In this excerpt from Working for Walmart: Inside America’s Largest Corporation, Marguerite Reardon uses Walmart’s top sales policy, and how a real estate manager said “if you work at Walmart, and you need your car fixed, you’re out of luck.” This excerpt was compiled with the full permission of Sleeping Giant Publishing.
Every day at Walmart is a nightmare, and the workplace is hell on earth.
It’s a grim universe in which that phrase doesn’t seem hyperbolic. It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to work at Walmart, even now. And what I witnessed in my half-dozen months here was anything but a surprise.
I worked in Mark’s Furniture. For this particular store, it was because everything has to be perfect. It’s gotten so bad that you can’t even have regular fare like chicken nuggets. So instead, you get codeine and “Ayer’s” (the product that is purported to treat “twisted ailments”).
…I started with the opening greeting of “Yes, and?” — that’s how Mark talks. The long pause in the greeting seems a strange thing to experience, a moment when everything else has fallen away and you can see each detail as if someone is painting on a still life. How about “I’ll be here for you guys, I promise”? Oh, hell no.
When I first started at Walmart, I could get the job done in about 45 minutes. My duties were mostly internal, writing invoices and taking orders for video games. And I would almost always have the time to prepare the order and write out the invoice. My salary covered gas for my car, which made work a lot more tolerable.
Things got significantly worse on my first night at Walmart. Not only did I have my first customer — a hairy alien with an extra-large dong — but I also had to carry the water jug from the kitchen to our kitchen, which had just been remodeled. If the water bottle kept its full gulp, then my ticket would clear. If it didn’t, then it was a no-go.
Stress. I literally had to double-check with the manager to make sure that his water bottle was okay for me to carry…then every other trip to the kitchen was a stress-filled morning.
Here’s the thing that’s also so hard about Walmart: Things that once seemed uneventful–the wee bit of “chickadee-corporealization” (as you might call it) that you get when you meet your co-workers — suddenly become overwhelming. You can never tell a co-worker that something is “kinda inconvenient,” because there’s just no way to tell someone that they can’t carry a water bottle over their shoulder.
“Okay, we’ll make it work,” a bunch of supervisors will say, or something along those lines. Or, just, “Okay, we’ll make it work,” whenever a co-worker makes a joke or just seems weird.
So, if you mess up, you’re out of luck. But not by much.