Walmart Won’t Let You Buy Nazi Shirts, Yay!

According to commenter Papercutninja, the Nazi shirts may still be on the floor, but you can’t buy them.

Papercutninja tried to buy one in Piscataway, NJ, and the register bleeped, “SALE NOT ALLOWED.”

Huzzah! Good job Walmart, finally.

Now Walmart just needs to get cracking on throwing the rest of the shirts in the ovens. — BEN POPKEN

Recent updates to this story.
Backstory.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Okay so instead of taking the shirts off the shelves, they choose to cause a scene at the register when someone tries to buy one.

    The more likely scenario is that corporate realized that store management doesn’t bother to read memo’s so instead corporate had to take over and update their servers with this.

    Is anyone surprised that WalMart store managers are pretty much real-life Michael Scott?

  2. acambras says:

    Hey, when I was at Wallyworld last night I also noticed a lot of other shirts in the “No Boundaries” series that I wondered about — Pink Floyd (with a Dark Side of the Moon logo), Jimi Hendrix, Guinness beer.

    Totenkopf controversy aside, do you think the makers of these t-shirts had the proper permission/licensing to use the images and trademarks on these shirts? I wonder what Syd Barrett or Jimi Hendrix would say about all this…

  3. So they’re shoplift-only? Clever way to get rid of ‘em!

  4. exkon says:

    Thank god, this story is finally done with. Can’t wait for the stories about more consumers starting their xmas shopping late this year!

  5. miss_smartypants says:

    God, does anyone really still CARE about this? I guess I’m on the slow boat, but do we really WANT to castigate retailers for selling anything that might be viewed as offensive? When WalMart refuses to sell magazines with too much cleavage or cd’s with dirty lyrics, don’t we get up in arms? Isn’t that corporate censorship? It’s a SKULL for chrissakes, let it go – why be so oversensitive? I really, okay I understand that by some people it could be viewed to have an anti-semitic association, but come on…grow up!

  6. miss_smartypants says:

    Addendum: I really think it’s the epitome of BAD customer service to refuse to sell products to anyone, because a small minority of people are offended by the product (and yes, I really honestly think a small minority of people are really offended, bothered by a 50 year old precarious association of this skull image to anti-semitism).

  7. acambras says:

    Guys, the story here is not “WalMart is full of Nazis” — it’s “WalMart is full of liars.” They said they’d pull the product and then they didn’t follow through. This is about demanding accountability.

    I salute Ben for his tenacity on this subject.

    Tenacious B!

  8. nweaver says:

    acambras: Dollars to doughnuts says they are properly liscenced, because all of those have NASTY trademark attorneys who would looove to take a big bite out of WallyWorld.

  9. miss_smartypants says:

    Was it right to make the decision to pull the product in the first place? It seems to me this is not about lies, or Nazis but about caving to the pressure of a vocal, persistent minority thus denying access to goods and services other consumers want. I don’t think there is any way to view this as a Consumer victory, since it sets the precedent for wacko fundies to call in and say condoms are offensive and need to be taken off shelves. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time arguing the opposite – that despite opposition of a significant amount of the population based on religious sentiment, birth control ought to be available over the counter (as an example of where populist sentiment should certainly NOT control what products are sold in the free market). Consumerist has demonstrated a viewpoint that, in the face of any opposition to a product, the appropriate corporate response is to get that bothersome thing right off the shelves (THINK OF THE CHILDREN!).

    Frankly, I don’t want to support or be a part of a community that feels that way.

  10. miss_smartypants says:

    I’m sorry to keep commenting but I just can’t get over this:

    “Walmart Won’t Let You Buy Nazi Shirts, Yay!”

    Because how will we feel when the next Consumerist headline is:

    “Walmart Won’t Let You Buy CONDOMS, Yay!”
    “CVS Won’t Let You Buy BIRTH CONTROL, Yay!”
    “Target Won’t Let You Buy CDs WITH PARENTAL WARNINGS, Yay!”
    “Barnes & Noble Won’t Let You Buy BOOKS ABOUT ISLAM, Yay!”

