Merchant Innovation

Walmart's Retail Fail: Charity Edition

Some say there is no wrong way to do charity.

This week, Walmart proved those people wrong.

U.S. Marine vet John Harkness has, for the last 14 years, trekked to his local Walmart in his dress uniform to raise donations for Toys for Tots, a charity for underprivileged children.

“It means a tremendous amount,” Harkness, who has 11 grandchildren of his own, told The Washington Post. “The object of the mission is to put a smile on the face of kids who otherwise would not have a Christmas.”

But this year when he reported for duty at his local Medina, Ohio Walmart, he hit something of a snafu. He was told he could raise funds outside the Walmart but not inside. In late November that was always likely to be something of a bummer, but given that the day was cold and rainy, it officially gained the status of a total drag. When the man and his wife asked if they could stand in the area between the double doors, they were told no.

“Their presentation wasn’t the best,” Lynn Harkness, John's wife, told WP. “It was not the manager, but they weren’t overly friendly or sympathetic. They just told us to ‘get out.’”

“It was wet and cold, but we stood there,” John said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. You’re going to accomplish your mission. I was more concerned about my wife, and I felt bad for her because people were bringing me coffee and sandwiches.”

Apart from being freezing and wet, the day also raised less funds for charity, as people are somewhat less engaged in giving when they are being pelted with icy rain.

A photo of John posted on Facebook provoked a strong reaction, which John and his wife were actually disheartened by.

“What really surprises me and upsets me is the death threats the manager is getting,” Lynn said. “We’ve got enough violence going on in the country with people being shot. The harassment has got to stop.”

A statement released by Walmart said the company regrets how the couple was treated, but corporate policy doesn’t allow “this type of solicitation” inside their stores.

The couple said the local Walmart manager has since apologized to them, but she’s unable to change the corporate policy.

“We’re not asking for much or really anything, just a little space to save Christmas for the kids who need it most," John added.

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