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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wal-mart plays hardball

From the Trib,

On the eve of contentious City Council votes on plans to open two Wal-Marts in Chicago, the retail giant irked some aldermen by using a high-tech phone bank to connect people who said they supported the stores directly to the politicians' ward offices.

As the lobbying intensified on both sides of the issue, pollsters hired by the company called hundreds of Chicago residents Monday and Tuesday. Anyone who said they supported the stores was patched through to one of 11 aldermen, said Thom Serafin, a public relations consultant hired by Wal-Mart to lobby in Chicago.

He said all the calls that were forwarded were from Chicagoans who specifically told pollsters they want Wal-Mart to open in Chicago.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said her South Side ward office was inundated Tuesday with calls from constituents saying they were forwarded there by telemarketers who had asked whether they supported new jobs in their communities.

Some of the callers appeared unaware that they were calling their alderman about Wal-Mart's plans to open stores on former industrial sites in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side and in Chatham on the South Side, she said.

Maybe its just me, but if I were an Alderman, or some sucker who answered this call and got patched through, I'd be more pissed than persuaded. In fact, this stunt could really help block Walmart from opening a Chicago store. Good deal, and good riddance I say. Is there a more slimy mass marketer than Wal-mart?


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