A gathering at the Magazine Publishers of America Retail Conference in Washington, D.C. recently was the stage Wal-Mart used to unveil its other personality. A top company executive told publishers that there are really Two Wal-Marts: the one known by customers, and the one written about in the media. “We’re not an amazingly monstrous company taking over the world,” said Gordon Erickson Wal-Mart senior vice president for general merchandise. The company official was quoted by AdAge.com as saying customers know this is not the real Wal-Mart. It turns out that Wal-Mart has been suffering from a bad case of mistaken identity. “What you read and what we are, are two different things,” Erickson explained. The spokesman shared with the crowd a moving story about how two Wal-Mart workers helped a Wal-Mart customer whose halloween inflatable toys had been stolen from her yard. Local Wal-Marts were sold out of the inflatables, but calls to Wal-Mart head quarters found two employees — whose boss was in China on business — who took it on themselves to send the customer Halloween inflatables — free of charge! Now would a monstrous company do that? But the AdAge article said the story pointed out the other side of Wal-Mart they don’t like to dwell on: that the Wal-Mart boss was off in China buying “cheap goods produced by cheap manufacturing in distant lands.” The article said the emotional anecdote illustrated concerns about “Wal-Mart’s exporting of jobs and the hollowing out of communities in the U.S. — the very charges of a ‘monstrous’ Wal-Mart that Mr. Erickson sought to refute.”
How much would you wager that Mr. Erickson will never use the story about Halloween inflatables again — unless he first scrubs the story clean of any Wal-Mart boss being off to China on business? The Halloween inflatables turned out to show a very scarey side of Wal-Mart. And this was no April Fool’s joke either.