Life at Wal-Mart, Vol. 2: Surviving on the Inside

In honor of Wal-Mart's plan to infiltrate NYC, last week we brought you real tales of Wal-Mart life from real Wal-Mart employees. Today, even more: heartbreaking horror stories, awful customers, inside tricks, and tips for you, the unfortunate Wal-Mart shoppers.

Tips for Wal-Mart Customers

  • "My mother works as a cashier in Las Vegas, and retires in 6 months, she is counting the days. She says that since the company offers price matching, you don't even need a coupon, an can tell them any price."

  • "Sometimes the rollback products were outright lies. Our featured aisles were often themed. Sometimes this theme was 'Rollback,' and sometimes we didn't have enough rollback products the fill the shelves. Solution? Fill it with a product we did have, and print a bullshit 'Was' card. Because really, who would ever know?"

  • "No matter what rules the company sets for returns, they'll automatically set them aside if someone complains enough. That way you look like an ignorant dumbass and the manager, in his little tie and headset, looks like the big corporate hero out to save the shopper from losing out on the $19.99 little Junior spent on a game he played twice and got bored with.
    Here's a tip if you're ever at Wal-Mart and the lines are long. No matter how full your buggy is, go to any place with a register and start piling your shit up. Unless you have produce that needs to be weighed, they can't turn you away from jewelry or electronics or any place else that's supposedly solely for that department. If it's a regular ten items or less register in the front, they can take anything, including weighable produce. The customers might look pissed off, but the person at the register is not allowed to say a single thing to you. And if they try to tell you they can't check you out, go tell the manager by all means! Your stuff will get pushed on through."

  • "A lot about what people say about it's easy to return anything is true. If you yell and scream enough, or just call Home Office, you'll get your way."

Wal-Mart Customers are Terrible

  • "Then there's the customers. Adults usually acted like spoiled brats when they didn't hear what they wanted to. Parents were almost non-existant, instead adults came in with their offspring, whom they couldnt, and wouldn't, control. I think 60 - 80% of them were illiterate, because we had to tackle people on a daily basis before they went through the emergency exits and set off ear splitting alarms. People would drive through areas that were taped off, and park in areas that had blatant 'no parking' signs. They'd smoke right in front of 'no smoking' signs, and always try to bring their non-assistant animals in."

  • "The issue of feces is an ever-present problem at all Walmart stores, even at the relatively upscale location I worked at in Carlsbad, California. I once saw a woman stash a soiled diaper behind items on a store shelf. With several trashcans nearby, I could never figure out why she did it. The cheap thrill of knowing that there was an employee who's life was probably worse hers that would have to clean up after her child, that for once in her miserable life, somebody else would have to dispose of her kid's crap? I will never know. Another time, a detached, distracted mother refused to walk her young son the bathroom. After he finally soiled his pants, she became irate, and humiliated him by forcing him to continue walking the store with her, even as he left a trail of smeared feces on the ground behind him...
    Then there were the numerous times I had to be escorted to my car at the end of a shift due to safety concerns, whether because of physical threats from angry customers, threats from methamphetamine cooks attempting to fraudulently purchase pseudoephedrine, various 'warnings' put out by local 'gangs' stating their intention to randomly kill a specific ethnic minority in our parking lot, or finally, because I had just been terminated, and the customers and staff had to be protected from me as I left the store one last time!"

Everyday Life as a Wal-Mart Employee

  • "We got 10% every day and 20% off of one item at Christmas."

  • "Walmart rates its cashiers based on how many items they could scan per hour (called IPH) My IPH was very high because most cashiers in that Walmart are older ladies who have retired and looking for some spare cash."

  • "Beyond the staffing issues, the general hiring and training procedures were also an 'experience'. Your first day on the job involved playing, I kid you not, a board game that 'simulated the shopping experience'. Then you got to watch a handfull of poorly acted and directed videos about all of Wal-Marts policies, which you then got to re-experience on the virtual training programs. I had to take 5 separate training programs on how to handle spills and hazards. They all covered the exact same material."

  • "I worked at a walmart tire and lube center in Texas for 11 months before I had to quit before I lost my mind. Not only do the sell to the shadiest people you can think of, they hire them too.(not me)... Now I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't get down on some of this 5finger merchandise. They stored their cd players, speakers, gps', and other goods of this nature under the stairs in our shop with a heavily locked door. We simply put the broom stick in between the stairs and "fished" out what we wanted and pushed it under the last stair, then when we changed our oil for free, just dropped the merchandise in our vehicles... Right before I quit our department supervisor got put on probation for getting caught having sex upstairs in storage on camera. That's right only probation, because if you become a supervisor, you will NOT lose your job unless it's about stealing."

Wal-Mart and Unions

  • "I worked at Wal-Mart for almost a year and can definitely attest to all the negatives that were posted. I specifically remember not just a lecture about how bad unions are, but at least two videos as well. I'm sitting there, as a history major, just incredulous at the blatant propaganda. I looked at the people around me to see if they were as stunned as I was, but they were taking it all in and were completely non-plussed.
    The anti-union stuff wouldn't have been so bad if they actually treated their employees well. There's a chain of command that one goes up if they have a problem. I think it was CSM, department manager, store manager, district manager, etc. A couple of girls I worked with weren't getting their breaks on time. There was no one there to relieve them, so they worked over an hour past break time until someone came in to work. It kept happening and no one would do anything about it and finally they called the district manager. Apparently he said some things to the people in-store and the girls got chewed out over it. They got their hours cut for actually following the chain of command.
    I also remember working 39.5 hours a week at my 'part-time' job. Anything more than that and I'd be full-time and we just can't have that, can we? They act like they're so great for starting pay at a dollar over minimum wage. I was greatful to have that as a student, but can you imagine being a parent or spouse, working 39.5 hours a week for $6.15 and hour (as minimum wage was, at the time, $5.15)? You get an employee discount of 10%, but it doesn't even go toward what your family needs the most: food."

