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Apple Must End Relationship With Wal-Mart

Stocks in this article: AAPL WMT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- What's worse than being a Wal-Mart (WMT) retail employee?

Having to drag yourself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. Black Friday morning to ply your trade as a member of the company's public or media relations department.

Now I ply my trade in the land of king dollar/Where you get paid and your silence passes as honor
-- Bruce Springsteen, Souls of the Departed

I worked in retail for several years. Therefore, I can do nothing but empathize with Wal-Mart's rank and file. Working in most retail environments can be bad enough; I can't imagine having to do it for that outfit. You're out of line if you take a shot at somebody who works the front line -- on the ground -- at Wal-Mart. But you're well within the bounds of sane logic and human decency if you take a shot at the cats who serve as spokespeople for America's dumpiest retailer, not to mention upper management.

They're collectively culpable not only for making retail such a crappy job in so many corners of the country, but contributing to the degradation of certain segments of society. Shopping on/after Thanksgiving, thanks in large part to the environment Wal-Mart took the lead in creating, has become the pastime of thugs with what appears to be zero concern for their own well-being, let alone that of their fellow Earth dwellers.

By now you know what happened at a sampling of Wal-Marts across the country Thursday night, Friday morning and, presumably, other random times over the holiday weekend. Society's lowest common denominator came out and acted like rodents as they sought to secure one of life's entitlements -- the $200 flat screen television set or some such.

HuffPo compiled a nice selection of Tweets and YouTubes illustrating the abhorrent behavior of Wal-Mart shoppers. In the HuffPo article, Wal-Mart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan, bless her bought-and-sold soul, had this to say in response:

We've got great feedback from customers and associates across the country ... A few tweets aren't representative of what's actually happening at 4,600 stores.

I'm not sure what's worse: Brooke coming up with that tripe herself or Brooke acting as the yes-woman on the schedule who, thinking nothing of it, cut and paste an official statement that, quite possibly, was written in anticipation of what we all knew was going to happen.

Memo to Brooke: I don't know you, but you're probably better than this.

Don't fictionalize what has become the culture of Wal-Mart as isolated incidents. Maybe the "fights" and "war zones" Tweeters and YouTubers report at their local Wal-Marts are not "representative" of what happens across all Wal-Marts, but that doesn't matter. The Wal-Mart response should not seek to exonerate itself from the epidemic it has a five-fingered hand in triggering; it should denounce it and then actually do something about it.

At this point, however, there's probably no hope for Wal-Mart. Clearly, the company threw its ethics out the window quite some time ago. However, hope springs eternal for Apple (AAPL).

Tim Cook should take this opportunity to do what Apple should have done a long time ago: Pull its products from inferior third-party retailers, starting with Wal-Mart.

In the process, Cook should call it like it is by saying what nobody at Wal-Mart has the guts to say.

How can we ignore one human being trampling over another or the cops needing to step in to restrain people and restore order just to sell product? How can we maintain business as usual, effectively glossing over barbaric behavior, all in the name of moving widgets? I mean, face it, for all intents and purposes, Wal-Mart and, by association, Apple are (only half-figuratively) stepping over bodies to make sales.

How can Apple pass off its iPad as an asset for education -- placing wide-eyed schoolchildren in its television spots -- at the same time as the company sells the device at a store I wouldn't dare bring my child within a stone's throw of, particularly during the holiday season?

For some reason, Apple hasn't distanced itself from Wal-Mart yet. This past weekend ought to be the tap that broke the tablet's touchscreen.

I just can't get past Apple turning a blind eye and deaf ear to this. It's bad enough Wal-Mart does. Heck, in one YouTube, a retail employee was obviously instructed to tell the taper to press stop. If the video never saw the light of day, Wal-Mart would have been just fine acting like the initial incident that went viral -- from North Carolina -- never happened.

The disgustingness of Wal-Mart aside, Apple's products would look a lot better on the shelves at places such as Bose, Lululemon (LULU) and Tesla Motors (TSLA) anyway. To ensure he maintains Apple as a viable long-term brand and investment, Cook ought to, in some fashion, heed my nickel's worth of free advice.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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