Wal-Mart employee fired for Christmas email


It is a quiet news day, and The Register has a funny little story that is quite incomprehensible to us Europeans, about a Wal-Mart employee getting fired when the company decided to do away with "Merry Christmas" and instead wish their punters "Happy Holidays". She tried to rationalise the change to a customer.

In a sphincters-held-tight culture such as this, little things mean a lot, so when the giant US big box retailer Wal-Mart recently changed a greeting from "Merry Christmas!" to "Happy Holidays!" it drew complaints.

The emails duly arrived, and a customer-facing rep took it on herself to explain the change with this ill-advised exhibition of learning.

The employee, who we know only as Kirby, launched into a fantastically earnest historical explanation of what the Christmas Holiday Season™ really meant.

Upshot of it all is that the rep got fired, beats me why, but maybe some of our US readers can explain.



hard to really know, 'cause Andrew really doesn't explain. I get the impression the employee offended the customer who assumed Christmas traditions all came solely from the Catholic faith, rather than having a number of things mixed in.

I actually think Andrew just hasn't been back home to Britain for a bit, however. These types of things go on here all the time increasingly, where some council decides you can't say Christmas or that certain decorations might be offensive.

I can say that if I don't know if someone celebrates Christmas, I tend to say Happy Holidays as a way as to not perhaps cause offense. Or at least embarrassment. I doubt any of my Jewish friends would fail to talk to me if I gave them Christmas greetings, but it's a little safer for feelings, etc. If I know someone celebrates Christmas, then I say that. I don't think of it as overly politically correct, just part of the evolution of being a society where people have all types of beliefs.

That's my US upbringing. My Brit wife goes insane at the entire Happy Holidays idea. It really irks her.

Cultures are funny things. My kids have religion in their school, and I constantly have to stop myself from saying that's wrong because in the UK, it's not, whereas in the US, we have separation. My wife finds me odd for this. But when we lived in the US, she had to go to a city council meeting and was shocked when the pledge of allegiance happened before the meeting started. That's commonplace. Not being a citizen, she didn't say it (nor does any citizen themselves have to do it), but it kind of illustrates that singled out feeling I don't think anyone wants to have.

Anyway, early Happy Thanksgiving wishes to you all. I'll be off next week celebrating that while all of Britain goes on its merry way. And belated Thansksgiving wishes to our Canadian friends. My all your happy holidays be bright :)

Beats me...

...but it seems kind of strange that an article so sarcastically-critical of the U.S. comes out of the country who had riots over feeding pigeons a few years ago! ;)

Riots? Pigeons?


Bottom of the bucket

Wal-Mart is the bottom of the bucket as far as employers go. You begin to expect things like that from them. Look at the class action lawsuits against them by employees and former employees. There are books published about how terrible it is to work at Wal-Mart. And, naturally, many a website describing their 'wonders', for example www.wakeupwalmart.com


and what about this


I've never been a big fan of PC, but the whole Happy Holidays thing in the States is the biggest load of bollocks there is, its the reason I started a Christmas blogging awards thing a couple of years back, not because I'm highly religous (Im not) but despite your religous persuasion Christmas is Christmas after all. Good will and all that sh*t, and this whole PC rubbish in the States is out of control. Merry Christmas by the way, in case I don't comment here again shortly :-)

It's pretty bad in Canada too

They call all breaks 'holiday break'. It's a result of multiculturization, because some people celebrate Kwanza, or Chanukah (sp?), or whatever holiday they celebrate. you can't call it anything publicly that might offend somebody's spiritual sensibilities.

They just cancelled Halloween in some schools, because it offended the religious right, or religious wrong, that children were being demonized. Parents here, at least the vocal ones, seem to favor eradication over education.

In fact, you can't really celebrate anything anymore, unless it's something that everybody can celebrate.

Don't get me started ;)

In the UK bingo callers can

In the UK bingo callers can no longer say "two fat ladies 88".

Typical drivel spouted from

Typical drivel spouted from Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco... I was going to say typical "left-wing" drivel but that's unfair to the many intelligent left wingers out there. He must be trying to get a job on the Grauniad...



I figured they did the whole "Happy Holidays" thing because there were so many holidays at the end/ beginning of the year, including (but not limited to) Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas and New Year.

I don't see it as a big deal.

BTW, you have to remember that the Walmart corporation is in Arkansas, which is the buckle of the bible belt where people are just plain obnoxious about religion.

No wonder the spineless

No wonder the spineless retailers now have to put out Chrsitmas decorations and displays even before Halloween in order to make sales, they can't even call the holiday by it's real name. Somebody teach them about keyword research please.

