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Wal-Mart Blows Whistle on Whistle Blower

BY CSA STAFF

Bentonville, Ark., In a complaint against the retailer filed with the Department of Labor, former Wal-Mart executive Jared Bowen is described as a whistle-blower who was fired unfairly by a corrupt organization. Wal-Mart fired back today, claiming that Bowen’s whistle-blowing “was a calculated attempt to divert suspicion from himself at a time that he feared company investigators were about to uncover the widespread fraud in his department.” The retailer said Bowen was involved in an extensive scheme to misappropriate corporate assets for the personal benefit of Tom Coughlin, then executive VP and Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart Stores. A whistle-blower who wasn’t involved in the fraud acted promptly to report a suspicious gift card transaction “Her report has been applauded, and she remains to this day a valued associate of the company,” Wal-Mart said today. Bowen is a former hourly associate who rose to the post of VP of operations in the company’s Bentonville headquarters. He received a Sam Walton Award of Excellence in 2003.

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Shoppers File Discrimination Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart

BY CSA STAFF

Boston, Ten shoppers in Boston filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. alleging that employees targeted them as potential shoplifters based on their race. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Boston and claims that Wal-Mart employees followed shoppers and searched their shopping bags, purses and clothing. None of the searched individuals was ever charged with shoplifting.

The suit describes five incidents that occurred in 2002 and 2003 where employees are accused of treating customers as shoplifters because of their race. Of the 10 shoppers, nine are minorities and one is white. The white shopper was with two black individuals at the time of the alleged incident.

Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said the company investigated the cases cited in the lawsuit and found no evidence of discrimination. He said, “Any time that we receive any allegation of this type, we reinforce our anti-discrimination policy with all our associates, and we did that in these cases.”

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Home Depot’s Gas Marts Get Mixed Reviews

BY CSA STAFF

Atlanta, The Home Depot plans to test gas marts, convenience stores with gasoline stations, at four Home Depot stores in Nashville, Tenn., starting in December. Some analysts, however, are questioning whether the gas marts will work at the chain. Keith Davis, an analyst with investment firm Farr Miller Washington, said the test will not hurt Home Depot’s profits, but trying the gas marts on a larger scale may not be a good idea. He said the concept is “straying a little bit too far from what the company has done historically and might be a little aggressive in terms of trying to diversify.”

Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Smith said, “We think customers will respond well to having a safe, clean, high-quality convenience store option close to where they are already shopping.”

Geoff Wissman, a VP at consultants Retail Forward, believes adding gas marts to The Home Depot do not make as much sense as adding them to grocery stores and warehouse clubs. He said, “The potential dilemma [with Home Depot] is that you really aren’t buying home improvement products quite as frequently.” Wissman also said since there are more conveniently located options, consumers will likely choose them over Home Depot locations.

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