27 July 2005

Wal-Mart Not God, After All

It must have come as a surprise to corporate executives.

For almost five weeks now, Wal-Mart stores in Pensacola, Florida, have not sold the local newspaper, the Pensacola News Journal, because of that newspaper’s columnists dared to say something negative about the company. Evidently, world domination is not enough for Wal-Mart. They want our love, too.

I (heart) Huckabees notwithstanding, there are few Wal-Mart adoration societies in the world even among the chain’s dedicated shoppers. It’s easy enough to see why, but because I really, really strongly dislike Wal-Mart (proud to say I’ve been in a Wal-Mart exactly twice since 2001) I’ll go ahead and link to the many Wal-Mart hate sites out there so you can get an idea of why the chain has yet to feel our love.

That’s just a sampling. There are probably more hate pages devoted to Wal-Mart than to any other organization or person who’s not a politician.

Anyway, back to the main story. As you can read in this article that appeared in today’s News Journal, someone in the Wal-Mart organization seems to have realized that the company did not, in fact, win any converts by banning the local newspaper from their stores. No explicit lyrics on CDs, that’s okay (though they do sell DVDs and video games with explicit lyrics, so one has to wonder how serious they are); but no columns in newspapers critical of Wal-Mart? That is a bit over the line. The New York Times and Washington Post have both at one time or another run articles or columns critical of Wal-Mart; a Times article was actually quoted by the News Journal columnist. But Wal-Mart still is willing to sell those papers.

Not surprisingly, it all comes down to one regional manager who thought he was more important than he really was. Here’s to you, Bob Hart. You thought you could get a journalist fired because he said something bad about your company. Turns out, you’re not nearly as important as all that. I hope Hart gets some sunny Wal-Mart discipline, but I doubt it.

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