A Walmart Worker Explains Why Walmart’s Customer Service Is Horrible


Last week I published an article about a Walmart manager who was fed up and discussed a lot of the things he deals with.   Today it’s an employee that gets to vent. 

  A lot of what they talk about pertains to where I work at as well, and probably most retail chains out there.  Not enough help/hours, untrained people who turnover quickly and don’t know where things are, and in-stock issues due to shrink.   The simple solution would be to fix the first problem–if the store had enough help and hours, people would want to stay there, would know where things are, and would have time to check counts to make sure things are being ordered correctly. 

   I think some of these companies need to do some tests and pick certain stores and give them additional hours for a year.   At the end of the year, see if the store has higher customer service ratings and has picked up enough additional sales and profit to pay for the additional payroll.   I’m pretty sure they would, because in my store I see potential lost sales every day simply because we don’t have the time/hours to fix something.

Walmart, America’s largest seller of stuff, has recently been plagued by very public problems with understaffing and poor customer service. Why has the Walmart shopping experience become so chaotic and unpleasant? An actual Walmart employee graciously explains, below.

 We received this email—a blunt FAQ for angry customers—from a current Walmart employee. Why can’t you find anything? Where are all the people who are supposed to be helping you? And what happened to the smiling faces?

I have worked at Wal-Mart for five years, two years as an associate, and the last three as a department manager over hardware and sporting goods, respectively.

If I were to write down every unethical/illegal thing I have personally witnessed in the last 5 years, I would have to write a book. For the sake of simplicity, I will instead answer the most common questions asked by frustrated customers who shop at Wal-Mart, because truly, every evil thing you need to know about our day-to-day existence can be summed up by answering these questions.

How come every time I come into Wal-Mart, there’s never anyone around to help me?

Excellent question! The reason there’s nobody to help you is because our salaried management team decided to cut hours and staff. Why did they decide to cut hours and staff if you are here now and needing help, you ask? Well, even though the company is worth billions, home office gives store managers a set amount of hours and payroll dollars that they can schedule people/pay people in each area of the store, and it is based on what the sales were in that department on that day the previous fiscal year. So even though last year was a Friday, it was snowing out, and no one was shopping, this year, on a Saturday, when its sunny out and everyone is shopping, you won’t have anyone around to help you because LAST YEAR we didn’t make enough money! Add to that the fact that store manager’s and assistant manager’s incentive bonuses (to the tune of $80K for store managers and $20K for assistant managers, once yearly) are partially determined by how much they can bring scheduled hours/payroll DOWN from the year before (of course, while still keeping sales up,) and you begin to see how this pattern of never having any help around comes to be. Us hourlies get quarterly bonuses, of course, but they’re usually less than $300, and they don’t even make up for all of the hours that they cut from our paychecks to earn said bonus.

Long story short, Wal-Mart won’t hire more people to help you, the customer, until you part with your sweet, sweet dollars so that our sales can go up, and then maaaaaaybe they’ll hire another person to cut some fabric for you. Salaried managers want their bonuses, you see, and if it means that you don’t get help when you come into the store, why, they really don’t care! Plus, if you have to wander around for awhile before you find someone to help you, you might end up picking up a few more things than you’d planned. See how that works?

How come nobody ever knows where anything is whenever I shop here?

Another excellent question! Well, as you know, we live by a culture of attrition here at Wal-Mart! As I mentioned before, the assistant managers and store managers are given incentive in the form of $80K and $20K bonuses to cut payroll and scheduled hours. Given that knowledge, you would be correct to conclude that you aren’t going to find a lot of people in any Wal-Mart who have worked there long enough to actually learn where everything is. What happens to people who stay there long enough to actually tell you (correctly) where the toilet plungers are, you ask? Well, if they don’t get into the store manager’s good graces and become a manager themselves (much faster to accomplish, if you have a penis), my bosses make up a BS excuse to fire them just before they hit $12 an hour! Isn’t that great? “You took a 17 minute break instead of a 15 minute break, and that’s time theft” and “lack of productivity” (aka, you couldn’t help customers/answer phone calls in 5 departments at a time AND back up cashier AND clean up YOUR entire area all at once) are the most common excuses I’ve seen, though occasionally they’ll just fire you for saying a swear word, without any previous coaching or provocations. You would also be correct to conclude that the one associate you do find to help you is likely a part-time worker (so no more than 32 hours a week, tops), who, again, because of cutting hours/payroll, likely spends half of his or her shift on a cash register (or unloading a truck) instead of in his or her department, because salaried management couldn’t be bothered to schedule more cashiers/truck unloaders (fewer workers=less payroll=more bonus money, you see?)

