Nfld. & Labrador

Robin Walsh upset Wal-Mart withheld 'inappropriate' baby photos

A mother in central Newfoundland says she was surprised and upset when a Wal-Mart employee told her she couldn't collect her photos because they were flagged as "inappropriate" by a processing technician.

Wal-Mart 'deeply regrets' any inconvenience for Gander, N.L., teacher and mother of 2

A mother in central Newfoundland says she was surprised and upset when a Wal-Mart employee said she couldn't pick up her photos because they were flagged as "inappropriate" by a processing technician.

Robin Walsh, a mother of two and a teacher in Gander, said she dropped off a batch of roughly 100 photos to be processed at the local Wal-Mart, but an employee refused to return three of them.
A Wal-Mart technician flagged this photo of Robin Walsh's daughter as 'inappropriate.' The Gander, N.L., teacher and mother of two had taken in about 100 images for processing, and this one as well as two others were held back by the store. (Submitted by Robin Walsh)

"Initially I laughed, especially when I saw what photos they were referring to, 'cause I kind of thought that it was a joke, but I was surprised," said Walsh.

Two of the photos were of Walsh's infant daughter holding an empty beer bottle. Another picture showed her daughter and five-year-old son lying partially naked on their stomachs before a bath.

"Then I became angry and embarrassed because a manager had to be brought in to explain to me why I couldn't have the photos, in a store full of people, and it sort of felt like I was being accused of some sort of child exploitation."

Walsh said she didn't understand why, out of all the photos, those three were flagged.

"There were photos of my children in the bathtub, in very sort of similar situations, and they passed those [back]. You can talk with a lot of moms here in town and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't have a naked photo of their baby or small child," she said.

Blanket judgment

Walsh said Wal-Mart management told her one employee deemed the photos inappropriate.

She said no one could tell her what policy the photos violated.

The store decided to err on the side of caution.- Wal-Mart statement

"I asked if I could see the policy as it was written down, and I was told that they didn't have it on hand and that it would take time for them to get it, so then I kind of questioned how they could make a judgment based on a policy that they weren't even clear what the policy was," said Walsh.

"The photo technician had apparently flagged the photos and when the manager came down and told me I couldn't have the photos, and I asked him what about the photos was inappropriate, he admitted that he hadn't actually seen them yet."

The local Wal-Mart manager said he wasn't able to answer media questions, but passed CBC News on to the corporate office in Mississauga, Ont.

In an email response, Wal-Mart said the company "deeply regrets" any inconvenience for Walsh.

"It is the general policy of the Walmart Photo Centre to not print pictures that contain nudity. Exceptions, of course, are made with every-day situations such as child-birth or babies," said the statement.

"Within these guidelines there will occasionally be grey areas where photos may be innocent to the parent but may look somewhat questionable to the average eye. It seems this may have been the case in this particular situation, and the store decided to err on the side of caution. The store did not process the photos and provided the customer with a full refund."


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