Wal-mart felt the full power of the net yesterday when the extremely popular website Boing Boing published a screen shot of Wal-Mart.com and their “similar items” content in their DVD section. Take a look here. Appearantly, a listing for the DVD set of “Planet of the Apes” listed movies about famous African American people such as Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this could be a problem.
Wal-Mart has since announced that they have shut down the system that creates the “similar items” recommendations.
Wal-Mart said Thursday it had removed what it called the “offensive combinations” from a walmart.com page advertising a boxed DVD set, “Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series.”
They also are appearantly trying very hard to explain it away.
“Walmart.com’s item mapping process does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles. We were horrified to discover that some hurtful and offensive combinations are being mapped together,” she said, adding that the company was “deeply sorry that this happened.”
“To further illustrate the bizarre nature of this technical issue, the site is also mapping movies such as `Home Alone’ and `Power Puff Girls’ to African-American-themed DVDs,” Williams said.
A documentary about surfers, “Riding Giants,” links to the same list of seemingly unrelated fantasy films as the King biopic, including “Polar Express” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Why do I get the feeling that there is a programmer somewhere laughing his ass off? While the problem could be explained away as Wal-Mart is trying to, I really believe that someone did this maliciously. The knock against Wal-mart’s clean image, while not huge is still a knock.