30 Years Of Confidential Walmart Videos For Sale

The Wall Street Journal says that a video production company that earned 90% of its revenue from taping Walmart’s internal meetings over the past 30 years has lost the Walmart account–but retained the rights to the video library.

Now the videos are available to anyone who wants to see them —for a price. Lawyers, reporters, activists and journalists are lining up at the production company’s tiny new office, cash in hand.

From the WSJ:

They sold their 20,000-square-foot production facility and moved into an 800-square-foot rented office. They now hope to sustain the company by selling access to the Wal-Mart videos. They charge $250 an hour for video research, and additional fees for a DVD copy of film clips.

Plaintiffs attorney Diane M. Breneman stumbled across the videos while working on a lawsuit she filed in 2005, on behalf of a 12-year-old boy, against Wal-Mart and the manufacturer of a plastic gasoline can sold in its stores. Her client was injured when he poured gasoline from the container onto a pile of wet wood he had been trying to light, and the can exploded. The lawsuit alleges that the containers are unsafe because they don’t contain a device that prevents flames from jumping up the spout and exploding.

Wal-Mart’s lawyers have argued in court filings that the retailer couldn’t have known that the product “presented any reasonable foreseeable risk…in the normal and expected use.”

Ms. Breneman says that when she first laid eyes on the racks of tapes, “I thought, ‘How could anyone in the world allow this to exist?’” The videos, she says, deal with “everything anyone would want on Wal-Mart….They’ve got 30 years of people winging it.”

Ms. Breneman says Flagler Productions located videos of product presentations to Wal-Mart managers in which executives gave parody testimonials about the same brand of gasoline can. In an apparent coincidence, one manager joked about setting fire to wet wood: “I torched it. Boom! Fired right up.” In a separate skit, an employee is seen driving a riding lawn mower into a display of empty gasoline cans. A Wal-Mart executive vice president observing the collision jokes: “A great gas can. It didn’t explode.” The tapes were made before the lawsuit was filed.

Other revealing moments include: “A former executive vice president and board member challenges store managers in 2004 to continue his work opposing unionization. Male managers in drag lead thousands of co-workers in the company’s corporate cheer. In another meeting, managers mock foolish or dangerous use of a product sold in its stores. In 1991, founder Sam Walton describes Hillary Clinton, then a Wal-Mart director, as “one of us.”

The video company says it offered to sell the tapes to Walmart for several million dollars, but the retailer would pay only $500,000, saying that the “footage wouldn’t be of interest elsewhere.”

Candid Camera: Trove of Videos Vexes Wal-Mart [WSJ]
(Photo:Clean Wal-mart)

Comments

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  1. Echomatrix says:

    lol pwned

  2. LynchMob52 says:

    I have a feeling Walmart will pony up before these things get out on the market, although how great would it be if these things actually got out? Could this be the end of Walmart?

  3. headhot says:

    Ouch. I wonder if Walmart has a taped meeting of how to make sure to have a contract with all their vendors and suppliers.

  4. cmdrsass says:

    I would love to see videos of board meetings with Mrs. Clinton in attendance. GoGo Obama opposition research.

  5. pmathews says:

    If Walmart goes under then where am I going to get cheap plastic chinese products for a reasonable price?

  6. bobblack555 says:

    Who the hell tapes internal meetings and why????

  7. And the D’oh! of the year award goes to…….Wal*Mart. Someone’s getting fired for this. Too bad they don’t have shop steward or union rep.

  8. hypnotik_jello says:

    @bobblack555: That’s how they got Nixon.

  9. GuyNoir says:

    Are corporations eligible for the Darwin Awards?

  10. IconoclasticFlow says:

    Anyone else hope these end up on Netflix?

  11. razremytuxbuddy says:

    Even if Walmart bought back these videos now, I doubt the videos could be destroyed. They are potential evidence in many, many past, present and future lawsuits. This horse is out of the barn.

