In brief, this is what happened: two gay men were accused of stealing BIC lighters and were asked to submit to in-store security detention, which they refused. The police summoned by the store (at the insistence of the men) handcuffed them, put them in a squad car, and separated them from their special-needs twins, who were then verbally abused by store employees in the aforementioned detention area. A review of security footage revealed that the men were indeed innocent, so they were released and reunited with their distressed children.
Did they get an apology? Some store credit for their trouble and distress? No, see, that would be the normal, decent, earth-logic thing to happen.
They were permanently banned from the chain and got a bill for 10x the value of the items they did not steal.
As usual, there is little to no major media coverage. I mean, who cares about sexual discrimination in some hick town when there are hilarious tales of people attending their own funerals to report on?
Granted, homophobia is such a beast that this could technically happen at any store in Anytown, America, and I think the police were as complicit in the homophobia here as the employees. But I am completely not surprised that this happened at a WalMart.
I have boycotted WalMart since roughly 2002 or so, for the following specific reasons:
- WalMart's anti-discrimination policy did not include gays until 2003 (that was when they revised this policy, but I wasn't impressed -- that's ALSO the year Canada began to deem gay marriage lawful starting in Ontario, and culminating in nationwide acceptance in 2005).
- Unlike the vast majority of its competitors (Best Buy, Target, Costco, Macy's, Sears/K-Mart, among others)? WalMart does not extend health care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners (it does to hetero common-law couples). They do recognise same-sex partnerships as families in states where the law requires them to do so, but it is not a matter of corporate policy like it is for their competitors. Even if you live in a backwards state that thinks the gays are unworthy of the lofty title of 'family', employment by a corporation whose policies provide same-sex benefits can mean the difference between life and death for your partner.
- In 2007 WalMart bowed to conservative pressure and stopped all corporate donations and support to gay-rights groups, claiming that they don't want to be "controversial".
- The year is now 2009, and WalMart is yet to include transgendered people in its anti-discrimination policy.
These are not strictly personal issues for me; I personally am opposed to all domestic partnerships that involve me in any fashion, and I am cis-gendered. They are just issues that have always been important to me because I am queer. It started out personal, but it no longer is.
And this is just ONE facet of WalMart's epic fail; it's just the specific thing which caused me to say (and maintain) that I will never again give them any of my money. There are many, many other reasons to hate WalMart's corporate policies, from gender discrimination to condoning and enabling inhuman labour practices.
You can find more information about WalMart's business and operation practices at WalMart Watch, Wake Up WalMart, 1 world communication, and Wikipedia.
If you can afford not to shop at WalMart, don't. If you can't afford not to shop there (whether because you have no local alternatives with comparable or only slightly higher prices or because you are physically unable to shop elsewhere, for whatever reason), consider at least writing them a letter of protest, as a customer.
I have been very solidly middle-class for half a decade now, so I don't remember very much about bargain-hunting or know anything about hand-to-mouth living in the current economic climate. One thing I do know is: if you live in a major urban area with a sizeable (South-)Asian population, it's very frequently possible to find lower-than-WalMart prices at local Asian supermarkets, at least on regular grocery items.
If you have tips on how to avoid WalMart without breaking the bank, please share them here.