I nearly choked on my diet coke when I heard.
"You're working where?" I asked my friend, who I had always thought shared my political beliefs. "But...but...how?...are they...they're out here? How did this happen?"
My reaction was shared by others. You don't live in San Francisco and then up and work for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart!?!? It just isn't done.
"It's not exactly Wal-Mart," she said. "It's Walmart DOT COM, and it's not what you think."
But I didn't want to listen. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to have my friend's place of employ be a source of contention in our relationship. She knew all the arguments I would make, anyway.
Certainly you're familiar with them. You know, the ones where you lay out any basic liberal premise and then illustrate the ways in which Wal-Mart fucks it.
I just shrugged my shoulders and tried not to think of it. It's not like I could persuade her to change her mind and quit her fabulous new job.
And as her uber-liberal, British boyfriend said to me, "She didn't create the problem. Maybe she can help be a part of the solution." Or something like that. Fine. Whatever.
But then a few months after she started working there, she learned that I was officially looking for a new job -- something that would actually advance my stalled career. And she did what any good friend would do: started forwarding me job descriptions from her company.
I didn't want to seem ungrateful, and I didn't want to spark controversy, but um. No. I do not go to work for Wal-Mart. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard. I don't care what the position is, I can't go in and --
-- huh? What's this? The best job description I've ever read?
So what did I do? Did I declare, "Absolutely not! I don't care that this position was written with my very own resume in mind! I don't care that it would mean working for the largest and most reputable companies in the entire world, because who cares what Fortune thinks? Old white men! I live in San Francisco! Yay Peet's Coffee! Boooooooo to the boxed stores! Fuck you all!"
And then I forwarded my resume to my friend anyway.
The truth is, I was weak. I desperately needed a new job -- not just for more money, but because my kick-ass boss was on her way out and her replacement? Oh, for the love of pete. May I someday have the balls to write about him because I want to and he deserves it.
No, I could not have handled reporting to that man.
And so I interviewed at Walmart.com.
And it was...well, it was nothing at all like I expected. I expected the worst, and found myself instead at a typical Bay Area dotcom. I met cool people, smart and interesting people, people who cared about what they were doing, and took pride -- however modest -- in the fact that their work would impact millions of people every day.
So when they offered me the job, I took it.
Yes, dearest Invisible Internet Friends who are right now at this moment deleting me from their bookmarks and RSS feeds, I worked for Walmart.com.
I. Worked. For. Wal-Mart.
Sheesh. It seems so odd to write that. To see it in type. But it's true. I did work there, and I had a pretty darn good time doing it.
Does this mean I'm pro-Wal-Mart? Um, no. It does just mean, simply, that I think some elements of Wal-Mart and its brethren aren't completely, 100% spawned from the devil. Some of the ideas, some of the ethics are admirable. Yes, the execution falls short...
Ultimately, I think:
- Wal-Mart has the ability (size, power, capacity, infrastructure) to change the world for good. It does. Period.
- Wal-Mart does not understand why people hate it so much. I don't think it takes its dissenters seriously. Or if it does, certainly it's not seriously enough.
- Until Wal-Mart embraces and internalizes why and the extent to which they are hated, real positive change won't be possible.
- In the meantime, I would like to see the dissenters offer realistic proposals for change, working WITH Wal-Mart and not against it. Wal-Mart has almost unlimited reach and resources that could help millions of people worldwide. Why aren't they?
* * * * *
Anyway, there it is. Hardly sexy, but revealing nonetheless. And in case you're wondering?
Yes, I had to do the Wal-Mart cheer.
No, I didn't have to wear the blue vest.