Monday, January 30, 2006

Welcome to Fort Walton

Not only do the hours that you work vary wildly, so too does the job that you are doing. Even though I was hired as a cashier, my job does not end there. It begins with the fact that Customer Service Manager’s are responsible for providing two 15-minute and one hour long lunch hour per 8 hour shift for all employees on the front-end (Cashiers, People Greeters, and Customer Service Desk Associates.) In order to do this and combat the pervasive understaffing, the CSM’s try to “cross-train” all employees, meaning train them in several different positions. This gives WAL-MART the flexibility it needs to pull off Mission Impossible, and supposedly is the key for associates to advance up the company ladder. (However, I’m not sure if it is so much the knowledge of multiple positions as it is a willingness to be submissive and play the game that leads to ones advancement…) What all this means is that many times you are never given a register to call home and spend all day bouncing around the store spelling breaks and lunches.

Obviously this arrangement works out better for the company than the employee who never knows what to expect. The fact that WAL-MART always keeps us guessing is annoying, and sometimes much more than that. For example, with winter approaching the job of People Greeter or cashiering near the doors became a very cold one – it’s like a wind tunnel over there. The problem is that we never know in advance when we will be by the door and whether or not to bundle up (other sections of the store get downright balmy so forget just playing it safe.) Here is the worst part: we aren’t allowed to have extra clothing at the register. CSM’s regularly come down on cashiers who try to bundle up, insisting that the vest and nametag be worn on top. I watched one of them go so far as to refuse to allow an old women who was freezing on register to wear a coat underneath since the vest didn’t fit properly. Adding to the problem is the fact that we only have one coat rack for 450 employees. Coats bulge in every direction of the rack and are strewn across much of the floor in the break room. Higher-ups often find a cubicle or somewhere else to stash their coat, but those of us who aren’t as fortunate simply leave them in the car. And forget running to grab your coat out of your car or off the break room floor while on the clock since this is the very definition of “time theft.” Within a few weeks of starting at the store I had come down with my first cold, which would later become the flu since I did not have any health insurance.

And this is just one of the bad things about guarding the door. Door guard is a much more accurate title than the official name for the position: People Greeter. You know who I am talking about, the usually elderly individual who greets customers as they enter the store. WAL-MART has made a big deal about its people greeters, often featuring them in commercials, since they represent how much they care about their customers and how “our people make the difference.” But the training that I was given focused exclusively on how to prevent shoplifting or “shrinkage,” adding as an afterthought that I was supposed to say hello to customers who entered the store. When the alarms went off – which was quite often – I was to politely ask the customer to come inside and produce their receipt, then search for and deactivate the troublesome alarm. As I am recording all of this information in our security log I should be apologizing for the inconvenience, never once accusing them of stealing. The priorities were crystal clear: someone must be watching the doors at all times to prevent shoplifting, and, hey, while they are there, they should greet the customers with a big smile. Make no mistake about it, this is the single worst job in the entire store and inexplicably it is also the lowest paid (pay grade 1 of 7.) You have to stand on the hard concrete all day as time moves by agonizingly slow. As bad as the boredom was, it was having to greet the customers that I dreaded. The door was much worse than the register in this regard since more often than not the person would look right through me without saying a word after I greeted them. The whole experience makes you feel simply worthless.

Our security personnel took me aside on several occasions, quizzing me about how to authenticate a receipt and reminding me about how important my job was to preventing shrinkage. I was to watch for anything suspicious: anxious individuals, repeated comings and goings, mysterious bulges. These two women, full-time and salaried, spent their day in plainclothes, trailing customers and discreetly spying on them while pretending to shop themselves. Occasionally they would spot someone suspicious for me to stop and demand a receipt or even search their unopened packages. (Fairly or not, every single time I was given this warning the suspect was in their teens or early-twenties…) When they did catch someone a team of three people would swoop in and whisk them back to the secret security room where they kept all of the cameras. The police would arrive after a few minutes, on one of the several visits that they would pay us each day, no doubt to scare the hell out of the accused shoplifter before WAL-MART inevitably pressed charges, to the fullest extent of the law, mind you.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"ugggg"-kp
p.s. On a brighter note: when I went over for dinner to Annie's house last night, the wal-mart movie was on their coffee table. you'll be happy to know that it is available for Portlanders to rent at Videorama!

An Associate said...

let me use kp's comment as a chance to plug this movie, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. it is a great introduction to what is wrong with this corporation since it uses the stories of real people who have been affected by the wal-mart. very much worth watching. the movie has been making the rounds for the past couple months and is still being shown in some places. you can find out more at: http://www.walmartmovie.com/

Anonymous said...

Let me play my little violin for you. Though I don't doubt the scandal behind Walmart, what makes it so much worse then any other major corporation in America? Big companies picking on the little guy to make a profit is nothing new buddy. And just so you know, if/when you find a job outside of Walmart, you will encounter the same things: people being a jack of all trades for a company and not being compensated for it is nothing new either; not knowing if you should bundle up for work b/c you might be in a cold area - come over to my office pal. Every aisle is a different temperature. Follow mommy's advice and always bring a sweater just in case and quit your bitchin'. Or at least stick to the bitchin' about more legitimate problems in the store.

Anonymous said...

"Within a few weeks of starting at the store I had come down with my first cold, which would later become the flu since I did not have any health insurance."
Uh, Doctor, how did you come to this diagnosis?

Anonymous said...

"The police would arrive after a few minutes, on one of the several visits that they would pay us each day, no doubt to scare the hell out of the accused shoplifter before WAL-MART inevitably pressed charges, to the fullest extent of the law, mind you."
And what would you have Wal-mart do? Give them a break because they are a low price store, so of course they should have a low price punishment? Do the crime, do the time.

