Charles Platt was a senior writer for Wired, whom much like Michael Lewis, George Plimpton, George Orwell, and other journalists, decides to go to work in an industry reviled by, or otherwise unknown to elites–in Platt’s case, Wal-Mart:
The picture above is of me, finishing my shift at the world’s largest retailer. How did I move from being a senior writer at Wired magazine to an entry-level position in a company that is reviled by almost all living journalists?
It started when I read Nickel and Dimed, in which Atlantic contributor Barbara Ehrenreich denounces the exploitation of minimum-wage workers in America. Somehow her book didn’t ring true to me, and I wondered to what extent a preconceived agenda might have biased her reporting. Hence my application for a job at the nearest Wal-Mart.
Getting in was not easy, as more than 100 applicants were competing for fewer than 10 job openings. Still, I made it through a very clever screening quiz, then through a series of three interviews, followed by two days of training. I felt ambivalent about taking advantage of the company’s resources in this way, but I was certainly willing to do my part by working hard at the store, at least for a limited period.
The job was as dull as I expected, but I was stunned to discover how benign the workplace turned out to be.
Platt writes, “As for all those Wal-Mart horror stories–when I went home and checked the web sites that attack the company, I found that many of them are subsidized with union money.” Of course, anti-capitalist forces demonizing department stores is hardly a new trend, and certainly not limited to America.
Read the whole thing, which concludes with a reference to Adam Shepard, the author of Scratch Beginnings, whom Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen Smith interviewed for one of their podcasts last year.