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Old 12-04-2018, 11:18 PM   #41
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I see a lot of parallels between how Trader Joe's is run and how Southwest Airlines is run. Both do things differently from their competitors, and both have very loyal followings that their competitors can only dream about. The employees at both also seem happier than employees at their competitors.
I don't know about SW Airlines, but some years ago I noticed the same thing about TJ's employees. Also workers at Costco.

Then, I read that TJ's offered health insurance to its employees along with other benefits. Costco also treated its employees well. Then, it all made sense to me how the workers seemed happier than those at other stores.
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:42 PM   #42
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Pretty much every time I visit the mainland. I go to trader joe to stock up on various things, for my sister and myself.

I started listening to the podcast, I no idea they were that successful as business, nor that they didn't advertise.

About 5 years ago Trader Joe's, announced that they WERE NOT opening stores in Hawaii. It made the front page of the newspaper and caused a lot of disappointment for us Mainland folks who used to shop there.
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Old 12-05-2018, 09:14 AM   #43
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I thought it interesting the TJ's stocks its shelves during business hours so as to put many employees on the floor for customer service. Compare that to my local Kroger's affiliate where, IMHO, finding a knowledgeable employee is like looking for Pats fan in Green Bay.


Most of the big name stores I go to also stock during business hours. They use vendor employees that dont have a clue about anything other than their product. They tend to clog the aisles with inventory making it difficult for shoppers to navigate through the store. Thats a huge difference.
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Old 12-05-2018, 10:38 AM   #44
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A couple years ago an Aldis opened a few miles down the road. Aldis is really growing on me. We use them a lot for basics ... very reasonable prices in our experience.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:07 AM   #45
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I'm somewhat encouraged by what I'm reading here. It almost looks like a trend...

Big companies, in competitive sectors (supermarkets, airlines, big-box membership stores) are treating their employees and customers well, AND making good profits and fair returns on investment for their stockholders.

I will continue to call BS whenever I hear a MegaCorp HR person, or any MegaCorp apologist, crying about how they HAVE to reduce benefits and screw employees at every opportunity, just to stay in business.

Sadly, I do hear this a lot, even here on this forum.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:49 AM   #46
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I'm somewhat encouraged by what I'm reading here. It almost looks like a trend...

Big companies, in competitive sectors (supermarkets, airlines, big-box membership stores) are treating their employees and customers well, AND making good profits and fair returns on investment for their stockholders.

I will continue to call BS whenever I hear a MegaCorp HR person, or any MegaCorp apologist, crying about how they HAVE to reduce benefits and screw employees at every opportunity, just to stay in business.

Sadly, I do hear this a lot, even here on this forum.
I don't think of this as 'sad', or 'good/bad' - it just is.

I believe in the free market. If people are willing to work for a company that treats them 'poorly', then that must still be the best alternative for them out there. It's all relative. If another company can attract better talent, and make good use of it, by treating them 'well', then they can do that.

It's the companies choice to do as they see fit for their business. And I can also decide not to shop there. If they are making a mistake, they can change or go under.

I always say, if you think it works so well, start a company and give it a go!

I do support certain regulations as far as health and safety (but not wages). Health and safety isn't always obvious to the worker, it's not transparent, so I do think standards are needed to protect workers. But wages are transparent. Let the worker decide if they are willing to do the job for $x/hour or not.

Let's not forget, some of this is due to the 'flat world', and increased competition from abroad. Some people in 2nd/3rd world companies are taking jobs that improve their standard of living by a large margin, and those jobs would be considered terrible treatment here in the States. So big picture-wise, on average maybe more 'good' is being done for humankind by lifting up the very poor, even if it means somewhat worse conditions (relative to what they were accustomed to) for the 1st world workers.

And I've experienced it personally. Towards the end of my career, Engineers and Managers in China were making a fraction of my salary, doing the same work, and probably working harder than me. Who am I to tell MegaCorp that I 'deserve' my higher salary to support my standard of living? I think that is arrogant. And yes, a lot of workers here in the US had to find other jobs. But a lot of very poor people in other countries benefited, and likely by a higher degree. It just 'is'.

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Old 12-05-2018, 01:52 PM   #47
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My point was, all those arguments about how companies "have to" treat their employees (and customers) poorly are disproved by the fact that some companies are able to be very successful, and still treat their employees and customers well.

