Customer Service or Customer Assault; Walmart Commits Greeter Genocide with a Smile

Author: James Kreimer

Mark it down on your calendar. It may be the last time you hear or see the jovial greeter at your local Walmart according to most news outlets from around the country. Walmart said it would be eliminating the greeter position at more than a 1000 stores nationwide in favor of expanding the role for a new position, which includes more responsibilities. The new “Customer Host” position has requirements such as being able to lift 25lbs, climb ladders, and stand for long periods of time. This is a brutal attack on the civil liberties of the aged and disabled as they constitute the majority of Walmarts’ Greeter workforce. One would assume this constitutes a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, the Waltons and Walmart (slick as ever) have an out. So don’t go calling the ACLU just yet.

The Main objective of the Customer Host position is to deter shoplifting, which accounts for some approximately 1.5-1.75 billion dollars a year annually(35% of 1% of total revenue). Now for a company which had a net profit of over 126 billion dollars last year, you’d think the solution would be simple. Hire more employees, right? Wrong…

When companies like Walmart face a situation such as this, they use a model where they need to correct a problem, but their solution is based on a mathematical function rather than humanity. This is called optimization. Walmart has been facing this problem for years and instead of creating their own trained security force, or hiring on the requisite number of part and full time employees to help manage the losses; they instead began the process of transitioning employees from one part of the store to another, changing their job title and hiring on cheaper replacements. Not exactly the approach I believe Sam Walton would have taken, but in Today’s Walmart, while trying to compete with Amazon and the online marketplace; where cost effectiveness and gross profit margin overshadow consumer and employee relation/ comfort, we feel and are left with the inevitable pangs of the almighty dollar and its trickle down effect on the lowest rung of the ladder. The beauty of Optimization.

My best guess is that the idea for the Customer Host position was first brought into fruition  at a board of directors meeting either in Q4 of 2015 or Q1 of 2016, because the first Customer Hosts that were actually put in place in a Walmart store according to their website happened in April/May of 2016. That’s right, this isn’t a new story by any means, but a long drawn out genocide of a good hard working portion of the American public. All of this in the name of Optimization, followed as a strict dogma and implemented by the clergy of profit and the cardinals of capitol. With Amazon and other online stores cutting in on a significant part of Walmart’s business, they’re trying to cut costs at every turn. That’s why you’ll only see 2 or 3 checkout lanes open on the busiest of days. War has been declared with the invasion of Amazon, and Wal-Mart has resorted to guerilla-style tactics.

However, this story isn’t about Walmart. It’s about the people. The hard working and genuine people that have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this retail chain and are now being thrown to the wolves with no legal recourse and in many cases no means to pursue and take on another job. These are the soldiers of retail. One gentlemen I met has been there for over 24years. I told him they owe him a gold watch for his time and service. He told me his dad bought him one after he’d been there for 20 years, and though it wasn’t gold, it was a very nice watch. His career is over, an abandoned veteran with no war to in which to fight.

Public outcry stemming from a second round of cuts left Walmart attempting to cool tensions by offering an extended grace period for disabled greeters to find other jobs inside Walmart. The initial 60 day period was extended indefinitely a few days ago. However, that does little good for people like Mitchell Hartzell, a 31yr old full-time greeter in Hazell Green, Alabama who has cerebral palsy. His manager told him “they pretty much didn’t have anything in that store for me to do.” Mitchell was persistent, approaching several assistant managers to inquire about upcoming openings, and though he found out about a position in self-checkout, the position had already been promised to another greeter who didn’t need the use of a wheel chair. There’s no place for people like Mitchell & Andrew in today’s Walmart. They are a net loss; an inefficiency.

The current modus operendi has blasphemed the mantra of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton

-”if any one thing characterizes our Walmart associates and Company it is Caring and Sharing”

I’m not sure how he’d feel about this latest move to discontinue the greeter position, which had been a staple at Walmart since its’ founding. Then again, times change and I suppose so do people and companies for that matter. Maybe I, like many others don’t see the forest from the trees and this is just a stepping stone to build upon. Maybe there are greater works ahead and maybe the displaced workers are a part of those works. Sometimes dellusional optimism is necessary for survival.

I write this in the hopes that it will make some bit of difference, some kind of change, but ultimately we’re all so wrapped up in a mentality of materialism and instant gratification that regardless of what I write, what anyone writes, there will be no follow through on the part of the consumer. The Corporate Cog is to large and tireless in its pursuit of profits, and Wal-Mart enables millions of Americans the most advanced creature comforts that have ever existed in human history attainable for even the most economically disadvantaged people in our society. Hearts will bleed for a while, but like I stated earlier, this isn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. There may even be a strong push to bring back most or at least some of the workers that will be effected by these layoffs in the coming years, but ultimately they will all eventually be shown the door. The irony is, that they will return to Wal-Mart to cash their unemployment checks and buy a flat-screen T.V.


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3 thoughts on “Customer Service or Customer Assault; Walmart Commits Greeter Genocide with a Smile

  • Although I agree with some of what the author states, I really don’t understand what the greeter at Walmart does. If you look at the overall functionality of an organization even Human Resources and Training has been viewed over the years as a department that does not produce revenue. Although, studies have shown for various reasons due to legal exposure and turnover you can’t discount staffing these areas to contribute to the overall success of a company. But please tell me what the greeter does for me? I get a nice smile when I walk in from yes typically someone who is older. But I also find it disturbing when I leave and have to show my receipt. Why? Based on the whole purpose why WalMart is looking at these positions and putting them into better use with more security.

    There are plenty of jobs within Wal-Mart where they can make accommodations under the American Disabilities Act to allow for the older generation of workers. This may require investing in more training and time. However, the return they receive may prove to be even more valuable since this generation is proven to be more reliable and dependable.

    So I say out with the greeters and train them in another area where you may see constant turnover from the millennials who don’t want to show up. Hire more older workers who has the sense of work ethics instilled in them. This is an area you can never train someone in…reliability!

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