Storytime: Pushing the Contract

An exchange in the comments, on It Begins: WalMart Warns Truckers It Will No Longer Work With Them If They Move Goods For Amazon

A: Walmart has been beating down the shippers (and suppliers) with a big hammer for so long that the shippers will gladly tell Walmart to fuck off if Amazon treats them even just a little better. Most of them would be glad to never ever have to make another drop off at Walmart and secretly wish that Walmart goes the way of Kmart.

B: That’s really funny – shipping companies telling WMT to pound sand. Just give up your biggest customer. Maybe you can look for the local general store in the next rural town to replace the revenues! And if you think WMT is so stupid as to accept a company splitoff please look in the mirror for a definition of stupid.

C: What Walmart is doing is a form of rent seeking and is unethical. They should be told to pound sand. 25 years ago, I drove for an OTR company out of Missouri. We got a contract with a medium size US manufacturer to deliver their product to Walmart distribution centers. The freight was shipped prepaid, which means the shipper, not the consignee, was our customer. The freight was to be “no touch” freight for the truckers. We did not agree to provide the labor to unload the freight. I was the first truck to arrive at a Walmart DC. I was required by them to unload each pallet of boxes and restack them in a different pallet tie configuration. To their credit, the trucking company turned every in transit truck around and sent them back to the shipper. We told Walmart to permanently pound sand.

D: You were required by them to do something against the contract and you did it??

Your contract was with the manufacturer but you told WalMart to pound sand????

I smell bullshit.

Also, if they told you that, it would have been a decision of the local store manager or lower and not from corporate.

C: That is a problem the trucking industry has faced for a very long time.  My contract is with only one of the two parties whose docks I cross.  Prepaid means my customer is the shipper.  Collect measns my customer is the consignee.  I don’t get paid, however, until I have signed papers from both sides.  Most freight is prepaid.  Thus, I am held hostage by the consignee.  If he says dance a jig and blow the forklift driver to get unloaded, I have to choose between blowing the forklift driver or returning the load to the shipper at my expense.  The purchase contract between the shipper and consignee controls the conditions of the delivery.  Those previously stipulated conditions are the basis of my bid to shipper for cartage services.  What Walmart did in this case, and understand that many companies try this, is to use the labor rightly owned by the trucker or cartage company to perform a portion of its warehousing function.  They have no legal right to do so, but they have my truck and driver, (me if I am on O/O) hostage.  It is cheaper to simply give in to their unreasonable demands than to take the load back to the shipper.  Having failed to deliver, you will not get paid for eithr haul.

Understand that Walmart was violating its contract with the shipper.  It was the malefactor here.  That is why we ditched Walmart.  The shipper was locked into a contract amd felt that they could not afford to renegotiate, having already borrowed a bunch of money to expand production solely to supply Walmart.  Walmart knew the shipper simply had to bend and suck.  The shipper negotiated a new contract with another freight line, but the freight rates were substantially higher, because instead of the trucks being at the Walmart DC for an hour for each delivery, yhey were there for six hours, all on the log book and, therefore, hours not available for driving.

Please note that, as I indicated, these deliveries were not to local stores, but to the distribution centers.  DC operations are carefully monitored from corporate.  The issue here was the “tie” used on the pallets.  Bulk shipping often uses a “tie” or box arrangement which overhangs the 48″ x 40″ pallet.  When stored in a warehouse, particularly in the overhead storage, most warehouses use a tie which does not overhang (for safety)  If that same tie is used in shipping, I get fewer peices on the truck.  That was the issue in this case.  Walmart knew how it intended to store the product, but approved the shippers tie proposal because they figured the dumb fucking truckers could be bullied into compliance (They are famous for calling the police on truckers who whip out their contracts and demanding compliance.  The trucker goes to jail, and then has to pay a couple thousand to get his truck out of the impound yard.  Oh, and he can’t get his truck out until he arranges for someone else to crossdock the load onto another truck, because, of course, he AND HIS TRUCK are permanently barred from Walmart property.)

So whatever bullshit you smell emanates from a source closer to you than me.

B: Help me understand. You have a contract which stipulates that the driver is not responsible for anything to do with the unloading. Walmart demands that you help unload or go home. And there are lawyers in the USA that know something about the basics of contract law. But nothing happens except the driver helps Walmart unload.

Lesson learned: when you’re far from home, and not on an Imperial Starport (where they take the Imperial Trade & Starport regulations seriously), you’d better find a way to get the contract enforced. Or pay the price.

Also: when there’s a corporate trade war brewing, people start picking sides… especially the old hands with long memories and hard grudges. The opinion of certain knowledgeable players can matter a good deal more than general public opinion, or even the views of the local Imperial Court.

Something for shippers – by road, by sea, or by space – to remember.

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About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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