May 2004 (v6 i6)
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Wal-Mart to host junior high lock-in
Students, shelf-stockers kept from leaving premises until 6 a.m.
by J.J. Hermes, Design Director

EUNICE, LA — Citing over 15 years of policy that allow managers to lock the overnight employees inside the store, Wal-Mart recently announced plans to expand its practice to chaperoning a junior high lock-in at an area super center.

The event will begin at midnight, when the overnight manager locks the store from the outside as he does every night, thus leaving those inside with the alarm-outfitted fire escape as the only exit. Junior high students will then be given teacher-guided tours of the facility and unlimited games at the store's two side arcades.

"Wal-Mart is excited about the prospect of bringing more community involvement with little impact on the bottom line," said company spokesman Richard Williams. "Nothing needs to change from daily operating procedure, and we can provide a safe environment for any middle school event."

Students from Reagan Junior High will be treated to a behind-the-scenes experience at the Wal-Mart's overnight operations, witnessing firsthand what it takes to be an "associate," a term the corporation uses to refer to employees.

"We think the experience will not only serve as entertainment for the children, but it will also be educational," said Williams.

When questioned about the lock-in, many students were optimistic.

"It's like Richie Rich," said seventh-grader Kyle Thompson. "The place has its own McDonald's!"

Richards was quick to make sure that the students did not get the wrong impression about the event.

"This is not like that childhood fantasy where you get locked in the mall overnight and play with all the toys. Students must learn that the associates who normally man the McDonald's must get paid, and as such, we will not cater to their compulsive whims."

It is reported that Wal-Mart will cordon off the toy section, as well as the McDonald's and the lingerie department.

Although the practice came under fire in 1988 when an associate collapsed and died because paramedics could not reach him, as well as continual employee complaints after suspended hospitalization of broken bones and deep cuts, Wal-Mart continues to engage in locking in employees at about 10 percent of its stores, including the store where the lock-in will be held. To continue with standard operating procedure, no one will be on site with a key to open the doors.
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