Walmart policy forces Harnett County sheriff elsewhere for Christmas charity for kids

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HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. (WNCN) – With less than a week away from Christmas, Harnett County sheriff’s deputies plan to bring some holiday cheer to families with their “Shop with a Sheriff” event on Friday.

The annual event provides each participating child with a $300 gift card to shop with.

“It’s such a joy to see the expressions on their faces,” said Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats. “This is about kids that their parents may be having a hard time at Christmas. This is a way of giving the kids a Christmas that they may not have had.”

This year, however, Sheriff Wayne Coats said there was an issue surrounding the event.

“It’s not a choice that we really had,” Coats told CBS 17.

This year, Coats said they have $6,600 to use for gift cards. However the Harnett County Walmart, where the event has been held in the past, would only let the sheriff’s office purchase $1,000 to use for gift cards, Coats told CBS 17.

“They said, ‘Well, you can go online and order the cards.’ Well, there’s no guarantee that the cards are going to be here by Friday,” Coats said. “How would you like to sit here and face all these little kids and tell them they’re not going to get this $300 they’re not going to get this Christmas?”

He said Walmart told the Sheriff’s Office the limit is due to a company policy.

“They’re trying to protect their customers from being scammed,” Coats said. “We tried to explain to them this is $6,000-7,000 we’re fixing to give you to be put on a card that’s going to be spent all in one night. It’s not like it’s going home, and it’ll be scammed somewhere down the road.”

He said no one from Walmart has personally reached out to him about the situation, which has led him to go elsewhere this year.

Coats told CBS 17 they’ll be having their event in Wake County at the Target located in Holly Springs.

The sheriff said he’s not asking to boycott Walmart, but did want to explain why he and deputies are going to another county for holiday cheer.  

“The one thing that this shows to me is [that] a big retail franchise store [has become] bigger than their community,” Coats said.

Thursday afternoon, CBS 17 reached out to Walmart about the situation and their policy on gift cards, but have yet to hear back.

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