Walmart takes the NYT to task, hires new Canada CEO

Walmart is consistently taken to task for a variety of business practices, sometimes deserved and sometimes not. But the retailer is clearly tired of the undeserved swipes and is turning the tables. 

Walmart VP of Corporate Communications David Tovar came out swinging in a clever, often funny, piece countering a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times.

Tovar copy edits, fact checks and dissects a position piece by Timothy Egan on June 19, often to hilarious effect. "We saw the article in the NYT and couldn't overlook how wildly inaccurate it is, so we had some fun with it," wrote Tovar on his blog. "I hope you will too."

Egan's piece, "The Corporate Daddy," repeats the now expected dialogue about Walmart: the purported costs to taxpayers, reliance on tax subsidies to offset wages and benefits, and the lack of programs to promote or better the lives of its employees.

But Tovar takes a digital red pen to screen and knocks down most points one by one, either with facts or additional information.

Egan extols Starbucks' good corporate citizenship, "…while Walmart is a net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure." Tovar counters with "We are the largest tax payer in America. Can we see your math?"

There are links to stories about employees who move off public assistance thanks to a job at Walmart, a recounting of the number of veterans hired (42,000 this year) and a correction to Egan's wage calculations.

It's not as though Walmart hasn't disputed these figures before, but the retailer's efforts in the past year to counter negative publicity with positive has picked up steam. Tovar's blog posts and regular newsletters to the media are helping to personalize the corporation. It's less about spin and more about putting a friendlier face on what is often used as the poster child for corporate greed.

Separately, Walmart named Dirk Van den Berghe as president and CEO of Walmart Canada, effective August 1. He will report to Shelley Broader who was recently promoted to president and CEO of Walmart's EMEA region which encompasses the retailer's operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Canada.

Van den Berghe is the rare top executive appointment made from outside the company and joins Walmart from the Delhaize Group where most recently he was CEO for the company's Belgium and Luxembourg operations.

"We're very pleased Dirk will be leading Walmart Canada as we celebrate 20 amazing years of saving Canadians money so they can live better," said Broader. "Under Dirk's leadership, Delhaize has been successful in several countries, and his vast experience will allow us to strengthen our growing food business in Canada and complements our highly-successful general merchandise operation." 

For more:
-See this Walmart Canada press release
-See this New York Times Op-Ed 
-See this Walmart blog post

Related stories:
Walmart opens e-commerce facility
Walmart, Costco agree to online unit pricing
Walmart targets B2B market in India CEO resigns to join Five Below
Walmart: Small stores and convenience key to Walmart's future