Friday, March 28, 2008

Walmart: Evil Empire or Media made Monster?

I just read an article on a very sad situation. A woman who used to work for Wal-mart was in a severe car accident several years ago. Her Wal-Mart insurance paid for her medical bills that were a result of this accident. Her family was given an award of $1 million. Many people are outraged that Wal-Mart has sued this family and won the rights to $470,000. While I can't agree with either side I think the true issue here and the real reason that this has ever happened is completely different.

First, Wal-Mart may share the cost of its employees health insurance but I'm pretty sure that every employee pays into this system to receive benefits. That means if you're paying into the health plan, you pay more if Wal-Mart doesn't get any of this money. Second, was the amount of this money in consideration of all of her medical expenses including the ones that Wal-Mart covered? If so then Wal-Mart is fairly entitled to at least a portion of this money.

The next thing that outrages people is that a company that had 90 billion in sales third quarter of last year is suing over such a paltry amount of money. My first issue is that we've stopped talking about the employee funded health plan and now we are talking about sales figures. my second issue is that this great big number is a sales number. A quick look at Wal-Mart's 2007 financial statement shows that they only made about 80 billion last year. They also have 27 billion in debt. That leaves them with on 53 billion in available profits. Wal-Mart has over 1.9 million employees (again according to their 2007 financial report). Now lets keep in mind that Wal-Mart being a good company and wanting to make money for their employees and stock holders (!) will also have money tied up in expansions and inventory. They also have to keep some money around for the many lawsuits that they are and may be facing.

I am not on Wal-Mart's side. I honestly think that the problem here is that the system is flawed. How much money the lawyers took from the family in this case is not given but I'd imagine that it was a significant amount. In addition to that both Wal-Mart and this family have probably spent as much money on legal fees as they have on medical care for the lady involved in the accident. Should Wal-Mart have taken this money? Maybe not but their 1.9 million employees will not have to pay as much for their medical bills if this is done. Once again, I'm not a fan of the greater good, just want to know if this situation is really truly the sob story that it is. Plus I really don't like Wal-Mart, I just want people to think a bit before they react.

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