As department managers, we’re also required by home office to change the layout of our areas and what products are stocked there about once every six months. When you throw in all of the seasonal merchandise we have to account for (Easter stuff, summer stuff, Thanksgiving, etc.) its easy to see why not even the managers know where anything is all the time. My first department alone had about 6,000 items in it, and I dare anyone to find me a soul on Earth who can catalog in their brain where 6,000 individual items are at any given time, especially after you factor in that their spot on the shelf changes about once every 3-6 months. This also serves the purpose of getting YOU to part with your dollars by making you wander about 5 aisles over and pick up 4 other things you didn’t need while you look for the thing you came in to buy in the first place.

How come everybody who works at Walmart is so grouchy and surly? I used to work retail/currently work retail and I am/was always sunshine and rainbows no matter how shitty other people are/were to me!

I only added that second line into this FAQ so that I could tell people who tell me bullshit like this on a weekly basis that you are terrible, terrible people, I hate you, and I hope you get eaten by a dragon. That is all.

I can only speak for myself, but from reading other installments of Wal-Mart worker stories, I have concluded that my experience is pretty common for the company, so other associates can probably relate to what I will say. On any given day, I am given, on average about 3-4 “notes” that I must complete before the end of my shift. This includes things like taking down/moving displays, working 100 (ish) boxes of merchandise to the floor, changing the layout and replacing all of the labels of an entire aisle in my department. Sometimes these things don’t take long to do at all, but if too much merchandise is full on the shelf, or there’s a lot of extra discontinued stuff after you put up a new layout on an aisle, it can take an entire shift or longer to complete. This would be fine, if not for the fact that you are also expected to help customers, back up cashier (even department managers/zone managers), and clean up and put away stuff in other departments where salaried management has cut hours (they love their bonus more than your satisfaction as a customer, remember.)

You might be asking yourself how a single person can do all of those things in an 8, or sometimes 4 hour shift. The truth is, they can’t, and salaried management knows that no person could, but nevertheless it is expected that every associate do the impossible and complete 3 days worth of work in a single shift. If they can’t do this for whatever reason, they are treated with contempt, rage or ridicule by salaried management, who mockingly insist that “its not that hard” to get that much work done…while they sit in the office all day and chit-chat amongst themselves and their few chosen toadies. I’ve seen associates cry after being yelled at by salaried manager’s for not getting their area cleaned up, even though those same managers were the ones who told them to leave their areas to get on a cash register because “we’re a family here and we help each other out.” This serves a double purpose. If an associate doesn’t quit from this cruel treatment within 2-3 years, the salaried managers can fall back on “productivity” (even though no human can possibly do that much work) if they need a convenient excuse to get rid of someone who’s making “too much” money, or even just someone they don’t like for personal reasons. Either way, payroll goes down which means the managers have a better chance at…you guessed it, the bonus! The culture basically offers monetary incentive for assistant and store managers to treat their workers like shit and encourages high turnover in the process.

So when you, Mr. or Ms. customer, approach me with a question, I certainly don’t mean to be surly. It’s not that I don’t want to help you, I’m sure you’re a nice person who didn’t mean to bother me, but if given a choice between pissing off you, a stranger I don’t know, or my boss, who will call me incompetent, lazy, etc. if I don’t get my notes done, I choose to piss you off with my dismissive, rushed service instead of my boss, because ultimately my boss signs my paycheck and you’re a face I will forget in a few hours. Honestly, if someone is making $8.20 an hour, they’re rightly only going to give you $8.20 an (overworked) hour’s worth of service. I’m sorry it has to be that way, but I assume if you’re shopping here you know on some level what you’re getting into.

How come I can never find what I’m shopping for at Wal-Mart? How come there’s never any product on the shelves?

