business news in context, analysis with attitude

Business Insider has a story about how Walmart has managed to upset thousand of customers at its West Plains, Missouri, store - enough so that more than 1,500 have committed on Facebook to attend a consciousness-raising rally, with more than 3,000 saying they may attend.

At issue is the firing of a cashier named Frank Swanson, a brain damaged employee who was given his walking papers just 20 days short of his 20-year anniversary with the company. Walmart said he was terminated for violating a pricing policy - namely, matching a competitor's price for a jog of tea by taking 50 cents off Walmart's price, but doing so on the word of the shopper without seeing proof of the competitor's price.

However, the outraged customers say they believe that Swanson was fired for hugging customers. According to the story, "Swanson's bosses cited his hugs as inappropriate," but say "that's not why he was fired."

Walmart customer Jenn Harper tells Business Insider,"I feel like one of our own has been hurt. He's a sign of hope, he made your day better. If you were having a bad day at Walmart, he would light up your whole trip."
KC's View:
There may be some history here that Walmart isn't talking about, but at least on the face of it, this just doesn't look good. Not only is Swanson apparently a much-loved figure among customers, but he also was doing something that Walmart ought to want him to do - keeping the company's price image intact. Unless there is a really compelling reason not to do so, Walmart has to figure out a way to walk this back, eat a little crow, and give Swanson a hug.