In August, Walmart officials publicly apologized after a photograph made the rounds online showcasing a company sign that appeared to promote guns as back-to-school supplies. The sign was photographed as hanging above a glass case filled with rifles.
The sign, which read, “Own the school year like a hero,” blew up on social media with people calling it “disgusting” and bashing the company on Twitter for their poor taste.
Members of Walmart’s social media team were quick to respond to comments about the sign, proclaiming how “very sorry” they were and agreeing that the situation was “truly horrible.”
In a public statement, a spokesperson said that the display pictured in the photo would never be acceptable in their stores and reiterated how regrettable the situation was.
It isn’t the first time that Walmart has come under fire. Former employees have sued Walmart for their overtime pay and the company has faced controversies concerning low wages, gender discrimination and lackluster employee benefits.
What’s more, it isn’t the first time this year that Walmart has dealt with public backlash. In July, a Twitter user took note of the description on one of the party wigs sold on their website. The hair product’s color was listed as “n***er brown.”
At the time, Walmart took no responsibility for the description, making it clear that the product was from a third party vendor and that the racial slur used was “provided by manufacturers.”
After the August sign controversy, Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson insisted that they were still trying to get to the bottom of how such a thing could have occurred and said that they had not ruled out the possibility that the image itself had been “digitally enhanced.”
As Crowson pointed out, the display could have been something orchestrated by a customer as a prank or the result of a store employee placing the sign above the case by mistake.
Regardless of whether this was a case of simple error or an act of juvenile hijinks by a customer, one question remains. If companies begin apologizing for something of this nature, where do the apologies stop? And how long will it be before stores have to take down any sign that rubs somebody the wrong way?
Statistics show that there have been just over 200 school shootings in the US since 2013. None of them were the result of a mislaid sign in a retail outlet.
There is an estimated 300,000 deaths per year due to the obesity epidemic and, yet, we don’t see McDonald’s apologizing for serving fat people.
Additionally, the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that approximately 7.3 million underage Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 report current alcohol consumption. But we don’t see 7-Eleven issuing apologies when employees are caught selling beer to minors.
On the contrary, the company has been cited before for allowing their clerks to sell alcohol to people under the legal drinking age.
The popular ADD/ADHD drug Adderall has even caused sudden death in no less than 12 children taking it, but the company responsible for it never issued an apology, only added death as a possible side effect to their warning labels.
So even though Walmart can be accused of many things from sexual discrimination to disability discrimination, one thing they shouldn’t have to be held responsible for are frivolous allegations that an individual or individuals may have placed an otherwise harmless sign above a case of rifles.
As most reasonable people would agree, those persons who are of legal age to purchase a rifle from Walmart are not mistaking it for a back-to-school item. But what most rational people wouldn’t agree with is any kneejerk reaction to have them remove the signs entirely from their stores.
There’s bad taste, there’s bad judgment and then there is outright censorship. Altogether, the politically correct reactions to simple mistakes like these are going to do one thing: drive sales from traditional brick and mortar onto the web.
Already, common gun brokers like GunBroker.com and web stores like Grab A Gun have prices that beat local gun shops (including Walmart). Further, they regularly host gun giveaways and discounts for regular visitors.
Avoiding the politics around Walmart, be it good or bad, is one reason why I do most of my shopping online these days.