Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On giving the lawyerly answer.

FWIW, I still think I'm right about inner-city Walmarts, but I have to say I am really fascinated by the sheer PR guy slickness of part of the answer I got from Walmart's PR guy.

Just one final point of clarification: If Ms. Trask purchased recalled
products and wants to return them for a refund, she is free to do so. At
this point, no one at Wal-Mart is aware of her trying to. Therefore,
there's no way for the company to know for sure that the products she
purchased had been recalled. So again, if they are on the recall list,
and she wants to bring them back, she absolutely can, and Wal-Mart will
refund her money.

You know what?

He's right.

Sure, a news crew found the recalled food still on the shelves of another Walmart the same day. The AP story even says that some of the food she bought wasn't included in the recall though it also mentions employees pulling stock off the shelves the third day she came in to buy tainted food.

But the thing is, I remember another time when I thought Wal-Mart was basically right. My freshman year in college, they were hot to build a Walmart in Fredricksburg, on property that had been George Washington's boyhood home. I should explain here that George Washington grew up on a FARM. Wal-Mart wasn't going to touch the house, but was going to go up on parts of the farmland that were already zoned commercial.

Was Wal-Mart right that if you knew the facts it really wasn't such a big deal?

Sure they were right. They still had to bow out because of public outcry.

Then they were completely pwned when Target came along and gave $100,000 to restore the property, earning Target press coverage that looked like this.

Is Target waiting in the wings with the $100,000 for the Margaret Trask Veterinary Scholarship to the University of South Carolina?

You know it.

If I were a Walmart PR guy, rather than waiting for Margaret Trask's receipt to show up on the Smoking Gun, I might just beat Target to it. Pay her back and laud her heroic efforts to help you out. Make a donation to an animal shelter in her name.

Do aomething, anything but the slick PR routine, even if you're technically right when you do it.

Remember how you were outclassed at George Washington's boyhood home.

Virginians do.



PG said...

Hmm. This reminds me of when Eugene McCarthy gave a talk at my college, during the course of which he said something like, "Microsoft is finally recognizing it has to live under the law. They've even started lobbying." I reported this remark to my antitrust prof (who consulted for Microsoft) and he just frowned.

Obviously sucking up to public opinion is more appropriate in a democratic/ capitalist society than sucking up to our elected representatives is, but there's still a niggling feeling about having anyone suck up to anyone else, especially when it works. If you're right about the sentiments of Virginians, Target made back plenty on the $100k it invested in that PR stunt, so it wasn't even a failure to maintain stockholder value.

Given how many people work for Wal-Mart, you would think their associates would help spread the good word about them. Two of my cousins worked at our local Wal-Mart -- but temporarily during college, as legal residents of the U.S. who were authorized to work and thus not easily exploited, so their experience doesn't represent some of the problems associated with Wal-Mart.

Chalicechick said...

Well, I obviously haven't done a survey of Virginians or anything.

But my mother still brings it up occaisionally.