Say you’re shopping at Walmart and decide you want to pick up Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope or maybe you’re an Indianapolis Colts fan and want to hear what Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy has to say in his book The Mentor Leader. But you can’t find either book in the Biography section… Oh, maybe you should look in those unmarked shelves that make up the “black” section of Walmart’s book selection.
Bob Dyer, a columnist at the Beacon Journal in Ohio checked out the book sections at two area Walmarts and found that, regardless of topic, if the author is black, the book gets lumped in with all the other books by black authors.
The ”black section” contains everything written by and about blacks: romance novels, self-help books, religion, sports, even an autobiography by the current president of the United States….
At the Walmart in Montrose, Storm Warning, by hugely popular white pastor Billy Graham, can be found in the religion section. But Life Overflowing, by hugely popular black pastor T.D. Jakes, is in the black section, along with Dungy and Obama and Sister Souljah and Adrienne Byrd and all those other people whom Walmart believes are pretty much the same.
Dyer contacted Walmart and asked why, when all the other books are so carefully meted out into specific sections, did the store lump together a section where you can find a tome on faith butting up against something called The Hot Box.
Walmart responded by saying they are just meeting the demands of the local customers:
The book sections in our stores are designed to meet customer demand and feedback at the local level… Like many national bookstores, and book sections at retailers across the country, some of our stores have a section for African-American-focused books, while a store in a different area of the country might have a large science-fiction section or Western section….
Additionally, our books are separated into hardcover bestsellers, paperback bestsellers and other categories and it’s possible that titles could be moved to different areas of the book section based on demand or interest for that particular merchandise.
We know that some of you are current or former Walmart employees. Can anyone shed some light on how the individual stores set up their book selections? Is that left up to the local manager or is it something that comes down from the oracles in Arkansas?
Thanks to Bruce and Kyle for the tip!