Robin Hood at Walmart

No one saw Robin Hood and his Merry men robbing from the richly stocked shelves at the Wal-Mart Store in Sterling, Colo., and donating to the poor via the Toys for Tots box. But, the Sheriff of Nottingham – in the guise of store manager, Brad Barritt – was convinced it happened. He plucked everything from the nearly full donation box and restocked every item for re-sell to raise more money for the retail chain’s coffers.
Toys for Tot organizer in Logan County, Susan Kraich, said she is back to square one.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on that box every time I went to Wal-Mart, and was so excited as it slowly began to fill. Over the weekend, I heard that it was nearly full, so I went to pick it up. I was devastated when I found it empty,” said Kraich. She was allowed to retrieve every item from the shelves that she knew for a fact had been purchased – in other words the three toys she had purchased.
Barritt justified his actions as the Sheriff. He said that the location of the box was out of range of the security video cameras so there was no way of knowing whether all the clothing, sporting goods, food items and toys in the box had been purchased before donation. Plus, none of the donated items were wrapped in a Wal-Mart sack, as he had required – not even the three toys Kraich had placed there. Only Barritt remembered making that stipulation.
Shades of the Sheriff of Nottingham pouncing on the poor box after it had a few coins. Barritt’s timing was perfect for dealing with the likes of those pesky Merry men. He didn’t say anything when the box had a few paltry items. Only after the box for the poor children of Sterling was nearly full did he decide the store was being robbed, and refused to replace any of it without proof of purchase prior to donation.
“I don’t know how I am suppose to prove what was in there … I thought since Wal-Mart agreed to place the box, they were agreeing to keep an eye on it,” Kraich said.
Unrecognized donors paid for the miscommunication. Barritt did not set aside the box and its contents to discuss the problem before reshelving or when Kraich came to pick up the donations. “ My understanding was that the box would be emptied regularly. We had no way of knowing whether or not those items had been paid for,” Barritt said.
Barritt noted that the retailer regularly donates more than $50,000 annually and offered a $1,000 cash grant to Toys for Tots. “Not that it is has anything to do with this situation. Only to say that as a corporation, we are very community minded. I’d hate to see a discrepancy over a few toys change that perception in the eyes of the public,” Barritt said.
Was that an apology clinging to the man’s persistent illusion that Robin Hood and his Merry Band provided the bulk of the items in the Toys for Tots box?
At any rate, the wire story ends with a report that telephone lines buzzed between the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville and the local charity. As a result, $425 worth of toys were donated to Toys for Tots at the office where Kraich works and Wal-Mart Corp. offered a $1,000 cash grant to Toys for Tots this year. Very generous, very public of them, the company can take a tax write-off on the donation and they get another slug as community minded corporation.
It is just too bad they didn’t honor the community minded actions of the little people who bought a gift or two and quietly, anonymously, dropped them in the box, when no one was looking – out of the view of the camera and hype.

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2 Responses to Robin Hood at Walmart

  1. Susan kraich says:

    I wish the full true story of what happened during the last four weeks before Christmas.
    I took over the Christmas tree giving from the local social services, who were “not paid enough” to collect toys for those in their system. I had a full list of private names handed over by loan county. I opened the list to anyone in need as I as well had a full time job to tend to as a territory manager of a payday loan franchise. I got to know my customers and seen how just getting by pay check to pay check without the assistants of a state or federal program to help was hard on almost everyone I knew. It did not matter if they made 1,000 year or 60,000…times at over commercialized holidays were hard on everyone.
    My list grew rapidly to nearly 500 children. Age 0-18. I did not stop at age 12.
    I did not know what to do when I seen that box empty, I went home after being offered a few old toys Brad Berriet the manager of Walmart probably got from his yard, a faded and broken little tikes bike, trash really…his henchwomen standing by him trying to high hand me to submission.
    I called on the Jr college baseball team coach to help me gather toys, the next step spurred the most important part of this whole story, including Walmart big boys flying into sterling Co, stepping into my office and demanding “The publicity stop now” . Last I looked I don’t work for Walmart I replied. Their 425$ of toys in offering.
    Over 300-400 hate calls to Walmart, I only knew as my customers and children on the list were employees of Walmart, it was as if they were secret spys for me, telling me what was happening with glee.
    I was called at home by reporters as far up as NPR. I was notified by my corporation to shut up and back down. I didn’t. I knew I could loose my job. The local radio news man ultimately lost his job, he was a voice for me when I was gagged. But the people who were a part of this town did not shut up or gaged by anyone, they talked!
    I spent four weeks nervous and worn out. I kept my job in line I stayed until 10pm sorting toys that poured in like water.
    I could say a lot about these 4 weeks. But it was 3 nights before Christmas when I called a name on my list late that cold cold night.
    I called a woman working at Wendy’s restaurant. She didn’t get off until 9pm so I waited for her.
    She arrived, she had two young boys on her list. One wanted a bike, the other a fire truck.
    I asked her to wait for me as I retrieved her gifts, I like a robot gathered a bike, took it out to her, then a huge fire truck with all the bells and whistles, stocking filled with GI Joe dolls, socks, baseball’s, bubbles and much more…I continued to bring all the extra toys I had separated and stacked under her name.
    I didn’t stop going back and forth until I brought out the last gifts.
    She was crying. I was numb. I was tired, run down and hurt. My back hurting from the 4th surgery up to that year.
    She said “thank you, I never expected so much”! I just recently went through a divorce and my husband is not helping or paying his support”. I expected a few small toys but not this”. I didn’t think my boys would have a Christmas this year, but thank you, now they do”.
    We hugged and I helped her load her car. Handing her a gift card to the local grocery store for dinner and candies on Christmas day.
    As she drove away, it hit me…I had endured all of this for children. The innocent who had no idea of what was happening in their town, who were not going to have Christmas if I had backed down. It wasn’t about me or Walmart the publicity or radio stations, it was about the kids.
    I endured ungrateful adults, overseas donations and Walmart henchmen, no time for my own family or shopping. I understood as she drove away it was handed to me to follow through. Maybe just for this one family? I don’t know.
    It hit me hard as she drove away. I stood in the below 0 temperature and started to cry. Silent tears turned to ice streaming past my mouth. I had done what no one else wanted, what was not to be done. Against all obstacles for over the last four weeks I knew two little boys would believe a little bit longer, I learned that fireballs come and are meant to be fought.
    Even by giants who are bigger than me, I have my heart and a memory that will never forget that night as she drove away.

    • jottingjoan says:

      Perhaps another reason I did not notice it is simply because about the time you wrote, I injured my leg quite seriously and was kind of in a fog of getting better, exercise and retiring at the same time.

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