True Horror Stories of Life as a Wal-Mart Employee
Gawker has published several stories told by various Wal-Mart workers about the conditions, treatment, and incidences they have endured at the Sam Walton-founded store. The store that was – in it’s early years before the children took over – a place one would be proud to work at and stocked with American-made products as well as promoting family-values and ethical work treatment.
Not any more. I’m sure Sam Walton has turned over in his grave a thousand times by now.
Here are a few tales pulled from Gawker’s “Life at Wal-Mart: The Workers Speak” Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol.3. I have edited some only due to length so that this post does not turn into a novel. Please check out the Gawker articles for more details and stories. All stories are completely anonymous, including the location.
From Volume 3:
An employee tells their story about what happened after they accidentally dropped a bottle of applesauce when night-stocking.
“The jar had shattered against my arm and two shards of glass had punctured my inner forearm in two places. The first cut was roughly two inches, and second about an inch. The cuts were deep enough to see bone, veins and more veins passed the bone…. I was driven to the ER…. and I was given 10 stitches….
I was driven back to the store, and told that I was have to take a drug test as soon as the local drug testing facility opened. Since the incident occurred at around 3 a.m., and the drug testing facility opened at 8, I was told I should just go ahead and finish up my shift. I was 19, it was my first job, so I agreed. I was sent back out on the floor to continue stocking the applesauce an hour after getting 10 stitches and glass picked out of my arm while wearing clothes that were absolutely soiled mix of blood and applesauce. I looked like I had just murdered someone. But why should that matter to Wal-Mart?”
The 75-year-old employee who must be smoking weed
“We had a very nice elderly woman working in the crafts department and had been with the company and in that one store for more than 25 years. A box fell off a high shelf, hit her in the head…. The store manager tasks me with interviewing her to fill out an incident report, and this woman is nauseous, dizzy and exhibiting [the] signs of a concussion. I ask, Shouldn’t we take her to the hospital? Nope, let her fill out this form first, she’s fine. Then the store manager pulls me aside and starts asking me if she said anything weird, if I thought she was covering her tracks and if I thought she smoked weed. Seriously?… she’s about 75 years old.
“The store manager then has me take her to the company’s drug-testing lab on the way to the hospital. The whole time this lady is complaining about feeling sick and having a headache, and then we have to wait almost two hours at the lab…. Then I take her to the hospital…. It comes back she has a mild concussion and can go home…. I drop her off directly at her car so she can go straight home…. go back in the store, log into the computer system and clock her out. The store manager finds out I did that after she was discharged from the hospital with “just a concussion” and rips me for it, saying she was fine to go back to work….”
Fired for turning in a child porn photographer
“The worst story, though. Involved my Girlfriend at the time. we were both hired for the Christmas rush…. She worked in the Photo lab. One day she had someone come in and drop off a couple roll of film, as she was developing them, she noticed some nude pics, which they are allowed to print. The next roll had child pornography on it, at first they seemed like normal pics, kid in the bathtub sort of thing, pics all parents have of there kids. But, then things went downhill. She immediately stopped the roll, and took it out of the machine and called the manager. They told her to just give the roll back to the guy, and tell him they couldn’t develop it. After the manager left, my girlfriend did the right thing, and called the cops. They arrested the guy, and fired my girlfriend. I was never so proud of anyone, as i was of my girlfriend.”
Thanks for sacrificing your pay so we can profit
This would actually be a great thing to start out the day or shift with if everyone were well-paid and treated, and had the luxury of full benefits. But considering the circumstances, this is nothing more than being bent over without using vaseline.
“But the absolute worst thing about working there had to be the Walmart cheer. [T]he daily Walmart pep rally… basically consists of all the available “Associates” gathering in a big circle to hear about how much money “our” store had brought in the previous day and how we all needed to work even harder so “our” store would bring in more money than all the other Walmarts nearby tomorrow. And to seal the deal we would all take part in the Walmart cheer, a ritual that simultaneously drains you of all hope for the future while at the same time somehow numbing you to the point of lethargic resignation to your lot in life.”
From Volume 1:
No Unions Allowed
“A few years ago I spent a summer working at Wal-Mart between my second and third years of university. I’m Canadian, and the Wal-Mart I worked at was located in a city of about 50,000 people. I wasn’t particularly enthused about spending my summer working there, but I was a student and I needed money. Here are some things that stick out in my mind about the experience: […]
“Wal-Mart is definitely anti-union. During my employee orientation, myself and a few other new hires were made to listen to a lecture from the store’s HR manager about how unions aren’t “necessary” at Wal-Mart because the employees are all treated “very fairly”, and about how we should report any evidence of union activity to our supervisor. We were also strictly forbidden from discussing our pay with other employees. […]”
From Volume 2:
Wife having a C-section? You’re fired!
“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.”
For my mother
I am leaving this in it’s entirety. What a loving child had to watch her mother endure all because it was about the only job in their small town.
“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.”
The ever-present problem of feces…
“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 trash cans nearby, I could never figure out why she did it…. 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!”
Walmart. The high cost of low prices.
Several more reasons why I love to shop at Costco. Plus Costco has such a better quality of product. I save money at Costco; am helped by employees who enjoy working there and are paid fairly and have benefits; and nothing I bring home is from China (yes, I do check all products regardless of where I shop.)