Wal-Mart Under Pressure to Improve Safety for Workers, Customers
Gregg Hollander | December 22, 2016 | Premise Liability
Many millions of people are at a Wal-Mart every day, whether to work or to shop. The world’s largest box store sees an influx of customers around the winter holidays. Recently, questions have arisen as to whether the store is doing enough to ensure customers and workers are reasonably safe. Property owners/ managers who invite the public on site for the financial benefit of the business owe those people the highest duty of legal care in making sure they are safe from an unreasonable risk of harm. This includes not just property defects (i.e., slippery floors, perilous walkways, improperly stacked merchandise), but also from foreseeable criminal assaults.
An investigation in August by Bloomberg Businessweek revealed that the retailers efforts at aggressive cost-cutting come at a steep price: Safety. The researchers delved into police and hospital records to reveal that hundreds of violent crimes happen at Wal-Mart stores every day, including attempted kidnappings, shootings, stabbings and murders. It breaks down to about one violent crime every day. Some police chiefs have actually spoken out against the retailer, arguing that taxpayers are effectively subsidizing security for the stores. One chief in Arkansas remarked that despite the fact that this is the world’s largest retailer, half is squad is there for hours on end throughout each shift, responding to calls. These problems were far worse at Wal-Mart, as compared to the chain’s rivals.
Now, a group of labor organizations are pressing for the company to do more to improve security in stores and surrounding parking lots. The groups have met with local and city officials in Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Minnesota, asking that they declare the Wal-Mart stores in their communities to be a public nuisance, which increase the pressure on the company to improve security.
The labor groups accuse the chain of having inadequate security, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of both workers and customers.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart insists it is making efforts to improve the situation. Specifically, the company has been moving more workers onto the sales floor and near the exits, with more being responsible to conduct spot-checks on receipts. Employees are also being positioned at self-checkouts. It has installed a data analytics program to flag fraudulent returns. It has also initiated a program that allows first-time shoplifters to avoid arrest if they agree to undergo a theft prevention program. In some higher-crime stores, the chain has hired private security officer sand some off-duty police.
These changes have resulted in a reduction of police calls by 35 percent, according to a Wal-Mart representative. That’s a start, but it may not be enough in some cases. There have been a number of recent incidents, including:
- A Florida man beaten with his own walker at a store in Florida;
- A good Samaritan shot and killed trying to stop a woman from being beaten in a store parking lot in Texas;
- Two carjackers beating a woman with a baby in Kansas.
As our Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys can explain, there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to adequate security. What might be necessary at one location won’t be needed as another. The key to a successful claim for damages is being able to show a pattern of certain crimes and subsequent inaction by the controller of the premises.
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Wal-Mart Is Under Pressure to Fix Its Crime Problem, Dec. 7, 2016, By Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg