Allen Wastler Commentary:
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And Merry Christmas to you, Wal-Mart

Pleasing your customers isn't a wrong move. But you'll get some backlash.

NEW YORK ( -- Bravo Wal-Mart. You are not going the politically correct route anymore.

Naturally, you'll get some pats on the back for your decision to go ahead and use "Merry Christmas" - instead of the more neutral "Happy Holidays" - in store promotions in coming weeks.

"I just want to commend Wal Mart on their current/new standing regarding the term 'Merry Christmas'," one reader wrote in after we posted the news that Wal-Mart was abandoning its "Happy Holidays" policy. "It has been a long time since I have been in a store that has used this term freely. I think it was an absolute 'smack in the face' that we have been robbed of our tradition."

Of course, this being America, others won't agree.

"I think that Wal-Mart is wrong, wrong, wrong in going back to Christmas Holiday in their ads," another reader fumed."Christmas is a religious holiday. I respect people's right to celebrate it. But I am not a Christian. I am offended by the fact that my religion is not represented in their displays as prominently as Christmas is."

Hey Wal-Mart, you knew that was coming, didn't you? The whole "Happy Holidays" thing drew the ire of some Christian groups, who boycotted your stores. Now that you've heard their message and switched back, there's bound to be some backlash from the other side.

But apparently you've done your research and figured our this is a good business decision. That is, Christmas promotions probably do pretty well with your customers.

And we're pretty sure you're not trying to offend those who don't celebrate Christmas - Buddhists, Taoists, Jews, Muslims and others groups I've overlooked (I beg your pardon if I did). Maybe you found Christmas has become more of a secular tradition, and that probably makes sense.

It'd be nice if everyone everywhere could just take a holiday wish in the spirit it was meant rather than by its demographic specificity and exactitude. If someone wishes you "Happy Kwanzaa" or a "Happy Hanukkah," they probably just want you to have a good time ... not convert.

Still, it's an issue to some people. And society tries to work around such issues. Hence the whole "political correctness" thing to begin with ... we don't want to hurt people's feelings and denigrate their beliefs. And that's good. Taken to an extreme, though, and it becomes ridiculous. And so we get the whole backlash against being "politically correct."

And you, Wal-Mart (Charts), are part of that backlash. It will be interesting to see if your discount prices trump any religious fervor.

Oops. I shouldn't have said that.


Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of and appears on CNN's "In the Money." He can be emailed at Top of page

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