    All things that are arguably offensive to a vocal minority of varying power, but is Consumerist trying to tell us that “good customer service” involves immediately pulling these from shelves nationwide if a website springs up in opposition?

    Please.

  11. acambras says:

    Miss_smartypants — this is NOT the same thing as condoms. I detest religious fundamentalism as much as anyone. Last time I checked, condoms were available over the counter, even at Walmart. If they put condoms and pregnancy tests behind the counter, it’s probably because of shoplifting.

    WalMart is not a governmental entity — they’re privately-owned and therefore free to carry whatever merchandise they want. They can sell t-shirts with swastikas on them if they want. And they can decide to pull the Totenkopf shirts, too. If they wanted to, they could stop carrying condoms, too. They could stop carrying beer and cigarettes. That’s their prerogative.

    And as a consumer, it’s my prerogative to voice my opinion to stores where I shop about products they carry. Condoms, beer, and cigarettes don’t bother me. Nazi symbolism bothers me.

    Hell, NASCAR and Larry the Cable Guy bother me, but WalMart will probably always carry them. Of course NASCAR and Larry didn’t exterminate 6 million people.

  12. acambras says:

    If CVS started refusing to fill birth control prescriptions, I think that would violate laws governing pharmacies in many states.

    Other than that, WalMart, CVS, Target, and Barnes & Noble are all private companies and are free to carry what they want. If the above scenario played out, there would be other places that carry condoms, CDs with parental warnings, and books about Islam. And I as the consumer can choose to patronize or not to patronize a business based on the values systems with which it aligns itself.

    That’s the free market.

  13. miss_smartypants says:

    “Of course NASCAR and Larry didn’t exterminate 6 million people.”

    Neither did Walmart, the skull image, the t-shirt, 1976 or anything that is overtly linked with this item. No one has ONCE legitimately (seriously) suggested that the intent of this shirt is to encourage, support, or otherwise express favor for genocide. If there was a legitimate argument that the shirt was intended to show empathy or solidarity with neo-nazis, there might be a different argument at play. As far as I’ve kept up with the lengthy, repetitive, pointless discourse on this topic, that simply isn’t the case.

    That Walmart is free to stop carrying other objectionable items at any time is the keystone in my strong belief that we intelligent consumers should think twice before attempting to impose our own censorship on the products that sit on those exalted shelves.

    Since you support the populist control over store shelves as a legitimate control over what products are available and where, I guess you’d better hope that no one starts listening to the groups that want to limit the sale of products YOU want to buy. It’s not ABOUT shirts, condoms or birth control – it’s about the opinions of the FEW controlling what everyone else can buy, and that’s just not something I want to fight for.

  14. JeffreyK says:

    I don’t seem to recall Wal-Mart ever asking me what products they are going to sell, discontinue, remove, condemn, add to inventory, mark-up, stock, discount, or any other variant thereof. And now we see in a rare instance an announcement made regarding a product and what they plan to do. Instead of just jumping all over this like we care (and I don’t think many people really do… it’s just funny at this point), why not ask Wal-Mart if that letter was the first and last directive on this subject? It could be we’ve only seen the first letter about this subject, and there may be others that quite possibly push the topic to a regional or even local level.

    In other words: put your shock and dismay in check and think like an employee in multi-billion dollar business for a moment. How many decisions are made in a day that you have no knowledge of? And how many of those decisions are handed out to the public for scrutiny? Just because we see one letter doesn’t mean we’ve learned the entire story.

    Honestly, I think folks are making a big deal out of something pretty insignificant because they may hold a hatrid or grudge against Wal-Mart. Granted these might be a bit offensive to someone that recognizes the symbol, but it’s not hurting anyone. Just like cigarettes: they’re not good for you… so if you don’t like them, then don’t buy them. Let the market drive demand or defeat. Problem solved.

