Wal-Mart has set on an endeavor to break into the Chicago retail market yet again. A location has been proposed in Chatham, a town on the South Side of Chicago, for a second Wal-Mart within Chicago city limits. There are people that have voiced their opinions against Wal-Mart. Some believe that there will be no tax revenue for the city, no net job increase, Wal-Mart will drive down wages, and, most importantly, destroy local businesses. Wal-Mart
and its allies refute the accusations, saying that the neighborhood and
its area residents should be the ones who decide on the fate of the
mega mart. Truthfully, the South and West sides of Chicago don't have
very many options for their necessities and few resources. The Chatham Wal-Mart is one of the suggested solutions. The Story
businesses, including ones that are already established, need to have
support to get the business started on the right foot. This can be done
through public relations, marketing efforts, words of mouth, or through
community groups.Wal-Mart created an online group in favor of the big box store opening in Chatham
, but after taking a closer look, the "group" turned out to be nothing
but a PR ploy from the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and a consulting
firm in the Chicagoland area.
The imaginary community group was discovered by Chicagoist writer Kevin Robinson, after writing several articles discussing the new Wal-Mart. Finally, after much investigation, Robertson produced evidence
of the false group and made it public on the Internet. His
investigation started with an individual who would leave comments on
his blog under then name "Chatham." Chatham would repeatedly read Robinson's blogs and comment in favor of the new Chicagoland Wal-Mart. Additionally. Chatham would lash out at strangers leaving comments that differed from his opinions. Finally, after a regular commentator accused Chatham of being a "paid Wal-Mart/Daley, PR spammer," Robinson took the investigation into his own hands.
After tracing the URL that was associated with Chatham's name, Robinson found himself at Our Community, Our Choice
, a website which promoted the opening of a Wal-Mart in Chatham, which noted that it was supported by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Delving further Robinson contacted the email address associated with Chatham's comments, and traced the IP address to Serafin and Associates, a Chicagoland consulting firm that manages the PR for Wal-mart's campaign in the area.
Robinson contacted multiple people, one of which being the Regional Director of Media Relations for Wal-Mart, Tara Stewart. She would only answer five written questions from Robinson regarding the issues, and since the Chicagoist only does interviews face to face, Stewart resulted in a dead end.
Robinson was directed to the Government Relations Director at the Chicagoland
Chamber of Commerce, Michael Mini. The interview proved to answer more
questions than Mini answered himself. Mini reaffirmed the position for
Our Community, Our Choice, which is their "advocacy to gain support,"
and it was "set up as a way to communicate with people." Furthermore,
Mini admitted that he was not surprised thatSerafin and Associates were using their IP
address to make such comments on his blog, but couldn't comment on why
he didn't find it surprising. The most surprising comment came after
Robinson asked Mini if he lives inChatham, or Chicago for that matter. He could only say, "no comment." What This Means
Best Companies was founded on the belief that small businesses are the
backbone of the American economy. In Chicago, right in ABC’s backyard,
the addition of another big box store could prove to be detrimental to
the small businesses in the area. Local stores, boutiques, and mom
& pop shops would be eliminated by the big-box store, therefore
costing hundreds of Chicagoans their jobs. Chicago’s rich culture is
filled with small shops and unique businesses, which might be lost with
an addition like this. We need to ensure that small businesses stay in
business, continue to flourish and boost our economy.
The bottom line here is that Wal-Mart's
sleazy campaigning and promoting strategies is getting the big-box
store nowhere. The negative press that they are receiving for
Robinson's work is astounding, with much thanks to the Internet. TheChicagoist
article has been tweeted, linked to, and mentioned in many blogs and
articles since its release last week. The Internet has proven yet again
to be a tool for getting the word out, and hopefully the word will
spread so a secondWal-Mart is not built in Chicagoland thanks to an imaginary group to promote the big-box.
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