RETAILING: Is This a Store Or a Salt Mine?

Is This a Store Or a Salt Mine?

Nordstrom department stores, a 60-store U.S. chain concentrated mostly in the Far West, are renowned for the fine customer service provided by their seemingly tireless salespeople. But does Nordstrom's corporate culture have a dark side? The Washington State department of labor has ruled that the company illegally pressured employees to perform many work-related duties "off the clock." Nordstrom was ordered to pay its Washington clerks two years' worth of overtime, which could amount to several million dollars.

The finding stemmed from a complaint by the United Food and Commercial Workers union that the secret behind Nordstrom's service is grueling pressure to...

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