They have to be kidding
Why is that crackhead stealing my car?
Wal-Mart is unlike Oprah
By RICK CASEY
Wal-Mart is unlike Oprah By RICK CASEY
What's the difference between Oprah and Wal-Mart?
When Oprah gives away cars, they're not somebody else's.
Martha Velazquez, a 30-year-old marketing specialist at a Houston health club, says she took her 1999 Pontiac Grand Am to the Wal-Mart in the 7000 block of FM 1960 to replace a flat tire she had bought there four months earlier.
"My mechanic told me it was punctured on the side and he couldn't fix it," she said.
She said the attendant at Wal-Mart told her the wait would be more than three hours, so she went shopping.
The mystery 'husband'
She spoke to the manager, who said he would replace the tire at no charge and moved her to the front of the line.
She said when it was finished the mechanic called her by name and said he could cash her out. She explained the manager said it would be free and asked her where the car was.
"He told me he gave the keys to my husband and he drove off," she said.
"He ran off. Another mechanic came over and asked how he could be so stupid that he would give it to that crackhead who had been bothering them all day," she said.
Wal-Mart: Claim denied
She knew the man had not only her car key, but also her house key and her address. She had left some mail in the car.
"I had to break my lease and get a hotel room," she said. "I was homeless and carless."
The car was found, but was damaged enough that, Velazquez said, her insurance company totaled it.
And, she says, she was somewhat traumatized by the whole event. She said Wal-Mart only made it worse by telling her that it had no responsibility.
A Wal-Mart spokesman issued this statement: "Ms. Velazquez's claim was denied by our claims department after a thorough investigation. It wouldn't be appropriate to comment in any greater detail at this time."
But a police report on the incident appears to offer what may be Wal-Mart's version of the story.
The mechanic who did the job told the investigating officer that a man approached him and claimed to be Velazquez's husband and he wanted to pick up the car.
The mechanic said he told the man he couldn't release the vehicle until the repair was paid for. He said the man told him he just wanted to put some things in the car and his wife would pay.
Velazquez has retained a lawyer and intends to pursue the matter in a court of law and the court of public opinion.
Wal-Mart has a reputation for fighting all lawsuits, but in this case the car was worth somewhere around $6,000 or $7,000, plus Velazquez's housing expenses.
Even if the damages reached $15,000, Wal-Mart could have avoided its own legal expenses, plus a possible jury award.
And it could have held onto a customer who will, instead, tell her story to every friend, stranger and TV camera that will pay attention.
Wal Mart really wants to litigate this? Are they kidding? This could go away for 20K, but now, it's going to cost them much more in bad publicity, publicity they hardly need.
But then, Wal Mart has a way of being stubborn with women and minorities.
posted by Steve @ 7:25:00 AM