What it's like to work at Walmart [VIDEO]

What's it like to work at Walmart? We followed one employee, Nicole Palms, through her day at a new store branch in New Jersey, and then put out a call for stories across the country.

We asked our contributors at Seed.com what it's like working at Walmart and we got a multitude of responses. Here's a sampling:

A job like any other
There are many people who badmouth Walmart and refuse to shop there, but when you need a job to help support your family, you really don't have a choice, especially when no one else is hiring. I had just been laid off (and) needed a job badly. I applied and got a call back for an interview the next day. I went through orientation, customer service training and was trained how to do everything at the customer service desk. Since the store was not open yet, they had everyone help with setup. I really enjoyed that part. I got to work in every department of the store, including receiving and tagging. While doing the store setup, I got to know my managers and the store manager very well. Everyone was very nice.

Working at the customer service desk, I was able to work with the management team very closely. I did returns, MoneyGram money orders, and handled complaints and concerns. I had to deal with angry customers. I can honestly say, I enjoyed working at the desk. I liked helping customers with their problems. I wanted to move up into management (and) the next step was customer service supervisor. I worked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

I learned a lot working nights. My support manager taught me so much about stocking, display making and how to supervise the night crew. My duties included: changing the tills out at night, giving the cashiers their breaks and lunches, changing displays, and running the night crew. It was a great learning experience. Walmart is not that bad a place to work. There are many people that need a job and Walmart provides that. It might not be the greatest, but it's a job. -- Jennifer Bly

A life changing experience

As a university student, I needed extra income and numerous hours during the time I was not in class. Walmart hired me nearly on the spot, with no cashier experience. The store was busy and the work day went by fast. I got 40 hours a week easily, and the money was reasonable for a college student. The friends I made were great and the customers were friendly too.

Employees seemed fearful of bringing up issues to supervisors. I found it very hard to talk to management or supervisors if needed. I would have to change my schedule at the end of each quarter and was often pushed around and viewed as insignificant. For this reason, I quit.

Although I liked the income, I was truly pushed too hard. Working until midnight and then going to school that same morning, working 40 hours a week and having full time courses. It all became too much. Every time I asked for my schedule to be changed it would take weeks before it was. When I would call in sick, I felt guilty because the managers would say I should come in anyway.

(But) I learned not judge a book by its cover, which was a truly humbling experience. The people I worked with had fascinating lives, with families, military and college backgrounds. They were smart, well-educated people. Customers would ask how I was doing and how I liked working here. I would (say) I was a university student and they always seemed shocked. I guess they saw a cashier that most likely had only a high school education and a bunch of kids. This is not true. I represented the majority of Walmart employees who were either in college or had already graduated. Before I worked at Walmart, I did not think the employees were similar to me, but in fact they were. -- Marquis Prinzing

Teenage boredom runs amok

I worked at the Walmart Supercenter in Amherst, N.H., for almost two years in high school as a cashier and an electronics sales associate. I saw two very different sides of Walmart, both very boring

(As a cashier), you pass the time by double-charging people for items, just to see if they will notice. This is where Walmart puts most of its teenage employees, so there is an absurd amount of micromanaging, creating a stressful work environment. This is where the store has most of its turnover.

As an electronics sales associate, you have some control over what you are doing at any given time. I spent most of my time avoiding work by walking in and out of the back rooms all shift. Electronics can be complicated, so this position really shows you just how dumb the people who come into Walmart really are. However, it is fairly easy to avoid customers by simply walking into the next department of the store. One of the biggest advantages of this position was that the majority of customers in the store did not come to the electronics department. Every manager had different goals for what direction they wanted the store to go in, and they each pushed their agenda on all the employees they could. -- Richard Jordan

More than a blue smock
In 2001, and I was in search of a part time job so I could refurnish my house. I figured I can make some easy money at a meaningless job, and then quit. But what was supposed to be seasonal, temporary work turned into a five-year long, life-changing experience.

Soon, I was a part of the Walmart family. And in time, they became just like family. I'm not sure if all store locations had that feel, but store No. 2718 sure did. We celebrated birthdays together and would go out and have dinner after work. If someone bought a new house, we were invited to the house warming. If someone lost a loved one, we mourned with them. And if someone gave birth, we celebrated with them. To this very day, eight years later, I am still quite close to some of my former associates.

As an accounting associate, I was behind tight security all day. During breaks and lunch, it was refreshing to get out on the floor and mingle with other associates and customers. Before becoming an associate, I remembered seeing commercials on television about the employees doing cheers to motivate the shift staff. And would you believe, they actually do that after having a meeting? "Give me a W, give me an A, give me a L, give me a squiggly, give me a M, give me an A, give me a R, give me a T. What's that spell? Walmart! Who's number one? The customers! Who's really number one? Customers always!"