  15. miss_smartypants says:

    Acambras:

    Sure! Don’t like the shirt at Walmart, DON’T BUY IT. But don’t tell ME that I can’t buy it, or you’re no better than the fundies who think no one should be able to get condoms. There’s no moral or ethical logical distinction.

  16. Ben Popken says:

    Miss_smartypants, have you read the posts delineating the association between the image and Nazi death troops? It is not tenuous, it is exact. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, as the saying goes.

  17. miss_smartypants says:

    Sure, Ben, I read that the skull (which might have originated elsewhere) was used in conjunction with a German army unit 50 years ago. As I indicated, I’ve read your endless coverage of this useless topic. In what way this is really, I mean honestly on any legitimate level, dangerous, violent, racist or otherwise to be any more censored that any of the hundreds of marginally offensive images that circulate widely in modern commerce is just….well it’s ridiculous. Dare I say it, it’s insane.

    ten•u•ous (tÄ•n’yÅ«-É™s)
    adj.
    1. Long and thin; slender: tenuous strands.
    2. Having a thin consistency; dilute.
    3. Having little substance; flimsy: a tenuous argument

    I would emphatically put myself out there to say that an argument that the skull as used by Walmart has any racist connotation certainly has little substance and/or is flimsy.

    Check yourself before you….don’t understand the basic definitions of the words you put in my mouth! Again!

  18. Smoking Pope says:

    Ok, different things at play here…

    Free Market – Wal-Mart, as with any other store, is free to sell what they want. Obviously, they make these decisions with the bottom line in mind, and probably decided that sales on a single t-shirt was not worth potentially offending people.

    Vocal Minority – I agree that vocal minorities carry too much weight in this country. But if Wal-Mart has the right to sell what they want, then vocal minorities have the right to say what they don’t like. Instead of bitching about vocal minorities, people who do not agree with them should become more vocal themselves and explain to corporations what the impact of caving to a minority of people will be. Write letters, vote with your pocketbook, etc.

    Moral Judgments: Just because Wal-Mart (kinda) pulled the shirts doesn’t necessarily mean they’re imposing a moral judgment on them. They just see them as a risk to their bottom line. You can’t logically equate pulling these t-shirts with refusing to sell birth control for moral reasons unless there’s some additional information out there I haven’t seen.

    Consumerist Coverage: Pulling merchandise from a large retailer because it is potentially offensive to consumers IS a consumer issue. And to judge from the number and quality of comments on each post, I’d say it’s obvious that it is an issue that deserves to be discussed here. So stop telling Ben to piss off.

    And if you think this topic got a lot of coverage, just wait until K-Mart gets caught selling aborted fetus themed sweatshirts.

  19. dave says:

    “in the ovens…”
    You stay classy, San Diego….

  20. Smoking Pope says:

    Oh, and IMHO, the link between the shirt and the army unit in question is indeed exact.

    But even if it weren’t, the perception that it may be offensive is there, and that’s what Wal-Mart is reacting to.

    Also, governments censor, corporations maximize profit. There’s a huge difference.

  21. non-meat-stick says:

    I highly doubt Syd would care about a T shirt for an album he had no part of.

  22. miss_smartypants says:

    Wow. If y’all want to establish a community standard where anything that offends anyone, no matter how ridiculous or oversensitive, ought not to be sold if some nut just yells loud enough…

    Wow. Have fun. Seriously, erm….enjoy that.

  23. PotownAl says:

    I agree with miss_smartypants on this one. The real issue here is how quickly we rush to judgment and how impatient we are with response. Ok, some low-rent graphic artist ripped off a design that happened to involve a Nazi symbol, so what. The vocal minority made a stand. Wal-Mart is a gimongus company, situations like this take time to rectify. It seems that Wal-Mart responded. Now you can all go back to your rebel lives. The little guy won one. Yay.

