La Satira News Service
Over the last seven years, retail supergiant All-Mart has become something of a leader in the adoption of renewable energy to power its stores. As of last year, more than 300 All-Mart discount stores and supermarkets were equipped with solar panels.
New reports out of the northeastern Arkansas, however, tie All-mart to an even more innovative form of renewable energy. In this case, the man at the center of it all is Sam Allton, the late founder of the retail giant.
“I used to work in the state Department of Commerce,” says Keele O. Watts, now the chairman of the Arkansas Power Solutions Board, a trade group designed to fund research into new forms of renewable energy. “We always used to hear complaints about the declining quality of the All-Mart experience since the death of Mr. Allton. Patrons–or, increasingly, former patrons–would say that what the company was doing now would have Mr. Allton spinning in his grave. Finally, we investigated–and sure enough he was.”
To Mr. Watts, by then installed at the Power Solutions Board, the phenomenon suggested an intriguing opportunity. Mr. Watts got permission to move Mr. Allton’s remains from a lead casket into an iron casket, which he set on a spindle and enclosed in a large coil of copper wire. The spinning iron coffin immediately began pushing electrical current through the coil.
Further refinements to the system design increased the efficiency and productivity of the output, to the extent that the innovation now supplies power to a number of communities in northeastern Arkansas for a low rate. In order to avoid disputes over ownership of the profits, the various interested parties agreed to put any profits from the sale of electricity into programs that help low-income residents pay their electricity bills.
And yet there remains the question of what exactly it is that’s providing the motive power for this scheme. Mr. Watts claims ignorance. “We’ve had any number of supernatural investigators come out and look,” Mr. Watts said, “but they leave as confused as we are. The only hint we’ve got is that the coffin seems to spin a little faster around the time of the annual shareholders meeting, and when the company rolls out its new clothing line-up each season.”
Statistics also suggest a positive correlation between the rotation speed of the coffin and the number of customer complaints and labor disputes filed against the retailer each month. Mr. Watts adamantly denied the suggestion that the system was driven by the power of poor decisions.
Critics of the arrangement cite the slightly ghoulish nature of the deal, as well as the potential for conflicts of interest. “The government is supposed to ensure the company follows fair and legal business practices,” said Meg Avolt of Power to the People, a consumer advocacy group for utility customers. “In this case, it seems the government has an interest in boosting poor business practices on the part of this retailer in the interests of maximizing electrical outputs.”
Mr. Watts himself acknowledges the potentially unsustainable nature of this new power supply. “There’s obviously a hazard in that the harder we push lousy products under miserable conditions, the more likely we are to alienate our customer base sooner rather than later, in which case we would have to start looking for an alternate source of supply.” Indeed, the Board has already been quietly pursuing potential deals involving other late retailers, including R. R. Jetskey, the late founder of the once-powerful J-Mart retail chain. In this case, however the Board made an unexpected discovery.
“It seems Mr. Jetskey has already been powering his little corner of the world for the last twenty years,” said Mr. Watts.
Public reaction to the scheme so far has been muted. “On the one hand, Mr. Allton himself might salute the ingenuity and spirit of industrial enterprise that led to this solution,” said shopper Al Lacarte. “On the other, it is kind of gruesome to think about, and I must say All-Mart is showing some unexpected class in not trying to get its share of the profits on this. Either way, I suppose it gives new meaning to the expression ‘outlet store.'”
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