Wal-Mart Advocate Puts Foot in Mouth, Then Resigns

Discussion
Aug 18, 2006
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By George
Anderson


It appears as though Wal-Mart needed to do a deeper background check on Andrew
Young. The former civil rights leader, Ambassador to the United Nations and
Mayor of Atlanta, recently became chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart,
a group created by the retailer to get a positive message out as to its contributions
to the public.


While the resume may have looked impressive, what recently came out of Mr.
Young’s mouth has turned out to be an embarrassment for himself and the company
he represents (correct that: represented).


In an interview published in The Los Angeles Sentinel, Mr. Young said
Wal-Mart “should” put mom-and-pop stores out of business in urban areas. According
to Mr. Young, Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners had “ripped off” urban communities
“selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables.”


“You see, those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of mom-and-pop
stores, “and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off
our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s
Arabs.”


Discussion Questions: Do Andrew Young’s statements
actually reflect what many citizens in urban communities believe about mom-and-pop
stores operating in their communities? Will Andrew Young’s statements and resignation
set back the accomplishments of Wal-Mart’s public relations efforts?

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23 Comments on "Wal-Mart Advocate Puts Foot in Mouth, Then Resigns"


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Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 6 months ago

This points out the problem with hanging your hat at least in part on a celebrity spokesperson, and even though Andrew Young is a politico, he certainly qualifies as a celebrity. Given enough time, it seems that every spokesperson will eventually insert foot in mouth.

Barry Shisgal
Guest
Barry Shisgal
14 years 6 months ago
If so many people really want to shop at little stores where, all too often, the proprietors’ attitude left something to be desired, where products were more often than not on the stale side, where customers would be directed to the “all purchases are final” sign when they wanted to return an expired product, where customers had to stand on line in front of stores in the morning waiting for the operator to arrive and open shop, where customers had to rush to stores after work to buy supplies before the shop closed, where shop keepers only ordered as much as they were sure they could sell that day so quite often by the end of the day they were out of stock on many essentials – they would go shop at moms & pops and these dreaded proprietors would have not gone out of business. Oh, and I didn’t even mention the financial burden their whim-pricing afflicted on low income shoppers. Wal-Mart is no more guilty of annihilating the mom & pops than any… Read more »
Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
14 years 6 months ago
Most, or maybe all, of the readers of and posters to this board are middle class or upper middle class, and the majority are, I have no doubt, white. Few, if any, of us know what it’s like to live with extreme poverty, and to reside in places where Kroger and Wal-Mart fear to tread (not to mention Whole Foods or Crate & Barrel). But I do read, and I try to learn what life is like for people who don’t have my advantages, and every time I’ve read about a riot in an African American neighborhood, whether it was Chicago after World War I, New York in the 1960s and 1970s, or Los Angeles in the 1990s (remember Rodney King?), a common theme has been resentment at exploitation by outsiders. So while Mr. Young’s comments are reprehensible, they come from a deep place that I cannot reach in my own experiences. I don’t excuse him, nor do I claim to really understand him, but his words do reflect a version of reality held by… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
I have worked with and supported inner-city retailers to a great extent during my career. Yes, they may be majority ethnic. However, they are in many cases a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds. In spite of their diversity, they do have one thing in common. They do business in communities where the major retailers are unwilling to take the same risks. Mr. Young’s comments aside (while they are surprising), these retailers in many cases are willing to do business where others flee and are being inhibited from returning in some cases (Chicago) by restrictions and ordinances. Many are family run and provide real services to the communities in which they exist, in spite of, in many cases, dire surroundings. Again, putting Mr. Young’s comments aside, I still remain stuck with the question – are these retailers worse than no retail at all? Detroit was mentioned earlier and it is a prime example of a city where major retailers fled decades ago and have not entered its boundaries in any numbers at all since. Sure, one… Read more »
danny kim
Guest
danny kim
14 years 6 months ago

If anyone knows how to service the needs of the local community, it’s certainly the mom-and-pop shops. For years, in many urban communities, there has been a lack of interest from major companies to invest in servicing those areas for many reasons including: low average income, violence, real estate and, in general, neglect. Now that major companies are looking for additional distribution base, the only areas left are the urban markets. It’s easy to criticize but I certainly don’t remember a time when any big retailer would even consider expansion into those areas and the only lifeline for struggling families was the local mom-and-pop shops. They knew all the local families in the area and often would let families buy goods on credit till the next payday. That kind of service you wouldn’t find from corporate retailers today.

Gordon Blitch
Guest
Gordon Blitch
14 years 6 months ago

His efforts to stoke the fires of racism are shameful, disappointing and incredibly short sighted.

As an Atlanta resident and long time fan of Andy Young, I am blown away by his comments. I can not comprehend how he could think that way after all he has seen and fought for his entire life. What truly scares me is that he obviously felt these racially stereotypical comments were beneficial to the argument for Wal-Mart’s entry into urban neighborhoods, and that they would fall on accepting ears of community leaders. Clearly we are far from a day of racial harmony, but that does not excuse a senior leader of our society from playing the race card for economic gain.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

If Andrew Young were giving these comments as a representitive of the NAACP instead of Wal-Mart, there probably would be little or no controversy. Since Mr. Young is a minority himself, perhaps he thought he would be able to speak his mind more freely with no backlash. Perhaps that is why Wal-Mart hired him and it just did not work out as hoped. I hope this does not diminish his reputation and his place in history as a dedicated public servant. Wal-Mart is just so big now that there is really nothing they can do or say that will not generate a lot of controversy.

