Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Black Start to the Holidays

Both a blessing and a curse, my time at WAL-MART coincided with the holiday shopping season. I had no delusions that this would be an easy experience, but it wasn’t one I wanted to miss... and it all kicked off on Black Friday. In the days leading up to this orgy of shopping, veterans of past Blitz Day’s (WAL-MART’s pet name for the day) had regaled me with their favorite horror stories. One woman tore up her arm when it became pinned between a shopping cart and a shelf. Another was pushed upside-down into the cart she had wheeled out stuffed with Furby’s, stuck there as the surging crowd pulled the toys out from underneath her. And then of course there were the numerous reports of customers who had been trampled in that first stampede into the store. My interest was sufficiently piqued; I had to see this for myself.

When I arrived at the store at 4:30 am I had to fight my way through the crowd that would swell to an estimated 670 people by the time our store manager radioed the go-ahead at 4:57 am. Many were dressed in pajamas; even more had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee purchased from a cart that wound its way through the crowd; cell-phones and store maps completed the insanity. The lead row of carts surged through the front doors, sprinting toward Electronics with the rest of the crowd jogging in behind them. For five full minutes the shoppers poured in, until every aisle was packed with the speed walkers. Only the lucky few who had snagged the $398 laptop computers checked out early, but by quarter past five the lines were six people deep in all 30 some registers. Flush from the cold then exercise the shoppers seemed at once relieved to be done and sad to leave.

Then the unthinkable happened: the power went out! A nervous hush went over the crowd as I hurriedly plotted the best way to initiate the rioting that would surely ensue. Sadly less than a minute went by before the lights came back on; ten minutes later all operations were again running at full capacity. And this was hardly the only snafu in the much ballyhooed plan to get people out the door smoothly (clocking-in in single file, sharing register tills, etc.) The biggest problem was mispriced DVD’s, which required constant Supervisor Overrides (although this mistake did provide a nice extra boost to WAL-MART’s bottom line…) There were a few reports of pushing and one woman claimed to have been trampled coming inside, but nothing too out of the ordinary given the number of people and the store’s narrow aisles. The long lines and ridiculous customers frazzled me a couple of times, but I didn’t freak out like some.

Two of my friends were casualties on day one of the shopping season. Our exhuberant door guard (and currently reigning "Associate of the Year") lost it when a customer went off on him for asking them not to take pictures in the store. A sensitive fellow, he would submit his resignation before the end of his shift (but would stay on after failing to find another job...) Another buddy of mine quit mid-shift when CSM's refused to let him buy a digital camera on sale during his break. Despite written policy in his favor management insisted that blitz items were to be saved for our customers (probably not wanting to give him his 10% markdown.) Needless to say our store made out much better on the day than its associates did, reporting gains from the previous year. By the end of the day I alone had checked out 177 customers for a whopping $20,128.19 in sales! And I was only one of thirty plus cashiers working one of three shifts. It all adds up to a million dollar day for our Supercenter, easy. While this is outrageous, I think what will stick with me will be the mood of the day: pure madness.

As I mentioned before, I try not to blame to customers who are rude since it seemed to be misplacing blame that properly belonged to WAL-MART. After all, many customers would be upset by the time they reached my register since the store kept them waiting in line for so long; I too would be annoyed at such a wholly unpleasant shopping experience. In addition to this, many WAL-MART regulars were just as poor as I was, not to mention the toll that the holidays seem to take on just about everyone. However, as the Christmas season dragged on I found it increasingly difficult to forgive shoppers who lashed out at associates.

A nasty customer really could ruin your entire day; thinking back weeks later I still get a little upset. There was the unspeakably rude woman who browbeat me into loading her cart up on my own, only to return and curse me out further after her container of apple juice broke in the parking lot. Or the one who suffered a mental breakdown when my register asked to see her State ID, complete with tears and screaming at her 5 year-old daughter. (Her vow to never return to the store was short lived since I saw her refilling her cart 45 minutes later.) I’ve seen co-workers had things thrown at them, pushed out of the way, and called literally every name in the book… all during the Holiday Season. Indeed, WAL-MART would prove to be some bizarro world where the true spirit of Christmas played out to its perverse opposite.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

thought you might be interested in this entry i bookmarked a while back after being linked by a friend and fellow employee. don't know the poster but there's some horrifying stuff there. how the poster manages to not go insane is beyond me:

http://puppetoflove.livejournal.com/2004/12/13

Anonymous said...

How is Black Friday Wal-Mart's fault? The blame rests solely upon the customer's shoulders. Price discrepancies are from less-than enthusiastic employees who don't know how to do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

not true we get alot of customers who move prices around and then we have to honor that price even if its no the correct price but it was on that shelf.

Toni Jean said...

When I worked at Walmart I had a drunk customer throw a 12 pack of soda at me, I ducked and it exploded against the wall of cigarettes behind me. My CSM refused to call the police, even thought the man was clearly intoxicated and had a child with him.

Michelle said...

Just for the record, they should have let the guy buy his camera on break...JMO...but it wasn't because they didn't want to give him his 10 percent markdown. We never get 10 percent off on sale or clearance items anyway.

Anonymous said...

That isn't true about switching prices. I once had a friend do it with her childs toys and after being dragged back inside by security, I became an accomoplis and am now baanned for something I knew nothing about.

Anonymous said...

wowww I just started working at walmartt and yeahh what this guy says its true so people that shop there (Cause I don't even though I work there), don't blame the employees, blame the CEO who are sitting on their big fat checks...

Monk said...

I've worked at wal-mart for a little over a month now as a cart pusher, aka "bitch boy" as my position's been called by coworkers, at the 1860 store. Everything i've read that you posted is true. Two of the CSM's at my store are completely disrespectful and inconsiderate to all of the associates up front. I've spoke with my ZMS to voice my concerns only to be disregarded and shaded as the bad guy. Two days ago i was pulled in the manager's office by a CSM and coached for being "verbally abusive" over the walkie, as he called it. When all i said was he should let the other cart pusher know that he needs to check his side of the lot. Wal-mart is a backwards company with no regards for its associates.

Anonymous said...

You had a "friend" that did it and you checked them out? You aren't supposed to check friends or family out for that reason. You shouldn't have changes the prices on the items without calling a CSM even if you did decide to ring them up. That would have covered your butt. How many items did you have to change?