Thursday, April 05, 2007

Self-help at the Wal-Mart

I was in line at the Starbucks earlier this week and saw the picture from this article and the word WAL-MART in the headline but never got to a library to look it up.

Three words: Public. Relations. Stunt.

Wal-Mart got some bad mojo in the PR department lately, so they got to trot whoever and whatever out to make it seem like they're NOT the devil. Please. The current and immediate past crop of Wal-Mart executives are eventually going to be the ruling class of hell. Satan is right now building a bunker and asking Eva Braun "How do you make cement look homey?"

But I digress. There are a couple of misspoken truths in the article. Chiefly that Wal-Mart associates do not already get a discount at whatever fast-food place is in their store.

We do. Ten percent, same as our associate discount. There's a McDonald's in the SuperCenter I work at, although some older stores had Blimpies or a plain snack bar staffed by Wal-Mart employees.

And the McDonald's had to institute a policy that associates ONLY got the discount if they were working that day because people would roll up with their whole family any old time and order a messs of food and ask for the discount. So now we have to actually be in acceptable Wal-Mart dress code and either wearing or carrying our smock to get the discount.

And we used to get free refills all day, but they actually stopped that AND stopped selling drinks at the registers becuase people stole the cups and just walked into the McDonald's and said "The machine in the store is broke."

Here's some more thoughts.

I'm not going to bring my personal mug to Wal-Mart in order to create a "trash-free" break room. I don't hate any of the people I work with, but I don't want to drink after any of them. Nor do I want to play "Find-A-Mug" when I want a cup of coffee before I start my shift at 7 a.m.

This gem of a program has got ultimately got nothing to do with the environment and EVERYTHING to do with cash. Styrofoam, paper and plastic recycles. Wal-Mart just doesn't want to lay out for cups for associates. 400 associates per store times xxx number of paper cups times 365 days a year - it starts to add up when you have 6000 stores!

If the Wal-Mart wants me to be "personally sustainable," the Wal-Mart will start treating me with some respect. It will staff stores properly, train the staff it hires and ensure that the idiot managers do not undercut, lie to and de-empower employees at every opportunity. It will not ask salaried managers to work a 52-hour work week. Even the ones with half a brain can't keep that up for any length of time.

You will keep the bathrooms, all two of them, plus the family bathroom, clean and well stocked with toilet paper, paper towels and soap. You will hire more than the one poor, tired beat-down, flashback-having-looking man who cleans the bathrooms now. Is it SO FREAKING HARD to recognize that increased customer traffic means that the bathrooms are going to get nasty?

The company's poor decisions, made solely in pursuit of cash and at the expense of workers, create the stress in my workplace. If you want "personally sustainable" workers, you're going to have to do a lot more than get me to walk around the store, stretch and sing "Kumbaya."

In other words, don't make make it a bad place to work, and it won't be a bad place to work.


High-Maintenance & Hostile Heidi said...

That article kills me. The challenges for Wal-Mart are significant. Its workers earn, on average, less than $20,000 a year, which means that fitness and ecology are, by necessity, relatively low priorities.

I agree with everything you said about it being a PR stunt. I don't know how you can stand working there. I guess blogging must help! Maybe that's what I should have been doing when I worked at a call center.

Jina said...


Well, along with what you said above, our store does not get a discount at the restraunt, and it's Subway. I eat there every day, but they have the wonderful Sub of the Day for less than $3.

As for Wal-Mart doing this... thing... Mosdef a stunt. I can't see our store EVER EVER EVER getting some of it's employees to do anything ambitious... We have about 5 employees that use a cart to lean on to get to their stations, weaving the cart back and forth as they walk, sit down their whole shift... taking 15 min breaks less than 10 feet away... they don't even SEE the break room. Maybe only long enough to rest before trekking all the way back across the store. And Ecology? LOL they don't really supply jack at our store... i keep forks and spoons in my locker, and i keep my mug in my locker. And I always buy a large jug of lipton peach tea for the day, even though it's only supposed to be water...


If a customer brings back a box to your store - for a $220 DVD Recorder... has reciept for previous evening... you notice someone opened the bottom of the box... you conslut LISA... (I do even if it looks unopened, better safe than sorry... some people are good with the tape!) and find it's a 2002 product - SN's don't match, no remote, no book, and doesn't even look like what is on the box... because IT'S NOT.

