Walmart has landed in some water hot enough for this Fourth. Conservative and political consultant Ryan Fournier noticed Walmart selling “Impeach 45” clothing online, in addition to “MAGA” apparel.
The tweet saw just over 9,000 retweets and a lot of people who became irate at the company and called for a boycott.
It wasn’t technically Walmart carrying the products, but small third parties that use the company’s online marketplace. Like Amazon before it, the retailer is learning the hard way that if you host the sales of others, you can be marked with the same brush.
The issue is one of branding. Any actions associated with your company end up tied to you. The closer the connection between activity and your name, the tighter the bond.
Realistically, when a company like Walmart or Amazon opens its order taking and maybe fulfillment mechanisms to others, it has taken responsibility for anything those third parties do. If not in some legalistic sense, then in the eyes of consumers. People aren’t going to pay close attention to who gets the money in the end. And, given that the big resellers get a part of the financial action for enabling the product sales, that seems reasonable.
But to make money, the companies allow in heaven knows how many small companies and their wares. Corporate buyers aren’t involved. Neither are product marketing people. Well, except when things go belly up.
The numbers are vast, as a quick look around any of the big marketplaces will show. There might be AI software that could help do an analysis, but chances are that you’d have to keep retraining it to catch potential problems that constantly morph in appearance. That takes money and a lot more time than most people realize.
So, apparently, the preferred approach is to let things run along until problems appear and hope that you can deal with them before they get out of hand.
Walmart didn’t catch things in time in this case. According to a USA Today story, the company removed the items “pending review of our marketplace policies,” as a spokesperson said.