Anonymous said...

Anon because I don't want my name out there:

And this still doesn't stop the fact that it is still REALLY easy to steal from Walmart. They never have very many people in any part of the stores, and those cameras are easy to spot and account for. If you don't look suspicious, and you're pretty good at palming stuff, Walmart is the EASIEST mark in the whole world.

They'd be better combating slipage by having more workers, more attentive workers, and wider aisles (narrow aisle make it easier for someone else to block the camera).

And it's easy to tell which items are tagged and which ones aren't.

And, if you do catch a tagged item, just walk out with a bunch of people (if you can get a minority family with a bunch of kids it's best). They'll let you go, but grab the family.

Anonymous said...

Cold weather does not cause colds or the flu. People staying indoors more during the winter and letting their germs propogate by not airing their houses out causes more colds in the winter. The only disease cold weather can cause is frost bite or hypothermia. However, it does suck you weren't allowed to get your coat if you needed it.

Anonymous said...

Heads up, Sherlock — here’s a clue you’re not going to have to buy from me: It’s supposed to work out better for the company than it does for the employee. That’s the nature of hierarchies — crap flows downhill.

Ah, so now you’re a research medical scientist — you’ve found a connection between the common cold and getting cold. Funny, my doctor always tells me there’s no correlation. Once again, though rarely, I’m with you — getting cold results in colds. At least it does in my house.

Of course the people at the doors are “door guards” rather than “people greeters.” Consider this — the folks who work at prisons are called "prison guards." Do you think their job is to keep people from breaking in to the prison? http://tinyurl.com/ycwlyh

Interesting. In the Wal-Marts in this part of the country (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas), I’ve never once seen a “door guard” check a receipt.

You should be surprised that the younger “customers” are the ones doing the stealing? I’m not. It’s the youngsters who are always inventing a new slang term for stealing. “Watch this, Bruce. I’m going to hoist a petard.”

What nerve Wal-Mart has — pressing charges when a shoplifter is caught redhanded.

Notanom said...

BTW "anom" hicksville KS.
as they say "don't hate the player hate the game"..the kid is just telling how he played the game.

You might not be from hickville KS,but the "eh?" sure tells me alot.

troll some place else asshole!

Notanom said...

you might not be from hicksville KS, but the "eh?" sure does tell alot...you must be either a wallyworld employee or just a bored lonely "TROLL!"

Anonymous said...

God forbid Wal-Mart presses charges against a criminal. You, sir, are a master at over dramatizing stuff; you should be proud.

Anonymous said...

All of this is just too funny and too trie.Iam a recently,laid off degreed individual who accepted a job with WalMart...all I have to say about my experience thus far is...It is what it is...Its WalMart. Their idea of a tuition reimbursement policy is helping associates get their GEDs...need I say more

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Sangre Verdadera said...

Even though I agree with many of our views on your stances against Walmart. I have not bought anything at Walmart in over 2 years. I commended you for writing this blog. However, you are acting like a company not wanting people to shoplift is evil. There is nothing wrong with Walmart's shoplifting policy and how they punish shoplifters. Also acting like standing by a door is inhumane work, is being melodramatic.

James0071st said...

Could you complain any more???? I mean really. If you don't like the job, just leave. Now, if you're going into the whole speech about the economy being bad and it's "tough" to find a job, well. You might want to count your lucky stars that there is a place like Wal-mart that is willing to hire you for any kind of job. You know, some people would complain if they were hung with a new rope!

Anonymous said...

wal-mart is only interested in the quarter. certain managers wants the value of dictator ship. I learrn at night how to steal & i work there. basically u learn 2 trades at once. they have no concerns of business

Anonymous said...

"Also acting like standing by a door is inhumane work, is being melodramatic."

Human dignity is the issue. It is a part of business to either respect or not respect the notion of human dignity. Walmart does not hold human dignity above profits.

The issue with the shoplifting policy is that Walmart contributes both locally and globally to a system that takes advantage of the poor, reducing them to the point where theft is more likely. In no way does that excuse stealing, but certainly Walmart, by being a dishonest employer, contributes to an increase in theft, just as globalization in general contributes to a rise in disease, poverty, crime and self-reported dissatisfaction with life. A good employer provides subsistence, which sustains a community and stabilizes it.

Bogart said...

LOL
I had to laugh at the coat rack comment! It is the same at our store! When I was hired on I was "assigned" a locker, due to there being over 400 employees I had to share one . . . which is fine if it weren't this small tiny teeny cube! And to top it off the "sharer" opted to leave numerous items in it, leaving me no room for even my lunch box!

My first "floor" day I spent a good ten minutes trying to stuff my jackets into this cube! Mission completed, locked the locker up turned to have a co-worker who had been watching me announce we have a rack with hangers in the lounge . . . ???? . . . & you couldn't mention this before?!!! Thanks dude LOL

The rack is over buldging & droops from the weight of the coats! So I often drap my jacket over an unattended chair . . .

As for the door watchers . . . I give them great KUDOS but at times doubt their help with the store . . . one day as walking the floor I noted a customer had a puppy she brought into the store . . . when I spotted a assistant manger I asked if she was aware . . . I got a heavy sigh, roll of the eyes as she told me quite clearly "We have watchers at the door she got by! It is up to them to take care of it!" . . . what?????? . . . people do slip by & the CBLs tell us REPEATEDLY to go to Management with any concerns but when you do they mock you . . .

~ May you ALWAYS be Blessed & may you ALWAYS Bless others ~

Pete said...

I was a greeter at S(c)ams Club 8251. If you'd like to be bullied and harassed by management and the COS's, then this job is for you. I cannot begin to describe how horrendous everything was. They picked up on my mental illness really quick and had a field day with it.

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