Because even though you and I can both clearly see that there’s no sex jelly on the shelf, my scanner thinks that I actually have 3, hidden away, somewhere…and management, not wanting to eat into their precious, precious bonus, will not let me change the number in the system from 3 sex jellies to 0 sex jellies. 3 containers of sex jelly at $4 a pop means they lose $12 of sex jelly profit, and every dollar lost eats into their bonus, which is just unacceptable in their world. Those containers of sex jellies could have been stolen, sent to the wrong store…but if the scanner says they’re in the store then OMG IT MUST BE THERE SOMEWHERE THE DEPT MANAGER KNOWS NOTHING! So, no sex jelly for you. But definitely $80K in the pocket of the store manager come December.

Before I sign off, I just want to add that if you really can’t afford to shop anywhere but Wal-Mart, buy as much stuff on clearance as possible when you do have to shop there. All of our clearance items are sold at a loss to the store. If you buy more clearance items, we lose profit. And it helps the associates suffer less at work, because sorting clearance items is a pain in the ass. That is all!

18 thoughts on “A Walmart Worker Explains Why Walmart’s Customer Service Is Horrible

  1. Sounds like the author needs to spend her down time looking for a new job, in a field where she would not be bothered by the spending public. One more reason to avoid Walmart.

    1. Many of the employees at Walmart actually ‘like’ their jobs – I know because I am one of them. I enjoy working with people (customers, co-workers). What I don’t like, is how the company treats its workers, myself included.

      Finding another job says absolutely nothing, except that you are a quitter. I had worked for Walmart nearly 14 years, I have seen much too much. For 8 of those years, I have been speaking out about what I have seen in the past and what I see now in the present.

      Look for another job? Why? Let me and many, many others help fix what is wrong.

      1. Well said, Windy. I’ve always found that it’s not the name on the side of the building, it’s the people that you work for/with that make a company good or bad. I’m sure there are a lot of Walmart stores that have good managers that treat their employees well despite the company expectations.

    2. Worked for Walmart for 7 years every word of this writer is completely accurate, they terminated me due to the fact I was transferring back to my original store and they didn’t want to continue my full time hours that I worked 6 years to get and that they were the one who gave me so they gave me the boot and I was cross trained in almost everything and had a little experience in all departments. And I was told by actual management when they were training me that those bonus amounts are correct. So the ones who are calling the writer out on that apparently are the minimum wage associates not management and they have no clue that they actually can get that amount as a bonus will they always get that bonus ? No because in the end run they rely on the over worked associate to pull in that bonus. Not all stores are like this though I’ve worked in a few that actually do what Sam Walton instilled but majority of the stores can care less. The store I just tried to go back to were giving people 12 hours and wondering why they had 4.5 million dollars in shrink! I know the answer no hours means people can’t support their families and no your associates have no fucks to give about making money for the store when the store won’t give them hours to make the money!

  2. If walmart paid a decent wage they would attract better employees. I was at a walmart grocery store on a Sunday morning and the produce section was empty no bananas at all its a joke they had a bunch of morons stand around doing nothing. Where is the manager. Probably hidden in his or hers office try to make budget

  3. I have to agree with all the author has said. I loved working at Walmart, I worked for them for 5+ years. I was forced out due to high wages. (They do not say it but was fired due to asst. Manager not liking me due to my questioning effectiveness of her way of doing something) the higher ups find ways to make sure they get their bonuses. They treat everyone like they are slaves. Lunches and breaks are skipped because noone can cover or too busy on floor. It happens WAY more then you all know.

  4. I have worked for walmart for almost 10 years now. And although this maybe this writers opinion of how things happen. It is not mine and the ways she wrote about managment getting there bonus is entirely incorrect! There is a lot more that goes into them getting a bonus then payroll. I worked in many areas of the store from a cashier to unloading trucks to working freight to managing a department or 3 to now being in one of the many offices jobs walmart has. I really think every store is different and the attitudes of the employees is based on the store managers attitude and salary member management attitudes . And it is on a day by day bases it all rolls down hill and I do know stores who have store managers who just suck and if you ask me that is the real problem. Walmart is quick to promote the guy or girl who does the best ass kissing and who knows nothing about what it really take to be a great leader!! If the company would spend more time and effort to make sure they are putting the right people in the right positions they would be better off. Instead they promote the ones who are yes ma’ma, yes sir’s with no questions asked or the ones who can bullshit there way threw an interview when they really have no experience or care in the question asked. If they really wanted to better there stores they would get out there and find out the real truth about the people they put in these positions. How they really treat there employees and customers not what the person can tell you, because I’m sure 95% of the experiences they say the delt with in that great way is total bullshit. Walmarts problems start at the top of the store with that store manager. And rolls it’s way down. Not all stores are this way but yes a lot of them are.