I found out that Walmart is more than "Can I help you?" Walmart helps you, help you. -- Katrina Baker

A store divided
My introduction to the Walmart culture came during my first week of employment. Before the store opened, an announcement echoed for all associates to come to the front of the store. I liked being called an associate, it made me feel professional instead of just a guy who needs a few extra bucks to pay the bills. With the managers on one side and the associates on the other, we did Walmart cheers to psych the workforce. I've never been a "rah rah" type, but the chants were harmless and I was very happy no friends of mine could see me.

I (soon) realized there is a class system within Walmart. You have managers and associates, these two entities shall not mix. The security cameras weren't directed at the customers, but were aimed at the associates. There existed a certain level of distrust of the associates and in general, it appeared as if the managers believed the floor workers to be moronic drones that are disposable. Next time you shop at Walmart and that poor soul who has to say "Welcome to Walmart" a million times says their line, be kind and smile back. --M.A. Settino

Night life at the big box
The people I worked with were from all walks of life, all races and all cultures. But we became a family, a happy family. I worked the night shift as a stock person. I had held an executive job before that, but times were tough and the corporation shut the business down. I was not eligible to collect unemployment since I had been on commission. The Walmart job at night paid more than the day shift, so I took it. The people I worked with on the team were hard working, family people. To make ends meet, they would often pot luck the lunch and share what they had. Many held two jobs, and when their time card was punched out there, they went to their day job.

What I did not like was being told by the supervisors that the team did a terrible job. The team not only stocked the shelves from the overstock that the day workers managed to order, but they would re-shelve many products to make room for new products that came in. Planograms were followed to the letter, store policy on setup was followed, and the aisles were cleaned until just moments before the store opened (our store was closed during the night.). The day workers would complain that we never did enough. Night workers used every bit of their time, stocking, straightening product, moving product and getting pallets re-loaded, wrapped for safety and returned to the back room. Yet, the short meeting the next night would produce a comment from the night supervisor that "we were lazy and needed to get our act together."

As a previous executive, I knew this was not how you get your crew to work. You want more productivity, you bring them together as a team. You do not treat them as underclass citizens and workers. They worked harder than the wages paid. If I had my position still, these workers could show some of the office people what loyalty and problem solving was all about. -- Cyndee Johnson, Santa Clarita, Calif.

Like cowboys herding cattle

Walmart has a very different approach to speaking with, and instructing their employees, opting for something close to the way a cowboy might yell at his herd of cattle. New employees aren't even given a chance to prove themselves upon hire. They are just herded in with the rest of the cattle and are condescendingly told what to do. Some employees may need to be spoken to this way, but surely not all. After the pre-work meeting is over, employees are rounded up in the appropriate section of the store. Pallets full of new merchandise are then broken down to boxes and set up and down the aisles. Overnight stockers then spend the remainder of their shift stocking shelves as quickly as possible. Overnight employees may not take a break at any time without the intercom announcing "code 15," for a 15 minute break. Or, "code 30" for lunch breaks.

Because of the amount of hard physical labor that was required in a short amount of time, combined with the disdain and disrespect of the assistant managers toward employees, I witnessed fairly high turnover rates in my time there. Walmart offers good health care packages and great employee discounts. If there was a real attempt on Walmart's part to train their managers to manage, instead of torment, it would make for a better work environment for all Walmart employees. -- Deborah Neve

Where customers and family don't come first
I started working at Walmart in December 2006, shortly after relocating to Pennsylvania. I was hired just before Christmas as a deli associate in the Hazelton, Penn., store. Being a single mother of two young children, the fact that they were family oriented was particularly important to me. I thought that meant family came first. I later learned that family only mattered if it didn't affect the hours you could work in any way. I found out that if you are out because you have a sick child, you may get a warning "chat" from your manager.

I was in charge of ordering and scheduling for my department, as well as checking inventory and making sure shelves were stocked. We were very understaffed and did not have enough associates on the schedule to take care of customers. People would walk away because they had to wait so long for someone to cut meat or cheese for them. We were given more work than could be accomplished in the hours we worked, and were not allowed any overtime. At the end of the week they would send people home and leave one person working alone to avoid any overtime. I ended up being terminated in January 2008, after being sick. I was told by management to go home because I was so sick, but had gone to work anyway to avoid termination. --Amy Stinson

Customers, con artists and criminals
For two years, I slaved away at a cash register at a Walmart in a rural Illinois. Customers ranged anywhere from friendly to kooky and downright rude. I experienced scam artists, price switchers and shoplifters. One scam artist tried to convince me a stereo system that was ringing up as $300 was supposed to be $49. A price switcher came through my register buying high-priced perfume. The customer distracted me by making small talk while I rang the order. Once I totaled the order and it was less than $15, I knew it couldn't be correct. I looked closely at the receipt slip and saw all the perfumes had rung up as plastic tumblers. The customer had taken the sticky bar codes off the children's cups and placed them over the real perfume bar codes. When I told the customer the issue, she quickly decided she no longer wanted the perfume and left the store. As for the shoplifters, I never dealt with any personally, but it was always amusing to watch our store's burly security manager snag them as they tried to leave. The faces they make are priceless when they turn around and see him (coming).

