The NY Times writes today about Democratic candidates' use of Wal-Mart as a whipping boy in political campaigns. We think -- and we say this from experience as a frequent critic of Wal-Mart policies and practices -- that the reporter has it right when he says this is a tactic fraught with risk. Simple reason: Wal-Mart has millions of happy customers who are concerned with cost and supply of goods, period.
Impact of the company on American manufacturing, the burden Wal-Mart shifts to government through its pay and benefit practices and the whole range of other issues presented by this mammoth corporation are of little interest to legions of shoppers. Plus, Wal-Mart has undertaken a charm offensive to change its image. In time, the PR campaign will help, as will some small but significant changes in Wal-Mart operating policies on such matters as employment discrimination, encouragement of diversity among contractors and less near-criminal misbehavior in conduct of its legal affairs.