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woohooligan's avatar

Hungry Games

Rollback guy buys the same toupees that Donald Trump wears. ;P

Thanks to Jesse Kiefer of Tank Monkey for backing our Kickstarter last year. That's Tank in those first three panels there. I asked Jesse before I started this comic if he was okay with this cameo, given the political bent and the potential that he might not like the implication. Because even though I personally think there's plenty of evidence that the behavior of Walmart executives is pretty disgusting, there are still people who cry foul any time you point it out... in much the same way that some people still refuse to accept basic physics. And after seeing their creepy ice cream sandwiches, I've sworn off their Great Value brand.

This particular strip however, doesn't require that I link to any news articles, for I have seen with my own eyes, the horrors of the Mart of Wals! Indeed, these first three panels are a verbatim conversation I had with a Walmart employee just a few weeks ago. It's a pretty safe assumption that Walmart earns a healthy profit on their credit cards, despite the "cash-back rewards", because why else would they offer it in the first place? If a product is profitable, it helps to increase sales, and what better way to increase sales than to actually encourage people to buy said product? So if you want your employees to give that little extra and encourage people to buy said product, you would imagine that offering them a small percentage of the expected profit might be a decent incentive. Some people have taken to call this sort of behavior "profit sharing" - I know, it's just shocking! So when I asked what the Walmart employee gets for busting his hump to sell me on applying for their card, what was his answer? A candy bar. What's likely many thousands of dollars of profit over the course of the years I carry this card, and in exchange, the guy who ostensibly sold it to me gets a twenty-minute sugar rush.

I think this week's bonus panel sums up the attitude of Walmart executives pretty succinctly. This seems like an excellent opportunity to mention 5th Panel Guest Strips, which is a pretty simple idea that Jesse and his friend Axton Kaler proposed a while back. It's really just riffing on each others' gags. So if you have an idea for a following panel or two on any of my comics (this comic seems to me like it's begging for them), just go ahead and draw it up and shoot me the URL to your image. I'll add it to the comments on the comic you're riffing on and I'll link back to you if you like. I will reserve the right to ignore any submissions that I personally find offensive, but given my own track record, you'd basically have to be applauding the Axis of Evil to get ignored.

Also, I'm pretty sure that webcomics are a lot like TV series in that they have "bottle episodes". This ain't one, apparently. The techniques are different, but the effect is the same. In TV they follow an expensive, special-effects-laden episode with an episode in which two characters are trapped in an elevator and that's the whole episode: one small set, two actors, no special effects and a shoe-string budget later, the books are balanced. As a cartoonist, when you've just spent a ton of time cranking out a comic or two with tons of detail and lighting effects (like my last two comics), you want to do something you can get out the door quickly. So you avoid adding little extras like cigars or monster stomach mouths. When I originally conceived this strip I figured it would be a quick four-panel gag. After adding the Tank Monkey cameo, paring the dialogue down enough to be legible was hard! Then I started coloring... god help me, I couldn't stop! ;P On the plus side however, I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out. As just one example of several, I'm kind of shocked at how nice that bottle of champagne looks. Woohoo! :D

What about you? Do you have your own funny story about a personal encounter with a giant, faceless, evil corporation? Or maybe you have a story about a corporation doing something good? Le-gasp! Share it in the comments below!

Stay awesome, Hooligans!
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TheDJTC's avatar
Hah. Thralmart.

Very clever.
woohooligan's avatar
Thanks, TC! :highfive:

Yeah, I wasn't sure how many people would get the name of the store... Walmart is spelled with one L and founded by Sam Walton. So Thralmart would have been founded by Sham Thralton. ;P But mostly I'm just not sure how many people know the meaning of the word "thrall". You're the first person to mention it specifically. :nod:
TheDJTC's avatar
Well, a town nearby shares that name and one day I was curious what it meant.

