Wal-Mart PR offensive takes a hit

No sooner did I hit "publish" on the previous post about Wal-Mart's highly-publicized list of proposed good deeds -- a new low-cost health plan, a zero-waste environmental policy, supporting a minimum-wage hike -- than I find this story, due to appear in Wednesday's New York Times:

An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."

Whether the billionaire heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune will be encouraged to pitch in with cart-gathering to stay limber and otherwise avoid becoming a drain on the company's bottom line was not disclosed.

Read the memo here (pdf). This is going to set the PR campaign back a bit.