  • "It's true that Wal-Mart openly discourages any talk of unionizing and the main justification they give for this is their 'open door policy'. Under the policy the worker is supposedly able to speak to any level of supervisor over any issue without fear of retribution. In practice, of course, this policy is complete crap. At the store I worked at the higher-level management would have so much turnover and transferring to different areas of the store that I could never keep track of who exactly was in charge of what. So if you had a problem with your immediate supervisor you were supposed to expect someone who wouldn't even know your name if it wasn't clipped on to your tacky blue vest to stand up for you and cause a stir? In the four year period I was in and out of there (on summers and holidays while I was going to college) I never saw any legitimate complaint by a lower-level employee dealt with."

Employee Horror Stories

  • "My Walmart story is from what happened to my husband. In 1998 we were having our second child. I had to have a C-section and was being put to sleep for the surgery. He worked at Walmart for a few years by then. He put in the request to take the days off since he had to be with our 5 year old during this time. They ignored the request and scheduled him to work anyway. He called in to say he would not be at work and the reason. Instead of being understanding at all, they fired him because they said he didn't show for work."

  • "I was working as a cashier while I was pregnant and all I wanted was a stool to sit down on occasionally, between customers. I was told that cashiers were expected to stand at all times. If I needed a stool it would prove that I was unable to perform the essential duties of my job and I would be forced to take my allotted 3 month leave early. At eight months pregnant when the constant standing was causing early contractions and I had a doctors note confirming this fact, the band of management decided the best solution was not to give me a freaking chair but to cut my hours significantly so I could 'go home and rest more.' It should be obvious by now that I would not have been working there while pregnant in the first place if I didn't really need the extra money. But, being ready to burst, I had no choice but to let them screw me over until the baby came. Luckily I was able to find another job during my leave and I never went back."

  • "They got on my ass later for being a Transsexual. To the point of nearly firing me for being 'too womanly'. (Which drove me to tears) I looked into it and sadly there was nothing I could do about it. This was before the GBLT crowd was a protected status in the state of Oregon. I couldn't up and leave, because well, the job market was shite. And the supervisors and the store manager always highlighted it as a major problem despite my excellent work ethic. I also nearly got sent home for editing my name tag to suit my feminine appearance and mannerisms. For a place that has a long ass mission statement about diversity, they sure do hate the gays and trannys with a passion."

  • "I am emailing this story of behalf of my mother, who worked at Wal-Mart in a small town in Texas for 25 years. She recently retired, and is the happiest she's ever been.
    In addition to the anti-union stance, no overtime pay, and the newly instituted salary cap (for cashiers, stockers, etc, not management), and declining-to-the point-of-uselessness health benefits (cost goes up, benefits go down), I watched Wal-Mart suck the soul out of my mother.
    My mother was a single parent, and in our small town, Wal-Mart is about the best one can do to support a family. For a while, it paid the bills. Then the cut in hours came. My mother, usually scheduled 40 hours per week, was cut to 25, and was told it was because "Wal-Mart isn't making any money." She and her co-workers would work five hours per day, and still be expected to do the same amount of work they would normally do in eight hours. Then came the threats: "If you don't do what you're supposed to do I WILL fire you and find someone who can," said the store manager.
    Sprinkle on top of that some of this: 'You know, you've been here so long, I could fire you and pay two people for what I pay you,' said a manager directly to my mother and some of her co-workers who had been there 20-plus years.
    Another younger employee at this Wal-Mart, also cut to 25 hours, was forced to work multiple departments in her 5-hour shift, and was told if she didn't she would be fired. This young woman, also taking care of her children by herself and fearing being fired, attempted suicide. She survived and was asked to sign a document saying she wouldn't sue.
    If you could make it through the day either not being harassed or withstanding it, the job itself was horrifying. My mother worked in softlines (clothes) and would have to take care of/dispose of/clean up the following: used tampons in the dressing room, piles of clothes people urinated on, baby diapers, dirty underwear, dirty clothes switched out for newer ones. And that wasn't even the worst. Grocery recently had to deal with a massive rat infestation, and the stockers were told they couldn't use anything other than a damp towel to wipe rat turds off the produce. (I've heard this problem was fixed, but still, nasty.)
    No one says anything. Everyone fears being fired. And if they are fired, they don't have any other options for work in this small town. Even if people finally find courage and complain to the head office, and a 'clean-up crew' comes to visit the store, things always go back to the way they were before the higher-ups paid a visit. That's what Wal-Mart does: wipe out the other businesses, scare people into submission, reinforce the idea they have no options, reap the profits of low-cost labor.
    I don't know if you'll even get a chance to read this, but I know my mother never felt she had a voice, and it's nice to let someone hear her story. We've heard people say that complaints about Wal-Mart are unfounded. They aren't. This is the life people are sometimes forced to live."
Are you a current or former Wal-Mart employee with stories to share? Email me.

[Photo via Getty]