A true corporate David-and-Goliath story from an insider’s perspective.
Tales of Wal-Mart’s unsavory business practices (witness the class-action suit currently before the Supreme Court) are fertile ground for business books, television and film documentaries and the like, and this book is one more entry into the field. What makes Hood’s tale different is the fact that he owned a business that was literally driven into bankruptcy by the retailing behemoth. The story revolves around a product Hood’s company devised called the “Shopper’s Calculator,” which attached to a shopping cart, helping shoppers determine what they were spending. The product could also serve up advertising for various name brands as well as for Wal-Mart’s store brands. Through a detailed account that includes references to letters, phone calls and meetings, Hood documents the sorry story of how Wal-Mart management, at best, ineptly implemented a promotional program that they agreed to support, and, at worst, sabotaged it because of a perverted ego- and profit-driven arrogance Hood calls “egonomics.” In diary-like entries, Hood presents dates of specific occurrences and includes copies of documents that are hard to dispute, resulting in a uniformly unfavorable view of Wal-Mart’s way of doing business. In fact, the story culminates in Hood’s company filing a $40-million lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which he says was settled for “the discounted amount of $23.5 million.” Even after the lawsuit, however, Hood’s company continued to do business with Wal-Mart and, remarkably, the same people who initially undermined the relationship, says Hood, held “very cooperative and productive meetings” over the next two years. Nevertheless, Hood suggests Wal-Mart’s decision to cancel the contract after three-and-a-half years was premeditated and vindictive, as research proved the program did work. Clearly, Hood is anything but an objective observer and occasionally his emotion gets the better of him. But he writes well and tells his story with equal doses of irony and outrage. It will likely be difficult for the reader not to accept the author’s claim that Wal-Mart is a corporate villain after reading this book.
A well-crafted, personal tale of business gone bad.