Walmart’s iPad Abuse Crisis

Ugly employee actions create reputation management crisis for retailer

We’ve seen a growing number of YouTube-based crises created not by the actions organizations themselves, but those of employees. Domino’s was one of the first high profile cases, and this month Walmart joined the list.

Four employees of a Pikeville, Ky. Walmart thought it would be simply hilarious to seek out and destroy boxes of brand new iPads before they go on store shelves. One young man even tells the camera, “This is why you don’t buy an iPad from Walmart. See, we like to throw s***.”

Have a look for yourself:

The video actually came into the public eye via an anonymous submission to a Reddit user, who posted it on the site where it quickly shot to the front page and drew thousands of comments.

Obviously this is is not a crisis management issue in the sense of the company doing something wrong, but regardless of who is at fault the reputation damage had serious potential to harm Walmart. If the public were to latch onto the assumption that they’re likely to go home with a pre-broken iPad or any other product when purchasing from Walmart, it could drive sales down.

Walmart left no opportunity for that, however, immediately firing everyone involved and pushing this message containing a nice dose of humanity out to news outlets like NBC:

“We’ve seen the video of several nightshift associates destroying merchandise in the back of one of our stores in August and, as anyone can image, it made us wince,” a Walmart spokesperson tells NBC News in response to inquiries about that clip. “We are also embarrassed.” She adds that the “associates involved no longer work for Walmart.”

In another wise move, Walmart chose not to attempt to wipe the video from the web. It’s very clear to anyone viewing that the actions of those four employees are not accepted Walmart practice, and making it easy to find online helps to vindicate the retail giant in the court of public opinion.

Heading into the holiday season the last thing any retailer wants is a reason for consumers to head to the competition. Walmart did an excellent job of stopping this crisis before it got out of control.

The BCM Blogging Team

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