Walmart Store ‘Forces’ Marine Collecting For Toys For Tots To Stand Outsisde In The Cold, Sparks Anger On Social Media

A Facebook user sparked a social media firestorm with a post to her Facebook page accusing a Walmart store in Medina, Ohio, of treating a former active duty Marine with disrespect by “forcing” him to stand outside in the cold to collect donations for the Toys for Tots charity.

According to Facebook user Mary Murdock in a November 27 post to her Facebook page, while she was at a local Walmart at 4141 Pearl Road in Medina, she saw a retired Marine standing outside the Walmart store in full dress uniform collecting donations for the Toys for Tots campaign. She went about her business at the store, paying no attention. But when she visited the store the next day — a cold and rainy day — she was concerned to see the Marine still standing outside.

She bought him a cup of coffee and, after a brief conversation, learned that he was a former active duty Marine and that he was not standing outside because he wanted to but because he was “forced” to do so.

Marine veteran John Harkness had reportedly stood inside the Walmart store in Medina for 15 years collecting donations for Toy for Tots. Recently, he was “forced” to stand outside in the cold after a new manager took over at the store.

Harkness reportedly told Murdock, “They made us stay outside. We’re there to collect toys for children that need a Christmas.”

Angered by her discovery, she posted a photo of the Marine standing outside the Walmart store with a caption, “He can bleed and die, but he can’t stand inside… Please share!!”

Her appeal generated a Facebook firestorm, with many expressing outrage at the situation. But a few commenters noted that even if it was true that the Walmart store had previously allowed the Marine to do his collection for Toys for Tots inside the store, it is a well-known fact that Walmart and many other retail chains do not allow solicitors and charities – such as the Salvation Army, Girl and Boy Scouts — to operate in their stores.

But Murdock told WOIO-TV that she was outraged when she saw the Marine veteran standing outside in the cold, asking, “Why can’t they put you inside? This is crap.”

She protested, saying, “It takes two seconds to do the right thing when it’s cold and rainy and the holiday season. You can put [the Marines] in there.”

At first, a Walmart spokesperson released a statement in response to expressions of outrage on Facebook, explaining that the former manager’s decision to allow Harkness to stand inside the store soliciting donations was, in fact, in violation of the company’s policy.

“Walmart’s corporate policy across our more than 4500 stores does not allow this type of solicitation inside our stores and we apologize for any confusion about this policy.”

But the statement went on to say that Walmart was looking into the case involving the veteran and emphasized that the company supports several charities “as well as the many charitable veteran organizations.”

But as the backlash on social media intensified and many expressed outrage about the treatment of the veteran, the new Walmart manager and the company’s marketing manager met with the former Marine to come up with a new arrangement.

WOIO-TV reports that after the meeting, the company released a statement saying it had agreed to work towards a solution while staying within the company’s official policy.

Responding to the development, Harkness told WOIO-TV that he was grateful for the support he received.

“It’s encouraging. It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s good to have the general public — vets and non-vets — support you.”

[Image via Brandonrush/Wikimedia Commons]