In other words, if Trader Joe's, Costco, Southwest Airlines and Demoula's Market Basket can all provide their owners and/or stockholders with good returns, offer good prices to their customers, and give good pay and benefits to their employees, what excuse do their competitors have for not doing these things?
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Old 12-05-2018, 02:07 PM   #48
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My point was, all those arguments about how companies "have to" treat their employees (and customers) poorly are disproved by the fact that some companies are able to be very successful, and still treat their employees and customers well.

In other words, if Trader Joe's, Costco, Southwest Airlines and Demoula's Market Basket can all provide their owners and/or stockholders with good returns, offer good prices to their customers, and give good pay and benefits to their employees, what excuse do their competitors have for not doing these things?
I just don't look at it as what xyz company "has to do". They are free to do as they wish (within the law/regs).

I've read some explanations for some of this. For example, I think they say Costco has much higher sales per employee than Walmart, and has reasons why they want to treat their employees better. But I just say it is their choice, and you and I can decide if we want to shop there, or buy their stock.

You can make all sorts of comparisons like this. If a car manufacturer is successful selling only high performance, expensive cars, does it hold that's the model all car makers should follow?

I don't know the answers to all your questions, because I don't run those businesses and I don't have all the inside info. And maybe some of them are simply making big mistakes. I'll say it again - if you think this is so simple, do mankind a favor and start and grow a successful business that treats its employees and customers like kings. Grow it so big and so well that everyone will want to work for you and be your customer. We would all appreciate that.

Basically, I'm saying it is easy to be an armchair quarterback.

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Old 12-05-2018, 08:48 PM   #49
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Trader Joes is the only supermarket I know that never overcharges me ever. Vons/Pavillions tries to rip me off on a regular basis.
Yeah, I read the comment earlier about how someone thought theyd go broke buying essentials at TJs and chuckled. TJs is cheaper for milk, eggs, butter, all the fruit we eat, etc., than Vons. I like their cheeses, Im drinking 3-buck Chuck right now with wifey pregnant. I wish they had a bulk section, then Id never have reason to go anywhere else. Sprouts is in the same shopping center which is a ten minute drive, but we have a Vons within walking distance for convenience too. I was surprised TJs was so much less expensive.
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Old 12-05-2018, 10:30 PM   #50
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Yeah, I read the comment earlier about how someone thought theyd go broke buying essentials at TJs and chuckled. TJs is cheaper for milk, eggs, butter, all the fruit we eat, etc., than Vons. I like their cheeses, Im drinking 3-buck Chuck right now with wifey pregnant. I wish they had a bulk section, then Id never have reason to go anywhere else. Sprouts is in the same shopping center which is a ten minute drive, but we have a Vons within walking distance for convenience too. I was surprised TJs was so much less expensive.
Growing up in the DC area, we only had two grocery store chains. Safeway is where everybody tended to go. When I moved to CA which is where Safeway is based, everybody said it was the highest priced chain and they went to Von's or Albertson's or wherever. Now Safeway appears to be withdrawing from the DC market with many new chains coming in. I went to the only TJ's I know of in the area (because of this thread) and their milk prices were exactly the same as the big chain stores. I guess it really varies from location to location. It's really nice being retired and having time to go to different stores to buy whatever they have that I like.
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Old 12-06-2018, 08:15 AM   #51
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I just don't look at it as what xyz company "has to do". They are free to do as they wish (within the law/regs)...

You can make all sorts of comparisons like this. If a car manufacturer is successful selling only high performance, expensive cars, does it hold that's the model all car makers should follow?

...I'll say it again - if you think this is so simple, do mankind a favor and start and grow a successful business that treats its employees and customers like kings. Grow it so big and so well that everyone will want to work for you and be your customer. We would all appreciate that.

Basically, I'm saying it is easy to be an armchair quarterback.

-ERD50
I don't disagree with anything you say. That's the way the system works, and I'm nothing but an armchair quarterback.

But I'm not stupid. Many of these corporations lie to their employees, stockholders and the public. The motive appears to be pure, selfish, one-sided greed.

The argument that "greed is good," or is necessary for a business to succeed, falls apart when some companies demonstrate that ethical behavior toward employees, customers and stockholders CAN be successful.

