Paul Holmes 26 Dec 2005 // 12:00AM GMT
A significant majority (81 percent) of Americans who live within shopping distance of a Wal-Mart store rate it a good place to shop, but a significant minority (34 percent) views the company as a bad employer and almost as many (31 percent) have a predominantly negative view of the retailer, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Nearly every American lives near enough a Wal-Mart to shop there, and 84 percent say they have done so in the past year. They praise the retailer’s low prices, wide selection and convenience. Overall, 69 percent of those familiar with Wal-Mart have a favorable opinion of the company.
The survey found overwhelmingly positive feelings toward many large corporations, with healthcare company Johnson & Johnson, internet search engine Google, and Home Depot held in nearly universal good esteem by Americans familiar enough with the firms to rate them.
Wal-Mart’s favorable rating of 69 percent places it just below McDonald’s (74 percent) and General Motors (74 percent), and somewhat above pharmaceutical maker Pfizer (61 percent), although a substantial number of people (36 percent) said they had never heard of Pfizer or couldn’t judge it.
Fewer than half of Americans (47 percent) who were able to rate Exxon Mobil have a favorable opinion of the oil major. And just 41 percent have a positive view of Halliburton, the energy services company that has been the focus of allegations of impropriety in its handling of government contracts—although 44 percent said they were unable to rate the company at all.
When asked to name what they like best about Wal-Mart, most respondents referred to the stores and the services they offer rather than to the corporation itself. Low prices topped the list, accounting for 50 percent of the words of praise, while other aspects of shopping, such as broad selections and convenience accounted for another 32 percent. Only 6 percent mention good things about the company itself, including its creation of jobs and its employment policies.
By contrast, criticisms of Wal-Mart are more often directed at corporate practices (39 percent) especially its wages, benefits and employment policies than at individual stores and the quality of products (32 percent). At the service level, long lines and poor customer service top the list of what people dislike about the stores.