Sam’s Club Circular Takedown and Embargo Politics

walmart-logo.gifAs someone who can’t stand shopping, I had no idea the kind of politics that are involved with store circulars, particularly when it comes to that obnoxious post-Thanksgiving consumer blowout they call Black Friday.

(Now I can’t get that Steely Dan song out of my head.)

Apparently SearchAllDeals.com posted a Sam’s Club Black Friday circular, prompting Wal-Mart (Sam’s Club owner) to send a take-down notice to the site. The letter, by way of TechDirt, calls the publication of the sales circulars “a violation of Wal-Mart’s rights and is also unfair to other sites that properly comply with the schedule for the official release dates.”

Wal-Mart also asked the deals site for a retraction. Oh, and they want to know exactly how the site got its grubby little hands on the circulars.

This part of the take-down notice had me a bit confused. The lawyers asked for a “statement of inaccuracy to be posted as follows: ‘The Sam’s Club advertisement included unauthorized changes that reflected inaccurate pricing information.’ ” I’m guessing that’s just a way for Wal-Mart to ensure there aren’t disputes if they do end up altering prices – ? Or, perhaps, SearchAllDeals altered it?

It sure isn’t the first time Wal-Mart has shown a misunderstanding of the Web and the concept of building online buzz. When the firm launched its teen community site, The Hub, pundits panned the overly-policed site as out-of-touch and missing the point of social networking’s free-spiritedness. And who could forget the “Wal-Marting Across America” travel blog? The company’s PR firm Edelman actually hired a couple to run the site, but it was passed off as a blog created by real brand advocates out of the goodness of their hearts.

And then there was that time they paid bloggers to write pro-Wal-Mart posts.

Anyway, this circular leaking thing is nothing new, at least as far as ZDNet is concerned. A post on their “Home Theater” blog about leaks of Best Buy’s and Circuit City Black Friday leaks is titled, “Circuit City Black Friday ad finally leaks. More yawns.”

I wonder how long it will take corporations to realize the immediacy and publishing ease enabled by the Internet has almost completely destroyed the embargo system. Yes, publications still honor embargoes requiring them to keep quiet on certain information until an agreed-upon date, but it’s gotten so they often end up shooting themselves in the foot doing it.

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