Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Attention, Some Of You Walmart Shoppers

Unclench your underwear, America. The case of the weird, racial, overhead announcement at the Walmart in New Jersey has been solved. Now, in case you didn't follow the story last week, here's the scoop:

A bunch of people were shopping at a Walmart in New Jersey. (Yes, pretty much a dream come true, hanging out at the New Jersey Walmart. May I continue?) At some point, someone gets on the intercom and says, "Attention, Walmart customers. All black people, leave the store now." Ooh. Awkward.

As you can imagine, the silence in the store likely made it the most quiet that the store had ever been. As you can also imagine, black patrons shopping at the store were far from amused. Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty sure that the white folks weren't all that amused either. But the black folks were justifiably a little irritated by the whole thing. Really? Irritated. In what way?

According to an article over at Yahoo! Finance (why it's in the Finance section is a little unclear to me, but the article seems accurate, so I'm going with it), immediately after this odd announcement was made "...a manager quickly got on the public-address system and apologized for the remark." None the less, a rather angry mob (sans pitchforks and torches, as they were all being used for health care protests) gathered and was essentially saying things to the effect of "We need to know if this is the sort of thing that Walmart tolerates." Now, even though I know how this story ends, even if I didn't know, I'd go on ahead and guess that it is not the sort of thing that's tolerated. Call it a hunch. Call it my ability to put my finger right on the pulse of corporate America. Call it what you will. But I'd go ahead and guess that it's not OK with them.

And it wasn't. See, at this particular Walmart, all of the intercom commands were on a list right there next to the intercom. And apparently, the intercom was in an area where it is able to be accessed by not only employees, but rogue patrons with odd senses of humor as well. All someone would have to do would be to walk up to it, punch in the appropriate keys (say star-one-star) and then announce to the entire store "Attention, Walmart shoppers. Human kidneys are now on sale for half off in Sporting Goods." Never mind why a kidney is considered a sporting good in this scenario. The point is that it could happen just like that. And that is pretty much where my sympathy or whatever it is for this story ends because after this point, things just get a little too histrionic for me.

See, a 16-year old (who is pretty clearly an a-hole) was later arrested for doing this. He was charged with was charged with harassment and bias intimidation. The New York Daily News reported that "Authorities said it was unclear if the announcement was ad-libbed or premeditated and said they were investigating a second youth who accompanied the arrested teen to the store." Wait. What now?

They're unclear as to whether he thought of it right then or if he had planned this out? Is this a death penalty case? Why in the world would that make a difference? ("So...did you plan ahead of time to be this much of a jackass, or did it just hid you all of a sudden as you were looking at that Ninetendo Wii?") And what are they going to investigate the second youth for? He didn't do anything (from what I can tell). Can they charge him with "Being in the company of an a-hole"? "Accompanying an a-hole to a retail establishment?" I don't think that they can. In fact, I'm pretty sure they can't. Investigate away. Let me know how that turns out. Or don't.

Then I read that Yahoo! News reported that "Officials say several people have come forward and expressed interest in getting counseling." Translation: Several people are thinking about suing because they want the money, not because they needed counseling over a rogue statement made over a Walmart PA system by an errant 16-year old. Who are you people that you would need counseling after hearing that? If you need actual counseling by an actual counselor, I'm going to suggest that the next time you're in Walmart (if you can get over your obvious PTSD) that you buy yourself some sort of a helmet or headgear to protect that soft, soft dome of yours. Good Lord....

Seriously, some of you folks need to get over yourselves. Folks, for example, like a one Sheila Ellington, a storegoer at the time of the incident. She said, "I want to know why such statements are being made, because it flies in the face of what we teach our children about tolerance for all...If this was meant to be a prank, there's only one person laughing, and it's not either one of us." I don't know what she means by she wants to know why those statements are being made. It's as if she thinks that they were sanctioned by Walmart. And again, I'm going to have to say that I'm pretty sure that they weren't. Pretty sure. (What size is her head?)

Really, I understand why this sort of a thing would be upsetting to black folks who were shopping at the time. It's upsetting to white folks who were shopping at the time. It's upsetting to black and white folks who were not shopping at the time. But to be saying that you need counseling is ridiculous and to be asking questions like, "We need to know if this is the sort of thing that Walmart tolerates" is about one of the most ridiculous questions that you could possibly ask in this sort of situation. First of all, what do you think they're going to say? "Oh, sure. We tolerate this. No problem. Stop by next week on Nazi Tuesday for the full extent of what we'll tolerate." I don't think that's going to happen.

Seriously. According to the article, "Officials for Wal-Mart Stores Inc said the announcement was 'unacceptable'." Really? Oh! So, it's NOT acceptable to get on a PA system and tell all black people to leave the store? Look, if you're the sort of person who needs Walmart to SAY that it's unacceptable, now you know! They've said it's unacceptable. Are you happy now? Again, what else would they say?

My point here is that some things that happen are just that. They're things that happen. They don't have to have a deeper meaning other than someone is an a-hole. Actually, a lot of the time, that's the most obvious meaning of a lot of things. But you know what it was about this whole incident that I think surprised me the most? Have you ever been in a Walmart or any large store when there's an announcement made over the PA system? You can't understand a word that they're saying most of the time! It sounds like someone with marbles in their mouth is gasping for air. That anyone could understand the little jerk at all might really be the story here.

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Mark said...

"We need to know if this is the sort of thing that Walmart pays cash settlements for."

Mare said...

Yes. That is exactly what they needed to know. Counseling, indeed.

~ Mary

Preston said...


Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem, no matter whether you are a seamstress or a queen, a shoeshine boy or a movie star, a renowned philosopher or a Down’s syndrome child.

Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example.

Each smallest act of kindness - even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile - reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.

Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will.

All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined - those dead, those living, those generations yet to come - that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands.

Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength - the very survival - of the human tapestry.

Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days for which we, in our dissatisfaction, so often yearn are already with us; all great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in THIS MOMENTOUS DAY! - Reverend H.R. White

Excerpt from Dean Koontz’s book, “From the Corner of His Eye”.

It embodies the idea of how the smallest of acts can have such a profound effect on each of our lives.