Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Guest Post: Have You Ever Wondered What Happened To Vlasic Pickles?

Guest Post (or mild rant) by "anyjazz", my husband:

Walmart has had its own “house brand” lines of products as far back as 1993; "Equate", "Dr. Thunder" and "Sam's Choice" to name just three. There are several products from cheese to canned beans now merchandised in their “Great Value” label. That is not so unusual; Homeland has “Best Choice”, Costco has “Kirkland”, Target has “Up and UP” and Safeway has “Lucerne” and others. I read recently that Amazon is expanding their own “Elements” product line, into food items. Do the retailers do this because they want to make less profit on their sales? Of course not.

So Walmart’s “Great Value” line is not a new thing and really not a problem with me.

But there is a problem.

While we shop at Homeland or our local independent grocer as much as possible, there are times we find ourselves in the crowded aisles at our Walmart Superstore. During these shopping visits, I believe I have seen an emerging pattern that annoys me.

The “Great Value” product is packaged similar to the name brand packaging in size and color and design. And worse, there’s more of it. Sometimes the stock of the name brand product you might be looking for has been allowed to deteriorate to nothing, while the “Great Value” product can be found in prominence.

For an example, I went looking for a light bulb for a small night lamp. I found a six foot section of display almost depleted of the Sylvania, Westinghouse and GE brands, while next to it was a fully stocked section of “Great Value” light bulbs.

I found examples where a name brand product had been moved to another location in the store, and in the usual location, instead, was the "Great Value" brand of the item you went to buy. Since the house brand packaging is designed and printed in colors to approximate the name brand, you may not even notice you are getting a house brand.

So the clever Walmart merchandisers are in a deliberate campaign to get their “Great Value” line into the shopping carts by sleight of hand or chicanery or whatever method works. If you pick up their brand by mistake or out of desperation because you can’t find the brand you were shopping for, they don’t care.

No. They do not accidentally, unintentionally run out of anything. Walmart (as do many large retailers) has the most sophisticated perpetual inventory system one can find. They know without visiting each shelf, how much of each product, in each size, color and flavor they have in stock at any given moment. A low stock situation automatically triggers an ordering system to bring the item back to established stock limit conditions. Some stores receive DAILY stock trucks to maintain their inventory.

Walmart ran out of something? Not unless they wanted to.

Sears and Roebuck, the big merchandiser of the past, used to buy huge amounts of stock from a smaller manufacturing company. They would maintain orders for a period and then cease ordering suddenly. The smaller company often went bankrupt because of the loss of projected revenue. Sears would step in and buy the smaller company and resume manufacturing under one of their own brand names like Kenmore, Craftsman, Jaclyn Smith and Country Living.

Now, you don’t suppose Walmart, the world’s largest company, does the same thing? Here is an article describing Walmart’s activity:
“The Walmart You Don’t Know”.

So my problem is, I guess, I am not comfortable with being tricked into getting something I had not intended to purchase.

And here is another article showing the insidious power of the world’s largest company.


mike said...

Walmart apparently has a problem with in-store inventory, ie chaotic receiving and tracking in each store and the availability of employees to re-stock:
Tracking particular products within categories is beyond Walmart's super-computer talents, and overseas ordering and restocking has its difficulties:

The buy-in-bulk chains, Costco and Sam's, have a different set-up; they offer far fewer selections in one or two larger sizes only. You won't find twenty different brands of laundry detergent, each in various sizes, but three to five of the most popular in one large size. One or two brands of peanut butter, both in the large size, etc. I don't shop at any of these stores.

I never shop at Walmart for ethical reasons. Walmart has been one of the largest contributors toward the collapse of American industries, lowered hours & wages with no benefits, increased federal and state welfare benefits (subsidies) to its employees, and its business model has greatly benefited the Chinese regime of citizen suppression and ecological disaster. How anyone can purchase items from Walmart is beyond me. I avoid all products made in China, to the extent that is possible, and I'll pay a premium for products made in the USA. I always purchase my foods from HEB grocery store, privately owned and operated here in Texas ( ).

