Thursday, March 18, 2010

Racist Remark on Walmart PA System: My Observations

The latest tiff about a racist public address system in Walmart has the whole country in an uproar. In case you haven't heard, an anonymous male got on the public address system in a New Jersey Walmart and made the following announcement.

"Attention Walmart Customers. All blacks please leave the store."

Walmart officials are busy condemning the announcement and disassociating themselves from it. If the announcement was made by a rogue employee, I am sure they will try to track him down. No one condones such boneheaded open racism.

Every place I have ever worked in had its own internal phone system, with a list of extensions and a public address system. Anyone in the store can punch in a two or three digit number and make a public announcement. Most people are mature enough not to misuse the ability to tap into the PA system.

I worked in a retail store once where there were a couple of jokers who used to make bogus announcements. One guy made an announcement on a cold day in February that swimming pool safety alarms were in stock. We had a receptionist who had a Russian accent. She could not pronounce the letter "h". So my friend called the store from his cell phone and asked for Mike Hunt. She paged Mike Hunt over the public address system. Of course she mispronounced his name. Everyone in the warehouse was cracking up. The salesmen were trying hard not to burst out laughing. She turned fire engine red when she realised she had been snookered, but she laughed at the joke as well.

I came to dislike the manager at the store. I certainly had revenge fantasies of making some outrageous and profane announcement on the PA system. With a family depending on me, I decided that job stability was more important than spectacular revenge.

Some people have a hobby of hacking into electronic road signs. There are even guides on line telling people how to do it with the keypad control as well as gaining remote access. The possibilities are endless. What hackers forget is that it can be highly dangerous replacing public safety announcements with bogus ones.

Walmart should have changed their PA extension number. There are probably a lot of people who know the extension number to make a public address announcement. Another possibility is that a directory of extensions was left within the reach of the public. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to look at the directory of extensions and to start acting stupid.

I don't hold Walmart responsible for anything except lax phone security in the racist incident in the New Jersey Walmart. I don't believe that Walmart is racist, although I have other questions about them. The documentary "The High Cost of Low Prices" raises a lot of questions about everything from Walmart's labour practices to their outsourcing of jobs to China. They even address the question of crime in Walmart parking lots.

I don't think that the Walmart PA system incident says anything new about race relations in America. It should be of interest to those whose specialty is phone system security. The only thing it says about racism in America is that some racists know how to tap into a store's PA system. That is it. It is time to move on. Sphere: Related Content

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