in the spotlight
Posted by Abe Sauer on February 17, 2011 12:30 PM
In 2009, a website called People of Walmart began getting a lot of attention on the blogosphere. The site posted photos of people shopping at Wal-Mart, deriding the megaretailers' customers for their dress, appearance, girth, and whatever else struck them as grotesque. Gawker posted photos from the site's collection under the headline "Photo Essays of Our Time."
Soon the site was getting attention from media as mainstream as Time. Naturally, the site got a book deal for a compilation that was released in Sept. 2010. The crew behind the site appeared in the press late last year after the book release. In Oct. 2010, creator Adam Kipple told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, "We do our best to keep it fun. We're not trying to hurt anybody. We're just trying to have some fun."
But Fox News apparently finally discovered the project and showed it to a few Walmart shoppers. The real people of Walmart were not amused.
The Fox News report (which for some suicidal reason disables YouTube embedding) makes a great point. People have good reason to be upset.
Beside the fact that mocking Walmart shoppers borders on elitist classism, recent Wal-Mart moves have made the brand less of a punchline. Wal-Mart corporate has been taking steps to embrace environmentally friendly (and of course cost effective) fuels and technologies.
And in January, the retailer announced it would be using its purchasing power to make healthier foods more affordable. At a press conference co-hosted by the First Lady, Wal-Mart also committed to reduce the salt, fat and sugar content of its packaged foods.
Will these measures change Wal-Mart's image with a certain segment that deeply needs to make itself feel better by mocking others online, and kicking the world's biggest retailer and its customers? Probably not. But are these corporate image moves a step in the right direction for the brand and for American consumers as a whole? Absolutely.
As they say, haters are going to hate. It's easier to pick on the so-called people of Walmart than to pay attention to the people who work for Wal-Mart and are trying to make a difference.