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1998-12-07
Mesa, AZ. Wal-Mart is "Here to Serve".

The awesome power of the Wal-Mart PR machine has been unleashed on the hapless citizens of Mesa, AZ, who in recent weeks have been subjected to not only a spurious Wal-Mart "opinion survey", but most recently a 10 minute video infomercial touting the virtues of the Arkansas giant. Wal-Mart already has a discount store on West Main Street in Mesa, but now they want to build a 200,000 s.f. superstore at the corner of McKellips Road and Lindsay. One small problem: the residents of Mesa aren't buying the videotape message or the bogus survey. The opinion "survey", paid for by Wal-Mart, was conducted by "researchers" from a company in Phoenix, who telephoned only 350 "potential Wal-Mart neighbors". OK, you're thinking that the sample sounds like of small -- and it is -- but wait until you hear the question this "survey" asked: "Wal-Mart has been operating in Mesa for many years. During that time, Wal-Mart stores have provided low prices for Mesa consumers, generated substantial sales-tax revenues for the city, and contributed thousands of dollars to local charities. In general, how would you describe your attitude towards having Wal-Marts in Mesa?" They should have left that question out in the Arizona sun for a few days to bake! Talk about leading the witness! Not surprisingly, after being led to water, the respondents drank it up: 3 out of 4 people said they had a favorable attitude towards this local charity giving, tax-producing wonder of a company. But when the Wal-Mart survey asked how people felt about a store at the corner of McKellips, 48% said they were either against it, or not sure. In other words, the favorable response plummeted. As if that wasn't enough, Wal-Mart followed up on the survey with a video sent to residents entitled "Here to Serve: Wal-Mart Arizona". The video served up a 3 course meal of Wal-Mart propaganda, featuring the local Wal-Mart store manager explaining why Wal-Mart supports local charities and programs. The video does not explain how the Walton family became the richest family in America, but presumably it wasn't the result of their philanthropic proclivities. How did the natives respond to this public relations blitz? The Mountain View Neighborhood Alliance has only grown stronger as the weeks pass. In fact, community opposition has grown so strong, that Wal-Mart recently asked the city for an "indefinite continuance" in their effort to seek rezoning of land for their superstore. Wal-Mart's lawyer told The Arizona Republic newspaper: "Obviously, it's no secret this case has an awful lot of problems as far as the neighborhood is concerned. We have a lot of work to do there, and we need time to do it." Residents have raised concerns about crime, traffic, and the proximity of the store to 7 schools and the state's largest high school. One resident told city officials that the existing Wal-Mart has seen major criminal activity since it opened in 1996. The store went from no police service calls to as many as 77 service calls in one month. Police Beat 37, where the existing Wal-Mart is located, has seen a 13.6% increase in service calls, compared to a 9.8% increase in the rest of Mesa. Opponent Sheila Slomski wrote a letter to the editor that summed up the feelings of the Neighborhood Alliance: "What the residents are objecting to is a powerful, monied corporation that is absolutely insensitive to the needs of the neighborhood and only interested in makinig money trying to use its wealth and legal power to push onto this neighborhood a commercial venture that was never intended. As a resident, a citizen, an American, and a warrior, I'm mounting my white horse and riding into battle against this outrage". Not exactly the kind of speech that Wal-Mart wanted to include in their "Here to Serve" video.

What you can do: For more info about Wal-Mart's "Here to Self-Serve" video, or their 350 person biased phone survey, contact the Mountain View Neighbhorhood Alliance at 602-832-1353.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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