retail news in context, analysis with attitude

US News & World Report has a story saying that a Columbia University analysis of 35,000 Yelp reviews of 2,840 Walmart stores suggests that "race and socioeconomic factors" have a role in the levels of customer service offered by the retailer.

Adam Reich, an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University, says that "the higher the percentage of black or Latino residents in a zip code, the worse Wal-Mart service becomes, regardless of whether this zip code is poor or wealthy ... People used words like 'unorganized', 'nasty' and 'worst' to describe stores in communities of color much more than they used those words to describe Wal-Marts in whiter communities."

The story quotes Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez as saying that the analysis is "flawed and without merit."
KC's View:
Walmart here is being subjected to the sort of criticism that Amazon got earlier this year when it was revealed that it was not making deliveries to certain minority neighborhoods in cities that it was serving. Regardless of the motivations and rationales, Amazon took note of the criticisms and rectified the situation pretty quickly.

Yelp reviews can be influential, but it is important to remember that it is not a scientific forum providing a valid sample. It's big and loud, but it is entirely self-selecting.

But that said, Walmart probably has to pay attention to the "big and loud" part, because in the current environment, noise can be a highly influential factor in how people perceive companies and policies.