The local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind might have to go without 75 percent of its yearly budget because its annual hot dog sale at an Amherst Walmart was canceled at the 11th hour by the store’s managers, the chapter’s leader said.
Walmart had agreed in May to host the sale on Aug. 24 and 25, said Mike Robinson, the Buffalo chapter president of the organization, which is the nation’s largest group led by blind people. Robinson said the chapter has held a hot dog sale at Walmart for over 10 years running without any problems.
But this week Robinson received a call from a manager at the Walmart – located on Sheridan Drive near Bailey Avenue in Amherst – and was informed that Walmart’s lease with a Subway restaurant inside the store limits the number of hot dog sales to six per year, and there have already been six in 2013, according to Robinson.
“They called me a week and a half before the event, and said, ‘No, you can’t do it,’” Robinson said.
A manager at the Walmart deflected questions to the company’s national media relations hotline, which is a recording instructing callers to either leave a voice mail or fill out an online form. As of Tuesday night, the company had not responded to questions submitted Monday.
Robinson said the budget for the National Federation of the Blind of Buffalo is about $2,500 per year, and between $1,500 and $2,000 of the money comes from the hot dog sale. Before Walmart moved its Amherst store to Sheridan Drive, Robinson’s group had the sale at the old location on nearby Niagara Falls Boulevard.
“It always worked out great for us, with it being back-to-school weekend,” Robinson said of the sale.
He said the group uses its budget to lobby lawmakers for issues affecting blind people, attend state conventions and organize educational programs for the blind.
The group applied to have the sale at the beginning of the year, as it always does, Robinson said, and Walmart approved the application in May.
“There was no contract, there was no written agreement,” Robinson said. “It was just a gentlemen’s agreement, I guess.”
The Subway has been in the store for several years, Robinson said, and there has never been a problem before, though he suspects that the restaurant doesn’t want to lose business to the hot dog sales.
A manager at the Subway referred questions to the franchise’s owner and corporate parent, neither of whom had returned phone calls.