I'm essentially retired and I have the luxury of actually making most of my food. I purchase raw materials grown in the USA and very few ready-to-eat foods. I make extremely few purchases of household items and supplies, always with an eye on the "Made in the USA" label.

Walmart and its business model is a terminal disease. And like most metastasized cancers, by the time the patient is diagnosed, it's too late. Stop patronizing Walmart and similar chain stores, and Chinese products. Pretty simple, but we Americans can't resist a bargain, even if it ultimately kills us.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Thanks for the guest post. As you've said, we shop as little as possible at Walmart, but sometimes it's a case of "needs must" - as in our flat tyre episode a few days ago - Walmart auto repair was the only place open on Sunday, and they did a prompt and speedy repair job on the slow leak for a very reasonable $10. I do get that they can only do the job as cheaply as that because W'mart probably don't pay their mechanics enough - but it was a case of needs must, or staying another night in a hotel.

I buy Zyrtec generic from Walmart because, oddly, their Equate brand is the only one that works as well as expensive Zyrtec for my permanent allergies here in OK. I also buy some British cookies there too, because nobody else within 100 miles stocks them. Same goes for a couple of other items. I also like the French-style bread sticks baked in their bakery and buy a couple to freeze whenever we're in a Walmart store. I feel no guilt for any of this!

It's nice for those who live in more urban areas with lots more choice of places to shop, they find it easy to avoid the big W - but we are not in that position. We have Homeland, and a small independent store other than Walmart, and use them for around 90% of our shopping.

I agree with mike, above, that Walmart has been the cause of death of local small businesses, as well as - as you mentioned - some local manufacturing plants and factories. A similar thing happened in the UK, in the case of Marks and Spencer there - but they do have a good reputation for treating their staff very well indeed. However, M & S have been the cause of bankruptcy and/or closure of many small factories due to the same reasons you've pointed out...taking the factory's complete output, then ceasing the contract, leaving the small manufacturer high and dry. Walmart is not alone in these unpleasant practices.

anyjazz said...

As I mentioned, we shop at WallyWorld as little as possible. We buy very little food there.

When our superstore started up here, it drove out nearly all of the privately owned shops, including the art supply store, the dress shops, the men’s clothing shops, all but one of the garden centers, two of the three office suppliers and many more businesses. The only local mall simply died.

When in need of a non-food item that cannot be found locally, we must either give in to the local superstore or drive 40 miles to the nearest larger city to find supplies. The greenest thing to do of course is to purchase locally. But that is not what the post is about.

The point of my rant was the trickery being used by Walmart to peddle their house brand items. On our last visit there we saw a shelf where a name brand product was normally stocked. There was the largest size with stock nearly depleted, beside it, the middle size the same. And next to it in place of the small size: Fully stocked Great Value version of the product. No one can convince me that this is a “stock keeping” problem. It is a concerted effort to get their own brand into the carts through any trickery possible.

Sonny G said...

I agree that walmart and the other big box stores have ruined mom n pop stores and as you posted many major companies..

To me, the main issue is that until such time as American workers are paid a fair hourly wage, how exactly are they expected to survive without the lowest possible prices and even then there are many essential items they must do without.

I've personally never known nor heard of a salesperson who didn't use trickery of some kind-- example- insurance companies - where you pay and pay but rarely are fully covered and many times left in the lurch when you most need that which you have paid for to be there.
Bad as walmart may be in many ways you at least get something for your money:)
Of course it almost goes without saying that the greatest Trickster of all time is the US Government- where we pay all our lives and very often after death to enrich the lives of the higher ups, while all others suffer and try to survive.
on that note is walmart owned an operated the us budget we'd get a lot for the dollars we are forced to pay and that would probably eliminate the congress and senators as they wouldn't spend endless billions to run for an office that wasn't going to line their pockets for a lifetime and beyond. hmmm, I'm thinking this might be a great idea lol. can you imagine how fast they'd all line up to work at the wages walmart would be willing to pay..??