Trying to be culturally aware

The stores that tell their staffs to say "happy holidays" are not, IMO, afraid of a lawsuit or a fire bombing; they just don't want to alienate anyone.

Personally, I don't care. I'm an atheist of Jewish descent, and I have no holidays this time of year. Any holiday greeting given me, no matter what it is, is happily accepted in public (although I sometimes politely correct them) and then spat upon once I'm alone. I'm only genuinely offended when public funds are used to push any particular religion. As far as I'm concerned, Sprawl Mart can have prayers played over their PA system and spray holy water on the customers from the ceiling sprinklers. Nothing they do or don't do will ever get me to set foot in one of their stores, because they disgust me for reasons other than religion or cultural sensitivity.

When I worked in retail management, I went the other direction -- rather than using Happy Holidays, I put up signs wishing people happy whatever. We found out which holidays from various cultures came up around that time of year, and we invited people to celebrate the lot of them.

Nearly blew a cough drop out my nose...

As far as I'm concerned, Sprawl Mart can have prayers played over their PA system and spray holy water on the customers from the ceiling sprinklers. Nothing they do or don't do will ever get me to set foot in one of their stores, because they disgust me for reasons other than religion or cultural sensitivity.

HAHAHAHA!! That is hilarious!

It's so true... Wal-Mart

It's so true... Wal-Mart forces people to work for them (prison if they don't) and customers are forced to shop there for those low low prices. They are pure evil! Evil I tell you!

Cry me a bleedin' river.

add STARBUCKS to the list

a couple of years ago a "barrista" (clerk) was fired for saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays.

i'm sure the "barrista" had a very happy holiday as a result.

personally, i find most people take a "merry christmas" in the spirit that it is given without thought to whether it is politically correct.

it is only the monoliths and their caretakers that are so fearful.

furthermore, someone who is not averse to entering WALMART should check to see if there are any decorations such as wreaths, etc. with "Merry Christmas" on them. if there are, a complaint should be lodged forthwith which points out the hypocrisy of firing the employee over the phrase while trying to benefit commercially from the phrase.

come to think of it, perhaps the real offense was that the former employee, Kirby, actually knew something about the origins of Christmas and expressed some inteligence. perhaps the upper echelons of the monolith felt threatened by someone who is more learned than themselves. having read the story at the register, i learned a lot from her exposition. interesting, but certainly not personally threatening. then again, i am not a monolith.

I still wanna hear about

I still wanna hear about these pidgeon riots we have in the UK.

When I lived in the US I would see all the "Happy Holidays" stuff and thought it was just to save on printing, saves saying happy ramadan, happy ede happy christmas happy Yom kippur (if your religion was left out I wasn't having a go)etc. on multiple posters and labels.

Surely it can't be if people are offended, are Jews really offended if you wish them Happy Christmas, none of my friends who are Jews do? But of course there is always someone who gets offended.

What cracks me up is when a US PC kinda dude comes to London and says "gee, you sure do have a lot of African Americans in London". nnnngggggg

happy Festivus everyone!

We Try. Or We Try to Try...

This is bordering on the political, which I thought we weren't supposed to do around here, so I won't be pissed if this post gets deleted.

Apart from the lunatic fringe, Americans recognize that we're all immigrants here -- even those who are descendants of people who are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait millennia ago, and those whose ancestors didn't exactly come over by choice.

Because of that, we try to be aware of the fact that we're a culture made up of bits of many others, and we try to respect and sometimes even celebrate our differences. It's not a perfect system, but we (eventually) admit our mistakes and at least make an effort at fighting the hatred that grows out of fear of the "other".

I usually have a lot of respect for Western European societies that seem to be further advanced than us when it comes to stuff like that, but we've all seen what happens when you ignore differences on the official level and consequently ignore the fact that your citizens don't ignore differences. In France, everyone's "French". No one is French of North African Descent, or French of Jewish Descent, or French of Chinese Descent. They're just French. Right. But when a business in Paris receives a resume from a guy whose name happens to be Ibrahim, it gets tossed. And that only serves to strengthen the ghettoization of whole groups of people.

You can't fight prejudice by insisting it doesn't exist.

We stupid Americans may have a short history, and that history may be full of hatred, ignorance, fear, and unfair treatment of anyone who isn't white, male, heterosexual, Christian and land-owning, but we're trying, at least some of us aren't in denial about our problems, and "happy holidays," as silly as it may seem, is part of the effort to recognize, respect, and be sensitive to our differences. (Even if it ignores those of us who have no holidays to celebrate)

Honky married to Jewish Sistah

I tend to do what I always do. I give Christmas presents, recieve Hanukkah presents gladly and we both think that Kwanza is kind of stupid.

