Robert Washington is no Emperor, but he had to leave Wal-Mart looking very much like the fairy tale Emperor’s New Clothes. Six years ago, Washington was forced to leave a Wal-Mart in Cahokia, Illinois wearing litle more than a T-shirt, underwear and tennis shoes. He had to leave his sweatsuit behind in the Wal-Mart, because employees there said Washington had stolen the clothing. According to Washington, he had purchased the sweatsuit, gone home, and returned later with the suit on, and the item set off a security alarm. The Wal-Mart employees, according to the Associated Press story, “ordered” Washington to strip down to his underwear on the spot, and leave the sweatsuit behind. Three years after the incident, Washington was awarded $10,000 in a court hearing, but Wal-Mart rejected the finding, and Washington sued the retailer. Washington’s first trial ended in a mistrial when one of the jurors admitted to seeing a news article about the case. A second trial was held, but on June 8th. another mistrial was declared when jurors could not agree on a verdict. Washington’s underwear lawsuit continues, now six years after he was humiliated and left with little to wear beyond the Emperor’s fine clothes.
At Wal-Mart, their corporate culture is based upon “respect for the individual”, and the watchword: “The customer is boss.” I doubt if Robert Washington felt very respected, and if he were truly the boss, the Wal-Mart employees would have apologized for the security gaff, and let the man continue shopping without reducing him to his underwear. What would have happened if Wal-Mart workers had tried to claim that Washington’s underwear was from Wal-Mart also? Afteer Wal-Mart employees forced Washington to strip, he went home and returned later — with a receipt for the sweatsuit. Instead of an apology, Washington has gotten a six year legal battle with the world’s largest retailer. And that’s the naked truth about Wal-Mart.