The Wall Street Journal is running an article on Wal-Mart’s effort to sell more spirits. It’s pretty comical.
Selling more alcohol raises complicated issues for a company that presents itself as a folksy all-American enterprise and an arbiter of social mores. In addition to banning risque magazines from its stores and selling sanitized versions of CDs with controversial song lyrics, Wal-Mart forbids alcohol consumption on company property and at company events. When Wal-Mart executives put business meals on expense accounts, they must personally pay for any alcoholic drinks. Some store managers have balked at the effort to promote liquor sales, citing local sensitivities.
Wal-Mart’s corporate culture, which has long eschewed alcohol, complicates the company’s hard-liquor ambitions. It bans the consumption of alcohol at all corporate events — including a recent barbecue where Diageo won a vendor-of-the-year award. In recent months, Wal-Mart has, for the first time, allowed spirits makers, including Diageo, to display but not open their products at Wal-Mart events such as its big semiannual vendor meetings, say spirits executives who were present at one of the meetings.
Because Wal-Mart executives aren’t allowed to drink on company premises, spirits manufacturers sometimes book hotel rooms in Bentonville or take executives to the few local members-only clubs that have liquor licenses to sample products.