While a lot of what Mr. Young said is technically true, we should not forget that many of these retailers put their lives on the line every day to operate food stores in some of the most dangerous areas of urban America, just so they can live the American Dream.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 6 months ago

I don’t really know what citizens in urban communities believe. I am glad Wal-Mart is trying to clean up its act to an extent, but I am afraid it will take more than PR. I wish Wal-Mart would focus more on making substantive change. Still, it’s better than nothing. I don’t know if this specific incident will hurt Wal-Mart or not in the long run; there are so many negatives in Wal-Mart’s world right now, it is difficult to tell exactly what is causing its various stumbles.

Zel Bianco
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Wow! Bad week for Wal-Mart, Earlier this week, Wal-Mart reported the first bad financial news in ten years and now this. Maybe this will start to put Wal-Mart on a more even footing in the eyes of competitive retailers.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 6 months ago

Comments made by Andrew Young certainly do not represent the feelings of Wal-Mart yet, due to his association with Wal-Mart, they too get dragged into the discussion. This only further demonstrates the PR problem Wal-Mart is in and the difficulty they are going to continue to have in turning things around. The interesting next step will be to see what Wal-Mart does with this advocacy group and if they allow it to slowly fade into the background.

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

For those of you who have ever watched VH-1’s retrospective of a year on music (I Love 198X or similar), they have a clip of Gilbert Gottfried where he mocks or pokes fun at something that someone said or did with a catch phrase…”what the (expletive deleted) was he thinking?”

That is exactly what many people are feeling now…as they scratch their heads and wonder

A less than proud moment!

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 6 months ago

It seems dandy Andy was too handy with his tongue “bandy” when pocketing Wal-Mart’s coin candy.

That old fan got splattered with comments that mattered and now Mr. Young has scattered.

And so we close another chapter of the passing parade and yet another promotional charade.

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Fortunately for Wal-Mart, this Andrew Young guy crossed the ‘stupid’ threshold into absurd territory – so no, it won’t hurt them. Young, on the other hand, has a severe self-inflicted wound; I assume to his head.

Do those mom & pops have the very best and freshest stuff on their shelves? Not always. Not even big stores do. Can you get a loaf of bread cheaper at a big store? Of course, unless you count the cost of your time and driving there. But the appeal is that you can walk into the corner store and say “Hi Tony” and he gives you a few more grapes than you paid for. And you know you’re helping an ordinary guy make his dream work. Now that is what I miss.

Mike McGrothers
Guest
Mike McGrothers
14 years 6 months ago

There will always be a place for mass merchandisers as well as independent stores as long as our society remains as is. I did feel Andrew’s comments both reflect an inner demon and some outside influences. Wal-Mart has replaced many small independent businesses that offered quality, price and image. As our consumers desire value and innovative products and concepts, we will likely see many more changes and cultures enter the industry.

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
14 years 6 months ago

Andrew Young’s statements may not have reflected what citizens previously thought about mom-and-pops operating in their communities. However, after hearing his comments, there will be some who will believe that he actually does represent their sentiments about their local mom-and-pop stores.

It’s unfortunate that Andrew Young’s comments reflect negatively in an indirect way on Wal-Mart, since they have been actively working hard to improve their public image. However, what is even more unfortunate is that those organizations that have been working to disparage Wal-Mart’s reputation will represent Andrew Young’s comments as being Wal-Mart’s, and will misrepresent them in order to further their own self-centered interests.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Wal-Mart doesn’t make fatal mistakes, and this won’t be one either. But picking Andrew Young as a spokesperson ranks second only to the IL GOP importing Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama in terms of PR prowess…

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Mr. Young is probably guilty of pandering, more than actual, personal bigotry. His unfortunate remarks were a parroting of beliefs held by some people in inner cities. You’d think a guy with his resume would know better.

His broad disparaging statement about poor food quality at local merchants is not well founded, I think. Still, if he had left out the ethnic references, his observations would not have been very controversial.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Bad publicity week indeed. Even Wal-Mart’s neighborhood stores are not small enough to be considered Mom and Pop stores so Wal-Mart doesn’t even offer a store type that could move into a neighborhood to compete. A spokesperson really should know more about the company he/she represents and the company really should know a good deal about the spokesperson’s opinions and attitudes. Learning from mistakes is important; maybe the Wal-Mart team needs to do some reassessment at their management meeting this weekend.

Edward Herrera
Guest
Edward Herrera
14 years 6 months ago

Wow! This is an interesting proposition. Maybe I am too cynical, but Wal-Mart didn’t say those words yet the picture of the mom and pop stores they are putting out of business is painted in color.

I just don’t understand why such an intelligent man would make those comments knowing they are inappropriate and would lead to repercussion. I think Wal-Mart wins on this one.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 6 months ago

Can’t just chalk this one up to “foot in mouth.” How does someone so involved in the equal rights movement become so bigoted? Bad week for Wal-Mart, yes. But this one is not their fault. Unfortunately, there are many, many more people who feel and believe as Andrew Young. When will we ever learn?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Now if I was a conspiracy theorist (moi? never…), I might think that Andrew Young was actually a member of the anti-Wal-Mart brigade and was just doing his job.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Poor people in ghetto neighborhoods have ambivalent feelings about local small retailers. They need the convenience and they know the store owners are frequently victimized by crime. On the other hand, they resent the inconsistent quality, poor selection and the prices. Everyone wants retailers to sell everything below cost, stay open 24 hours, have outstanding customer service, free delivery, and no-interest credit. Andrew Young’s comments about Jews, Arabs, and Koreans are neither unique nor universal.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

The answer to the first question is a guarded, “yes” — a fair number of inner city residents (at least here in Detroit) feel that the smaller food stores that serve them sometimes rip them off, and, sadly, yes, they often associate this behavior with ethnic origin or religious preference. I really think the answer to the second part of the question is that it may set back Andrew Young’s career a bit (although maybe not), but in the long term, Wal-Mart will be fine if they continue more positive efforts.

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