neptune Beach and the beaches communities," said Wal-Mart attorney Karl Sanders.

Construction is set to start in early summer.

Created: 2/26/2007 10:40:05 PM
Updated: 2/27/2007 3:25:35 PM
Edited by Chris Turner, Assignment Desk

© 2007 First Coast News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

First Coast News -- WTLV NBC-12 and WJXX ABC-25 -- 1070 East Adams Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202 -- (904)354-1212

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wal-Mart clerk charged in theft

Wal-Mart clerk charged in theft
By TERRI SANGINITI, The News Journal
Updated Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 3:14 pm
Tasha Bobilin

A 19-year-old Wilmington woman was arrested on the job for allegedly pilfering the till while working as a cashier at Wal-Mart in Prices Corner, state police said today.

The employee, Tasha Bobilin, of the 2900 block of N. Tatnall St., was charged with felony theft and released in lieu of $1,000 unsecured bail.

State police spokesman Cpl. Jeff Whitmarsh said troopers were called to the store at 1251 Centerville Road on Monday in the wake of an internal audit that revealed a pattern of theft.

Whitmarsh said on several occasions last week, Bobilin’s cash drawer came up short, prompting an audit of her cash register receipts.

The audit indicated that $1,485 went missing from Bobilin’s register while she was working.

Contact Terri Sanginiti at 324-2771 or

Copyright © 2007, The News Journal.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stockton Considers Law To Block Big Retail

Feb 26, 2007 4:17 pm US/Pacific
Stockton Considers Law To Block Big Retail

(AP) STOCKTON City councilors plan to take up a proposed ordinance Wednesday that would block new big-box retail stores from opening.

Allowing more large chain retailers to do business could hurt local commerce and transform the downtown shopping district into a row of empty storefronts, said Vice Mayor Leslie Baranco Martin, who proposed the ordinance.

It is similar to one enacted in Turlock last year that banned stores that exceed 100,000 square feet and devote at least 5 percent of space to groceries.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. opposed the Turlock ordinance but the U.S. District Court in Fresno sided with Turlock last year. San Diego and Long Beach have passed similar laws and other communities across the nation have set square-footage caps, changed zoning laws and even seized land by eminent domain to keep large retailers out.

Stockton officials have not decided yet how the ordinance would apply to a Wal-Mart Supercenter already approved by the city planning board and another Wal-Mart store not yet approved, said Ren Nosky, city attorney.

The full council must approve it before it becomes law.

Roderick Scott, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, said he hopes the city realizes the retailer generates jobs and crucial tax revenue.

(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )

© MMVII Sacramento Television Stations Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Walmart...The Evil of All Evils

Walmart...The Evil of All Evils
Submitted by swimgirl on Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:16am.

Over the past few years, Walmart has become a common household name in many cities across the U.S. With its low prices and conveinence, who wouldn't want to shop there? Who cares about going to smaller grocery stores and clothing shops to buy what you need when Walmart is a twenty minute drive away and you can get everything there and for a lower price.

Walmart has been building supercenters across the country, some in small towns and others in big cities which is causing a headache for many small businesses. Walmart makes people want to shop at their stores because of the conveinence of finding everything and the low prices. More people then shop at Walmart and not at the smaller businesses causing them to close. Once the businesses close, Walmart cranks up thier prices because they are the only store left in the community. This can ruin a city's economy so fast that the people in the community don't realize what is going on until it is too late. A local town not too far from here had that happen this past year and Walmart is now trying to build another supercenter in our city. If the people of these communities let it happen, Walmart will eventually control their whole economy.

I am asking that people think twice before going and spending your money at Walmart. One person taking a stand by not shopping at Walmart won't make a difference, but a whole group of people can make a difference.