WakeUpWalMart.com has linked rising theft to its claims that the company offers skimpy pay and benefits. Wal-Mart also faces a class-action lawsuit alleging female workers were passed over for men in pay and promotions.
"I am not the type to steal, but because we are so mistreated, when I saw things I just didn't do anything," said Gina Tuley, a former Wal-Mart bakery worker, who quit her job at the Seagoville, Texas, store in March. A big complaint was that her hours had been cut, reducing her take-home pay.
Wal-Mart defends its pay as competitive and its health care coverage as better than most retailers, and has denied gender discrimination.
Simley said an April survey of employees that showed rising job satisfaction suggests Tuley's attitude does not represent most Wal-Mart associates.
Even so, several former associates said in interviews that their bonuses have declined because of the rise in inventory losses. Wal-Mart's Simley disputes these claims, saying theft reduction was dropped from the bonus formula about a dozen years ago. It was Walton's idea to tie associates' bonuses to their stores' pilferage levels to give them a vested interest in keeping theft in check.
Tuley said her bonus last year was $300, down from $800 the previous year.
Still, she said, "People would walk out with bags of merchandise ... I heard the alarms go off and people wouldn't even look," she added.
Business Writer Marcus Kabel contributed reporting for this story from Springfield, Mo.