When we got married it was with a Methodist Minister because he was the only one that would do the ceremony at the house where we wanted to get married, we did the breaking of the glass thing in the middle and although I was brought up catholic I didn't like the hymns that the minister suggested so I wrote my own.

I am pretty much fairly lefty to say the least, I was raised in a very catholic family to be a priest but decided to go into the army instead. I find the political correctness is becoming a nightmare and we have had lots of it in the UK.

There was the ultra-left Red Ken in London and Loony left David Blunkett in Sheffield. Both are now at least right of center (Blunkett is pretty much facist) and the political correctness they installed into their offices was a nightmare. The only way you could get a job with them is if you were a unemployed, black, unmarried mother, with only on leg, diabetes, had 3 mental breakdowns under your belt, a male gay partner, no qualifications, 5 drug rehab courses and painted your living room bright yellow with a black ceiling.

And WalMart do dodgy sh1t. A lot of their people are not only on state benefits in the US but their managers have all the papers to apply for them and help them fill them out - all in the name of cheaper prices.


That is one of the best things I have read in a very long time.

On a different note;
Walmart exploits workers... this is news?

I am not affiliated with any

I am not affiliated with any religion and don't celebrate Christmas (for the most part). We will buy the kids something, sometimes...mostly my husband does because his mother was so big on Christmas. She passed away a few years ago, and we have been able to do our own thing now in that respect.

But I'm certainly not offended at people who wish me a Merry Christmas, or who give me a gift. I just hope that they don't expect one in return, because I'm really not much of a gift giver!

Happy Holidays! seems appropriate to me

as a greeting by clerks in stores. I'm an atheist Jew, but I'm perfectly happy to celebrate any holiday that has gifts involved. I don't have a problem with stores displaying every religion's particular adornments; i.e., not banning any of them. Even though "Merry Christmas" doesn't offend me, I think it's more appropriate for the greeting to be "Happy Holidays". I imagine that someone who is more religious than I am (meaning, even a teeny tiny bit of religious), would get tired of hearing "Merry Christmas" all the time, especially now that it starts in October.

any holiday which has gifts involved...

yep I'm on board with that.

And if someone wants to get offended by any type of religion-specific greeting then its easier just to not talk to them anyway....its like a woman being offended if a man holds a door open for her (I can open my own doors but people are more than welcome to be polite to me if they want, whatever sex they happen to be).

I'm glad

I'm glad to hear that Gurtie; that's exactly how I feel. I am all for being polite and sensitive, but I think it's gone way overboard.

I mean, if you can't wish someone a happy whatever when that holiday/celebration/event is upon us, it's just ridiculous and should be scrapped.

Do I need a detector to determine what religion anyone is or isn't?

What's next? Happy day formerly known as blank?


Back when I was a kid the merchants tried to foist the name "Xmas" off on people. I guess there really is nothing new about this.

I think people want to be offended about something once a week

Actually trying to be sensitive to peoples religions is fine - I deliberately choose 'seasons greetings' cards with no religious icons for example (up to and including decorated trees) and if I know a client is a one legged jewish lesbian I will wish her Happy Hanukkah, tell her to have a fun Pride and wear a ribbon to our meeting on National Amputees Day. However if I don't know then I will generally assume that she celebrates the most common holidays and act accordingly.

A couple of years ago a client of ours received court papers from a person who'd signed up for their mailing list and had received the fathers day mailshot we'd sent. They were emotionally distressed because their father had died 18 months before and were requesting £1500 compensation because we'd suggested that they may like to treat their dad to a weekend away followed by a list of suggestions.

You can imagine what our response to that was....

I have some suggestions

Gurtie, There are some suggestions here. Don't recommend them though......


If someone were to wish you a happy Diwali, would you thank them or tell them you're not Hindu (or both)?

For Hindu readers of the question, please disregard.

Spare a thought for those

Spare a thought for those who are clinically depressed while you run around wishing everyone a happy holiday – just think how much more depressed you’re going to make them, i hope you get sued ;) – "happy holiday" should just become "holiday"

>>"happy holiday" should

>>"happy holiday" should just become "holiday"

Easter has been renamed "Egg" by one school system I know of.


yeah 'cos renaming a majority religious celebration to turn it into an officially pagan celebration will offend a lot less people :)

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