    Some excerpts of these videos can be viewed on YouTube. When I saw one of Sam speaking to a group of managers–it made me realize how vastly different Walmart is today.

  12. petrarch1608 says:

    the boy pouring gasoline and lighting it sounds like a nominee for the darwin award.

  13. boxjockey68 says:

    OMG! I SO hope these videos end up in the public! If there is any footage concerning their defective shoe department I’ll take it!! I am practically drooling here!

  14. Blueskylaw says:

    This may turn out to be one of the worst business decisions Walmart ever made, kind of like when IBM did not want to buy the DOS operating system for $10,000 so Bill Gates did.

  15. Scotus says:

    Well, I guess if your company is going to go out of business, you might as well go out with a bang.

    I think there are two lessons to be learned, here:

    1) Don’t get complacent and let one company account for 95% of your business, because when they leave, you’re screwed.

    2) Don’t let someone tape your internal meetings without having an ironclad NDA.

    Also, I don’t know why anything on the tapes would come as a shock. Of course Wal-Mart managers hate children, plot against unions, and dress in drag.

  16. jeff303 says:

    @LynchMob52: Hahahaha. You think most Wal-Mart shoppers will see the tapes? Or even hear about the tapes? Or even know what an “internal meeting is?” Wal-Mart’s revenue is in the hundreds of billions per year. They’re not about to be ended by a little leaked dirt.

  17. qwickone says:

    I’ve got the give the company props for at least offering it to Wal-Mart first. They could have gone straight to the market with it.

  18. ionerox says:

    @Blueskylaw: It’s amazing to me that they didn’t have some sort of contract in place specifying who had rights to the video whenever their relationship was terminated. Cripes, what a bunch of knuckle-draggers.

  19. scoosdad says:

    @qwickone: Right, but to followup, what entity is going to pony up more than the $500,000 that Wal-Mart offered? I think these guys should have taken the money and ran. Sure, they’re a curiosity for several groups with an ongoing anti-Walmart agenda, but are any of those groups prepared to pay the several million that the production company is asking for?

    They’ll all just sit around and wait for them to show up on YouTube when no serious buyers step forward.

  20. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Corporations screw up like this all the time. AOL didn’t own its own logo until 2001, IIRC, because they didn’t have a work-for-hire agreement with the designer who created it way back when. The designer was still doing AOL work, though, and they worked out an amicable deal.

  21. Starfury says:

    Step 1: Get a contract to record Wal-Mart meetings and have full rights to the tapes.

    Step 2: ???

    Step 3: Profit!

  22. Notsewfast says:

    @boxjockey68:
    Some of the videos made it out into the public already. They were all over CNBC yesterday. Since that is my primary source of news, I just assumed they were being shown elsewhere.

    It was basically a lot of managers in drag. I didn’t get to hear any of the audio, but apparently there are lots of companies in legal disputes with Wal-Mart that are reviewing the tapes for information that could be useful in the courtroom.

  23. B says:

    @scoosdad: Find a thousand lawyers looking to sue Walmart, charge them $1000 each for access to/copies of tapes relevant to their case, that’s a million right there.

  24. dugn says:

    This company is in a dangerous spot.

    If they provide these tapes to anyone for less than ‘several million dollars’, it can be construed as blackmail or extortion. If they leak portions of these tapes (which it seems they’re doing), they can get sued for exposing Wal-Mart’s intellectual property (different than simply the rights to the tapes they claim they own).

    Pretty rocky ground if you ask me.

    If I were this company, I’d negotiate for a good price with Wal-Mart, close the deal and walk away.

  25. ChuckECheese says:

    @petrarch1608: Many a young boy with access to accelerants has been in the running for the Darwins, but it doesn’t stop them from setting things on fire.

  26. Orv says:

    Plastic gas cans are kind of a bad idea all around. They seem to leak a lot more vapor than the metal ones. I think the plastic is just porous enough to let vapor molecules through, or something. But they’re popular because they’re like a fifth the price of a good metal safety can.

  27. @Starfury: Ok, that joke really needs to be put to rest.

