retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Love this story, from Irish Central, passed along by MNB reader Mike Slattery.

For the second year in a row, Kevin Westley of East Meadow, Long Island, decided to make a point of the fact that the local Walmart was selling St. Patrick's Day t-shirts that he believed denigrated Irish culture by suggesting that drunkenness was a primary Irish character trait and that St. Patrick's Day is all about drinking.

"Last year," the story says, "after complaining about the offensive t-shirts to the managers at the Walmart stores in his area and to the company’s corporate office (and being told by each that the decision to carry the items was in the purview of the other), Westley decided to take matters into his own hands.

"After carefully and thoroughly reading Walmart’s return policy, Westley went to three Walmarts on Long Island and purchased over $800 worth of the t-shirts. He left the tags on, kept the t-shirts clean (and out of public view) in storage boxes, and returned them after St. Patrick’s Day."

Last year, the plan went off without a hitch. This year, not so much.

"In February, Westley bought $400 worth of the questionable t-shirts from two Walmart stores. The third store he had visited the previous year wasn’t stocking them this time around, he was delighted to find, though he was uncertain if that was a result of his campaign." But this time the local Walmart was ready for him, and initially said that he could return shirts to one Walmart that had been bought at another Walmart. It took over an hour to process the returns, but eventually Westley was successful ... and he tells Irish Central that he plans to do it again next year ... unless, of course, Walmart decides to stop selling the merchandise.

"Stereotypes can be vicious,” he said. “They can keep you from getting a job, or finding a place to live – not just the Irish of course, but everyone.”
KC's View:
Let's see if Walmart - and other stores - start changing their returns policies for seasonal merchandise ... which I suspect will be the natural response to a story like this.

The thing is, Westley is right. That merchandise is insulting ... but somehow, because it's the Irish, it is not seen as such. But if you were to print up t-shirts with similar stereotypical observations about other cultures or races, it is a pretty good bet that the response would be outrage. And maybe a Starbucks coffee cup campaign.

Don't mean to be humorless here. My response to this kind of stuff is to simply not be the stereotype. But I think Westley has a point, and it ought to be taken seriously.