Winning friends & influencing people, Walmart style

Granted, it’s an old book, but after recent public gaffes, maybe Walmart should consider passing out Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” at the next Saturday morning in Bentonville.

Gaffe #1 – Walmart launched a nationwide public relations blitz to counter criticisms that it doesn’t pay fair wages to its workers. As part of the effort, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon sat down for an interview with CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. From Simon’s perspective, the first minute of the interview went well, but at the one-minute mark he didn’t do himself or Walmart any favors when he described United States Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky as “misinformed” when it came to Walmart jobs. Calling an elected leader misinformed certainly isn’t a way to win friends on Capitol Hill.

Gaffe #2 – Offending elected leaders apparently isn’t just limited to the United States. In India, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma abruptly cancelled a meeting with Walmart Asia President Scott Price. Walmart’s travails in India are well documented – see here, here, here, and here. The government of the Congress Party of India went out on a limb politically and opened multi-brand retail to foreign investors in September 2012, with an expectation that after years of lobbying for access Walmart would move quickly.

But the company complained that the rules weren’t to its liking and pressed the government for further changes. Just this last October, an Indian “government official said at the time that an application from the company was imminent. ‘They have indicated to come back to us very soon with a firm proposal. The consideration by Walmart is very serious for India and their plan is possibly in the last stage.’” Yet only a few weeks later, another government official said, “Walmart officials have met us several times and have always raised one or other new issue. They are not conveying what exactly they want.”

Walmart’s inaction and indecision are a political liability for the Congress Party, which faces national elections next year, and its decision to allow FDI is now a key issue raised by the opposition. Clearly the Government of India’s frustration with Walmart is evidenced by the Minister’s decision to publicly cancel with Walmart.

So maybe Mike Duke should be placing an overnight order with Walmart.com for copies of Carnegie’s book to ensure that the company doesn’t have another week like this one. (Hope he faces better luck with his online order than this Walmart e-commerce customer did.)

PS – It’s worth noting that Walmart Asia is in the portfolio of Walmart International CEO Doug McMillon. So when you look at these events, neither McMillon nor Simon has particularly helped their candidacies to take Mike Duke’s seat as CEO of Walmart.

What do you think?