  28. boxjockey68 says:

    @Secret Agent Man: I will be looking for them, I can SOOO hardly wait!

  29. Imaginary_Friend says:

    This is so awesome! Christmas just came early for all the Walmart haters.

    Walmart, you cheap stupid bastard. Nice to see that notorious miserly streak rear up and bite you in the ass. Have fun in court!

  30. hi says:

    Can everyone on Consumerist chip in a little money? Lets buy this and put it up here!

  31. DeafChick says:

    Consumerist should get in on this.

  32. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Orv: The danger with plastic gas cans is that they can develop a static charge, which is a potential source of ignition. When you see a sign on a gas pump that tells you to set the container on the ground while filling it; that’s the reason.

  33. Mr. Gunn says:

    B: Yeah, any they’ll be able to charge a bit more that $1000, too!

  34. ViperBorg says:

    The video company says it offered to sell the tapes to Walmart for several million dollars, but the retailer would pay only $500,000, saying that the “footage wouldn’t be of interest elsewhere.”

    Sure it wont.

  35. forgottenpassword says:

    Ok who was the moron walmart exec that allowed a production company to keep the rights to all that they recorded?

  36. Imakeholesinu says:

    Wal-mart. Always the lowest bidder…always.

  37. ChuckECheese says:

    @forgottenpassword: It’s pretty industry standard-ish for production companies to retain the rights to photos and videos. That’s why Miss Americas get outed every occasionally.

  38. b612markt says:

    @dugn: Lame response. you’re not a lawyer.

    Also, this is the best news I’ve read all day! I hope all sorts of wonderful things happen that are bad for wal-mart.

  39. azntg says:

    This might be one of the few times that I’ll say Walmart seemed to have underestimated itself when it believed that the videos will have minimal interest to the public.

    Sure, most of the public wouldn’t know or care. But it calls for excellent comedy fodder and lawsuit material! Also, it’ll expose some of their “secrets” once the public gets its hand on it.

  40. Beturbippie says:

    I would think that the price for the videos just doubled….

    WaLLyWorld would not want these videos in the hands of opposition lawyers.

    The cost of a lost lawsuits would cover the cost of the video’s.

    The production company wins this round…pay up WalMart…

  41. b612markt says:

    walmartwatch.com has a memo indicating that Flagler wanted $145 million for the videos. I wonder how much Wal-Mart will lose/pay for this now?

  42. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    If they do end up selling them to the highest bidder, I hope they stick a Rick Roll in there somewhere!!!

  43. nardo218 says:

    *shakes head* God love em, wtg.

  44. scoosdad says:

    @b612markt: I just read the memo, and indeed the production company originally offered to sell the tapes back to Wal-Mart for $150 million, then reduced that to a mere $145 million when they balked.

    [walmartwatch.com]

    I’d say that’s a whole lot more money than what the original article here describes as “several million dollars”.

    @B: If that was the original offer to Wal-Mart, then I would think they’d be looking for 145,000 lawyers to shell out a thousand bucks each to get the tapes. That reminds me of a lawyer joke….

  45. scoosdad says:

    @scoosdad: …and honestly, I think that memo from the production company’s attorney is a bluff. If they truly have the wide interest in buying the tapes that their attorney suggests, then why are they going back to Wal-Mart “one last time” to see if they’re still interested in paying anywhere near the original price? Wal-Mart already said no twice, and if they’ve got other qualified buyers, then sell baby, sell.

  46. jarchie219 says:

    Idiots. Something this sensitive should be kept in-house. I wonder if their HR and Accounting are out-sourced.

  47. Hello_Newman says:

    This is so funny, they didn’t think 30 years of tapes would lose them even a single multimillion dollar lawsuit?
    I bet now they will double the original price if they want to keep those tapes from getting into the hands of any trial lawyer who wants them.

  48. dugn says:

    @b612markt: Actually, I was. Funny how certain people here think personal affronts are the same as comments. Be Nice.