If you heaved a sigh of relief when you heard that Wal-Mart was done with New York City, don’t breathe easy just yet.
Last week, Wal-Mart head honcho H. Lee Scott, Jr. sounded off to the New York Times about continuing efforts to put a Wal-Mart somewhere in the city.
“I don’t care if we are ever here,” he said of New York City. “I don’t think it’s worth the effort.”
The staggering statement, which sounded as if Scott had given up on finding a place in the city for one of his big box stores, was later “clarified” by a Wal-Mart spokeswoman who said that the retail giant had only given up on Manhattan, but not on the other boroughs.
“We are continuing to look at sites in the four boroughs for possible store locations,” said spokesman Steven Restivo. He told me they haven’t picked any specific locations yet, but that Brooklyn is still on Wal-Mart’s radar.
Well what I want to know is why, oh why, out-of-towners like Scott seem to forget that Brooklyn is part of the City of New York. Actually, the last time I checked, Brooklyn was the most populous borough!
OK, so maybe it was just a slip of the tongue — but anyone who really knows this city wouldn’t have made that mistake. Maybe Scott’s ignorance of the city is the reason why the very sight of the Wal-Mart smiley face makes many Brooklynites shudder in distaste.
If the CEO of a major corporation like Wal-Mart doesn’t know the city well enough to distinguish between New York as a whole and the separate boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, then how can this company contemplate putting a store here? If they don’t know us, how can they know how we live and what we need out of our retailers?
If Wal-Mart is counting on coming into Brooklyn as it is now, it’d be like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It just can’t work.
Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s practice of pulling from its shelves music and literature that the company deems morally objectionable. One man’s morally objectionable is another man’s entertainment, I always say.
I find Ann Coulter’s books morally objectionable — vile, actually — but there she is, grinning up at me from the cover of “How to Speak to a Liberal” at any Wal-Mart I go into. But I don’t get to tell Wal-Mart that they can’t sell her work. I shouldn’t get that choice — and neither should Wal-Mart.
This is New York, the bluest city in the country. If Wal-Mart doesn’t realize that we probably find different things objectionable, then it wouldn’t last here anyway.
The point is, this Middle-American company needs to do its homework about Brooklyn, and then it needs to convince Brooklynites that it knows what we want. Until that happens, Scott will be throwing his hands up in frustration over us a lot.
And in the meantime, he can keep putting stores outside the city, like in Staten Island.
That’s in New Jersey, right, Lee?
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