Wal-Mart fired a brain-damaged worker of 20 years who gave customers free hugs

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Thousands of people are rallying behind a brain-damaged Walmart worker who was fired last week.

Frank Swanson was a cashier at a Walmart in West Plains, Missouri for nearly two decades.

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He was well known in the local community as an enthusiastic worker who loved to hug customers.

He was fired just 20 days short of his 20-year anniversary with Walmart.

A Walmart spokesman said he was fired for violating a pricing policy.

"Letting an associate go is never easy," the spokesman said. "For this associate, point-of-sale policies had not been followed in some instances. A recent violation of those policies moved the associate to the final step of our discipline process, resulting in his dismissal."

Swanson's supporters claim he was terminated for giving out hugs, and they are planning a protest at the West Plains Walmart on Saturday to show their support.

More than 1,500 people have committed to attending the rally on a Facebook page called "Hugs for Frank" and another 3,100 said they are interested in attending.

"Walmart has decided to fire Frank, the sweetest employee you'd ever meet, for hugging a costumer," the page reads. "So we're going to gather at Walmart on Saturday April 9th with signs or t-shirts offering free hugs. Let's do this for Frank."

The workers' rights group Making Change at Walmart also released a statement on the matter.

"It appears Walmart fired workers for being decent and kind. So, if you believe in hugs or being nice to customers, don't apply for a job at Walmart," said Jess Levin, communications director for MCAW.

Swanson's bosses cited his hugs as inappropriate, but that's not why he was fired, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Swanson broke store policy on at least one occasion by discounting a jug of tea by 50 cents, after a customer told him a competitor was selling the tea for 50 cents cheaper,the Post-Dispatch reports. He took the customer at her word, but under store policy, he should have asked her to produce a printed circular proving the competitor's price.

Swanson's sister, Babbi Marsh, confirmed that Swanson was terminated for excessive price matching.

"He never let anyone walk out without paying for their merchandise. What he was told was that he was being let go for excessive price matching," she told the West Plains Daily Quill.

Swanson suffered severe injuries including brain damage following an accident when he was young that left him in a coma for six weeks and temporarily paralyzed, his family told KSPR TV.

Walmart customer Jenn Harper called Swanson a "sign of hope."

"I feel like one of our own has been hurt," she told KSPR. "He's a sign of hope, he made your day better. If you were having a bad day at Walmart, he would light up your whole trip."

RELATED GALLERY: 9 secret ways to save money at Wal-Mart

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9 secret ways to save money at Walmart
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Wal-Mart fired a brain-damaged worker of 20 years who gave customers free hugs

1. Take Advantage of Walmart's Price Matching Policy 

Even if Walmart isn’t offering the lowest price on a given item, you can take advantage of the store’s price match policy to secure a better deal. Walmart will match any advertised price from stores in your area, said Paul Ivanovsky, creator of IHeartTheMart.com, a blog dedicated to saving money at Walmart. To qualify, the items in question must be identical and in stock at the other retailer. According to Ivanovsky, the price matching policy is a great way to save money on items such as fruit, meat and paper products.

Additionally, Walmart will match many online competitors’ prices for home goods and other non-food items. While restrictions exist, the retail giant will generally match prices for goods from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Target.com and TigerDirect.com, among other stores.

Photo credit: vvoe/Shutterstock.com

2. Get Online Prices in the Store

Before you make a purchase in one of its stores, see if Walmart is offering a better price online, as the company will match Walmart.com prices for in-store purchases. Bethany Halford, co-creator of the Whoa, Wait. Walmart? blog that features great finds at Walmart, said she frequently finds items that have been marked down online but not in the stores.

To get the better price, she pulls the item up on her phone and shows it to the cashier when she checks out. Recently, Halford saved a couple dollars when she found a pair of slippers selling for $12.88 in the store and about $10 online.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Larry Herfindal

3. Use the Savings Catcher App

If you forgot to check other stores’ prices before shopping at Walmart, you still can take advantage of the retailer’s price match policy after the fact by using the Savings Catcher app. After scanning your receipt with the app, you can compare the prices you paid with local competitors’ advertised rates, Ivanovsky said. If an item you bought is cheaper elsewhere, you will be credited the difference in the form of Savings Catcher Rewards Dollars, which can be redeemed for a Walmart gift card or Walmart Buck$ to be added to a Bluebird by American Express Card prepaid debit card.

