Robert Okesson is handicapped. He drives a car with handicapped plates, and has so for the past ten years. He says he’s been on disability for several years, and is in poor health. He’s had a kidney and a liver transplant, and one of his legs is shorter than the other. What’s all this have to do with Wal-Mart? Last February Robert Okesson tried to part in a Wal-mart parking lot using his handicapped plates to get as close to the store as possible. But the “associates” at the store in Hemet, CA stopped Okesson when he tried to park in a handicapped space. Okesson says that employees were using the space for merchandise in an outdoors sales promotion, and Okesson couldn’t use the handicapped space. Okesson went to small claims court and sued Wal-Mart for violating California law, which prohibits the obstruction of handicapped parking spaces. The judge in small claims agreed with Okesson, and awarded him $1 in damages, and $25 in court costs. Rather than pay the $26 fine, Wal-Mart decided to appeal the decision to Superior Court, and thereby make Okesson have to “walk” a little farther through the courts to get satisfaction. Wal-Mart shelled out $87 instead to file an appeal. In explaining their actions, Wal-Mart reasoned: “Our corporate philosophy is that if we feel we didn’t do anything wrong, then we will continue to defend ourselves.” So here is a handicapped Wal-Mart customer trying to get the company to admit they blocked out a handicapped space, but Wal-Mart would rather continue their legal fight with Okesson. What ever happened to Sam Walton’s first principle in the employee’s handbook: The customer is always right”?
Next time you’re in a Wal-Mart parking lot, think of Robert Okesson being waved away from a handicapped space, and throw your car into reverse and find somewhere else to shop.