Walmart Wrongly Accuses Mid-State Man Of Theft
By Jennifer Kraus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - NewsChannel 5 Investigates has found Walmart has once again wrongly accused a mid-state resident of theft.
And, again, after we got involved, the world's biggest retailer is apologizing.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates first helped a Smyrna woman clear her name this summer. Now, it's a Nashville man who said Walmart got the wrong guy.
Kenneth Watson swears, "I was never there."
Watson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates he was shocked to get a letter recently accusing him of stealing from a Walmart store, something Watson insists he didn't do.
"It's like, 'What are you guys thinking?'"
But, according to the law firm that sent the letter to Watson on Walmart's behalf, the 50-year-old Watson was caught shoplifting at the world's largest retailer nearly three years ago.
"January 8th, 2010," Watson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
"Is that even possible?"
"Impossible," Watson answered.
"Where were you on that day?" we asked.
The theft though happened at a Walmart some 2,000 miles from Nashville in Fontana, California.
"I've never even been to Fontana, California!" Watson exclaimed.
Yet, Watson's letter said he had ten days to pay $575 dollars or face "further civil action" from Palmer, Reifler & Associates, a law firm in Florida that specializes in collecting civil recovery fees, money retailers like Walmart can demand from shoplifters to cover their losses.
"I said, 'This just blows me away,'" Watson recalled.
If this all sounds familiar it's because the same sort of thing happened to Martha Quinn from Smyrna this past summer.
Back in July, Quinn told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "I was blown away. I supposedly stole items from a Walmart in Texas on two occasions."
But, we helped Quinn prove to Walmart that she didn't do it by finding the woman police in Texas had actually arrested for the crimes.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Quinn then, "They (Walmart) had the wrong person?"
"Yes," was her emphatic reply.
Walmart then apologized to Quinn, calling the mix-up a "terrible mistake" and insisting the company was taking steps to keep this sort of thing from happening again.
But, months later, it happened again. This time to Kenneth Watson.
Police in Fontana, California confirmed that Kenneth Watson was accused of shoplifting at the Walmart. It just wasn't this Kenneth Watson, the 50-year-old Nashville man.
Both Walmart and the Palmer, Reifler law firm refused to do an on-camera interview, but both told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that a company hired by the law firm to track down shoplifters never verified Watson's address or birthday before sending the letter. They now admit they sent it to the wrong guy.
"I think they're screwing up. They're hiring the wrong people," Watson stated.
Watson said when he initially called the law firm, trying to explain that there had to be some sort of mistake, the firm turned around and sent him another letter demanding more money.
While Walmart and Palmer, Reifer both defend the practice of seeking money from shoplifters, once again, they tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates they're taking steps to make sure this sort of mix-up doesn't happen again.
Walmart also said it plans to apologize to Kenneth Watson.
And, this time, it's the right one.
Walmart also apologized to Martha Quinn, the Smyrna woman, after our story and they sent her a $500 gift card. Walmart has also now sent Watson a gift card.
- July 12, 2012: Walmart Apologizes For Wrongly Accusing Smyrna Mother