So how are ya'll? Sorry about the clipped vernacular, but I've just jetted back across the pond after a couple of days being brainwashed at Wal-Mart's annual razzmatazz shareholders bash in sleepy downtown Bentonville in deepest Arkansas. That's the cotton pickin' southern community where, if it hadn't been for Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, time would have passed it by and the only excitement would have been tumbleweed blowing across the main highway. Las Vegas it ain't, but when the Wal-Mart global family hits town every June, Bentonville's merchants rub their hands at the prospect of the greenbacks rolling in. Seventeen thousand Wal-Mart associates (employees to you and me) packed the local university indoor stadium to laud their company in a style usually reserved for evangelists' meetings or the US Democratic convention. Only the Yanks could hype up a 6am shareholders' session with a top line rock band, tons of gooey, private label doughnuts, and enough booming amplifiers to blast a Madonna gig. Mind you, don't talk to me about the "reserved British". The whackiest and easily the noisiest group was from Britain with over 150 Asda "colleagues" (again, employees to you and me) hitting town with their own Mexican wave. Not that the bigwigs didn't take part. Asda president and md Paul Mason, when he wasn't lamenting his beloved Sunderland FC's failure to get into Europe, was at the heart of the knees-up. As for me ­ I needed a couple of packets of Asda's newly RPM-free headache pills to get over it! {{COUNTERPOINT }}