Thursday, December 09, 2004

Wal Mart

So, I need a job over Christmas and decided to apply at Wal Mart. Well, my mother decided that I should, and I convinced myself that if I ended up getting a job, I could keep a journal a la Barbara Ehrenreich, and do bona fide sociology.

So, they had a little kiosk in the back where you could fill out an application. It had the standard stuff, employment history, references, etc. But, then it got to a little questionnaire, which I assume was meant to weed out certain people that were undesirable to hire. But, the questions were... interesting. Especially coming from Wal Mart. They were administered on a Likert-style scale, going from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree for each statement.

There were the usual, "So-and-so gets high on the job but still does his job satisfactorily. He should not be fired." But, more interesting were one like this:

"Workers are more productive when organized as in a labor union." Fascinating, given Wal Mart's aversion to unions. Could they be subtly screening out those who could be problematic/rabble rousing, trying to get others interested in unionization?

"Success in business is due primarily to who you know."
"If I had more opportunities in life I could have been more successful."
"Success in business is based on hard work and talent."
"People in supervisory positions are there because they do their job better than others."

--What do all these have in common? Well, if you answer the way they want you to (which I totally did :-) ), they will come out with a group of workers holding a certain ideology. An ideology that is thoroughly American, an individualistic ideology that tells people that wherever they are, they're there because they earned it. If they're not successful, it's because they're not trying hard enough. This keeps workers satisfied; if you have people who have a sense that they're being cheated, they will demand more of you. This questionnaire makes it possible for Wal Mart to screen those people out.

There were some questions like:
"It is never acceptable for an employee to criticize his company."
"Successful businesses have usually gotten that way through dirty business practices."
"If something bad happens at work, it is acceptable for an employee to talk to the public about the issue." [There were SEVERAL variants on this question.]

--Clearly Wal Mart is concerned about its image problem. It wants people who believe it to be a good, honest company. But, if their workers get messed over, they don't want them speaking out about it. Hmm.

So, grr. This is annoying. Other questions were clearly meant to weed out other populations. For example, questions asked, very indirectly, about whether one had small children. That's illegal. It was never explicit, though. Questions were like, "If I work alot, I won't be able to spend enough time with my family."

Anyway, now I sort of want to get this job, just so I can have the Wal-Martian experience. Wish me luck!

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