Apparently OUR store takes it back.

BS... (writes in block letters... "PER MANAGER XXX")

Effing Dolt.

M said...

We don't get a discount. We can flash our namebadge and get a free coffee at breakfast or updgrade to the supersize at lunch/dinner. That's it for our McDonald's.

We've always had a rack for coffee cups in our store's break room as long as I can remember, and I've been there since 1999!

Anonymous said...

I find it completely hilarious that they want you to be 'self-sustaining' while walmart is the least sustainable business in the universe! Hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

no discount at our Subway either, or at the McDonalds when we had that

Anonymous said...

Good luck getting Wal-Mart to reform these kinds of business practices when they're standard across the board at "real" jobs nationwide. I'd work *anywhere* that didn't have an idiot manager at this point, but even deep in my "regular" company everyone is a shady, undercutting, hypocrite.

And we don't have any toilet paper in the office bathroom, but that's because women count as 3/5 of a person here.

luckcanucky said...

We've always had the option of our own mugs or styrofoam. We get a discount at McDonald's plus the last Thursday of every month is a half price day.

I just wish the store would have splurged for toilets that flush automatically and real sinks instead of that molded plastic crap with variable temp water trickles and soap dispensers that don't actually release any soap without cutting into your palm first.

I feel bad for our gal in charge of cleaning up those bathrooms. My god. She has to do the breakroom, too, and the people work there are just as bad as shoppers for mess because they don't feel like it's their job to clean it up.

Debo Blue said...

If I had your job I'd rent my own trailer and leave it on the lot to use when I had to potty or refresh my drink.

FARfetched said...

Somehow, it's appropriate that McD's and Wal-Mart get together like that. Toxic food, crappy merchandise, they just seem to go together, don't they?

Yup, I'd guess the "sustainable" policy is all about shifting more costs onto the workers. If they really gave a flying flip, they could give you guys mugs with a WalMart logo on it or something. If they cared, they'd let you browse the produce and make a salad on the spot or something.

Shaun said...

I highly doubt that the Wal-Martz is just trying to save money on this deal. They would NEVER do something like that. And of course they want their employees to be more health conscious. Both of these are perfectly exemplified by their new birthday bonus policy. I don't know if this was a corporate decision or just at my store, but now, during your birthday month instead of the extra 10% discount you get 2 free donuts! Gotta love the health conscious decisions the Wal-Martz makes... donuts are healthy right? Cops love 'em. Errr... they're free anyway. (For the uneducated, a "fresh" donut costs fifty cents in the bakery).

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog today...brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

I left WalMart after just over a year (this past December) because I'd had it. Too few people, too much work, and waaaaaaay too much bull. I can't say I've missed it.

Aren't publicity stunts what they're about? Heaven forbid they do anything to actually help employees ("associates" my ass). That might cost them money. Short-lived stunts have got to be cheaper than longer-term stuff like having ADEQUATE STAFF AND PAYING THEM REASONABLY. (I actually can't complain about what I was being paid, but I know what some of my longer-term coworkers were making. They were being screwed, and if I'd stayed longer, I would have been too.)

While I was there they installed a Subway and their business was so bad that they would often have specials just for us just to get somebody...ANYBODY...back there. Unfortunately, I hate Subway.

snood said...

Maybe the cutting back on free-refills and the coffee issue is just a way to keep the bathrooms cleaning. :-p

Anonymous said...

Just thought I would leave you with something you may want to think about while 'updating on the sly'.

Particularly the second item on the list...


Anonymous said...

in my store, since the styrofoam cups are gone, people are using sleeves of the popcorn chicken cups to drink out of. We're still overworked (often running two and three departments at once), underpaid, and expected to "do more with less than before". Now we're supposed to feel better about ourselves, and ignore the low wage, almost critical understaffing, and high stress the job entails, in favor of this PSP stuff.

Pay me more an hour, get some more damn people on the floor, and have some more aggressive response to loss prevention than having managers walk around the isles the perp's at with their walkie up... if you can get a manager in less than an hour at all...