    In our fast-paced society, issues like this are the perfect “feel good” moment for most people. If you want to make a real stand against Wal-Mart, don’t shop there. I think the fact that Wal-Mart wrecks a local economy and puts mom and pops out of business far out weighs a graphical slip up.

    Oh…and because millions died during the Crusades, Wal-Mart will be pulling all the crosses from the jewelry department starting December 15th.

  24. non-meat-stick says:

    wow, I like your passion about the discussion, but seriously…Dictionary quotes are like literary genocide. Don’t insult us, please.

    and you didn’t reference the publisher either, shame shame

  25. mistress.smarty says:

    And also, Syd Barrett is dead.

  26. miss_smartypants says:

    Ohhh, you got me good! Next time I’ll include proper citations when I call out Ben’s misquoting me!!

  27. gertrudeyorkes says:

    It’s Wal-Mart’s decision to pull the shirts, not the consumer’s. It’s been said already, but I think Ben is more concerned about Wal-Mart not following through with their promise than the sale of the shirts themselves.

    Also, I’m as frightened of agenda pushing as anyone, but I gotta say, equating Wal-Mart pulling a potentially offensive clothing item to the widespread banning of birth control and condoms is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think this is a “win” for zealots on any side of the fence. Unless you count those pesky anti-Nazi-imagery zealots. I hate those guys.

  28. spryte says:

    To Ben Popken: Was the part about “in the ovens” really necessary? I’m sure you meant to be cheeky but it comes across as pretty inappropriate.

    To miss_smartypants: You seem to be pretty sure that an extremely tiny group of people have or would be offended by this shirt. Now, I know Jews aren’t a majority in this country religion-wise, but there’s more than a few dozen of us, and I’m pretty damn sure every last one of us would be offended by a shirt with a symbol that was used –no matter what else it may have been used for–by the Nazi party. (I know I am and I feel pretty safe speaking for my fellow Jews on this issue.) And comparing this symbol to condoms or whatever makes you seem like you are far from living up to your commenter name. Do you truly think these things are on the same level? Condoms offend people’s sensibilities if they are against birth control. Nazi symbols offend COMMON HUMAN DECENCY. There is a big difference.

    Oh and just because we don’t have the ghost of Goebbels here saying that the skull was near and dear his heart during the funfest of WW2 doesn’t mean the rest of us are way off-base in our connections, and the fact is, even a tenuous connection is enough…for me, at least, because I’m not an ass.

  29. 24fan24 says:

    Ben, thank you for continuing to follow this story!

  30. acambras says:

    And here’s a thought to follow up on Spryte’s post:
    One doesn’t have to be Jewish to be offended by Nazi symbols. Plenty of us non-Jews find anti-Semitism plenty offensive.

  31. Surprised there wasn’t more of a brouhaha over ‘the ovens’ comment. Maybe you could have said ‘hit the showers’, instead?

    Er.

    Never mind.

  32. miss_smartypants says:

    Nope, I don’t think condoms and skull shirts are equivalent at all, but I don’t support this kind of populist censorship when directed at either, and I am embarassed to be identified with a community that does.

    Again, as I’ve repeatedly said, you’re welcome to think differently and to get all the products you want ripped off shelves based on unjustifiably ridiculous outrage. Enjoy the sense of satisfaction you’ve gotten by making yourselves look like worked up obsessed little pansies calling Walmart to harangue them about these stupid shirts. I’m sure YOU feel like some important battle against anti-semitism has been won.

  33. gwai lo says:

    Ah, but you see Bonjour, Pee Wee, the Holocaust & Nazi regime are more than offensive enough to warrant outrage when represented on a T-shirt from Wal-Mart, but not quite so offensive that one can’t make throw away gas chamber jokes!

  34. boy says:

    A few months ago I saw a set of drill bits at Walmart I wanted to buy. I went to pay for it & my other stuff, but it said the same “sale not allowed”. 1 week later, they put the set they wouldn’t sell me back on the shelf (I know because there were still 4), but they still wouldn’t sell them to me. I tried one more time a month after that, but still nothing.

