This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 27, 2007, that may be updated:
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Wal-Mart (WMT) shoppers love it, unions hate it, presidential candidates yammer on and on and on about it, but few can ignore the enormous impact this company has on America, indeed, the world. And in a rare and exclusive interview, Wal-Mart speaks -- not company, the guy who runs it, the big cheese, Lee Scott. Good to have you, Lee, thanks for coming.
LEE SCOTT, PRES. & CEO, WAL-MART STORES: Neil, thank you.
CAVUTO: I have got to ask you, just psychologically, when the company is bashed, and you know, bandied about in the press as being unfair to workers and all that, does it weigh on you, do you ever just say, God, I'm sick of this?
SCOTT: No. It bothered me a little this morning when I was getting dressed and you say I was the most controversial CEO in America. But, no. If you spend your time in the stores talking to associates and customers, and in the Sam's Clubs, you get a better perspective of what we are, and I think it emboldens you and encourages you to go on.
CAVUTO: All right. But you know how you are a political football. Hillary Clinton used to sit on your board, bashes you. Barack Obama all but bashes you. And John Edwards, in a prior appearance with us, Lee, had this to say about you. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The difference between the two is Costco actually pays its employees a more reasonable wage and they have health care coverage. That is a big thing for people who work at Wal-Mart. So what we want to see happen, what we want to see happen is we want to see Wal-Mart move in the direction of what some other big corporations are doing and being more responsible for their employees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAVUTO: What do you say about that?
SCOTT: Well, I say it is politics. People are catering to the special interests that they believe will provide the impetus for them to be president, to get the nomination. And I think over the long term, if you think of the 137 million shoppers in the Wal-Mart Stores in the U.S. every week, that I think our customers and our associates see through that.
CAVUTO: But do you worry that they are beginning to define you? We are going to get into a lot of your good works, what you have done for charity, what have done for the environment, what you have done to address a lot of things that are important to this very political crowd that is bashing, that it does not filter through their negative comments.
SCOTT: No. Our results show that it has almost no impact on our customers. Our customers judge us based upon how do they see the associates in the store and the club. Are they happy? Are they friendly? Is that people greeter saying hello? Are they saying thank you when you check-out? Our customers pay attention to what the prices are and the assortment and are we in this stock?
Do I think that it resonates a little bit and they wonder about the company, and what the company is doing? That is probably true. But they value this company based upon their store, their store in their community, and that is the relationship they have. And I think that is the reason that the criticism has not had the impact that our critics would like to have.
CAVUTO: Well, did you ever think -- who am I to offer advice? But the rap you get from advertising executives, Mr. Scott, is that, hey, take offense, come out and say, you know what? At the end of the day, we save our customers to $2,000 a year. End of the day, that is it. Why don't you do that?
SCOTT: Well, we do that.
CAVUTO: No. No one is hearing that.
SCOTT: Well, it is the difference between what you say and what people hear, and how well it is broadcast. This world today that you live in, I am not sure that it is newsworthy, the fact that we provide opportunity, or that 11,000 or 12,000 people show up for 300 jobs, or that we promote internally the number of people that we do regardless of their education level, that we save customers money so they can lead a better life.
Those are the things that we are expected to do. Those are the things we as a company we do. I guess in this world today that is not terribly newsworthy. A little like your conversation of focusing on the number of people who are not paying for their home mortgages today and forgetting about the fact that 87 percent of the people in the subprime category are in fact in houses because of that opportunity.
CAVUTO: But in the days of Sam Walton, founding Wal-Mart, what have you, Wal-Mart was a corporate rock star. It could do no wrong. You saved folks a lot of money. You opened up in areas that typical retailers, at the time, the Kmarts, the Caldors of that era wouldn't even touch. So you did that.
You saved them a lot of money, and now you are bashed on either health benefits, low pay, is there anything that sticks like that? Among your workers, do they scratch their heads and say, you know, Lee, yes, yes, we are in getting a bum rap.
SCOTT: Well, our workers get very upset about the company being attacked all of the time, because they work in the store. They know how they are treated. They know what the opportunities are. They know what job they had before they started at Wal-Mart. They knew what the benefits were there and the pay. So they know there are better off. So yes, and what they want me to do is to speak out, whether it be on programs like this, or in the press or wherever. They want Wal-Mart to speak out.
CAVUTO: Why don't you?
SCOTT: I do.
CAVUTO: Not a lot.
SCOTT: Oh, much more than I would like.
CAVUTO: But the reason why I mention this is, as you know, image is everything, and perception becomes reality. And I guess what I am asking you is whether this has any personal fallout for you. That that -- you are trying to run this behemoth. You are trying to save customers money. And you get slapped around a lot.
SCOTT: No. This is -- it is a great company that provides a great service, not only in this country, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, China, in causing people to be able to live better, both the associates and our customers. We have critics who want us to be a better company.
CAVUTO: No. Do you know what you have?
CAVUTO: I think you have critics who want you to be a union company. Now if you were, do you think all of this would go away, all of this criticism?
SCOTT: Let me, if I could, finish my thought. We have a select group of people who are critics of the company that want us to be better. The issues you are talking about really are from the unions that came after we started the Supercenter Program, and we entered into groceries. And that is where I think the major force behind this criticism is. We cannot appease them. We are not.
CAVUTO: They want you to be unionized, right?
SCOTT: They may.
CAVUTO: All right. They do. I talk to a lot of them. All right. Now.
SCOTT: That is not their choice. That is our associates'.
CAVUTO: Absolutely. Now do you think in your heart of hearts, if you were, then all of the people criticizing you about health benefits, hourly rates, all of that, all of that, they would all go away?
SCOTT: You are darn right. This is about politics and power. It is not about right and wrong.
CAVUTO: Now you have workers who, when a store opens up in a given area -- and I have seen this in Pennsylvania of all places, one of your stores opened not too far away, I think for 300 positions, close 3,000 people came. And I am told that that is typical.