by Max Brantley
A penny saved by a consumer is a penny earned by Wal-Mart.
Everybody from hometown newspapers to national TV networks trumpeted a Wal-Mart news release yesterday that said it could save consumers $100 million by starting bill-paying services in Wal-Mart stores.
I haven't yet turned up a link that followed through on the math. If consumers now spend $290 million on bill-paying fees, as a Wal-Mart-commissioned study indicated, that leaves $190 million on the table for Wal-Mart. Not to mention a few more pennies from the shopping done by the consumers who drop by a Wal-Mart to do the bill paying.
Don't get me wrong. This the free market at work. Just don't confuse it with charity. And it moves Wal-Mart ever closer to the full roster of banking services it longs to be able to provide someday.