Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Walmart Claims To Be Ignorant Of The Demand Stoked By Its Ridiculous Sales

good morning sunshineWhy is Walmart spending a seven-figure sum to fight a $7,000 fine levied against it by Federal safety officials after the 2008 incident at a Valley Stream, N.Y., store that ended in an employee being trampled to death? Because they don't want the government to tell them how to treat their employees, mannnn: "[In] fighting the federal fine, Wal-Mart is arguing that the government is improperly trying to define 'crowd trampling' as an occupational hazard that retailers must take action to prevent." You mean, the government wants to tell retailers that maybe using the term "Blitz Line" when opening the floodgates for people in search of cheap DVD players might not be great for employees charged with handling crowd control?

OSHA levied the $7,000 fine in response to the death of Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old temporary employee, who died from asphyxiation when a stampede of post-Thanksgiving shoppers at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, N.Y., busted through the doors and trampled him just before the store's 5 a.m. scheduled opening. The crowd, estimated at 2,000 people, had been lined up for hours near a handwritten sign that said "Blitz Line Starts Here."

In May 2009, OSHA accused Wal-Mart of failing to provide a place of employment that was "free from recognized hazards." Specifically, the agency said the company violated its "general duty" to employees by failing to take adequate steps to protect them from a situation that was "likely to cause death or serious physical harm" because of "crowd surge or crowd trampling."

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, says that regulators are trying to enforce a vague standard of protection when there was no previous OSHA or retail industry guidance on how to prevent what it views as an "unforeseeable incident."

"OSHA wants to hold Wal-Mart accountable for a standard that was neither proposed nor issued at the time of the incident," said David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman. "The citation has far-reaching implications for the retail industry that could subject retailers to unfairly harsh penalties and restrictions on future sales promotions."

"Unforeseeable"? Isn't the whole point of a "Blitz Line" to rile people up? Doesn't Walmart have enough metrics from every one of its outlets to see which items might rile people up, especially after they've awoken extra-energized from their deeply satisfying, tryptophan-induced Thanksgiving slumber?

Here is what I think Walmart is trying to say with that bit about "accountability" from the flack: "We're afraid that OSHA is going to get on our cases next Thanksgiving, and with the economy being as lousy as it is and not getting much better we're going to have to sell Blu-Ray players for 99 cents. So cut us some slack!"

14 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

Wal-Mart's metrics tell it not to lose the midnight-Black Friday promotions, which are worth a hell of a lot more than the puny millions they'll spend fighting a fine that inks "precedent" all over someone suing them for even bigger $$$ over issues like "recklessness" (repetez, s'il vous plait: 'damages punitive') that result when you bend over to a gov't fine standing as evidence you knew of, and admitted, the hazard.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

You're right, but it's fucked up that corporations take such ridiculous stances, for strategic reasons or not. Somebody died.

HiredGoons (#603)

Hey now, Corporations are people too you know.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

If I found myself at a Walmart I'd be stampeding in the opposite direction.

NicFit (#616)

I have to say as a New Yorker who disapproves of WalMart in general, I saved a lot of money there this weekend in PA. Where can you buy a giant bottle of continuous-spray sunscreen in New York for $8? A mini cooler bag for $5? Tennis shorts for $6?

It's a serious guilty pleasure.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Deals to be sure Nic, but I guess no one ever sends you those "people of Walmart" emails with horrifying photos of actual people shopping there? It's the stuff of nightmares.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I avoid the place like the plague, but sometimes expediency wins out, and I break my own rule. Like Cheetos or porn, it ends up depressing the hell out of me.

It is the pure fruition of American Socialism, the dole line of camouflage prosperity. You want to weep for it, you want to destroy it, you want to embrace and nurture it. It is a refuge for captive souls.

KarenUhOh (#19)

They had a good price on Grillin' Beans.

Atencio (#399)

It's one thing to find Walmart abhorrent because of their malicious business practices and slash and burn approach to cost-cutting; it's quite another to pass judgment because LOLfats shop there.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@Atencio: I take the all-inclusive approach to hating on them.

brent_cox (#40)

Was in rural VA, wife wanted some Chai, and Walmart was the only place that had it (not even hippie health food store). Also: I bought a coconut there, and eight pounds of frozen snow crab. But I still hate the place with all my being for general community-destroying.

garge (#736)

I was working on a project that took me in a loop around the Great Lakes and was sustained, vegetarianly and cheaply, by Walmart. Although I did buy a jar of kimchi that was probably a fermentin' for ages because that shit exploded all over the love interest's car like a grenade. WHOOPS

A.R. Chrisman (#2,964)

I'm honestly always surprised when I see a picture of Sam Walton and he doesn't have a big, curly robber-baron mustache/top hat. He's yuckin' it up from the grave right now.

Scum (#1,847)

Bullshit, Johnston. Do you think that if a store promotes their 'crazy deals' they should be held liable if a bunch of customers start stabbing people, drinking the blood of their victims and generally acting crazy on store premises?

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