When I hear a lie, I'm going to call BS. I'm not trying to change the world. I'm just following my own internal code of ethics.
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Old 12-06-2018, 08:40 AM   #52
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I don't disagree with anything you say. That's the way the system works, and I'm nothing but an armchair quarterback.

But I'm not stupid. Many of these corporations lie to their employees, stockholders and the public. The motive appears to be pure, selfish, one-sided greed.

The argument that "greed is good," or is necessary for a business to succeed, falls apart when some companies demonstrate that ethical behavior toward employees, customers and stockholders CAN be successful.

When I hear a lie, I'm going to call BS. I'm not trying to change the world. I'm just following my own internal code of ethics.
And I agree that lying to employees, stockholders and the public is wrong, in many (most?) cases it would be illegal, and I would like to see prosecution to reign it in.

I think you can follow "greed is good", without crossing the line into unethical practices. It's a matter of degrees. The "greed is good" mantra drives competition and can push people to do far more than they may have thought possible. Any tool can be used for good or bad.

And of course, some of this gets subjective. A US workers description of being 'screwed' in the workplace, or not treated 'well', would likely be a slice of heaven for most 3rd world workers. And as I said, these 3rd world countries are placing pressure on our labor market. But those people are being helped. I strongly suspect that the overall for humanity is very positive. Our isolation, and position as a super industrial power after WWII just might have spoiled us. It's the rest of the world's turn to share in the wealth.

I'll skip the direct (hypothetical) challenge to you to start a business that treats everyone like kings, but the reality is, if company A is really treating people that bad, that provides an opportunity for company B to attract those employees with a better environment (total compensation). It can only get so bad, and with unemployment figures dropping, companies are going to have to compete for labor.

I suggest making yourself far more valuable to your employer than a 3rd world worker. You'll have options.

I'll also add that I recall when people in high demand fields were 'job hopping', and getting 20% or higher increases, moving from one company to another every 18 months. I don't recall any tears for these corporations being 'mistreated' by the employees.

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Old 12-06-2018, 10:25 AM   #53
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I'll also add that I recall when people in high demand fields were 'job hopping', and getting 20% or higher increases, moving from one company to another every 18 months. I don't recall any tears for these corporations being 'mistreated' by the employees.

-ERD50
You make a good point about the job hopping. I saw a lot of that in the 1970's in the field of IT. Alas, most of the guys I know who did it wasted their money on fancy cars and high living. One fellow used the extra cash to buy several rentals so as to free himself from being what he called a 'wage slave'. He was one of the smart ones.

OTOH, in the late 1990's as people were preparing for the year 2000 computer disaster (remember? planes falling out of the sky, hospital equipment killing patients, all manner of devices would just stop working properly) I was offered the chance to more than double my yearly earnings as a public school teacher if I would take a job updating and maintaining legacy COBOL programs. However, I was being treated well for the most part and I had that rare benefit called a DB pension that I did not want to give up. And it helped I enjoyed my job and the students at that time. So, I turned down some pretty nice salary offers. I think I made the right move.

It's a feedback loop to a certain extent, between the employer and the employee. One breaks the loop at his/her own risk.
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Old 12-06-2018, 01:39 PM   #54
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I think you can follow "greed is good", without crossing the line into unethical practices. It's a matter of degrees. The "greed is good" mantra drives competition and can push people to do far more than they may have thought possible. Any tool can be used for good or bad.
I agree with almost everything you've said. I'm only continuing this because it's an interesting discussion, and as you say, we're hovering around some grey areas which make simple, black-and-white answers seem incomplete.

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And of course, some of this gets subjective. A US workers description of being 'screwed' in the workplace, or not treated 'well', would likely be a slice of heaven for most 3rd world workers. And as I said, these 3rd world countries are placing pressure on our labor market. But those people are being helped. I strongly suspect that the overall for humanity is very positive. Our isolation, and position as a super industrial power after WWII just might have spoiled us. It's the rest of the world's turn to share in the wealth.
Again, true enough. Lately I've been watching history documentaries during my morning work-out, and I'm starting to realize just how great it is to be alive, here, at this time. The vast majority of humans who have ever lived have been in far, far worse conditions. Many still are.

But take that same argument, and zoom in on income disparity in the US. Zoom in even more, and compare worker compensation to executive compensation.

