In a New York Times business story (now unavailable), captured and commented on by The B.S. Corner, we read that Jim Sinegal, the chief executive of Costco Wholesale (fifth-largest retailer in the US) has a radical notion. He does the right thing.
Sinegal pays his employees a decent living wage, he doesn't force them to pay their own health-care costs, and he doesn't fight them if they choose to unionize.
He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.To say this is a stark contrast to business practices at Wal-Mart is the definition of understatement. The folks at BuyBlue rate Costco a whopping 99%. (Wal-Mart rates 22%.) Definitely: Girlcott!
At Costco, one of Mr. Sinegal's cardinal rules is that no branded item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, and no private-label item by more than 15 percent. In contrast, supermarkets generally mark up merchandise by 25 percent, and department stores by 50 percent or more.
Mr. Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation. "On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now." [Full Times story here, thanks to LonePrimate.]
If you're not familiar with the expression, a girlcott is the opposite of a boycott. The idea is to reward ethical business practices with your spending dollars. Some people dislike the faint sexist overtones (girls = shopping), but I like the positive action, and the playful name. I first heard the expression a million years ago, when the anti-nuke movement was urging people to buy New Zealand lamb, because of the country's anti-nuclear policies.
And do you know where the word boycott comes from? In the late 1800s, Captain Charles Boycott was an English landlord notorious for raising rents and evicting his tenants. His workers, organized by Charles Parnell and the Irish Land League, organized a campaign against him. Local people were encouraged to ostracize Boycott and his family. People stuck together and it worked. The Boycotts soon found themselves without servants, farmers, even mail delivery. Their crops failed, their household crumbled, and they were driven back to England.
As Casey Stengel said, You can look it up.
So: shop Costco. (And I thank Crabletta with reminding me, by example, to Buy Blue.)
In other, related news, Paul Krugman discovers what we already knew: Canada is good for business.