business news in context, analysis with attitude

  • The Boston Herald reports that a Massachusetts judge is allowing a class action suit against Wal-Mart charging that the company did not pay employees for time worked, and did not give them meal and rest breaks.

    The class action will now represent some 55,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart denies the charges, but its efforts to have the suit tossed out of court have been denied.

    The Herald notes that the suit is one of 35 workplace suits pending against Wal-Mart in the US.

  • Fascinating piece on financial site The Motley Fool referring to Wal-Mart’s agreement to pay $14.5 million in fines and other costs to settle a California state lawsuit related to almost 3,000 gun sales violations at the chain’s stores there between 2000 and 2003. The violations cited by the state included selling guns to people not allowed to own them, not conducting required background checks, and not doing proper documentation.

    Columnist Rich Smith speculates that this admission could have an enormous long-term impact on Wal-Mart. While the amount of the fine won’t have an effect on Wal-Mart’s profits, the fact is that Wal-Mart has now admitted that it sold guns to people who should not have been able to get their hands on them. At the same time, Smith writes, a major gun manufacturer has settled a case in which family members of a shooting victim sued it, saying that the manufacturer was responsible for criminal acts committed using its product as a weapon.

    “The dots are plotted,” Smith writes. “All that's needed now is to find an instance in which a gun sold by Wal-Mart between 2000 and 2003 was, or eventually is, used in a crime. At that point, I'd expect the trial lawyers to start connecting the dots.” And the financial repercussions on Wal-Mart could be considerable…or at least yet another legal black eye with which the company must deal.

  • Interesting story in the Hagerstown Herald Mail about a man who decided to take off his clothes and walk naked through the center of town.

    But the intriguing part, at least to us, is what happened when the naked man approached the local Wal-Mart. Employees of the store came outside and wrapped the man in a blanket, which is exactly what they should have done. But an employee of the newspaper happened to going by, and when he saw the naked man, he stopped and took some pictures for the paper.

    A store official approached the newspaper employees and told him he could not take or publish pictures without permission, and then a security guard ordered the man to surrender his film, then his camera.

    The newspaper employee refused and locked the camera in his car. The Wal-Mart guard then threatened to have the man arrested and banned from the store.

    The Herald Mail reports that its attorneys say that the man was within his rights to take pictures, that the paper certainly could publish them, and that there was no invasion of privacy.

    A Wal-Mart spokesman said that company policy is that all requests for pictures must be made in advance, but that the company does not confiscate cameras.

  • Wal-Mart’s Asda Group is in a spot of trouble since a DVD player that it sold to a family with a 13-year-old girl came complete with a pornographic DVD starring Paris Hilton.

    The company, of course, didn’t know it. And unfortunately, they only found out about it when the girl plugged the DVD player in and hit the “play” button.”

    The company is investigating how it happened amid concerns that the DVD may have been planted there on purpose, and is not an isolated case. It’s also possible, however, that the DVD player had been purchased and returned by another customer who simply forgot to take the DVD out after watching it.

KC's View:
And Wal-Mart thought it had a problem with the naked Supreme Court justices in Jon Stewart’s America (The Book)

As for the naked man story, it sometimes seems like Wal-Mart has a deaf ear in such a situation. We have a little experience in the news business, and it seems to us that a naked man walking through town qualifies – as does the employees of a local store coming out with blankets in the middle of winter to cover him up. Why store employees would get all exorcised about such a story is beyond us. It’s not like that other story that ran this week, about how some Wal-Mart employees decided to shoot a cat that was on store property; now in that case, we can understand a little reluctance to have a picture in the local newspaper.

The same people at Wal-Mart who gave this photographer a hard time are probably complaining about unfair treatment at the hands of the media. Geez.

And by the way, folks at Wal-Mart do try to confiscate cameras. Trust us on this one.

And they’d probably be really unhappy about the Neighborhood Market pictures that we have stored on our laptop.