Sonny G said...

ps- oh yea I forgot about all the speaking engagements- books and libraries that wouldn't be paying them for their memories of working for the US of Walmart.
sorry in advance , I did understand what you were saying in your post but I just can't help but point my finger at the true culprits who have made this all possible in the first place.

mike (again) said...

PBS' "Frontline" produced "Is Wal-Mart Good for America" broken into shorter video chapters:

Another page listing links about Walmart's "secrets":

Regarding your direct topic, anyjazz, the empty shelves where name-brand products should be, the above video mentions Rubbermaid products and how Walmart couldn't coerce Rubbermaid to provide cheaper wholesale pricing to Walmart. Rubbermaid had been a USA-made product. Walmart delegated Rubbermaid products to their bottom shelves and reduced the inventory of Rubbermaid products, resulting in the empty shelves you discuss. Rubbermaid was eventually forced into bankruptcy.

The program also discusses how the one remaining American manufacturer of TV picture tubes filed suit with our government against China and that Walmart assisted China in the dispute.

If Walmart doesn't want to stock name-brand products, whether they want their own Walmart-brands to dominate and sell, are "teaching" these other manufacturers a lesson, they can't buy these name-brand products at bargain wholesale prices, or are simply lame when it comes to inventory control, doesn't matter to me, as I don't shop at Walmart. I'll give my business to the internet contenders, if need be, rather than shop Walmart.

Twilight, the Equate-brand, 10 mg cetirizine (generic Zyrtec) you purchase at Walmart is apparently made in the USA (scroll down for question-answer ). There are very few USA manufacturers, with most from India, China, etc, and should be viewed as suspect. Walgreen's is made in the USA, too (scroll down and find "Product of the USA" just above the product label ). CVS' is manufactured by UCB Pharma, S.A. out of Belgium, registered with EU regulatory (distributed through Mylan Pharmaceuticals) and should be equivalent.

LB said...

The trickery you describe, as well as the story you linked to about Walmart employees losing jobs because of mysterious store closures, are symptoms of bigger ethical and moral issues. There's a hidden price to be paid for Walmart's cheap prices and so-called 'great values', though I understand why some folks (those with limited access or incomes) might be forced to shop there.

Made in the USA isn't a guarantee either, using L.A.'s garment industry as one example. Then too, made in the USA rarely means the raw materials were sourced here as well, or if they were that they were ethically sourced.:(

We sometimes buy (organic) frozen fruits and vegetables and always search for the words 'product of' on the package, just to make certain the items were grown here in the US, which many of them aren't.

From what I've read, free trade agreements like the TTP and TTIP won't only jeopardize worker rights or safety/environmental issues related to the quality of imported food, they would also make it easier for importers to challenge food labeling requirements, which would mean consumers wouldn't know the country of origin:

Related to this, most consumers probably don't realize 90% of the shrimp sold here in the US is industrially farmed overseas, sometimes using forced labor and/or child slaves. There are health concerns for consumers as well, especially when it comes to cheaply produced food, including food or ingredients imported from China:

I mention all this because it *directly* relates to the idea of cheap goods sold by retailers like Walmart and the trickery involved in their sale and production.

According to that link, 51% of the cod comes from China. Twilight, I was thinking of your love of Fish and Chips when I read that.:(

anyjazz said...

Good points all.

Walmart practices no doubt are causing many economic ills. Unfair pricing and packaging to eliminate competition, the slave labor, the unfair wages and lack of benefit programs, all are subjects that will continue to create more profit for them and more problems for the general public.

They are already the world’s largest company. Through ruthless business practices, they will continue to absorb other companies, real estate, and eventually even governments. When they have finally trained the public to buy only their products, using a Walmart credit system, then Tennessee Ernie will have predicted it in song: “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t come; I owe my soul to the company store.”