    1. Tell the people who get cut down to 8 hours a WEEK that payroll isn’t the main factor in upper management getting their bonus. I have been with Walmart for over 12 years and every single year right after Christmas, people are cut to almost nothing….some even get nothing.

  5. This is so inaccurate it’s laughable . She just seems displeases with her position and should probably step out of retail all together . Correcting on hand in order to get merchandise in does not effect shrink . Getting a handle on your on hands actually improves shrink. Assistant managers bonuses aren’t even close to $20,000 mor like an average of $2000 to $5000 . Which is based on a good year one bad quarter can ruin an entire year of hard work. At hourly associate such as house has the potential of getting $500 a quarter . When I have gone 4 year with no bonus . The most I’ve seen hourlys miss is one or 2 quarters . The scheduling system can be adjusted based on the business need . Why would someone schedule 6 people son can stand around an do nothing while the one picks up all the slack . Simple answer most walmart associates have no drive , no ambition take no personal stock the company they work for and just want a check . No one ever speaks positive about the company it work for just all negativity all the time . If you don’t like the company you work for go somewhere else . If you don’t like the store your shopping in shop somewhere else simple as that .

  6. I agree with the writer I worked at WalMart for several years and quit because manager came up to me and pointed a finger at my chest less than a foot away from me and told me as a cashier I could not talk to customers she said you ask if they found everything and than YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH not allowed to say anything else they do not want you to help customers you get in trouble for helping them the amount of work you are expected to get done is unbelievable and than get everything done and cleaned up

    1. If a manager used those words to me “SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” I’d call the company ethics line and report him. You have the right to a nonthreatening work environment and to not be treated like a child.

  7. To WallMart : I am a customer and also in the same line of business at Whole Foods, I can only say, Employee’s are only as good as their leader. Fault lies in multitudes of personality, low wage, tough working conditions, no incentives for team members, unacknowledged appreciations, lack of communication between leaders and team member. There is no relationship between team members and management! As managers, delegate and appreciate. You earn more money and must build a rapport with your team, learn, look, listen, watch..professionalism should be within your personality or this isn’t your gig. U must be an actor/ actress for both team members and customers. A small upgrade wouldn’t hurt wallmarts bottom line, the owner is one of the richest women in the world. I’m sure they didn’t get that way being Abusive to others. It’s just so big it needs supper organization that starts from the top trickling down to team members then store customers. Try something fun in each department, do something small to show appreciation for each others job.

    1. Well said, Angela. Very true–employees are only as good as their leader and a store’s customer service is only as good as their employees. A bad leader permeates everything.

  8. This is probably just a frustrated employee that most likely is a poor performer and things don’t go the way she/her wants. 75% of what she/he said is BS, but I do think that the management team at her store probably sucks as well as the customer service. She/he has a vague idea on how payroll works, but she is right, payroll is the biggest expense in every single retailer and it runs between a 6% and 8% depending of the type of retail (grocery, home improvement, etc). Walmart does suck in customer service and I never go there anymore and all the people complaining shouldn’t go either, one day Walmart will become K-Mart and there will be another retailer biting at a bigger piece of the pie.

      1. 12 yrs at Walmart, but I left about 10 years ago. I’ve heard that many things have changed….

  9. NOW I understand why I was fired after 7 years and worked 40+ hours a week to eat it on end of week or forced to work unpaid my lunch

  10. Went to buy a TV there, the guy in the department admitted he was new and didn’t know much about the sets and couldn’t answer any of our questions. So why do I need you then? I looked everything up I needed on my phone ,decided which one to buy and then ordered it from Amazon.

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