I am grateful to have had a job making ten times more than an unskilled worker in China. Likewise, the top executives should be grateful making ten times more than me. Why do they need many times that much?

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I'll skip the direct (hypothetical) challenge to you to start a business that treats everyone like kings, but the reality is, if company A is really treating people that bad, that provides an opportunity for company B to attract those employees with a better environment (total compensation). It can only get so bad, and with unemployment figures dropping, companies are going to have to compete for labor.
I hope you're right. And I think we're starting to see that. But I don't think it'll go as far or as fast as it should. Interlocking boards and top executives all feathering each other's nests are pretty firmly entrenched. It'll be hard to claw back the huge disparity they created when labor was cheap.

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I suggest making yourself far more valuable to your employer than a 3rd world worker. You'll have options.
Which is exactly what I did for 36 years.

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I'll also add that I recall when people in high demand fields were 'job hopping', and getting 20% or higher increases, moving from one company to another every 18 months. I don't recall any tears for these corporations being 'mistreated' by the employees.
Well then, those companies should just have made themselves more valuable to their employees, right?

I can assure you these companies weren't crying for the employees who were facing benefit cuts and harsher work environments, when the job market went the other way.
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Old 12-07-2018, 03:32 AM   #55
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One big reason companies like Southwest and Trader Joes have lower labor costs and happier employees is they arent unionized like many of the larger airlines and grocery chains are. The company I used to work for had two unionized locations and many others that werent. Eventually the employees at the unionized sites saw that non-unionized employees actually got better benefits and job advancement, so they voted to de-unionize. Win-win for employees and the company.
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Old 12-07-2018, 09:13 AM   #56
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One big reason companies like Southwest and Trader Joe’s have lower labor costs and happier employees is they aren’t unionized like many of the larger airlines and grocery chains are. The company I used to work for had two unionized locations and many others that weren’t. Eventually the employees at the unionized sites saw that non-unionized employees actually got better benefits and job advancement, so they voted to de-unionize. Win-win for employees and the company.
Not cause and effect. It only works if the employers treat the workers well in the first place. Then they won't be inclined to unionize. If they aren't being treated right then unionizing is the better option. It's just weird to say "They are happier and have better job lives because they aren't unionized."

Now, continue talking about Trader Joe's et al
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Old 12-07-2018, 09:40 AM   #57
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Not cause and effect. It only works if the employers treats the works well in the first place. Then they won't be inclined to unionize. If they aren't being treated right then unionizing is the better option. It's just weird to say "They are happier and have a better job live because they aren't unionized."

Now, continue talking about Trader Joe's et al
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Old 12-07-2018, 04:15 PM   #58
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Not cause and effect. It only works if the employers treat the workers well in the first place. Then they won't be inclined to unionize. If they aren't being treated right then unionizing is the better option. It's just weird to say "They are happier and have better job lives because they aren't unionized."

Now, continue talking about Trader Joe's et al


I agree that employees must be treated well to not want to unionize. However there is definitely a productivity and profit advantage for those companies who manage to stay non-union.
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Old 12-07-2018, 04:36 PM   #59
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I agree that employees must be treated well to not want to unionize. However there is definitely a productivity and profit advantage for those companies who manage to stay non-union.
Definitely, of course there is. So, why don't they do it? Adam Smith said the same thing and asked the same question. But businesses in some warped personalization of ownership and marketplace have always tended to see labor as paper clips, hay for the horses and such. Expendable, replaceable, unfortunate expenses. But, yes, in a nutshell, if they treated workers, I'll just use the word "right", they'd be happier, at least likelier more productive (there's a limit with and without a gun pointed at your head) and less likely to unionize and see the relationship as adversarial.
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Old 12-07-2018, 05:20 PM   #60
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A recent posting mentioned Amazon including some subtly labeled sponsored gift items in a list of baby shower items made by a customer.

Today I listened to this Freakonimics podcast (#359) on Trader Joe's and how it operates. They examine the big difference between modern grocery store marketing and how TJ's does it. Given that Amazon now owns a supermarket, I figure that is a good comparison to look at.

Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s? (Ep. 359) - Freakonomics Freakonomics


Just wanted to second the recommendation for this podcast. I'm admittedly a huge fan of the Freakonomics folks, and listen to many but by no means all of their podcasts. This was one of my favorites.
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