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Published:April 26th, 2007 14:00 EST
It's not Wal-Mart's Fault, Is It?

It's not Wal-Mart's Fault, Is It?

By Peter Giordano

With the infinite and unlimited amount of space on the World Wide Web, the concept of ethics becomes a problem.  It becomes far too hard for anyone or any federal group for that matter to control the type of material surfacing the internet.  It`s with that I pose the question: Is there any use in creating these ethical guidelines for the internet users to abide by?    Or is the infinite amount of space on the internet too much for the professionals to handle?    You`ve heard of the nickname Generation X. "  Anyone born in the Vietnam-era to the late 1970s carries this title.  You`ve also heard of Generation MTV " or the XY generation. "  Anyone living in the US born to parents of the baby boomer generation will carry this title.  Now, they`ve developed a nickname for the current young adults and middle-aged teenagers: Generation Me. "  When it first comes off the tongue, one can`t help but chuckle.  What gives us (my generation) that nickname?  Perhaps it`s because much of the older population considers our generation to be independent, free, and full of life.  Or perhaps it`s because much of the older population considers our generation to be independent, free, and full of life.

Whatever it may be, you can be certain it will involve advancements in technology.  Podcasts, iPods, and the MySpace websites of the world have captivated the youth of our nation.  Even the evolution of the blogosphere has contributed to this narcissistic label our youth now holds.  It`s hard to imagine that the first website was started more than 17 years ago.  Not many people thought it would last.  What in the world is e-mail?  The World Wide Web, what`s that, " I could recall my elders saying.  Who would have thought those 17 years later, the blogosphere would virtually be taking over the whole world?  The problem however, arises when these bloggers out there aren`t held responsible for their unethical actions.  The blogging world is filled with all sorts of these unethical practices. 

Take the juggernaut in Wal-Mart for example.  In the latest edition of the review, they have estimated that the retailing company is worth over $20 billion.  Last year, the company sold over $244.5 billion worth of goods.  It`s with this data that I found their unethical practices in the blogosphere to be so appalling.  In fact, in doing a search of Wal-mart " and unethical blog, " I hit the jackpot.  Over 170,000 hits came up on that search.  Why would a company that`s worth so much risk its reputation and up to this point, its unscathed image?

The scandal all started in September 2006.  Wal-Mart executives as well as some head honchos in the public relations department hired two of their flunky employees to serve as a pair of average Americans chronicling their cross-country travels in an RV and lodging in parking lots.  The blog, launched Sept. 27, was profiled in this week`s issue of Business Week, which exposed the site as a promotional tactic engineered by Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM), an organization launched by Wal-Mart`s public relations firm Edelman.  According to one report, WFWM paid for the RV and all travel expenses, rerouted the trip`s original plan, and plastered a logo on the RV`s side. " 

The scam only lasted a few days, watch-dog organizations got word of the project and exploited the company.  How much publicity would this company have received if a watchdog group didn`t point it out?  The company would have fooled millions.  Baring in mind, that most recently as December 2006, the company realized another unethical practice from within.  Julie Roehm, the firm`s marketing executive and Sean Womack, another marketing executive, sued the company for wrongful termination after they were fired in early December.  The company then fired back with an affair between the two involving intimate e-mails and instances where the two accepted bribes, including free meals from an advertising agency seeking to gain Wal-Mart`s business.  The couple also had plans of leaving Wal-Mart to work for that same agency.  Soon following this investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had engaged in a paranoid spying scheme where it put tabs on its critics and its stock holders. "  According to the research, The Company takes down email addresses and phone numbers that employees have communicated with, as well as the Web sites they have visited. It`s even installed the technology to let it view the emails they`ve sent via Gmail and Hotmail when they are using the Wal-Mart network. (4)  Whoa, that`s all a little too risqué and scandalous for me. 

With a tarnished resume like the one we see here, how can this company be trusted in the same way ever again?  In dissecting the first issue regarding the flog, " it was a blatant lie.  With a household name like Wal-mart launching (what seemed to be a cleaver idea) marketing strategies like this one, it becomes unfair.  The company planned to mislead millions of people and planned to have the internet do its dirty work.  They were using the web, a place that millions of people get their information from as a tool to deceive the consumer.  With the infinite amount of space provided by the internet, the company was able to launch such an indecent scheme.  The corporations plan was eventually discovered, but it was too late by then.  The only thing negative the company received was about a weeks worth of bad press.  And with it being the world`s largest corporation, a little negative publicity won`t hurt their sales.  But as for the sex scandal/spying scandal, that just adds to the unethical behavior displayed by this company.  Obviously, none of what was reported is ethical in anyway and the mass amounts of technology advances our nation has experienced is to blame.  After all of these scandals surfaced to the media, the company was not held responsible and accountable for its actions.  A few lawsuits and a week worth of bad press is a like a slap on the wrist for the $20 billion company. 

But how can these companies and people be blamed for something that has no precedent?  There are no official guidelines or codes of ethics that you are supposed to follow.  One might claim that the codes of ethics used for newspaper reports set by the Society of Professional Journalists can be used interchangeably, but the area becomes too grey in the actual definition of these principals.  Now professional bloggers out there (if you can call them professionals?) have developed ethic codes of their own, but what billion Dollar Corporation is going to care about what Mr. Blogger thinks?  According to one blogger, there are five principles that are to be followed when blogging: Transparency, Privacy, Disclosure, Truthfulness, and Credit.  The guidelines are an almost mere image of the professional codes we see by the SPJ and others.  He goes on to say that this is not a complete list.  But you should also follow your gut. If sending a post feels funny to you for some reason or makes you uncomfortable, it may be unethical. "  That`s the problem.  Each person does things with a different discrepancy than others.  With no rules all hell breaks loose, much like the government.  The blogosphere is an unethical anarchist society with no rules!  Corporate America will never be held responsible.