Last April, I blogged (Wal-Mart hires ethics director) about how the world's wealthiest but most ethically challenged retailer was hiring an ethics director to help it clean up its image after being caught on the wrong side of both the law and basic human decency over and over and over.
So did the ethics training help?
Well, apparently it didn't do much, at least according to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who filed suit against Wal-Mart on Thursday (and also against Auto Zone) for consumer fraud, after both companies allegedly violated state law by failing to post prices on some items. Prior to 1993, the law had stated that prices had to be stamped on each item. It was revised in that year (because of the use of optical scanners) to state that the price had to be listed nearby. What Goddard's investigators comfirmed however was that in some cases the prices were not listed, while another (generally lower price) for a similar item (which the customer would likely not notice unless (s)he looked very carefully at the bar code) was listed where a customer would logically look.
To be honest, this one did surprise me just a little bit. Wal-Mart has never had a problem giving the shaft to their employees, nor with giving the shaft to the American labor force (by outsourcing jobs), nor with giving the shaft to foreign workers (by using sweatshop labor), nor with giving the shaft to the taxpayers (by paying their employees so low that they have to depend on welfare or other state benefits to get by on).
But this is the first time I specifically have heard of them giving the shaft to customers. But it probably won't be the last. For a company this unethical, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't figure out some more ways to screw the customer.