Georgia Thacker says she was stunned when she took a phone call recently from a person who said he was calling from Wal-Mart in Arkansas. The offer he made to her left Georgia speechless. Here is her exclusive story received by Sprawl-Busters: “I live in the Ahwatukee Foothills, a suburb of Phoenix. We recently found out a Wal-Mart grocery store, a 24 hour 7 day a week store, was coming to our neighborhood. The people in our neighborhood have started to organize to try and stop this store from happening. At an organizational meeting I was interviewed by a reporter from the Arizona Republic I was quoted in the Republic on Thursday, the day after the meeting, my quote was an unflattering comment about Wal-Mart . Thursday afternoon while gardening, I got a phone call from a man who stated he was calling from Wal-Mart in Arkansas and asked if he could ask me a few questions. I was startled by this but agreed. He asked about the visit I had made to the Wal-Mart I described as “disgusting” and I told him about the dirty conditions of the store and I didn’t get a chance to tell him about the awful business practices, before he began his offer. He stated that I seemed to have passion against Wal-Mart if I would use that passion and become a Wal-Mart spokesperson they would pay me $100,000 for six months. I declined their offer and suggested they take the money and put it toward their employee’s medical coverage. The Wal-Mart rep also went on and on about the glories of Wal-Mart . I questioned him about the 24 hour plan and how this was a serious concern of the neighborhood. He tried to tell me that this was a silly concern. After all, the other grocery store in our area had employees in the store after the 2:00 AM closing. I explained employees stocking shelves is very different from a store open for business. I also told him about property values going down but he disagreed with me. This back and forth went on for quite a while. During this time he offered me the money three times We finished our conversation when I told him that my husband was a union member and I would never be a spokesperson for a non-union business. He then told me they were coming anyway and he hoped I’d become a Wal-Mart shopper. I once again stated my Anti Wal-Mart sentiment and said good-bye. I am not all that familiar with their tactics, but if he offered me money, how many other people are on their payroll? I am absolutely stunned and repulsed by their offer but that is probably how they get things done. Georgia Thacker, Phoenix, Arizona.”
It is not an altogether unheard of practice for a developer or a retailer to offer money to a local citizen to, in effect, “buy” their support. Sprawl-Busters reported in a New Orleans Wal-Mart case how a developer there made no bones about the fact that he had paid key people in the New Orleans community to speak favorably about Wal-Mart at public hearings. These “testimonies” however, appeared to be unsolicited, until it came out that people had been rewarded financially for their statements. Home Depot in Somerville, Massachusetts offered a neighbor $1 million to drop her lawsuit against the company, but she didn’t take the money and run. How often such “offers” are made is uncertain, but stories like Georgia Thacker’s suggest that some developers must believe that citizens are for sale, like land, or any other commodity.