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Yes, I fully agree with all your points.


mike (again) ~ I've tried several different Zyrtec generics including Walgreen's, CVS and from an independent local pharmacy chain where we get our prescriptions filled - Equate has been the only one to perform as well as Zyrtec. I assumed it's something to do with the method of manufacture or some extra ingredient or stage of manufacture...or something. I used to find a similar thing with different brands of OTC painkillers in the UK (I can't recall detail now), but the exact same ingredients in different brand names just didn't perform for me equally well. Maybe it's a peculiarity all mine own! :-)


LB ~ Thanks for that information. We do buy frozen cod, and we look for that marked as being from Alaska for preference, but in future I shall double check. No doubt we've fallen into the China trap at times in the past. Agreed on TPP - it'll be a bad deal all round!

LB said...

anyjazz ~ What's sadder is that Walmart isn't alone. Smaller businesses, business owners and individual citizens aren't immune to the temptations posed by greed, power and pleasure or convenience.

It's also understandable (to some extent) why making informed and ethical choices may not be the first thing someone in survival mode thinks about or has the luxury of considering.

Though I wouldn't want to go back to not knowing, life was much easier before I knew and understood. For the most part, I can't use ignorance as an excuse anymore when choosing.

LB said...

I meant to include government and elected representatives in my last comment's 2nd sentence. The point is, as humans, none of us are immune. It just plays out differently.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz often tells me, "America wasn't always like THIS!" Likewise, I'm suspecting that Walmart "wasn't always like THIS" either. Sam Walton would not be impressed about the way things have turned out, I feel sure.
My old post on Mr Walmart is at:

LB said...

Hours after I left my comment, I ran across the article, "Myanmar Fisherman Goes Home After 22 Years As A Slave":

Among other retailers, Walmart is mentioned in the Editor's Note at the end of the article.

It's worth mentioning how very few of us know (or consider) where the restaurants we dine at source their food.

mike (again) said...

Your last line from your Sam Walton post (linked above), "I often wonder how these two men would now view their 'progeny'."

Sam Walton's progeny is another reason to not shop Walmart:

"Collectively, the Waltons own over 50% of the company, and are worth a combined total of $175 billion (as of January 2015). In 2010, six members of the Walton family had the same net worth as either the bottom 28% or 41% of American families combined (depending on how it is counted)."

"One of their [Walton family heirs] favorite techniques: establishing a type of charitable trust that can shelter money from taxes, and later put that money back into the pockets of family heirs. Sometimes, with a profit! ... So the next time you hear about how fabulous the Walton family's opulent new art museum is, or how much money the Walton family has given to land conservation, remember that all of that charity is part and parcel of a structure designed expressly to hoard billions of dollars within this one single family, and to avoid paying the normal tax rates that have been levied for the purpose of a tiny step towards equality."

Keep the above excerpt about the Waltons' use of charitable trusts to keep their money while reading this:

"The Walton family plans to shed its ownership to offset the impact of share buybacks that have lifted its stake in the retail giant to about 50%.

The family of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton is planning to pare its stake in the world’s largest retailer by giving billions of dollars worth of shares to a charitable trust that will sell them over time.

The plan follows share repurchases by Wal-Mart in recent years have lifted the Waltons’ ownership to about 50%, a threshold the company does not want to exceed.

Walton Enterprises, the holding company owned by America’s richest family, plans to gradually distribute approximately 6% of Wal-Mart’s outstanding shares – or some 193.5 million shares, worth $15.6 billion at current share prices – to a newly formed entity, the Walton Family Holdings Trust."

mike (again) said...

Off topic, but worth it - Tweet #AskBobby (Jindal) sponsored by a Super PAC for Jindal:

"Who thought that an #AskBobby Jindal Twitter dialogue would be a good idea?"

Twilight said...

LB ~ It just gets worse and worse doesn't it! :-(

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ What terrible spawn ol' Sam left us with!

Bobby Jindal - ye gods! Has he never heard of the concept of professional dignity!?