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FILE - In this May 9, 2013, file photo, a worker pushes shopping carts in front of a Wal-Mart store in La Habra, Calif. Wal-Mart will now let you pay with your phone at all 4,600 stores nationwide. With Walmart Pay, the cashier scans a QR code on the phone screen to complete the payment. The effort is part of Wal-Mart's overall strategy to making shopping easier and faster. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Your Walmart is seen as nicer if you live in a whiter neighborhood, according to Yelp


A study of Yelp reviews by a Columbia University researcher concludes that Walmarts in whiter neighborhoods are favored and have better customer service, while minority-heavy neighborhood Walmarts are neglected.

The correlation holds true even when controlling for socioeconomic status, according to the May 2016 study.

Researcher Adam Reich found Yelp reviews of Walmarts in majority-white neighborhoods tended to favor words like "typical" and "friendly," while minority neighborhoods saw words like "nasty" and "worst" more often.

Poor customer service is unevenly distributed across Walmart stores in ways that reproduce racial and socioeconomic disadvantage.
Study author Adam Reich

Reich said in the study that race had more of an effect on Yelp scores of Walmarts than the neighborhood's average income. 

Walmart's response

A Walmart spokesman told Business Insider the study was "flawed and without merit."

"Our customer traffic and overall customer satisfaction scores have been improving and we're focused on continuing to do better," Walmart spokesperson Lorenzo Lopez said.

Reich said in his study a key reason for poor customer service was understaffing. But his reliance on Yelp reviews may mean the low scores in minority neighborhoods were a result of self-fulfilling prophecies where a store is inherently seen as worse than it is.

Walmart holds the lowest score of all retailers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Does Wal-Mart favor stores in white neighborhoods over minority neighborhoods?

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