Sprawl-Busters in Canada sent us two Christmas holiday stories about life at Wal-Mart, and the dangers of shopping there. A Wal-Mart store in Winnipeg had a bad day from start to finish on Christmas Eve. First, an attempted armored car robbery had shoppers “scurrying for safety” in the parking lot of the McGillivray Boulevard store. A gunfight erupted in the parking lot when a robber fired two shots at a Loomis guard, hitting him in the leg. The assailant got away. “It’s all a bit disconerting so close to home,” said one Wal-Mart neighbor. “But, hey, welcome to the 90s. And welcome to Linden Woods”. But according to the Winnipeg Free Press, the excitement at Wal-Mart was just beginning. At 5 pm that same day, a worker at Wal-Mart set fire to some boxes in a storage area in the back of the store. The employee was charged with arson. The fire was contained with little damage. Must have been set by another of those happy Walmartian associates. Police told reporters that the Wal-Mart armed robbery was the second in two days outside of a Wal-Mart. Four days after the Winnipeg incident, an 8 year old girl in Ottawa was shot in the leg by her mother’s boyfriend inside a Wal-Mart store in Orleans. The boyfriend found a loaded pellet gun — are you ready for this? — lying on top of a Barbie Doll in the store’s children’s toy section. The loaded pellet gun was a recently returned Christmas gift that Wal-Mart employees had inadvertently left in the toy section, instead of in the store’s gun section. The boyfriend, who says he did not know the gun was loaded, pointed it at the girl’s face, but luckily she turned her back before the gun went off. According to an account of the incident in the Ottawa Sun, the mother was unhappy with the store. “With such a big store,” said Ashley Thompson’s mother, “why would you have your guns…next to a toy department? Truthfully, I had no idea that Wal-Mart even sold this type of commodity.” The mother said she was “chewed out” by a Wal-Mart employee who blamed the boyfriend for aiming the gun at a child. For a store that brags about its inventory control, it’s remarkable that a loaded gun would be left out for any passerby to handle.
Why would Wal-Mart place a gun department right next to a toy department? Why was a loaded gun “inadvertantly” left on top of a Barbie doll? Every year, there are thousands of “accidents” that happen at stores like Wal-Mart. But some ‘accidents’ are just waiting to happen, especially when guns are placed in a children’s section. And as for the two shootings at Wal-Mart, the company has gone to great lengths to keep the issue of violence at stores off the front pages of newspapers. Wal-Mart did a study of violent incidents at their stores, but would not make the results public (see newsflash story below about Texas judge who fined Wal-Mart millions for not producing such criminal statistics in court trials). Superstores appear to be a super place for criminals to frequent. Good access to the highways, and lots of shoppers in one place.