Earlier this week, we published a new installment of our occasional series of true stories from Wal-Mart workers. The company was so displeased with its employees speaking publicly that they posted a plea on an internal website asking other employees to send us positive stories. We've gotten quite a few stories. But most aren't positive at all.
Yesterday, in response to our publication of employee stories, Wal-Mart posted a message on its employee website: "Many people in the media don't know the amazing stories you have to share. This week Gawker is posting stories about Walmart, attacking the work our associates do, and it's up to us to set the record straight," said the plea. "Feel free to share your story about the real Walmart today and what makes you proud to be working at Walmart." Contact information for us was also posted.
We received several positive-themed stories from Wal-Mart workers as a result of this plea by the company— including one from a veteran employee who bragged, "A week after I joined Walmart, my first child was born. Would you believe that Walmart gave me a week off (without pay of course) and they didn't hold it against me when I returned. You see, Walmart cares about their associates and their families more than any other company that I know." (His letter is published in full at the bottom of this post, along with an image of Wal-Mart's request on its internal website.)
But far more common were stories like these, all of which we received in the past few days:
"Walmart is where the poor go to work until they die"
"The Walmart Employee website is encouraging us to refute your stories, asking us to do their PR for them and tell the stories of "the Real Walmart". The only problem is that the stories in your article ARE the real Walmart. The saddest thing is that many of us won't even disagree with the site, because we're all afraid to get fired...
I've been with the company for 4 years now. For the first two years I kept a pretty good attitude, despite my divorce, deteriorating conditions at work, and actually ending up homeless. Do you think they cared, at all? The stores cut hours. I went from 28 hours a week to 7. SEVEN hours a week, and 14 if I was lucky. One of the disabled ladies that worked as a door greeter lost her house of thirty years, just a year short of paying off her mortgage, because her hours were cut and she couldn't even eat. Our manager said she wanted to apologize for the cut hours and she didn't want anyone going without food or necessities, so to let her know if there were problems. I hadn't eaten in two days, and I asked for help, crying in her office. She told me she would get me a $50 gift card by the end of the day. When I went to find her the end of my shift, she'd already left. When I asked about it the next day, she said she'd given it to "A shift manager" to give to me, and she'd have to get onto that manager for not getting it to me. Do you think I've ever gotten that card
And I know, I've seen the comments of people who are better off and sitting in their cozy houses with their nice cars and their biggest monetary concern being funding their next trip to Disney, or getting courtside seats: "How dare evil Walmart force people to apply and work there", or "Get an education, and you won't have to work there". Well, Guess what? I am very much educated. I have a BA in Education, but since the Education system is going the way of the Dodo, it's impossible to get a job. I actually work two jobs to try to support my husband and I, and I am ALSO in school, trying to get another degree so that I can maybe find a job somewhere other than Walmart, y yo hablo espanol...
It is so easy for you, as a customer, to look at our weary, broken faces and see that we've given up. It is so easy to lose your temper because this item is not in stock, and there is never anyone in the department, and the store is dirty. It's easy to scream for a manager because an employee walked past you without helping you, when they've been dealing with being kicked by little kids, yelled at by other customers, and having to do work far outside their job description and capabilities for the last 4 hours, and they just really, REALLY needed to go to the bathroom.
It would be so easy to look at one of your cashiers, and just say "thank you", or "I'm sorry". It would be easy to realize that we are human beings, working one of the most stressful jobs with absolutely no support, and have some compassion. We don't want to be where we are, and we all start out happy and cheerful and helpful; and then Walmart kills our souls, and breaks our spirit, and grinds us down. Walmart is where the poor go to work until they die."
No other options but to keep going
"I worked at Wal-Mart for about 2 years right out of high school. My first department was Pets where I received absolutely no training what-so-ever. The only animals in the department were fish but I had to learn about Ichthyophthirius, and that I can't sell fish with it or put more fish in with fish that have ich, from a book we sold on fish care and customers. My manager and the guy working with me never bothered to tell me, and I was often left alone. So many fish came through and died in that store and whenever I do pass the fish at the Wal*Mart I live at now I just feel awful for them. I knew nothing about fish care, and I made that clear when they gave me the job. I didn't know you couldn't just toss a new fish into the bowl (it would get shock and die, you have to put the bag the fish comes in into the water to slowly change the temperature, but never dump that water into the new water when you're done)...
The fear of unions can be crazy there, as has been stated in past stories. I was once talking about a family reunion I had attended and one manager went into full sprint up to me and demanded to know why I had said the word "Union". When I told her "I said 'REUNION', not 'Union'" she didn't believe me and decided to tear me down right there on the sales floor. Lucky for me a few other employees I was talking to stood up for me and told her she heard me wrong.
I've worked a lot of retail and anywhere you work you will find favoritism but I never saw it worse than at Wal*Mart. One of the store managers was in a (not-so) secret relationship with a guy who worked in Electronics with us. Thing is, if you didn't know he worked in Electronics nobody would blame you. He'd get to work and they would just go to the smoke room for the entire day. They would often take a company vehicle to the store's off-site storage facility and not come back all day. They even did this after we had a big store meeting about losing the storage facility (which resulted in our backroom taking in all the stock). The manager had his own problems, for sure, as he was obviously lying to his wife and children about his barely legal gay lover, but we had to pay the price - always one person short in the department...
