Friday, January 27, 2012

Walmart Greeters: The End of An Era Begins




It was recently reported that Walmart will be pulling its greeters from overnight shifts at many of its stores. This has been called an indicator of a poor economy, but I beg to differ.  

While Sam Walton's original idea of having a person at the front of every store greet the customer probably seemed like a great way to make people feel welcome (and want to spend more time and money in the store), it has most likely strayed very far from its original intent.

Many Walmart greeters are hired from the ranks of elderly retirees who were looking to make a little extra money to supplement their retirement and/or social security.  This works out well since all they used to have to do was smile, wave, and say “Welcome to Walmart!”  It was a job that required very little physical effort and did not demand quick decision making skills.  

According to corporate perception, all Walmart employees that worked as greeters were like the one in this video.




Adorable. 

Unfortunately, that all began to change when Walmart decided to make them work security at the exit.  Anyone who has been to Walmart and walked out with a giant television or a shopping cart full of competitively priced groceries has experienced an awkward exchange like this one:

Walmart Greeter:  Excuse me sir, can I please see your receipt?

Customer:  It’s at the bottom of my shopping cart.

Walmart Greeter:  I can wait.

                                                                        freerepublic.com
"I can wait all day, punk..."

They will then pretend to look at your receipt, use a marker to draw a random line across it, and you're on your way.

While most of us have never stolen anything from Walmart ourselves, people that do steal from the store began to feel threatened by these elderly sentries that stood between them and their free goods.  Other customers (that actually did purchase their goods) became offended that their integrity had been questioned so  soon after plunking down hard earned cash for their items.

This combination of opportunistic criminals and angry/insulted shoppers manifested itself into a rash of violent acts against the greeters.  Like this one:




Apparently, a customer set off the store alarm when he tried to leave.  The 69 year old greeter asked him to stop so he could do the cursory "pretend to look at receipt" act.  When the customer refused, the greeter followed him outside to get his license plate number.  The customer was not pleased, came back inside, and began to throw down.

Fortunately for the greeter, he was an ex-marine and was able to hold his own.  But two parts of this case's aftermath put it very far out in left field:

1. The customer had actually paid for every item he had.  He was also in possession of the receipt.
2. The greeter was fired by Walmart for 'gross misconduct.'

                                              indianlogo
"...and always remember to smile while receiving a customer issued beat down."


This decline in working conditions made the once seemingly easy job of being a Walmart greeter much less desirable.  Even a 100 year old woman wasn't safe from angry and physically aggressive Walmart shoppers.  This is probably what led to the greeter job pool going from generally friendly grandmas/grandpas to more in the vein of Tony Soprano's mom.

                                                   focusfeatures
"The ending to the series finale?  My idea."

While I can’t prove the correlation, the Walmart greeters I have encountered in the 3 states I have lived in the past 10 years have fallen into 4 basic catagories.


The Interrogator

I’m all for Walmart greeters being friendly; the most important part of their job should be to make you feel welcome when you walk into the store.  But when I or almost anyone else makes the decision to walk into a Walmart, it is not for casual browsing; there is a desire to purchase a specific item or items cheaply and quickly.  We simply want to get it, pay for it, and leave.

But before you can make it past the threshold into the land of great savings, this happens:

Greeter:  Hello sir!  Welcome to Walmart!

Customer: <Silent nod and smile>

Greeter: Hey there, young fella!  You coming in today to buy that new Call of Duty game?

Customer: <Suddenly halting their forward motion>  Umm…no, just buying groceries.

Greeter: You don’t like video games?

Customer:  No, I do…I just wasn’t planning on buying it today.

Greeter:  Well why not?

At this point your mind is split between wondering why this man cares so much about your video game buying habits, and why you aren’t buying Call of Duty that day when you know that you will eventually.  The conversation is like a rope that continues to tighten as you try to back away towards the aisles.  When it finally ends/breaks, it is all you can do to keep from sprinting into the main part of the store.

That's when you realize that you never got a shopping cart, thus starting the terrible cycle over again.


The Easily Offended Shouter

We all like to think of ourselves as good people, but sometimes on our worst days, we aren't very good at being cordial or friendly.  When you're having a bad day, nothing can make it worse than having to make a stop at your local Walmart.

                                                           peopleofwalmart.com
...and there's goes my desire to eat or live anymore."

While most of us will normally give a wave or say hello back to our friendly greeter, sometimes it can just slip your mind while you are dreading the terrible sights that await you in the frozen food aisle.

Greeter: HELLO SIR, WELCOME TO WALMART!!

Customer: <Hurries through the door to quickly get their items>

Greeter:  THAT'S OKAY, SIR!   YOU GO AHEAD AND HAVE A NICE DAY ANYWAY!!!

Great.  Now you look like a jerk.  If your guilt has a "heavy wash" setting like mine, you then make the mistake of going back to say hello to the greeter...which gets you roped into a conversation about fiber levels and Obama's birth certificate.


Angry and Dead Inside

Walmart greeters can have bad days, too.  But some seem to be caught in a perpetual cycle of anger and despair.  When the greeter says the words "Welcome to Walmart," it is clear that they are actually welcoming you to his or her own personal hell. 

It is also a hell that is made possible by the fact that you and the person in hot pink shorts and a Ben Rothlisberger jersey keep shopping there.  But you get to leave...they must stay.  

                                                                  schuminweb
"Each pin represents a customer that I have wanted to kill...today..."


Lazy and Potentially Comatose

This is the greeter that sits there and doesn't actually greet anybody.  They stare straight ahead, silently earning a paycheck every day for doing what many of us have to do at the DMV once every few years...bide our time and pretend that we are somewhere else.

But you know what?  After seeing some of the crap these guys have to put up with every day (along with their incoming cut in workable hours), I think I can live with that.  Walmart Greeters of America, I salute you...but you don't need to salute me back if you don't want to.

                                                                    free-extras
But let's keep our conversation short; I need to go pick up a video game.