Each year, Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats takes anywhere from 18 to 21 children, who might not otherwise receive much at Christmas, on a $300 shopping spree called Shop with the Sheriff. This year, he had planned to do the same at the Walmart where he says they’ve always shopped when he ran into trouble.
Coats goes to the store and purchases gift cards for each of the kids with money his force has raised throughout the year and was looking to buy $7,000 worth of gift cards for this year’s shopping spree when his request was denied, he said.
“We usually go in there and buy cards for around $7,000 for the kids,” Coats said. “When we went in there this year, they said they couldn’t do it. There was a limit of $1,000. They refused to give us what would be around $7,000 to not only Walmart, but back into our community as well.”
Coats said he was told the store could sell no more than $1,000 in gift cards due to the risk of scammers.
“I know they’re worried about scammers,” Coats said. “But this is law enforcement money — money we are using to help kids have a better Christmas and they are telling us ‘no.’”
Coats said this hasn’t been their first issue with the Erwin store.
“I don’t remember them ever having a manager or even another person there at the door when the kids would come in to shop,” he said. “It is really surprising.”
Coats says he plans to take the kids to a different store for the Shop with the Sheriff program on Friday.
“I’m not going to go there again, I’m going to take them to Target or someplace else in Cary or Garner,” he said. “It’s a shame because not only does this benefit the kids, it also benefits the county because they’re losing $7,000 in business that could have stayed in Harnett County.”
Attempts to reach Walmart, both local and company officials, were unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, Coats reached out to Target in Cary and said he got a very warm welcome. The store manager there agreed to sell him the gift cards, provide volunteers to escort and assist the children, provide parking spaces for the deputies and that store management will greet them at the door, Coats told The Daily Record.
Rick Curl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 910-230-2037.