“Hello? This is Wal-Mart calling”…The residents of Lawrenceville, Georgia may be on a “Do Not Call” List, but they may hear from Wal-Mart nonetheless. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, Wal-Mart is conducting its own phone poll of residents to see how much local support there is for a proposed supercenter off Lawrenceville Highway. Resident tell me that Wal-Mart already has one empty store in town already. Gee, I wonder how that phone survey will come out? Wal-Mart told local folks they had hired an “independent” firm from Washington, D.C. to do the survey. Echoing the famous words of Sam Walton (“if some community for whatever reason, doesn’t want us in there, we aren’t interested in going in there and creating a fuss.”), Mike Driver, a Wal-Mart Realty spokesman said: “If the community does not want us, we won’t come here, although we don’t believe that is the case.” The city council ordered Wal-Mart to have a meeting with the neighbors this week, but many homeowners opposed to the 203,000 s.f. superstore are hoping they will be part of the poll. The Wal-Mart site is located on a rise, and would actually overlook the homes. As usual, Wal-Mart has promised “a new Wal-Mart prototype”, a “really good looking store.” Part of the land Wal-Mart wants has to be annexed from the county and rezoned. The city will vote on that plan November 10th. Residents complained that Wal-Mart already has 28 dead Wal-Marts in Georgia, but the company said the new supercenter would not cause any existing stores to close. Wal-Mart already closed a 134,000 s.f. store in Lawrenceville in 2002. Two other supercenters are being built nearby the proposed site in Lawrenceville. Although Wal-Mart says it is making efforts to find tenants for their empty stores, the company shows prospective tenants a non-binding letter of intent which stipulates “the demised premises cannot be used for a discount store, wholesale club or drugstore/pharmacy”. So much for free market competition.
If Wal-Mart really wanted to get an “independent” response to their plan, they would let the city pick a pollster, and let the city determine what the question will say. Wal-Mart in other venues has done its own surveys, using “independent” companies, and they always come out with Wal-Mart on top. The people surveyed in some of these “polls” have been located in a regional area, and not from the local area impacted. The survey tool itself is sometimes questionable, and leads the respondent towards a conclusion by mentioning taxes and jobs, etc. Let’s put it this way: I have never seen a survey that Wal-Mart did with its own contractors that had a discouraging result. In some communities, only the results are given out — without the questions, and without a breakout of which neighborhoods were surveyed. If Wal-Mart had asked the neighbors who came to its meeting this week, the results of the face to face poll might have been enough to make Sam Walton turn in his grave.Try searching this database by the word “poll” or “survey” for similar stories.