Poor Wal-Mart! On May 12, the retailer announced disappointing quarterly earnings, admitting that next quarter would probably fall below analysts’ expectations as well. As a result, Wal-Mart’s stock took yet another hit. Among other reasons, Wal-Mart blamed unseasonably cool weather–which makes no sense, given that Target did just fine. (Don’t people also have to leave their houses to shop at Target?) Some retail experts now think that sex discrimination and other abuses may be beginning to affect consumers’ shopping habits.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Wal-Mart found yet another group of people to offend (besides women, immigrants, African-Americans, worldwide organized labor and small businesspeople). A full-page ad in the (Flagstaff) Arizona Daily Sun outraged Jewish groups with a 1933 photo showing Nazis burning books, outrageously implying that Wal-Mart critics were fascists, and trivializing the Holocaust. The ad, paid for by Wal-Mart and bearing the name of one of the many Wal-Mart-sponsored fake “community” groups, urged readers to vote “no” on a proposition that would limit the size of future Wal-Mart stores in the area. The text read, “Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not. So why should we allow local government to limit where we can shop?” A Wal-Mart spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that the company reviewed the ad but didn’t realize the photo depicted Nazis. (Doh!) Wal-Mart has publicly apologized.
All of this should lend momentum to the anti-Wal-Mart forces. The company is vulnerable and the time to press for change is now, before Wal-Mart hires smarter flacks who can stop it from, almost compulsively, screwing up. Democracy for America, the PAC inspired by Howard Dean’s presidential bid, is taking a poll: Should it mobilize its forces in the growing campaign to “hold Wal-Mart accountable”? Vote here.