Wal-Mart silent CD censorship and return policy
If you buy music CDs at Wal-Mart, there's something you should know.
Buy any CD at Wal-Mart with cuss words in the lyrics and you will be in for a very unpleasant surprise. Take it home and play it, and the BEEP! music you are BEEEP! trying to BEEP! listen to is BEEEEP! interrupted by all these BEEP! annoying beeping sounds interrupting the music and spoiling your listening pleasure. At first you may think that the beeping is caused by interference from police radio, etc. Or maybe the CD is scratched or flawed and that is why there are beeps.
Yes, the CD is flawed, all right. But the flaws are intentional!
Wal-Mart censored your CD. You can't stand the beeping and can't believe you paid $23 for a flawed CD you could've gotten elsewhere, in perfect condition, for $16.
If the beeping was caused by a faulty stereo receiver, you'd get it repaired right away. If the beeping was caused by the neighbor's ham-radio rig, you'd call the FCC immediately. What makes intentional beeping right on the CD any more tolerable?
So you go back to Wal-Mart in hopes returning the flawed disc and getting your money back. You take time out of your busy schedule to come back and wait in the returns line. Eventually you reach the front of the line and explain that the CD is flawed and you would like a refund.
"Sorry, you opened it so you can't have a refund."
"But is has beeps in it!"
"It's supposed to be that way."
"No, it's not. You sold me flawed goods, and now I would like my money back."
"We're not giving your money back. You opened the package."
"Of course I opened the package. How else would I know it has beeps?"
Wal-Mart is sneaky like that, in trying to push its "family values" onto you. They don't tell you *anywhere* that the CDs are censored. It's not on the CD rack, it's not at the checkout line, it's not on the packages. You have no way of knowing until you play the CD!
"Well it's too late now. You opened it. We can only exchange it with another copy of the same CD."
"Perfect, I would like another copy of the same CD without the beeps in it."
"We don't carry that here. All we carry is the radio-edit versions"
"We don't carry that type of smut."
"What about my money?"
This is not a joke. I bought a copy of Metallica's "Garage Inc." and it was full of beeps (not just the few 'f-words' on the disc; all kinds of things were bleeped)...I tried to return it, got the runaround and ended up with $23 less hard-earned dollars and a useless beeping CD. And the lady in returns actually said "Tough."
Standard Wal-Mart policy is to silently censor CDs; that is, give no warning whatsoever that the discs are modified from their original versions, and deny refunds to customers once they find out. Most (including myself) just count their losses and get on with life. Some people have managed to get a refund, but only after calling the store's manager down, harassing him and causing a scene in front of the entire store; I think that only works because they don't want the embarrassing tantrum in front of their other patrons. For those who don't feel like getting the manager and throwing a screaming temper tantrum in front of everyone, possibly compromising their reputation in the community with such an outburst, there is no hope of recovering the lost cash.
An interesting paradox here:
  1. You can't return a CD unless it hasn't been opened
  2. You can't find out the CD has annoying beeps in it (hence reason for returning it) until you open it, because they refuse to tell you beforehand that it's been censored!
 Just for the record, I no longer buy products from any Wal-Mart store or subsidiary. The combination censorship/return policy meets all the criteria for a bona fide scam. I also urge all of you to join me in boycotting Wal-Mart stores; simply take your business elsewhere. They don't deserve your money.
Others' experiences with Wal-Mart censorship
I am by no means the only one to have these experiences (coincidentally, with the exact same CD). The following came into my inbox via a popular Internet mailing list:
>I just bought "Garage Inc." at Wal~Mart and was so fukin' happy because 
>they were selling it with "So What" included. I got it home and put it 
>in the CD player and was HORRIFIED by hearing "beeps" in the song. 
>Wal~Mart fucking CENSORED METALLICA!!!!! I work for this TWO-FACED 
>company and believe me I am NOT proud of it!! Wal~Mart is 
>two-faced because I bouht Black Sabbath's "Reunion" CD there and it was 
>not censored. I think most of us know how much Ozzy swears during his 
>live shows. I think everyone should let Wal~Mart feel about this!! I 
>also think Metallica should boycott Wal~Mart!!! anyone who agrees with 
>me is welcome to write! 

This has happened to me as well.  I had bought Poison's Swallow this live at 
Wal-Mart a long time ago, and it was full of beeps.  Since then I only buy 
CD's at MediaPlay or Best Buy.  I have tried the complaint thing but they 
don't care.  I just wish there was a way to let everyone know about this 
ridiculous practice, so no one else would be surprised and upset.  Maybe we 
should try and force Wal-mart to put up signs warning people.  What does 
everybody think? 

A Usenet search turns up hundreds of messages about censored music from Wal-Mart. Searching the Web brings up hundreds and hundreds more horror stories and debates, like this one from a posting on broadcast.net:
...We seem to have two separate points here. Number one is the right of a retailer 
not to carry something. That I agree with you on. Every retailer has that right, 
or should. But I feel no retailer should be so big that they can effectively 
demand changes in music, movies or books, for that matter, or the artist faces 
major economic loss. Which brings us to the other point. Point number two is  
changing music or covers to satisfy a retailer's "standards," often without 
notifying the public. The Strauss article goes on to say, in many cases, people 
buying altered albums are not aware they have been changed. Often when these 
products leave Wal-mart, they will circulate nearly undetected along with their 
unaltered counterparts in second-hand stores. In either type of store, when 
consumers get an altered version, they won't know exactly what has been changed 
or deleted.  
If people know the album has been altered, and they still want to buy it, that's 
their business. But acting as judge and jury to decide people's tastes in what 
they read, watch or listen to, that's wrong.
(Underlines mine)
Or from a complaint forum on walmartsucks.com...
I recently bought a few CD's from my local Wal-mart only to find after to listening to them that they have been censored. The worst part is the lack of notification of this censorship. Seriously, the least they can do is tell me before I buy such a thing. 
And finally...
In the San Francisco Bay's MetroActive News...
"In the official pronouncement posted on its Web site, the company states that it "does not alter CDs, albums, or other music that is offered in our stores." (It's a disingenuous statement; no one has accused non-manufacturer Wal-Mart of altering the discs itself.) Nor does the company feel it has any obligation to identify such altered discs for its customers." 
Is there a pattern emerging here?
I'd recommend that all present/former Wal-Mart customers, particularly music lovers, who feel strongly about their rights as a consumer let Wal-Mart know how you feel about their treatment of their customers. My complaint letter has already been sent.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Corporate Offices
702 S.W. 8th St.
Bentonville, AR 72716
letters@wal-mart.com  for general letters
public@wal-mart.com  for public-relations department
See you in the picket lines!

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