NEWS: On 27 November 2015, a Facebook post claiming that a Walmart store in Medina, Ohio, had forced a Marine who was collecting donations for the Toys for Tots organization to do so while standing outside in the cold instead of being allowed into the store’s (warm) entryway:

walmart photo

He can bleed and die, but he can’t stand inside…… Please share!!!

I went to the local Walmart (4141 Pearl Road, Medina Ohio) yesterday and saw a clearly retired Marine standing outside, in full dress uniform, collecting for the Toys for Tots campaign. I went about my business and went home thinking nothing more about him. Today, I had to pick up a couple things so I went back. It’s a cold, rainy Saturday here. I saw the same Marine standing outside collecting again. On the way out of the store I stopped and bought a cup of coffee for him at the Subway. I knew how he took it, because Marines only drink their coffee one way.

He was very gracious when I handed him the coffee and thanked me for my donation to Toys For Tots. We talked for a few minutes. That’s when I learned this 69 year old Veteran was not only standing outside out of dedication and honor. He was forced to stand out in the cold and rain because the new Walmart manager had decided that she could make him do it. It is “Her store now.”

This is an outrage! They have been collecting inside since this store opened but his sacrifice and continued volunteer work in the name of our Marines is rewarded this way? Please call (name deleted) at the Medina Walmart as well as the head office and let them know we treat our Veterans better than this and will not stand for it!!!

ABC affiliate WEWS-TV identified the marine as 69-year-old John Harkness and the Washington Post reported that he was allowed to stand inside the store in previous years despite the chain’s policy against soliciting donations from inside stores.

Walmart’s Solicitation and Distribution Rules indicate that charitable organizations are not allowed to solicit donations inside stores. And prior to setting up donation booths outside Walmart stores, charities have to agree to several rules that govern such factors as the number of people who can work the booths, the times during which they can operate, and their locations. One such rule clearly states that “no solicitation or distribution is allowed inside any WalMart facility, including any vestibules or entrances.”

The Facebook post quoted above suggests that a Walmart manager in Medina, Ohio, was disrespectful to our servicemembers, but it appears that all parties involved were simply operating under WalMart’s standard guidelines covering solicitation on their property. Harkness said that the situation could have been handled better but that the manager wasn’t too blame:

“Their presentation wasn’t the best,” Lynn Harkness told The Post. “It was not the manager, but they weren’t overly friendly or sympathetic. They just told us to ‘get out.’ ”

It should also be noted that the “outrage” was posted by a third party, and neither the U.S. Marines nor the Toys for Tots organization has lodged a complaint against Walmart over the purported incident. In fact, Lynn Harkness, the marine’s wife, said that while she appreciated the support she had received in the wake of the incident, she urged people to tone down the violent rhetoric, especially in regards to death threats that the Walmart manager in Medina had received:

“What really surprises me and upsets me is the death threats the manager is getting,” Lynn Harkness said. “We’ve got enough violence going on in the country with people being shot. The harassment has got to stop…  I think that’s totally out of line. I would like them to really stop harassing the family.”

WalMart said in an emailed statement that while the above-described policy does exist at more than 4500 stores, they would look further into the matter:

“If a Marine or anyone was treated with disrespect, that is unacceptable and we are looking into this matter further to get the facts.Walmart’s corporate policy across our more than 4500 stores does not allow this type of solicitation inside our stores and we apologize for any confusion about this policy.  Most importantly, we are proud to support wonderful organizations like Toys for Tots, Girls and Boys Scouts, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross who are stationed outside our stores during the Holidays and other times.  Finally, Walmart’s support of our men and women in uniform both during active service and when they return home is a privilege that we strive to honor each day through our commitment to hiring hundreds of thousands of Veterans as well as the many charitable Veteran organizations we are proud to support.”

Harkness added that the store manager had apologized but also said that she could not change company policy.