Why are corporate policies more important than a woman’s life?

On May 2, 2013, my friend Maribel Ramos disappeared under what police have called “very suspicious” circumstances. I met Maribel while a student at California State University, Fullerton; we were both members of the Student Veterans Association, and were actively involved in the Student Veteran community at the university. While I graduated from CSUF last year, Maribel was set to graduate later this month. She had just returned from a conference in Chicago, where she spoke about the challenges she had faced while making the transition from military to civilian life, and in returning to school in pursuit of a degree in Criminal Justice.

When my friend Claire and I spent the day on May 6 attempting to post and distribute flyers to bring attention to Maribel’s disappearance, we were rebuffed by numerous companies, with the nearly universal claim that “corporate policy” prevented them from posting any unauthorized items in locations visible to the public. I find it reprehensible that corporate policy and branding should ever be used to excuse the willful hindrance of the search for a missing woman. The potential for gaining the goodwill of the community far outstrips any perceived impact on branding or corporate identity.

The worst offender in this area was Wal-Mart. On multiple occasions, at multiple locations, we were not only told that we could not post our flyers, our inquiries were rudely rebuffed and we were made to feel most unwelcome – by the head of the store’s Customer Service department! Wal-Mart purports to support the veterans of the local community, yet when the opportunity to put more than words behind that stance arose, it was proven to be nothing but shameless corporate posturing.

This, thankfully, was not universally true. Other stores and restaurants in the area near where Maribel lives jumped at the opportunity to help. A nearby shopping mall made copies of the flyer, laminated them, and posted them at every door. The manager of a Red Robin in the area immediately agreed not only to let us post the flyers, he had us do so at the front door, where they were clearly visible from across the parking lot.

It’s been more than a week now since Maribel went missing. She abruptly vanished from her apartment, leaving her car and her dog, with no apparent signs of a struggle. There has been no activity on her phone or bank accounts since her disappearance. We, her friends and family, are justifiably concerned for her welfare. We hope to find her as soon as possible, and bringing public awareness to her disappearance is the surest means of doing so. For any company to so callously prevent us from posting our flyers, with the only justification being “corporate policy,” is unconscionable.

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