During my two years I saw people break down, freak out, steal, lie, cheat, and so so many sad workers who had no other options but to keep going. People who had worked there and helped build the store when it when it being forced down to part-time and losing their benefits. The angriest customers and the more baffling of idiots. I watched a woman vomit in front of the video game cases, look at all of us, shrug, walk off, and come back 20min later to see if we cleaned it up and laugh."
From a formerly happy WM employee who transferred stores
"Since the new management has taken over, though, many things have changed. Here are just a few:
- There are never enough associates working. While I am aware that our paychecks cut into Walmart's profit, the number of customers who get disgusted at standing in line for over an hour to check out - or just to ask a question! - and walk out without buying what they had planned to cuts into our profits much more.
- Management encourages rudeness to customers. You would not believe this, would you? More than once, I have had a manager threaten to write me up for assisting a customer in a department that borders mine, because there is never anyone scheduled for that department. I have always been told and trained that a customer comes first. The 10 foot rule states that whenever a customer comes within ten feet of you, that you smile and say hello and ask if they need any assistance. My immediate managers have actually told me that if a customer walks up to me in my department and asks me a question related to any other department I should tell them to go find someone else. I have refused to do this, and have had my assistant manager tell me that he would report me to the store manager over helping a customer. Unfortunately, I would probably be written up or terminated by the store manager, as well, but I shall continue to refuse to not help customers. If there were another associate available in that department, I would not have to help customers outside of my own department.
- In direct opposition to what my managers want me to do when I'm working in my own department, they are constantly calling associates away from their own departments to work in others, and then get angry when our eight hour shift is over and our department hasn't been fully zoned. It is because we were too busy detail-zoning a department we have no idea about, or, in an instance I recently experienced, had to clean bathrooms even though we have no training on maintenance whatsoever. This would probably have not been so bad if I did not have an allergy to the material the gloves are made out of, and had not had to clean the entire bathroom bare-handed.
- I have associates sexually harass me, grabbing my breasts and butt and asking inappropriate, detailed questions about my personal life. I have reported it to management, and their response, verbatim, is, "Oh, that's just how he is. You just have to look over him." They also took this stance when I reported an employee being extremely rude to a customer and going so far as to call me and the customer, who was an older lady, "snitching bitches" when she reported him to a manager in front of him. My reporting was done later, in a managerial office, on camera. This was not the first time I had reported a problem with this particular employee, but, just like the other times, nothing was done.
There are many more problems that come with working at my particular store, but all-in-all, I do think that Walmart is a good company. While their beliefs are proclaimed loudly as "Save Money, Live Better," I am pretty sure everyone knows that Walmart is really working for profits for themselves and their shareholders, and not for the customers."
An LGBT employee
"I am a current Walmart Employee from a small town in North Carolina (heres another side bar i'm a member of the LGBT community) and let me reaffirm all the stories that I have read in your blog .... working for walmart is more than enough to drive you crazy and the worst part of it is the unfair, intolerant and horrible atmosphere one must do it in!
Here is a list of things, that I have experienced first hand in 1 yr and 6 mo. of working there.
- upper management and lower level management disregards wal mart's own policies, examples include overlooking same store relationships, not providing breaks on time or not at all, allowing associates to strike other associates and doing nothing about it even when it was reported, and more very heinous things
- not only are non management associates bullied and mistreated also are our own assistant managers, my managers have told me on more than one occasion that the store manager has verbally abused them and thrown things at their heads. and that co-mgrs treat them the same way! .... this makes my heartache more than anything because we have had few good caring assistant managers that treated us with respect LEAVE THE STORE or THE COMPANY ALTOGETHER!
- I have been threatened by management on numerous occasions with being written up for unjust causes, like leaving at my scheduled time!
- I have experienced male managers that were completely sexist and let any female associates do anything they wanted, break any rule they wanted, and never reap repercussions ( im a male associate) and the male associates were treated like they had to walk on eggshells
- a manager once told me that another fellow managers first words, to him were "so how many of them on 3rd (meaning female third shift associates) are fuc*able"
- No One Can Speak Up about any of these things or really anything that they find unjust, or they will get fired or ignored at my store!
- another one of my fellow associates was called a dumbass directly to his face by an assistant manager and upper management just turned the other cheek!
- We are told we have to complete Tasks which are assigned to us by a computerized task manager that are timed and assigned by management (and the times are always ridiculously off) and told that if we do not complete the tasks we will be written up. ( even if we work an 8hr scheduled day we are sometimes assigned 12, 13 i have even seen 20 hours of work assigned to one person)
- I have even been told by another associate that he "doesn't like faggots and really doesn't want to work that close to one " and reported it to management and been told to just ignore it thats just John!
I used to love my job working for walmart but the management and the unfairness has made me hate to even show up."
The happy greeter
"I worked at Wal-Mart for two summers (and breaks) during college, and the experience pretty much killed any interest I have working in a corporate, for-profit setting (I currently work for a small non-profit)...
