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Thursday, May 03, 2012

The REAL People of Walmart

This Thursday Confession is going to work a little bit differently than others in that I won’t be revealing the confession until the very end of this blog entry.  The reason why this is the case is because I want to set up the confession with a few personal tales about myself.  I did say that this week’s Thursday Confession would be one of my most personal ones to date, and that’s a promise that I intend to keep.

I’m sure that some of you might have seen this video floating around the Internet through YouTube and other video sharing sites.  I debated whether or not to post the video for a couple of days, but decided that it was necessary as part of my confession.

So, here’s the video...but be warned, some of the images in this video range from eccentric to just plain obscene.

The video is based on a particular website known as “People of Walmart”, which basically showcases people all over the United States inside various Walmart locations in all their glory.  Apparently someone decided to write a song about these various people, and as of right now, it has over six million hits on YouTube.

I’ll readily be the first to admit that some of these images are quite shocking and disturbing.  But, again, that’s just my opinion.  To the people in the video, they seem absolutely fine with how they appear, and don’t really care what other people think of them.  I suppose in that aspect, I can respect that about them.  I honestly have to admit that I kind of wish I had that “don’t care” attitude on certain days.

And I get that the song is largely poking fun at these people, but there’s a subtle hint of positivity mixed in with the mark downs, roll backs, and shopping carts, in particular with the bridge of the song.  The first part of that bridge goes “where people are accepted for who they are, where no one’s gonna stop them from following their heart.”

I know it seems a bit crazy to admit this, but that portion of the song is actually a great life lesson to take away.  I’ve never really seen anybody banned from any Walmart based on their physical appearance.  People really are accepted for who they are no matter what they wear.

(Well, all right, I’m pretty sure that most Walmart locations require their patrons to wear pants at least.)

But, this blog entry really isn’t about those people of Walmart.  Rather, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the ‘Real People of Walmart’ particular, some of the people who work at Walmart locations all over the world.

And, I suppose that I would be an expert on this subject because my day job happens to be at a Walmart.  Has been for 7 ½ years now.

I’ll admit that there are times in which the job has its highs and lows.  Every job in the world has its challenges, and no job is perfect.  But, since I want to keep this blog on the positive side, I’m not even going to bring up any negativity whatsoever, nor do I want anyone else to do this either.  I realize that people do have strong opinions about the company, but I don’t want that to be the focus of today's entry.

No, I want to instead take the time to recognize the people who are out there stocking the shelves, scanning the items at the register, and running up to the courtesy desk to grab cold pick-ups.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first started my current job in December 2004, I honestly didn’t think that I would last six months.  The work itself wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t used to working in the world of retail, nor was I used to dealing with the general public.  After all, I did spend quite a number of years isolating myself from the general public, so to say that I was out of touch with customer service would be an understatement.

There was some good news though.  I actually had people around me who were willing to help me out and that helped me deal with the general public a lot better.  Whether it was the girl behind the layaway desk, the cashiers who called for a carry-out, or even some floor associates who helped me find items for customers on the sales floor, it was of huge help to me.  Before, I likely would have gotten frustrated and given up, but these co-workers of mine were quite persistent, and refused to let me do exactly that.

Oh, sure, my time at my job hasn’t all been peaches and cream.  There have been some moments in which I’ve had to deal with some interesting situations.  I bet I’m the only person who has had to dodge flying objects at work aside from being the human target of a knife thrower at the circus.  And, even now, I can laugh about it instead of being bitter.

I attribute that to the patience of the people who I work with. 

You see, when I started my job at Walmart, I was in a really bad place in my life.  I was feeling lonely, depressed, and I didn’t feel as though I had a single friend in the world.  I also had incredibly low self-esteem, and I really didn’t like myself very much. 

And, I’ll be the first to admit that when I began at Walmart, I hardly spoke a word to anybody on the sales floor.  For the first three months or so, I just went in, did the job I was supposed to do, and went home without making the effort to socialize with anyone.  Come to think of it, I think that when I had my three-month evaluation, I was told that I would be staying on, but needed to show more warmth. 

I sounds like such a random comment.  Though, looking back on it, it was true.  I was extremely guarded, and I had trouble trusting people, so I didn’t really share much with anyone for the fear that somehow it would get turned against me.  It likely lead to a few moments in my time at my job that I’m not particularly proud of.

However, some of the people who I worked with during that time were very supportive of me, and despite the fact that I might have come across as cold during my first year there, they still stood by me.  I still remember cracking jokes with door greeters at the front door of the store while I waited for a carry out.  I still remember the shoe department ladies who always had a kind word to say to me every time I walked by there.  Moments like that helped me realize that there were some good people there.  Mind you, since then all of those people have moved on to other careers, but their impact on me was great.

