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Devil in a retail store, evil in aisle five

I guess, deep in my heart, I always knew retail stores were inherently evil.

If the above statement seems way out of nowhere, then you missed the news this week that Minneapolis-based retail giant Target, unknowingly helped neo-Nazis communicate with each other under the nose of the public.

According to, Target ordered swift removal of shorts and baseball caps marked “eight eight” or “88” code among neo-Nazis for “Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

The first question that obviously comes to mind is, how could this happen? But, if you examine the recent history of retail stores, one should ask how does this not happen more often?

I have no idea what purgatory is like, but if I had to venture a guess, I would say it has a whole bunch of aisles, affordable merchandise and people specifically hired to greet you upon entry. In other words, retail.

The employees frequently seem dazed and confused at these places, so it’s no surprise that it was a customer who noticed the neo-Nazi apparel. If it wasn’t for Joseph Rodriguez of California, one would still be finding the merchandise on Target shelves.

This is not to give Wal-Mart a free pass.

The Scene: My friend Jeff and I are blowing our hard-earned summer cash at Wal-Mart. I am buying a video game that involves bashing in the heads of innocent pedestrians, while he is buying a game that involves liquidating attackers with a laser rifle. We dispassionately wait in line and observe the following exchange:

Teenage boy: Excuse me, I can’t find the new Eminem CD. Are you guys sold out?

Electronics cashier: No, I am sorry we don’t carry it. We consider ourselves a family store.

Me (to Jeff, but loud enough for other people to hear): Hey Jeff, after we are done buying our extraneously violent video games, you want to go buy some guns?

The reason for the snide comment, in case you missed it, was to point out the absurdity of Wal-Mart’s family-oriented policy. They will sell you Grand Theft Auto 3, and with proper identification and restrictions, a hunting rifle to boot. But, if you want to hear the words of one of the most popular musicians out there, you have to seek out a different store. Last time I checked, Eminem’s words could not physically kill someone.

That wasn’t my first bad experience with Wal-Mart. Last holiday season, I was buying a frame and was in a jolly good mood. That changed when, upon purchase, I was wished a Merry Christmas by the cashier. I immediately told her I was Jewish, and she apologized. Now, I am not actually Jewish and that was a pretty obnoxious thing to do on my part, but I can’t help but feel for those, of any religious background, who are offended by misplaced good cheer.

I still haven’t even mentioned the now- defunct unholy alliance of economically challenged K-Mart chain and morally challenged Martha Stewart. Both are now in various stages of disarray. If this isn’t a sign of retail evil, I don’t know what is.

So, in the future, maybe it would be best to think twice about that midnight run to one of DeKalb, Ill.’s seemingly innocuous retail stores. But hey, if the price is right, even I will buy a frame or video game from the devil.