Checking out Wal-Mart's Check Out blog

The blogosphere has become a relatively safe place to rail against your workplace under cover of a user name, to say anonymously what you'd really like to say to your boss's face if it wouldn't get you fired. So it must have come as a pleasant surprise to Wal-Mart buyers when their corporate bosses encouraged them to use Check Out, Wal-Mart's web blog, to lay out their unvarnished opinions about the merchandise the mega-retailer is stocking its shelves with.

As the New York Times points out, these buyers' "decisions about what makes it onto Wal-Mart's shelves have enormous impact, earning (or costing) vendors millions of dollars. It was a blogger on the Check Out, after all, who first disclosed last month that Wal-Mart would stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format, rather than the rival HD DVD system. The decision was considered the death knell for HD DVD."

According to the Times, Wal-Mart's buyer bloggers have slammed everything from Microsoft to movies on the site, but their online musings aren't limited to their working life: They also write about their pets, religious beliefs and favorite authors, thus adding that sought-after "personal touch." Quick customer feedback is another benefit of the blog.