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Keeping it real: My Walmart posting

I spent yesterday (June 20, 2011) somewhat numb. It was early morning and I had no coffee when I learned the SCOTUS dismissed the class action suit against Wal-Mart. I am a long time Wal-mart shopper. Although I am a liberal and most of my associates are liberals, I still shop Wal-Mart. I have spent years defending my decision to shop Wal-mart. My defense of Wal-mart comes from living in a small rural Southern town before Wal-mart. Although I am a fan of independent business owners, I do not enjoy being fleeced. Before Wal-mart we paid high cost for poor quality food. The vegetables and fruits were often old and the meat suspect. Wal-mart came to town and changed the way we purchased items. We no longer had to drive up to 80 miles away to get deals on our food or electronic purchases. We were able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, some of the locally owned businesses did close. However, those businesses had been fleecing the community for years. When I moved to Atlanta as a student I searched for a local Wally World. I could not afford the prices at Target(Tar-jay). My sister would take me outside of Atlanta to stock up at Sam’s and Wal-mart. I missed the benefits of having a Wal-mart in my town.

My grandmother often complained that I was always at the Wal-mart. In the South it is called “The Wal-mart”. I was glad when the bags changed from blue to white; easier to get them into the house without comments. Wal-mart offered better deals than K-Mart. We would drive the 80 miles to Jackson in order to get the deals at K-Mart. Wal-mart allowed us to stay local. Wal-mart also meant higher paying jobs. You did not apply for a job at Wal-mart expecting to become rich but you did know you would get better pay than the local job market. Wal-mart’s flexible schedule also allowed workers to continue farming or caring for elderly parents. It was and is a good fit for the community.

I had an opportunity in early Spring 2011 to work as part of the remodeling crew at my local Wal-mart (against doctor's orders). It was one of the best times of my life. I shopped at Wal-Mart so much that even the long employees thought I was a long term employee. I arrived at work each day happy. I enjoyed being kind to the customers and attempting to get along with my co-workers. I took pride in keeping the store (zoned) and ready for shoppers. I loved working at Wally World. I did have some co-workers who made life hard for me.

It was my co-workers, I use that term(workers) loosely, who helped me to see another side of the Wal-mart employment rumor. In my circle of associates Wal-mart is the ultimate evil. However working at Wal-mart I was able to learn something I had not expected. The first thing I learned was working for Wal-mart was akin to working for the federal government, almost impossible to be fired. A young man, who was known for not working, proudly told me how he had been with the company for 4 years. After a few gentle inquires I learned he had been getting a pay check for 4 years of not doing a freaking thing. I thought to myself what the hell. I could not think of one job I had had in my 20 plus years of working where I did not have to work. My reaction to dead weight on the payroll leads to an education about Wal-mart’s work environment.

I learned that Wal-mart had a sensitivity policy. I violated this policy by telling none working people to work or to go home. Wal-marts policy is to help develop those people into productive and happy associates. I was shocked. Where was the huge evil giant? Wal-mart was going out of its way to keep the dead weight employed. Keeping dead weight and limiting the ability of managers to shed dead weight was the main reason many of the people with whom I spoke did not wish to move into management. Until I came up against the policy, I had often wondered why people who have over 25 years at Wal-mart did not wish to move into management. However, Wal-mart will let go of an employee quick fast and in a hurry over derogatory comments about sexual orientation. I was truly shocked at the number of out gay people working at Wal-marts in small rural towns across the South. They did not fear for their jobs and did their jobs well. Wal-mart also feels the same about sexual discrimination. No one from the greeter to the store manager is allowed to use derogatory comments about the opposite sex.

I am not such a lover of Wal-mart that I am blind to its faults:
Scheduling associates in such a way as to keep them part-time and without benefits.
Relations with vendors that can cause some vendors to become bankrupt trying to keep the Wal-mart order.
Affect on the environment in regards to dictating what crops to grow and how they should be grown.
Video against unions. My first day at Wal-mart before I saw safety videos, I was shown an anti-union video. I have never been in a union in my life but after watching that video, I thought I might need one.

However Wal-mart does so much good:
Creates local jobs in small communities
Supports community organizations and encourage employees to be involved in the community. Schools, churches, and other civic organization all receive contributions from Wal-mart.
Employees are encouraged to continue education with a generous tuition payment program.
Provides fresh foods and also foods from local growers ( This week I am eating blue berries from a local grower purchased at my local Wal-mart).
Provides items families need at the low prices families need in order to live better.( It is not just a slogan it is a reality).
The food pantry program at Wal-mart is very highly developed. The reason outdated food is not on the shelves is Wal-mart removes such food before the expiration date to donate to local food pantries. They do not allow it to expire on the shelves in order to get a credit from the vendor.
When Katrina hit a manger at the Wal-mart on the Gulf Coast told people to come into the store to get what they wanted. Wal-mart top heads understood why she made that decision.
Also, little known fact: Wal-mart had trucks in place before Katrina hit ready to help the residents. Federal government could not find its head after Katrina hit. Wal-mart has been a big help in helping Mississippi recover from Katrina.

Walmart is not perfect. The company did turn away from the principles of Sam Walton, according to the long-term employees. However what I learned from my time working with Wal-mart is it is a company in transition. It is returning to the principles of Sam Walton and is a better company for it. Rather than a video against unions Wal-mart should have a video that speaks more about the benefits of working at Wal-mart. I understand why the legal heads took the court ruling to the SCOTUS but it was not wise. A settlement should have been reached outside the court with the women. Many people who speak out against Wal-mart have not worked there or worked there after the death of Sam Walton. This court case was terrible public relations for Wal-mart. McDonalds settled the coffee case and they actually had grounds on which to fight. The best Wal-mart can do is to speak of its commitment to community and to families and to equality in the workplace. A return to opening another cash register when 3 or more customers are in line would also be nice.

Links: (NYT take on Walmart)


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