Walmart’s Un-Happy Thanksgiving

73248406 150x150 Walmarts Un Happy Thanksgiving

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Walmart.

Ah, Thanksgiving, the holiday when American families gather together over a meal, express gratitude, spend time together… And then start their holiday shopping at 8 pm, right after dinner, Aunt Mabel visiting from Boise be damned.

At least, that’s what Walmart and other major retailers are hoping will happen when it makes the unprecedented move of opening its doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving night. Store workers will have to arrive hours before opening time, thereby putting a serious dent in their holiday.

A strike at Walmart is now planned on Black Friday, the nation’s biggest retail day. Workers are fed up, claiming ongoing retaliation for speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care. A Walmart spokesman answered, “The super majority of our 1.3 million associates are excited about Black Friday and are ready to serve our customers.” Ironically, Walmart failed to secure an injunction agains the union and the strike.  The earliest it could get one is Thursday, the national holiday, when courts are closed.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Walmart. Their decision to start Black Friday so early on Thanksgiving Thursday plays right back into its ongoing PR problem of being one of the country’s meanest employers.

The PR Takeaway: Thanksgiving begins at home. Walmart has had persistent PR problems when it comes to employee relations. As one of the nation’s largest employers it has been routinely been characterised (fairly or unfairly) as the employer who scrimps on benefits and pays a barely living wage. Walmart’s PR answer has been to focus on its role in the community including Working Families for Wal-Mart, a nonprofit organization funded by the retail giant to combat criticism of the company. But with this move it will be hard to take seriously its pledged commitment  to helping families and local communities. RIP, Thanksgiving; hello, Dark Thursday.

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Note: The PRV returns on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving to our readers!

Abercrombie & Fitch Caught With Their PR Pants Down

 Abercrombie & Fitch Caught With Their PR Pants Down

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Abercrombie & Fitch, the sexually provocative clothier for mainstream America, is in trouble again. While this time it’s not a class action lawsuit by minority employees (as happened in 2004), the current problem could unravel in ugly ways.

While working at an A&F store last year, Benjamine Bowers alleges in a legal filing that the company referred him to a modeling agent. According to the complaint, Bowers was flown to Mississippi for a photo shoot, where the agent allegedly said his photos needed a more “relaxed” look. Any suggestions? Why not masturbate in front of the camera, so the photo captures your expression immediately after orgasm? Oh, and could you do the whole thing naked, please?

The employee obligiged but is now suing the modeling agent and A&F for $1 million in damages. No comment so far from the agent or the retailer despite some embarrassing headlines. Bowers claims he was used and that the photos were never intended to help his career. Instead, he claims it only served to give the modeling agent a “cheap thrill.”

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Abercrombie & Fitch. When a public company hits the headlines, the PR needs to move fast. What happened here?

PR Takeaway: Distance the firm from the allegation, faster than you can unbutton a polo shirt. Clarify that the allegation concerns a third party contractor and that A&F’s own investigation has begun. Reiterate that the allegation reflects behavior that is clearly unacceptable and that the agent’s contract has been suspended pending investigation. Remind the media that employees and contractors are expected to adhere to a code of conduct (if there is one). Above all, move quickly before consumer groups, religious groups, activist shareholders, and the dreaded class action lawyers swarm for their piece of action. And keep your boxer shorts on at all times.

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Can A&F get past these latest allegations without a smear campaign? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.