Walmart's beer boat sends the wrong message

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The display in the Walmart store in Orange Park, Fla., turned more than a few heads, but is a pontoon boat made out of cases of beer with kegs for floats really the kind of message the retail discount giant wants to be promoting?

That’s the question Rusty Gardner asked when he came across the beer boat earlier this week.

“We’re not trying to be prudes or anything,” says Gardner, 50, of Jacksonville, Fla., an avid boater and a member of the national staff of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. “But we feel it glamorizes boating and drinking.”

The display gets high marks for creativity, concedes the safety advocate, who suspects a beer vendor and not Walmart built the boat. “The pontoons are kegs,” says Gardner, who promotes Sunshine State boating through his website www.floridabywater.com. And he says the people he’s talked with regarding the beer pontoon have mixed emotions about whether or not it’s in poor taste.

“People say, well, you can drink and boat. But the thing is, they’re making such a strong association between drinking and boating,” says Gardner, the director of digital media productions at Florida State College at Jacksonville. “It’s like putting out a prom limo made out of beer cans.”

While many of us enjoy a cold beer on the water on a hot day, prudence needs to be the standard. We all know the stats. Boating and excessive drinking too often is a fatal combination. Alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating deaths.

Gardner went back to the store a day later and asked a floor manager if she would at least put a life jacket on the boat. “I knew they wouldn’t take it down,” he says. The manager said she’d look into it. “They didn’t seem overly concerned.”

Gardner wasn’t feeling too optimistic when he visited the store a day or so later, but voila, as you can see in the photo, the store had fitted the beer pontoon with a lone life jacket.

Life is made up of small victories.

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