In January 2010, I left the Walmart company with no hard feelings or regrets. All in all it was a good and interesting work experience. -- Rikki Dahl

The best bad job ever

I worked for the Walmart in Bloomsburg, Penn., from 1997 to 1999. I started in the electronics department as a sales associate and cashier, then later on moved to receiving and third-shift stocking. I had a lot of bad jobs back in the day, and can honestly say that Walmart was the best wage slave job that I have ever had.

The most appealing aspect of the job was that I could do the work at my own pace for the most part, and not have some annoying manager constantly breathing down my neck. This was especially true on third shift being it was not as busy late at night. They paid a decent hourly wage and had some good benefit packages. Walmart was probably the only wage slave job that I enjoyed going to out of about 20 or so others that I've had.

Third shift is great for getting stuff done, but eventually it wears you down. Especially if you are a day person, which I am. That was the only negative for me: the long, late-night hours and having to sleep all day when it is hot out. I enjoyed the 10% discount, as I shop at Walmart. They never cut my hours, pretty much kept me on the same schedule all of the time, and gave me the days off that I needed. I quit being a wage-slave 10 years ago but if I had to work at any wage-slave job ever again, I would still pick Walmart, even today. -- Brad Popewczak

The wonderful world of Walmart
I worked at Walmart store No. 538 in Gainesville, Fla., from 2004 to 2006. It was my first job after graduating from college. Walmart fostered a family atmosphere (where) the associates felt part of a big family. The managers were the parental figures and the associates were your sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, etc. Birthday wishes were announced over the intercom, baby showers were thrown, a photo album was kept in the break room, and there was heartfelt sorrow when an associate passed away. I think I was closest to those who worked right there in the shoe department with me, but I also knew people in the neighboring departments (fabrics and crafts) and distant ones (health and beauty aids), as well. We helped each other out, without the managers ordering us to do so. I have never had that same experience anywhere else.

The diversity of Walmart prepared me for my next job and the the family atmosphere created a support system that helped me to hang in there past the holiday season. I will admit that Walmart was not the ideal place of employment, but what I experienced there will always remain with me. --Akilah C. McDaniel

The small heart of a big company
There is a huge disconnect between the millionaires in faraway offices making up theoretically sound policies and the part-time workers. I never wanted to work there, but I moved back to a small town (Carlinville, Ill.) to finish my bachelor's degree in business management and they were the only game in town. Despite having studied their culture in class, I decided to give them every benefit of every doubt, and I set out to become the consummate part-time deli associate.

At Walmart, none of your past experience at other companies matters. When you try to move out of a department (after serving a six month probationary sentence) the only thing that shows up in their computer is what you have done for them. I quickly found there is no reason to work hard at Walmart. After a year, I received the same measly 40 cents raise that the horrible workers got, even though I was doing most of their work. They have done away with the employee of the month program and Christmas bonuses, you do not get a vacation until your second anniversary, and they even lowered the hourly incentive for third shift positions from $1 to 50 cents. Walmart needs to shift their focus from money and policies to people and common sense. -- Patrick Stone

'Wally World'
The process of getting hired at Walmart is like attempting to get a bill passed in Congress. It isn't easy. I think the only way I got hired is because my mom worked there, and still does to this day. The immediate 10% employee discount was an awesome perk. Around the holidays, Walmart also gives its employees an extra 10% discount voucher for any item in the store on top of the regular discount.

I had to take computer-based learning (CBLs) for one hour a day for the first six weeks. And in order to keep my job, I had to pass each lesson. Once I passed my CBLs, I got paid a meager wage to load very heavy things into people's cars. I didn't mind this too much because I was one of the few kids in my school who had their own car, and made their own money. Working one Saturday at Walmart is likely the most stressful job in the world. When I graduated high school I decided to try out third shift.

My first night on the third shift was rough, but it was way more fun and seemed to be less work than the day shift, but the biggest perk was the pay raise. For the most part, I met some really nice and interesting people on third shift. The people who shop at Walmart during the third shift hours are very interesting, to say the least. I worked in several departments including, pets, furniture, and house hold cleaners. I think when I left the store, I had worked in just about every department, because when someone was on vacation or called in sick, the managers would take a person or two from one department to pick up the slack of the missing people in another department. This was a great way to get to know all of your co-workers.

The third shift had several advantages to days. On several nights our managers would have specials lunches for us, or cookouts, as our lunch time was usually from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.. Third shift as a whole was way less stressful, because mostly all we had to do was stock shelves and keep things clean. Third shift had a different dress code, at nights we could wear blue jeans and we didn't have to wear the infamous blue vests. Even the music played on "Walmart Radio" was more fun. In March 2005, I left the company for a better job. --Dustin Crowe

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