Wanted: two apologies
Father says sons wrongly accused by department store

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 19/97) - For more than a year, Harry Seeton has been seeking an apology from Yellowknife's Wal-Mart store.

His sons, Matthew, 11, and Jonathan, 14 were accused of shoplifting at the department store in October 1996, said Seeton.

His sons were never charged with a crime and were never seen taking anything from the store.

"All I want is for my kids just to hear these guys say listen, there's a misunderstanding, and we're sorry, welcome to our store any time," said Seeton.

On Sunday he picketed the store and handed out information sheets explaining his sons' experience to motorists entering and leaving the store's parking lot.

Police responded to a complaint from Wal-Mart about Seeton's picket. He was advised to stay off the property and not to interfere with patrons.


The incident that sparked Seeton's picket took place when the two boys went to Wal-Mart with their step-mother, Marta.

As Marta shopped, the two went their separate ways, to the sports and toy sections.

Matthew, checking out the toys, was interested in one particular item, a Goosebumps figure with a sticker saying, "try me if you dare."

Under the watchful eyes of a store employee, he tried it, put the toy down and went to find his brother in the sports section.

Another store employee approached the boys and asked Matthew if he was shoplifting, which Matthew denied.

The first floor-worker in front of shoppers spoke up and said he saw Matthew trying to steal.

The boys were ordered to leave the store immediately.

Store manager, Bill Abley was alerted to the matter and told the boys that if they come to the store again he would call the cops.

The boys left the store and were forced to sit in their cold car in the parking lot until their step-mother, who was wandering around the store looking for the boys, came out.

When the boys and their step-mother went home they explained to Seeton what had happened.

Seeton came back to the store later that evening, talked to the manager and asked for an apology for his sons.

Speaking to the store employees who were supposed to have caught the two shoplifting, Seeton and the Abley soon found out that no one saw Matthew trying to put the toy inside his jacket.

Abley looked to Seeton and said that if a mistake was made, he was sorry.

Seeton said he didn't want the apology. His sons wanted the apology. Abley denied the request and said he had a store to run.

"To do this, to put them through what he did, humiliated them in front of these people, intimidated them. There's one thing I know implicitly, they're honest. and that's very, very important to me. And to have this guy do this to them, it sort of tears down the reason to be honest. You've made out to be a shop-lifter."


To seek redress, Seeton has sought legal action for defamation. He was told it was too much hassle and too expensive to pursue.

His only resort was to write letter through a lawyer to the president of Wal-Mart Canada, Dave Ferguson.

Ferguson responded in a Nov. 21, 1996, letter, saying that "it is not Wal-Mart's intention to ever make any of our customers feel uncomfortable while shopping in our stores," he said.

"By way of this letter, we will forward a copy of your comments to both the regional vice-president and director of loss prevention for investigation and follow-up.

"We will also take the opportunity which your clients have presented us to re-train and coach our associates in the Yellowknife store," Ferguson said.

When contacted on Monday, Wal-Mart, assistant manager, Marie Griffin said they could not make a comment on Seeton's public plight.

Asked if anyone was around to answer questions, Griffin answered, "nope."

"We can't make any comments. It's with our legal department," she said.