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Editor's note: Over the past two months we received more than 150 e-mails in response to Scott Paton's Wal-Mart editorial. Many people wanted to know how to contact Wal-Mart customer service. To do so online, visit www.walmart.com. Under the "Still Have Questions?" section at the bottom of their home page, click on the "Online Customer Service" button. From there, click on the "Whom do I contact for questions about my local Wal-Mart stores?" bullet, which provides e-mail, mail and phone contact information. The direct Web link to this page can be found at www.walmart.com/catalog/catalog.gsp?cat=121283&path=0:5436:121264:121283. You can also call Wal-Mart's contact center at (800) 925-6278.

SPC Success
Thanks for a great article ("When Processes Moonlight as Trends," Davis Balestracci, June 2005 issue). Decisions made on the basis of this type of "boardroom analysis" can only be described (as Deming would say) as tampering with the system. In the attempt to reduce variation, many managers encourage their employees to do just that. The end result, of course, is that variation isn't reduced--only increased. I worked with Dr. Deming on many projects when I was with the Nashua Corp. in the 1980s, and he opened my mind and my eyes to a whole new set of tools for my toolbox.

--Robert L. Brown


It Only Takes One
The article ("First Word," Dirk Dusharme, June 2005 issue) was a great one. The article related that the checkout clerk was observant enough to notice a waiting customer but the manager was not. This is a very important issue in today's work environment. Short-sighted leaders aren't paying attention to what's happening around the workplace.

--Robert Causley


My praises to Bob! I wonder what happened to him after he disobeyed a direct order. Even though Bob had it right, it doesn't mean his boss did. Is Bob still there?

--Barbara Striegel


The Genius of Crosby
This is a comment about the article "From the Gallery of Quality Geniuses: Recollections of Philip B. Crosby" (Norman Bodek, June 2005 issue). It was noted that AVCO Corp. fired their quality manager for their problems. After their president, Don Ferrar, discovered his responsibilities, did he hire back the quality manager?

--Tom Keefe


I am a manager of quality assurance in a software development organization. I recently found my original, dog-eared paperback copy of Quality Is Free. It reminded me of my quality assurance roots. I cannot tell you how often I have relied on the contents of this book. It wasn't written for software development and it actually wasn't written for factories. It was written to be applied to any endeavor.

Thanks, Mr. Crosby!

--John Hoge


With all of the "geniuses" we have heard from, I would offer this observation: Engineers can boil their requirements for a manufactured item down to a two-dimensional geometric drawing. They can send that drawing halfway around the world to a potential supplier who has not produced the item before and, without much explanation, get a first article back that is better than 98 percent in conformance to the drawing in material, shape, function, etc. I don't believe the quality function has achieved anything similar. If you ask 10 different quality specialists to define quality for that very same item, you will get 10 different statements, definitions, tests, sample plans, etc.

I would suggest that the quality profession has not been definitive in its ability to train, teach or coach practitioners to consistently define and achieve quality requirements.

--Larry DeVries


Finding Elephants
Your article "The Elephant in the Operating Room" (Greg Brue, June 2005 issue) presents excellent coverage of the benefits that Six Sigma offers to health care providers. Hopefully it will provide guidance for more applications of Six Sigma within the industry. I am forwarding this article to the management of a large health care system in my area.

--Bruce Simpson


Is the health care industry in denial?

No, Six Sigma followers are. I have yet to see anyone show numbers on a return of investment for training their "belts," forming the team, implementing and then showing real savings experienced. Every project I have seen has had inflated numbers to justify the project.

Doctors are trained to ignore unproven methodologies. It would be unethical for them to follow an unproven initiative that doesn't even have a universally accepted standard or criteria. They may use some of the tools that are mentioned in some Six Sigma toolboxes, but adopting the whole initiative would likely drive up their malpractice insurance rates.

I certainly would not want my surgeon making decisions based on some cooked-up, marketing-hype, Six Sigma data.

Thanks anyway, but if I am going to go under the scalpel, I'll take the sensible doc without the Black Belt.

--Carl W. Keller