“Even if you don’t think you bought something that can be matched, you might be surprised at what the Savings Catcher finds for you,” said Dian Farmer of GroceryShopForFree.com.

Photo credit: iStock.com/LDProd

4. Get Free Shipping From Walmart.com

Shipping costs can quickly negate the savings you might accumulate by shopping online. However, there are two ways you can get free shipping from Walmart.com. If you spend $50 or more online, Walmart will ship your purchases for free, Halford said. While there’s a flat $4.97 shipping fee for orders less than $50, shoppers can get around that fee by having online purchases shipped to their local stores, said Amanda Jerkins, the other co-creator of Whoa, Wait. Walmart?

It’s important to note that perishable products, hazardous materials and items weighing more than 350 pounds aren’t eligible for free store pickup. With many other items, though, you can pick them up the same day you order them online.

Photo credit: chrisdorney/Shutterstock.com

5. Comb Through the Clearance Racks

If you rush through your Walmart trips, you might miss out on some of the retailer’s best clearance deals. Typically, deeply discounted items are placed in an aisle near the toy or lawn and garden department, Halford said. When she and Jerkins comb through the clearance racks, they often find that items they were coveting at full price are now on sale for much less.

For example, Jerkins said she recently found a floor lamp she wanted that was marked down from $45 to $20 in the clearance section. She also recommends checking the end caps on aisles throughout the store for heavily discounted items.

Photo credit: Kzenon/Shutterstock.com

6. Shop Early in the Morning for Grocery Deals

If your local Walmart has a grocery department, you can save money by timing your food shopping trips right. Farmer recommends shopping early in the morning to score discounts on one of the priciest food items on your list — meat.

“Normally, by 8 a.m., the meat department has discounted their meat, and you can grab some great deals,” she said.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Steve Debenport

7. Tap Into Seasonal Savings

Walmart is known for offering great Black Friday sales. In fact, DealNews.com found that it was among the top five retailers with the best deals on Black Friday and the entire week of Thanksgiving. However, there are other times of the year when retailers offers savings, as well.

In particular, July has become a season for merchants to promote Black Friday-like deals, said Slickdeals.net consumer expert Regina Conway. In July of 2015, Walmart hosted a big sale to rival Amazon’s one-day sale for its Prime members, who pay a $99 annual fee for free two-day shipping and other benefits. Amazon has already announced plans to hold the event again, and Conway anticipates that Walmart will do the same. As an added bonus, Walmart doesn’t require any sort of membership fee to take advantage of its deals.

Photo credit: txking/Shutterstock.com

8. Get $1 Deals

Some of the items you can find at a dollar store can also be purchased at Walmart for $1 or less — and you don’t even have to ask for price matching. For example, Walmart sells personal grooming products such as deodorant and shampoo for about $1. You also can find greeting cards and gift bags for $1, although the selection is smaller than what you’d see at a traditional dollar store.

Ivanovsky keeps a running list on IHeartTheMart.com of Walmart’s current dollar deals.

Photo credit: Khomkrit Phonsai/Shutterstock.com

9. Get Free Grocery Pickup

Walmart has rolled out a new service in some cities that doesn’t cost a dime to use and can save shoppers a lot of valuable time: grocery pickup. Customers in Atlanta, Nashville, Colorado Springs, Tucson, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Salt Lake City and Ogden can now order their groceries online and then pick them up at select stores in their areas. You can even select a time for your pickup, and an associate will load the groceries into your car.

Follow the above tips on your next Walmart trip, and you will likely be smiling as brightly as the retailer’s trademark logo.

Related: 6 Grocery Delivery Services That Are Worth the Money

Photo credit: iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

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