The last job I had before teaching full time was at Walmart. Specifically, the new Walmart Supercenter in Purcell, OK. Actually, my first week was at the old Walmart—not a Supercenter—on the other end of town, followed by two weeks setting up the Supercenter for opening, and 2-3 weeks in the Supercenter’s Tire and Lube Express.
I ended up at Walmart for the same reason I assume many employees end up at Walmart, I needed a job and I needed one now because I needed money and I needed it now. I had been substitute teaching, which in Oklahoma paid $40 a day (as opposed to $100 or $120 in CA) and where—due to the small, rural schools in Wayne and Purcell—they called you once or twice a month instead of every day. So subbing wasn’t cutting it and there weren’t a whole lot of jobs in Purcell but Walmart was opening a new Supercenter and I got in on the mass hiring. Literally—I was in a mass interview followed by a mass tour of the store followed by a mass handing out of blue vests and knives. That’s right, knives, which brings me to the first thing of a few things most people don’t know about Walmart: every employee is armed.
Technically, every employee is issued a box-cutter, but really, what’s in a name? When you want a box-cutter to be a box-cutter, it’s a box-cutter, but when you want a box-cutter to be a knife, it’s a knife. It’s really in the eye of the holder. The reason everyone at Walmart needs a box-cutter is that at Walmart, there is no down time. If you’re not helping a customer or making a sale or changing a filter, you are either stocking shelves (and hooks) or you are scanning the stocked shelves (and hooks) to ensure that they are stocked correctly. There is a steady flow of pallets, each stacked tall with boxes of merchandise, from the warehouse to your department, all of which must be opened and shelved (or hooked). Thus, box-cutters. So, when dealing with a Walmart employee who seems perhaps emotionally unstable—as may not be all that uncommon—think “box-cutter in pocket” before pissing them off.
The next thing most people don’t know about Walmart is that people at Walmart either worship Sam Walton or want you to worship Sam Walton. In the staff-only areas, such as the staff lounge, there are all these pictures of Sam Walton with Sam Walton quotes, like, “There is only one boss: the customer,” and stuff like that. Once, I commented to a fellow employee that in one picture in particular, in which Sam was sort of reaching toward the camera, it looked like he wanted to throttle one of us. The fellow employee just looked at me with pity.
At least twice during the term of my employment, I heard an employee use a “Sam-ism,” so to speak, to either motivate or correct another employee.
But that’s not the best part. The best part is that at Walmart staff meetings, they play Sam Walton trivia, which consists of questions about Sam Walton’s life taken from his books, which, by the way, are recommended reading. And what do you get if you win Sam Walton trivia? Just guess That’s right, a better box-cutter. A nice box-cutter with a comfy grip and new blades, instead of the crappy box-cutters that everyone gets. And they go ape-shit for the new box-cutters. They love them. They name them. They taunt those without new box-cutters. They form new box-cutter cliques.
The third thing most people don’t know about Walmart is the Ten Foot Rule. When a customer comes within ten feet of an employee, that employee must stop what they are doing, smile, and ask the customer, “How May I Help You?” Now, in Oklahoma, where people are generally more friendly (it’s true), they’re very good at the Ten Foot Rule. In California, not as much. But that doesn’t mean that Walmart employees in California or anywhere else don’t know about the same Ten Foot Rule they know about in Oklahoma. So feel free to challenge your local employees. If you’re within the ten foot zone and are being ignored, maybe a little “Ahem. Ten Foot Rule.” Actually, that’s mean. Don’t do that. To hell with Walmart and their Ten Foot Rule.
Which brings me to the final (for now) thing that most people don’t know about Walmart, which actually maybe everyone knows about Walmart: Ten Foot Rule or not, the only thing Walmart employees are really really able to help you with is where things are in their department. They know where things are in their department because no matter how big or small the item that employee has placed that item in that spot or on that hook hundreds if not thousands of times. But beyond that, don’t assume that every employee is an expert or even interested in their department. Hardware people are not sent to hardware, or sporting goods people to sporting goods. People are sent where people are needed.
For example, I worked for three weeks in the Purcell Supercenter’s Tire and Lube Express. I changed hundreds of people’s oils. The top-side part. Changed their air filter, checked levels, tire pressure, etc and most importantly filled their engine with oil. I rotated and balanced hundreds of tires. I had no idea what I was doing. None. I couldn’t get a job sweeping the floor in a non-Walmart garage or tire shop. I was taught a series of steps that I performed over and over People that know me well know that I know nothing about cars or engines or tires. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. So think about that the next time you drop off your keys and head inside to buy a new comforter.