Friday, January 06, 2006

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty retailer!"

Wal-Mart stirred outrage yesterday when its Web site suggested that shoppers who wanted to buy a "Planet of the Apes" DVD - a cult classic in which the Earth is ruled by gorillas - were routed to four movies about Martin Luther King Jr., actress Dorothy Dandridge, boxer Jack Johnson and singer Tina Turner.

When visitors to Walmart.com plug in the name of a movie they want, the site also pulls up the name of several other "similar items" they might like.

"It's outrageous. I've never heard of anything like that," the Rev. Al Sharpton said when he was told of the pairings. "They need to straighten it out, and if they do not clarify what happened, we need to take some action."

Wal-Mart said the culprit is a "mapping" program that selects alternate recommendations for each of the thousands of movies it sells online. The process "does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles," Williams said.

Random? One bad choice is random. Four bad choices is racist.

I checked out Walmart.com and entered the DVD of Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run" and received the following "suggestions":

"Schindler's List"
"Oliver"
"The Merchant of Venice"
"Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream"

On second thought, I take back what I said. Apparently, the system does work.

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