(The actual store I work at!  Well...before the 2012 renovations...)

A little over six years ago, I was moved to the food department after pushing shopping carts in the parking lot for a little over a year, and once I was placed there, I thrived in the excitement.  For one, I worked mostly in the dairy and frozen departments.  It sucked in the winter, but in the summer, I have the coolest job in the whole store. 

Like most jobs in the store, the food area had its challenges and its cons (I still hate it whenever chocolate milk goes on sale).  But it also had a lot of perks.

And one of those perks was having a team who was hugely supportive of me.

Really, I cannot think of a better group of people to work with.  Not everybody in the world can say that they have coworkers that they can absolutely trust, so I consider myself extremely fortunate in that regard.  And through them, I ended up learning a lot about myself.

I learned that I shouldn’t put myself down so much.  I am deserving of having happiness, and I am deserving of having fantastic friends in my life. 

I also learned how to better relate to the public.  You know, treat them the same way that I wanted to be treated.  I’ll admit that I had difficulty with that at first, but with the help of my co-workers, I’m getting better at it.

And, you know what?  I also learned the value of friendship just by working at Walmart (I bet you were wondering how I’d tie this into BEST FRIENDS WEEK, didn’t you?)

Sometimes, I’d have some bad days at work.  And, I went in the next day expecting to get disciplined for it.  But, to my surprise, I found that a lot of people were understanding, and really listened to me.  More importantly, I found that many of them listened in complete confidence.  Granted, some didn’t, and that was on them...but most did.  It made me feel better about myself, and gradually, the bad days became less and less.

Sometimes, I’d make a mistake at work, and as a result, we’d end up getting not enough stock to take us through a big sale.  But, the threat of getting fired was never a concern to me, because my coworkers never allowed me to feel sorry for myself.  Instead, they sat me down, went over things in a calm manner, and offered advice on how to fix the problem.  They didn’t bail me out, but they didn’t leave me hanging either.  Again, this helped improve my confidence.

And, I don’t think I even have to talk about how my coworkers were there for me when I endured a major health scare in 2011.  I’ve talked about it before on this blog this past Valentine’s Day, so I won’t post the details here, but I was off work for two months as a result of it.

They came and visited me in the hospital, called me at home to check up on me, and even sent me a card with well over one hundred signatures!  I come to later learn that some of it was spearheaded by my fellow dairy/frozen coworkers, but the vast majority of the attention given to me were from coworkers who I didn’t really know or work with who were genuinely concerned about me and my well-being.  When I came back to work two months later, everyone welcomed me back with open arms. 

It was in that moment that I realized the truth.  These people were friends.  In fact, I’ll even go one step further.  These were some of the best friends that I have ever had in my whole life.  They stood by me when others turned their backs on me, and they have always been a consistent positive force in my life.  They not only helped teach me what the value of friendship was, but they also became like family to me. 

My dairy/frozen coworkers are like the older brothers that I never had growing up (in some cases, much older brothers, mind you), and I will stand by that statement forever.  They helped me see myself for who I really am, and their friendship means the world to me.

I can honestly say that the vast majority of the people I work with at Walmart are good people.  They are people who work tirelessly to raise money for charitable organizations.  They are the people who set up barbecues and pot luck dinners to raise money for associates who happen to be in a terrible situation.  They are the people who I have done the Walmart Walk for Miracles every summer since 2009.  They are the people who helped me on my weight loss journey, which despite gaining back a few pounds as a result of my surgery I’ve done a good job maintaining.

Most importantly, they are the people who selflessly offered their friendship to someone who didn’t think deserved it...and they are the people who helped this blogger see that there truly are good people out there in this world.

Those are the REAL people of Walmart, as far as I’m concerned.

You know, the people I work with often get a lot of flak.  In some cases, it could be justifiable, but in others, these judgments are made by people who simply don’t want to understand what goes into working at a Walmart, or any retail establishment for that matter.  A lot of times, my coworkers and I have to deal with impossible situations, and for the most part, I am honoured to say that most of my coworkers handle these situations with dignity and class.  I can only speak for my store, of course, but I’m honestly proud to be associated with the group of people that I have worked with over the last 7 ½ years. 

So, to conclude this piece, I will now offer up my confession.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #18:  I have so much pride in my Walmart family (and yes, to me they ARE family).  They are some of the best people that I have ever known in my whole life, and I will stand up for them no matter what.  So, don’t mess with them...or else you’ll have to deal with ME.

That’s all.  J

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