Otherwise I prolly wouldn't have gotten the joke either. XD
woohooligan's avatar
You live near the town of Thrall, TX? When you drive through, do you see lines of people doing manual labor while chained together by the ankles? ;P
TheDJTC's avatar
The only people I ever see outside are cops. So maybe they're working for the police. LOL
SlasherSteve81's avatar
They use the same classic tactic that cult I was briefly in used. I hope they didn't castrate them too.
woohooligan's avatar
LOL Sorry to hear about your testicles, Steve. ;P
ElectricGecko's avatar
An empty belly is the fire that feeds society.  At least that's what the capitalists say.  I personally think that hungry people rob you.
woohooligan's avatar

Oddly enough, although it's logical that recession or depression might spur a rise in economic crimes like pick-pocketing and robbery, there wasn't any statistical evidence of that until pretty recently... People had tried to find evidence of that relationship for many years (because economic theory essentially predicted it) and it wasn't until a few years ago at the height of the great recession that a study finally saw a very small bump in economic crimes.

Having said that, I think it's better to have a society in which even the people at the very lowest levels (unskilled, retail workers) are paid a decent living wage, in part because when they can't afford enough food, health care, etc. they end up costing their neighbors more in taxes to work on helping them out of jams, public health management, etc. than it would have cost to help them out earlier on by doing things like paying them a decent wage. It turns out that whether we're talking about an increased crime-rate or not, the least expensive way to deal with the problems of poverty in the long-run is actually to spend a great deal of money up-front on permanent supportive housing where they're given an apartment, food, and a job where they have an opportunity to be a responsible part of their community.

The most expensive way to deal with it is to criminalize them (making it illegal to sleep on a park bench for example), and throw them in jail. This hasn't kept some US conservatives who's tax dollars go to fund those jails from continuing to suggest that this is the best strategy.

In the long run, we don't *eat* money, and since your individual happiness really depends on the people in your life more than the size of your bank account, why shouldn't everyone want to create a world in which their neighbors are all happier, even if it costs them a little more in taxes?
ElectricGecko's avatar
I'm all for providing the poor with dignity, decent housing and enough money to live, and live comfortably enough.  Some would say that it deters them from pursuing the American Dream, but f$%#, I'm in Canada, and I don't care about the American Dream.  What I do know is that if you scrape the lowest segment of your society off the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, things get a little less crazy.  Take a tour of any mid-sized Canadian city, then tour a similarly sized American city to see the incredible difference that even a bare bones welfare state can make. 

Of course, the rabid commie in me also believes that the other part of keeping crime down and harmony up is by putting limits on the super rich and mega-rich, but I try not to mention that concept within earshot of most Americans.  They tend to get angry.
woohooligan's avatar
Agreed. If nothing else, we certainly shouldn't be as we are now giving the super-rich *extra* favors just for being wealthy, like we eliminated the capital gains tax for example and we just roll over and allow them to not pay taxes on millions worth of income just because we refuse to go after them for evading taxes, and when their companies are profitable we decide that's a great time to just flat out *give* those companies tons of tax dollars. If all we did in the US was expect the rich to pay their taxes just like we expect the middle class to pay their taxes, that would go an amazing distance toward making everyone's lives better, the rich included.
ElectricGecko's avatar
Agreed.  In Canada things are a little better, but the rich are rich, and they're very good at convincing the government (the current version of which happens to be in the back pocket of big oil) that they deserve more American-style tax breaks.  It's a scary time for everyone, I guess.
kyrtuck's avatar
I have this odd feeling that you may not completely appreciate Walmart.
woohooligan's avatar
Whatever would make you think that?

kyrtuck's avatar
This "Thralmart" seems to rhyme with Walmart.  But Im sure its just a coencidence.
Jburns272's avatar
This fits with a lot of what I've seen and heard with both big and some small corporations. That being said, I think the contract I have with the big corporation I'm working for now is much better than the one I worked for in Japan. That been said, I have seen some coworkers get burned by fine print in contracts. At least Walmart doesn't have anything like a 'Non-competition clause (where if you leave a school, you cannot work for one of their competitors in the same city for the next X years)' or I hope they don't.

