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'Gift card shopping while black' at Wal-Mart

“I keep going over and over the incident in my mind. I cannot come up with any possible reason why I was treated like this except that I am black.”

— Reginald Pitts, human resources manager at roofing supplier GAF Materials, who was roughed up while trying to purchase gift cards for employees at Wal-Mart. His company will now buy the cards at Target.

[UPDATE: More Wal-mart woes added at the end.]

Wal-Mart apologizes to corporate shopper for bad check accusation. Nice. The amoral big box retailer really doesn’t need any more bad publicity, but here it comes again. How big does the check have to be before someone thinks a black man forged it? In Wal-Mart’s case it was a $13,600 corporate check to pay for 520 gift cards for employees.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said Friday that the company does not tolerate discrimination. “We probably could have handled it better, but I won’t know until we complete the investigation,” Weber said.

Pitts said that when he went to the store last week to pick up the preprinted cards, store managers stalled for about two hours while he waited. He had handed over his business card, his driver’s license and phone numbers to GAF’s bank. His accounting supervisor assured them over the phone that GAF was good for the check.

Later, two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies appeared. One grabbed Pitts by the arm. He objected to the rough handling and asked if he was being arrested. “We need to talk with you about this forged check that you brought in here,” Pitts quoted one as deputy saying. The deputy said later Wal-Mart had called and reported that Pitts had committed a felony. A short time later deputies, determined there were no grounds for a criminal charge.

If any of you have seen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, this story fits right in with the rest of the corporate culture exposed by the Robert Greenwald documentary.

Thanks to Blender Anne for the pointer.

***

Paul of Paul’s Rants passed along more woes for Wal-Mart, this time in the shape of lawsuits slapped on the retailer for selling shoddy, defective child bikes. The front wheel comes off while in motion, causing crashes and injuries to the kids.

That kind of lawsuit is not surprising, but this is Wal-Mart and its suppliers, my friends. It looks like the importer and the retail giant failed to report injuries or the alleged defects to the government – and kept on selling the bikes. (SFGate):

Anthony McCurdy watched the front wheel fall off his bike while riding to a bowling alley, he says. The 12-year-old’s face hit the sidewalk, and his bicycle landed on his chest. Short of breath, he got up, but then had a seizure and again fell face-first, knocking out his two top front teeth.

Anthony, now a high school junior in West Chicago, said the crash more than five years ago changed him. “I’m just not as able to absorb information as I was before,” he said.

He and eight other boys from around the nation are suing retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sold the bikes, and a San Rafael company that imported them from China. A trial in the case begins Monday in a Marin County courtroom, and the youths are expected to testify about smashing their faces into pavement after the front wheels came loose.

…The lawsuit asserts that the so-called quick-release devices on the front wheels malfunctioned when the bikes hit bumps. The clasps, used on millions of bicycles, are designed to hold the front-wheel axle to the frame and allow the wheel to be easily removed for repairs or transport.

…Under federal law, importers, distributors, retailers and manufacturers are required to tell regulators about anything “that could be a substantial product hazard or has injured or killed a consumer,” said U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding