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Our Opinion: Wal-Mart going too far

April 04, 2001

As has historically been the case throughout this nation with retail giant Wal-Mart, the Bentonville, Ark., company is ruffling feathers.

This time around, a phone survey being conducted on the company's behalf is upsetting some Calexico residents. During the survey, which is polling citizens to see if they want to see a local Super Wal-Mart by way of repealing a Calexico City Council-enacted ordinance that would prevent the company from doing so, local grocer Joe Moreno is mentioned by name, with residents asked how they feel about him.

Moreno is the most vocal among a group of independent Calexico grocers that led the charge to get the City Council on Jan. 16 to adopt its "big box" ordinance. The ordinance states that a retail store larger than 150,000 square feet that sells non-taxable items such as food can only devote 7.5 percent of its floor space to non-taxable items, a rule Wal-Mart likely couldn't adhere to with the way it sets up "super" versions of its stores.


To even bring up Moreno in such a survey is in poor taste. Worse yet, it's foolish.

When asked why Moreno was named in the survey, Calexico Wal-Mart Manager Phil Aubrey said Wal-Mart would back off in its efforts to repeal the big box ordinance if those polled were listening to every word Moreno is saying.

Moreno responded, saying expressing his opinion about Wal-Mart does not justify his mention in a phone survey.

We agree. This issue shouldn't come down to personalities. While we may not always agree with Moreno's stances concerning the damage that would result to local grocers if a Super Wal-Mart was established in Calexico, we don't think the man deserves to be vilified over the telephone, which is what mentioning his name in the context of that survey essentially is doing.

Wal-Mart is taking a business and development issue and making it personal. Actions such as these go a long way toward painting the company as the big, bad corporate monster. We doubt Wal-Mart is going to rally overwhelming community support by alienating and vilifying one of the city's more popular and civic-minded residents.

Surveys to see if a Super Wal-Mart is wanted in the community make sense. The City Council needs to know if residents want a Super Wal-Mart, but surveys looking to hurt the image of a local grocer are just wrong.

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