Amy Roberts: Walmart’s bizarre photo policy
Ryan Summerlin March 18, 2014
You’ve heard of bad Photoshop jobs. But this story is about a bad Photo Shop job.
In the interest of full disclosure, I really don’t like Walmart to begin with. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy seeing entire families sporting mullets and confederate flag T-shirts, or shoeless children in diapers riding a bike through the store. Mostly it’s because being able to save $2 on Tupperware will never really justify the social cost of this big-box, cheap crap made in China, human-rights violating, poverty-inducing behemoth.
What can I say? Having a conscious can be expensive.
I’m sure the people at our local store are lovely, but I can’t support a business that boasts $17 billion in annual profits, yet pays the vast majority of its employees so little they fall below the federal poverty line, making taxpayers pick up the tab for its workers who cannot afford healthcare, food, housing and other necessities. Then, of course, there’s Walmart’s endless list of international human rights and environmental violations. And I’m also bugged the Walton family (heirs to the Walmart throne) is reportedly worth over $115 billion yet donates only about 2 percent of its net worth to charity.
But for all of the ethical reasons I avoid Walmart, it’s never been because I fear they think of themselves as the morality police or are pushing some extreme conservative agenda I don’t want to be part of. At the very least, they’ve always had that going for them. But one local woman disagrees and says that’s exactly what happened to her.
It all started when Park City mom, Erin Ruzek, decided to create a family photo wall in her home, featuring her family in different chapters of life. On the wall, Erin hung a photo of her pregnant belly from several years ago, when she was expecting her first child, Becker.
After hanging the photo, her five-year-old daughter Sage asked if there was a picture of her "in her mommy’s tummy." Erin remembered having some photos taken before she gave birth to Sage, one of which was a tasteful and tender picture of Becker kissing Erin’s pregnant belly. In the photo, you don’t see Erin’s face, and her chest is covered. The focus is on her toddler son, kissing the belly where his soon-to-be sibling is hanging out.
So last week, after Sage wanted to have her own pre-born shot on the family photo wall, Erin found the CD filled with these photos, uploaded the one she wanted and sent it off to Walmart to be printed.
Simple enough. Until she was temporarily accused of child abuse.
When Erin went to pick up photo at the Park City Walmart she says she was told her photo had been destroyed because it was inappropriate. When she asked "Why?" The employee said it violated their photo policy, namely child abuse.
"I was shocked and outraged! I said, ‘Excuse me?! Child abuse?’ The employee backtracked a little and then offered a new excuse. She told me she was not allowed to develop photos where people are dressed in a way they couldn’t be dressed walking down a public street," Erin recalled. "It’s bad enough a perfect picture of my toddler son kissing my belly was destroyed for no reason, but worse, I was told it was inappropriate and was accused of exploiting my child."
Walmart’s photo policy, in part, prohibits: "Content that exhibits expressions of abuse, offensive language and/or imagery, obscenity or pornography, including but not limited to: child abuse, child pornography, depictions of minors engaged in sexual conduct or explicitly sexual situations, or any other material that could give rise to any civil or criminal liability under applicable state or federal law."
It does not mention anything about public street attire nor does it seem to forbid printing photos of people showing their belly.
So it’s doubtful Walmart really considered this picture child porn — otherwise it would have been the employee’s duty to call the police, which did not happen. It’s also doubtful they’ve ever been to the website: www.ThePeopleOfWalmart.com, a website devoted to posting pictures of people shopping in Walmart stores dressed in pretty much everything from bikinis made of duct tape to guys dressed in wife-beater NASCAR shirts who also happen to be giving away free kittens.
"I think one employee decided to push her own personal views on me. It’s sad anyone finds a pregnant belly offensive, but especially considering it’s my picture I was hanging in my home, it’s not her place to push her beliefs on me."
Erin wrote the store manager a letter explaining her outrage. She was offered a $50 gift card and assurance this wouldn’t happen again. While she’s still furious about the accusations and confused how anyone could interpret her photo as abusive, she has since had the photo printed elsewhere. It is now proudly hanging on the family photo wall.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.