It took an Act of God in New Orleans, Louisiana to do what neighborhood activists tried to do to Wal-Mart: shut it down. Reports out of the Garden District in New Orleans today indicated that the controversial supercenter — which is still under litigation — was severely looted today by Wal-Mart “customers.” The Wal-Mart project in the Garden District was a hard-fought battle site, that anti-sprawl activists have taken to court — but Hurrican Katrina caused more than one kind of leakage at the store. The Associated Press reports today that looters were cleaning out the Wal-Mart from wall to wall. According to the AP, “People were everywhere: in cars and trucks, pushing goods in carts and baby carriages, dragging full trash cans and laundry baskets. The steady stream of cars caused a traffic jam on the streets near the store — the type of traffic jam last seen in New Orleans when people tried to evacuate. Press reports described a scene that had degenerated into chaos. ”This is [messed] up,” one looter said, . ”. . . People just walking around like they don’t care. All they’re worried about is getting free [stuff] instead of a human life.” ”I’ve never seen people like this,” another witness said. ”They’re getting chainsaws and fishing poles, anything they can get for free.”
There is an eerie irony to the massive looting of the Wal-Mart store in the Garden District. The world’s largest retailer likes to say that “the customer is boss,” but when the customers were really allowed to be boss, they showed just how little they cared about stealing from Wal-Mart. Perhaps these local residents saw Wal-Mart as simply a rich corporation bursting with merchandise. The word “leakage” in the retail industry refers to stolen merchandise. It was not water leakage from Hurrican Katrina that caused damage to the New Orleans Wal-Mart, but product leakage carried out by its “customers.” In a culture where consumerism is more important than ethics or morality, people will steal you blind — always. It is fitting, therefore, that Wal-Mart, the King of American Consumerism, suffered the worst at the hands of unbridled consumers.