Today, in about two dozen theaters nationwide, a new documentary film is set to premiere, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." Made on a shoestring budget of $1.8 million and put out in such limited release, why is this film rattling Wal-Mart executives in Bentonville, Arkansas? Because it holds the possibility of becoming a runaway underground hit, sort of like Michael Moore's "Roger & Me" did in 1989, and it might do for Wal-Mart what "Roger & Me" did for General Motors -- expose the corporation to widespread ridicule.
So spooked has Wal-Mart become at this and other attacks on its corporate image that it's hired the late President Reagan's "image man" Michael K. Deaver and set up its own campaign-style "war room" to handle rapid response to criticism. (The company also hired one of Bill Clinton's media consultants. And other politicos.)
Ah, the high cost of those low prices!
ADDENDUM: Yesterday the Labor Department's inspector general strongly criticized department officials for "serious breakdowns" in procedures involving an agreement promising Wal-Mart Stores 15 days' notice before labor investigators would inspect its stores for child labor violations. (NYTimes coverage here.)