The Outpost is a free publication that relies upon the kindness of businesses to allow us to place racks. Because of that, I resolved long ago that I would never hold it against a business that wouldn't allow us in or that asked us to leave. But I do take manners into account.
Last week provided a good example of how this can work. When I delivered papers to the West End Wal-Mart on Thursday, our rack was missing. I called on Friday to ask if anyone knew what had happened, and I was told that the rack had been removed because it had not been "authorized." I asked to speak to the manager. The guy who answered was immediately rude and defensive. When he repeated the "unauthorized" claim, I told him that wasn't true: We always get approval before we place a rack, and our Wal-Mart rack had been in place for years (more than seven years, my research revealed later, since June 14, 2000, with never a complaint that I know of).
"Are you trying to argue with me?" he said. I said I wasn't arguing; I was just stating a fact. Eventually, he said that the order to remove racks had come from Bentonville. “So you don’t really have the power to authorize racks?” I asked. “Not really,” he conceded. So I asked why other racks remained where ours had been. "Guess what?" he said, they're gone.
But they weren't. When I went to pick up our rack, which had been stuffed out back, four or five other racks were still in place, just as before. I don't know why, but I do know this: I would no longer believe any explanation he gave me.
The second removal came at Godfather's Pizza on 24th Street West. The manager left a message on the machine. He explained why the owner wanted the rack removed and asked us to stop by and pick it up. He said there was no rush and left his name and number in case we had any questions. In short, he was a pro. I'm not much of a Godfather's customer, but nothing he said would make me less inclined to eat there.
Readers of this blog know I have my complaints about Wal-Mart, but this isn't a Wal-Mart thing. When we were asked to remove our Heights Wal-Mart rack, the manager there was perfectly decent about it. It's a human being thing: Small people should not be given power, even the modest power of a store manager. I saw it happen often enough in the Army: Small people who got small promotions would sometimes act like they ruled the world. In the Army, there was no escaping them, but in civilian life, they do not get my business.
UPDATE: Just got word from the real manager at Wal-Mart. The rack is back.