It may just be the bubble I live in but I think foreign workers are more vulnerable to abusive contracts than folks living and working in their own countries. Often your work contract is the only thing at legally allows you to be in that country. If your employer chooses to use less than legal means to get you into the country (such as a study visa or working holiday visa* which are usually quicker and easier to get than work visas) then you are up shit creek with the immigration authorities for nothing more naively believing your employer. I get particularly pissed off when politicians slant this in a way that makes foreign workers seem to be full of criminals compared to the citizens of said country. Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is particularly bad for this. This usually makes the situation worse for foreign workers by giving politicians more support for tightening regulations which in turn gives employers more incentive to bring foreign workers in illegally.

Rant over, you really did go all out on this one and it shows. The sparkling eyes and direction of the hungry stomach when the employee is shown the nachos is one example.

* Employing someone on a working holiday visa is legal though not in the spirit of the visa and consular services WILL deny you a visa if you tell them that you are going to Japan, etc specifically to work. One of the 'guidelines' in the conditions for the Australian working holiday visa for Japan is that you have to move to a different city every 3 months. When I asked the visa office at the consulate before I applied for my visa (I wasn't planning on working at the time), they said said staying in the same city for 4 months would be OK but 5 months was definitely not. When I found a part time job in Japan, my then-boss asked the immigration center about this and the people there said that they had never heard of anything like that.
woohooligan's avatar
That's kind of scary actually from the perspective of someone who's considered (although I haven't to date) working abroad... but it's not tremendously surprising to me. I would kind of expect "migrant workers" of any stripe to be more vulnerable than those working in their native country. It just adds a whole layer of potential problems, communication being just one.

I'm not sure if Walmarts in the US have the ability to add noncompete clauses for retail laborers (which is what this particular strip is really about - they tend to treat skilled workers a bit better)... they may have noncompete contracts for executive or professional level jobs (the people who program their website maybe - if it's not outsourced)... I've had noncompete clauses in my previous software engineering jobs, but I'm not sure if they're legally enforceable for unskilled laborers in the US.

And yes, it's pretty sleazy for politicians to describe migrant workers that way... sure, there are problems -- migrant workers from Mexico effectively destroyed the meat-packing unions here in the US, although the republicans who are most anti-immigrant would never bring that up, because they're also anti-union. But the long and the short of it is, they're just people looking for a job and if they're willing to look for it in another country, that usually means they're also hoping for a better life than where they came from. Doesn't seem to me like *that* group of people is ever likely to be a bunch of criminals.

I was about to ask if you were back in Australia/New Zealand now before I remembered that you said "Japan" above and I already knew your latest teaching job was in China.
Jburns272's avatar
I wasn't aware that noncompete clauses were that common. I haven't looked at too many contracts in my home country though. That being said, many of my coworkers have been quite surprised by them. Did yours last for several years like mine do? My previous contract said I couldn't work for a competitor in the same city for 5 years after the contract ends; my current one only says 2.

A large number of migrant workers are also migrant workers because they love, or at least want to learn about, the culture/country they've emigrated too; which only makes politicians' treatment of them worse. Depending on the profession, a few migrant workers perform jobs that are difficult, unattractive, or even impossible for locals do to.
woohooligan's avatar
It's been a little while since I've signed a non-compete, but it's a little different for software engineering. Yeah, I was under contract to not compete with them for about 5 years, but my expertise is widely applicable, aside from the industry-specific knowledge and a handful of company trade secrets I learned at a given job. So I had a non-compete with Charter Schools USA which just meant I couldn't work for another charter school company (although it was any of them, not just in that city), and I had a similar non-compete clause in my contract at Site Manageware that prevented me from getting a job with another company in the residential realestate industry. The likelihood of my finding another job with a direct competitor out of happenstance was pretty low, so the contract was really intended to prevent their competitors from specifically trying to hire their staff away to gain inside information about a competing company. And when you consider the fact that basically everyone has web programmers now, I never felt like it had any real-world impact on my job search.
Jburns272's avatar
That doesn't sound so bad, since you have plenty of other companies you can work for. It does feel like a different story when there are only a few potential employers in a given city.
woohooligan's avatar
Yeah, that context sounds kind of weird to me if I'm being honest. Not that I've ever worked in education, but the idea of schools requiring that just sounds weird.
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