  35. loreshdw says:

    ok, a consumer point of view:

    1. I don’t like a (sharp object kid’s toy) or (nazi t-shirt) because it could (encourage dangerous play) or (encourage violence against others). I ask the retailer to stop selling it.

    2. They have the option to tell me: (no, we will keep selling it) or (yes, we’ll remove it).

    3. Once the retailer tells me how they will handle my complaint, they can (follow through and do what they said they would) or (ignore the customer and any promises made).

    This is the same as any other customer complaint. The customer is free to complain, the retailer is free handle that complaint how they want, sometimes poorly.

    Every day Consumerist exposes how diffrent companies deal with customer complaints. Would you be happy if a store promised to stop selling a defective product, but never pulled it from their shelves? Or promised to start selling at the displayed price, but never updated signage or the register price? Look past the “NAZI” buzzword, Wal-Mart did not follow through on promised customer service in a timely manner. It lied to a customer, to a consumer watchdog blog, and to the public.

  36. formergr says:

    miss smartypants said: “Wow. If y’all want to establish a community standard where anything that offends anyone, no matter how ridiculous or oversensitive, ought not to be sold if some nut just yells loud enough…”
    So miss smarty_pants, your view is that even though something offends a small minority of people, it shouldn’t be banned.

    I find that interesting, because I distinctly remember you posting quite vocally that breastfeeding in public on an airplane offends you (because it’s “gross”), and therefore should not be allowed. That the mother should go do the nasty dirty deed in the bathroom. Hmm.

    Interesting how things should only be banned when it’s convenient to you.

  37. wagon says:

    To argue that the repeated posts on this subject are really about Wal-Mart not following through on its word, rather than about the Nazi imagery, is either intentionally disingenuous or very stupid. If, in fact, the reason for the posts was to hold Wal-Mart accountable to do what it said – merely for the sake of holding them accountable to consumers, and not for removing Nazi imagery – then the headline would read “Wal-Mart Follows Through On Its Word, Yay!” rather than “Wal-Mart Removes Nazi Shirts, Yay!” What does the fact that it’s a Nazi symbol have to do with Wal-Mart keeping their word?

    As someone who reads this blog frequently I’m glad to see that this is over, so that something worth comment can replace this topic. Who cares if they’re selling shirts with Nazi symbols on them? If it offends you, don’t buy it. It’s extremely pretentious to assume that anyone else cares about your delicate sensitivities, that your offenses should dictate what the rest of the world has the opportunity to buy and/or sell.

  38. Smashville says:

    Miss Smartypants, you are a moron.

    I’m sorry you aren’t offended by the Holocaust, the Nazis or anything of that matter.

    I’m sorry that gassing people because they don’t look correctly isn’t something you frown upon.

    What I’ve learned from you is that – you support hate speech, but you do not like women to feed their children.

  39. Smashville says:

    You know what. Since I’m not Jewish and apparently don’t find this offensive, why don’t we sell hoods and robes and Wal-Mart, too? I mean…the majority of the people that shop there are white.

  40. Xkeeper says:

    The sad thing is, these comments are the most interesting this story has gotten for a long, long time.

  41. miss_smartypants says:

    Sorry, I must have missed the part of the story where these shirts actually encouraged racism, actually showed anti-semitism, or actually negatively affected anyone or thing by even the most ridiculous stretch of the imagination. If you can point me to that part I might be able to muster a shred of the outrage this shirt has caused in the hive.

  42. Ben Popken says:

    Miss_smartypants: check out this Neo-Nazi message board. They seem pretty encouraged by the tshirt.

  43. Omri says:
  44. miss_smartypants says:

    Shit, better not sell anything assholes might like!

  45. Ben Popken says:

    Wow, miss_smartypants, you’re really loud, wrong, and banned.

  46. Oh, snap!

  47. spryte says:

    Ben Popken is my new hero!!!!