The worst anecdote I have concerns the plight of an older gentleman who worked in the back. He worked in the back unloading trucks for a number of years before hurting his knee on the job. He ended up getting surgery, and the surgeon recommended that he receive physical therapy as well. The insurance Wal-Mart provided would only approve therapy at one facility, and the facility was overworked to the point that they could only treat him on a very specific schedule; management absolutely refused to accomodate his work schedule for the sake his therapy schedule, and they ended up putting a chair by the garden center door (dude was still using crutches) and making him work 8 hour shifts as a greeter. So not only did they refuse to cooperate with his store-sponsored health insurance, they found some menial way to keep him working instead of rehabilitating his knee. I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to fire him since then, and he assuredly does not have the means to hire a lawyer and challenge their labor practices.
For high school and college students who can tolerate stupidity and rely on low wages, Wal-Mart isn't the worst place to work. But they are among the lucky few who get to view it as a stop-gap instead of a foundation."
Trying to make ends meet
"A discernible trend has been duly noted by us hourly workers. Every time a bonus is paid out, our hours are cut, every time holiday pay is paid out, our hours are cut. This looks very much like an aggressive claw back of any extra pay the employees have worked hard to earn. What's worse is knowing that management does not experience the same claw back on their bonus pay.
So many workers are struggling so hard trying to make ends meet. You have no idea how many people I've known who lost their homes because they were no longer able to make their mortgage or rent payment. It's hard when you have to decide what not to pay; gas/electric, water, food, medicine/medical care, or mortgage/rent. This nothing short of disgraceful for a corporation that has enjoyed a $30 increase in their shares in less than three years. If you call out more than three times in six months, you could be fire. So people come in very sick, barely able to function, touching all the stuff you buy, including food. Workers have been injured and forced to come to work suffering chronic pain from their injuries. People have been scheduled seven days in a row (bridging one week to the next). This really burns out a person to be scheduled this way. In that seven day stretch, that same person could be 'short shifted' meaning it could be a little as eight hours between shifts.
This is a shameful way for a profitable corporation to treat it's employees."
Subj: "Wal-Mart Not Good Employment!"
"Very low poverty wages. Very low poverty raises. Extremely mean and impersonal, disconnected none caring management. Confusing and very unorganized work environment.
It's just real, read bad. 7 years experience. I'll stop here before I write a book. Thanks for listening."
A positive view of Wal-Mart
"I have worked for Walmart for over 15 years and it has not always been easy. I started as an hourly associate in produce earning a decent wage. I made a commitment to myself and my supervisors that I would always be available to the hours they needed and that they could depend on me to report to work on time. You see, I came to Walmart looking for a job and it has been my choice to stay here ever since.
As I stated above, it has not always been that easy and there have been numerous changes within the company structure with policies, procedures, personnel and how we operate on a daily basis. This change has kept us current and has been necessary for us to maintain our competitive edge. Through it all, I have remained steadfast to my commitment to Walmart.
Anyone that says retail is easy hasn't really invested a lot of time in retail. I believe a lot of the negative publicity that Walmart gets comes from those that may have thought that retail was easy or from those that may have failed themselves and looked for someone to blame, that someone being Walmart. If you cannot perform a job that is asked of you and you cannot come to work as scheduled, why should any company (not just Walmart) invest time in you?
A week after I joined Walmart, my first child was born. Would you believe that Walmart gave me a week off (without pay of course) and they didn't hold it against me when I returned. You see, Walmart cares about their associates and their families more than any other company that I know. That will be hard to prove to the haters of this great company, but I am not trying to prove anything, or persuade anyone to believe me, I am just stating a fact that can be supported by the success and stability of our great company and by the associates that choose to work here.
After produce, I worked my way around the store running various departments as an hourly supervisor. I continued to share my knowledge and learn from those around me and eventually moved up to an assistant manager. After several years of running multiple areas as an assistant manager, I was promoted to a shift manager reporting directly to the store manager. I continued to learn and grow and the company continued to invest in me and my abilities.
Today, I am currently enrolled in a leadership program within Walmart that recognizes top talent that is capable of performing two levels up. I did not volunteer to be in this program but was recognized by executive leaders within my region because they believed in me and what I can do for them in the future. Walmart offers the tools and resources necessary to be successful in every area of the store. It is the associates responsibility to utilize those tools to grow. I will continue to spread the facts about Walmart and share the stories about the positive things this company is doing now and in the future. I have purposely chosen not to criticize or speak negatively about those that do not support Walmart for this would only stir the pot that is filled with lies and hate anyway. I do, however, expect a full lashing from those that will continue to troll these websites, and that is ok.
Now, if you want to know the facts about Walmart, take a visit to Walmartfacts.com and see what Walmart is really about, what they are doing in your community and how they are making a positive impact on your customer's and employee's lives. I am not going to fill up this post with a bunch of numbers, percents, and other noise about Walmart. Visit the website I mentioned above, there you will find the true numbers and percents that are making a positive impact for us both here and abroad. As long as we can help you save money, the world will continue to live better, and that is a fact."
[Image by Jim Cooke. If you'd like to share a story, you can email Hamilton@Gawker.com]