Wal-Mart Arms Greeters With Semi-Automatic Weapons
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (CAP) - In the wake of the trampling death of one of its employees during a "Black Friday" shoppers stampede in Long Island, N.Y., Wal-Mart has announced that its greeters will be outfitted with body armor and Kimber ICQB semi-automatic pistols, effective immediately.
"We know our customers are always excited to experience our high quality merchandise and terrific values," said Wal-Mart director of security Clint Redman. "That said, we want them to realize that if they become unruly, we are within our rights to shoot them in the chest."
The move to arm greeters has raised eyebrows in some quarters, particularly given the problems Wal-Mart encountered in 2005 when it tried outfitting some greeters with Tasers. Wal-Mart aborted the program when it came out that more than half of those greeters wound up accidentally shocking themselves while on duty.
"It was getting to the point where small children wouldn't want to come into the store, because they were afraid they might see the greeter lying on the floor convulsing again," admitted Redman.
However, Redman attributed that problem to the "generation gap" involved in issuing such "new-fangled" equipment to greeters, most of whom are over 75 and unfamiliar with much of the technology involved in modern retail, such as Tasers, product scanners and cash registers.
"In my day an old shoe box full of change worked just fine," said Clarence Friedrichsen, 83, a greeter at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Boonville, Ind.
But as for firearms, Redman noted that most of the greeters are very comfortable with carrying them, and many have even offered to bring in their own weapons to work.
"It just make senses for us to be carrying," said Friedrichsen, waving his locked and loaded Colt M1911A1. "Frankly, I've been lugging this baby around since the war, and I figure I don't have much time left to get a few more notches on the old barrel."
Fred Cranston, 79, a greeter at the Wal-Mart in Caruthersville, Mo., agreed. "Between you and me, I've been bringing my piece to work for years," he said over the sound of his Browning 9mm pistol discharging as he practiced shooting coffee cans off the fence in his backyard. "Sometimes when a kid's yowling or acting up, I'll lift my shirt and show him the handle sticking out of my waistband. I tell ya, that stops 'em crying right quick."
Still, there are those who are afraid that arming the greeters might just escalate the violence and even increase annual fatalities at Wal-Mart, which tend to average between 250-300 customers and employees, typically the result of boxes that fall on them from a high shelf.
"It's our opinion that fewer guns is always better than more guns," said Darlene Fortenski of Mothers Against Everything (MAE), whose group has also raised concerns over small children injured when the bins of $5 DVDs nobody wants have overflowed, burying them.
Still, Wal-Mart seems determined to go forward with the plan. "We plan to have every greeter armed by the start of next month," said Redman, if they can get the training done and reassign to other positions the 30 percent of greeters known to have at least one glass eye and/or a history of psychosis.