A Discussion About Walmart, Essay Example
In our community Walmart is the major shopping place for consumers. The Walmart, named for its founder, Sam Walton, is open 24 hours a day, every day. There are fewer customers during the middle of the night, but the same great sales are available for a minimum of 24 hours, making sure that nighttime customers have the same shopping advantage as daytime shoppers. The store carries everything, usually driving out the surrounding competition. They have an electronics department, fashions for men, women and children, housewares, and even a foods department. The regular stores do not carry appliances, although some appliances are available through their warehouse, open to the public as Sam’s Club. Like other stores which carry just about everything, they are known as “big box” stores.
One of the managers at a local Walmart and I had an opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee. I explained that I was not a job seeker but that I was interested in how Walmart is operated. I have heard some complaints about salaries at Walmart and I wanted to get the manager’s take on the subject. I was told that although customer service is everybody’s goal, many of the employees are really there just to stock shelves. Employees have an opportunity to learn about the merchandise they are shelving and many take every opportunity to do so. In part, Walmart strongly believes in good customer service and knowing about the merchandise they shelve each day helps those employees toward Walmart’s goals. However, Walmart is a self-serve kind of store.
The economy has both hurt and strengthened Walmart. First of all, job applicants now come directly from nearby colleges. Before the recession, the jobs usually went almost solely to people with a high school education. Although the competition for employment has gotten fiercer, it is expected that the high school grads will last longer than college grads who begin looking for a new job the day they are hired. This applies to hourly workers but does not include those with specialty education courses: accounting, law, and marketing. According to (Johnson), Walmart is strongly anti-union and will fire anybody who suggests that they should have that kind of representation. Walmart believes that they pay a livable (minimum) wage to their employees and that they can continue to keep their prices low, passing on any savings to the consumer because they have no union commitments. Walmart’s senior management believes they are generous to employees in many ways that will defer union commitments. Although salaries may not be high, flexible work hours (Kosner) and promotions from within make Walmart a place of choice. Additionally, Walmart offers employees health insurance and participation in 401k. These benefits are prorated and determined by whether the employee is working fulltime or part-time.
Minimum wage workers frequently change jobs. Walmart had 87,000 employees in 2007 (employee handbook). Most of them are female and are driven by their belief that their children and families come first. Acknowledging this concept, Walmart is usually very easy on job scheduling and follows flexible scheduling concepts which were popular in the 20th century (Kosner). Walmart’s senior management team believes the flexible scheduling concept has been helpful in keeping employees, most of who only want a few hours per paycheck, happy and on the payroll for the long-term. Employees who accept minimum wage can usually work when they want and as for many hours as they want. This generous scheduling makes it very easy for most Walmart employees. On occasion, Walmart employees—mostly women—try to bring themselves up to the minimum managerial salaried level. Walmart managers are usually male. In typical work environments, Walmart’s management team has found that men are usually willing to work a 40 to 60 hour week. Although some women working at Walmart may be happy working longer hours, the majority, also saddled with childcare and household duties, prefer shorter, flexible working hours. Walmart faced a lawsuit from those 87,000 employees back in 2007 (Hauser); many of them claimed that Walmart had not correctly paid overtime wages. Walmart gave these employees $33.5M in back wages, going back five years. Walmart was only required by the Justice Department to go back two years, so their own decision to go back five years most employees felt was a sign of good faith.
Walmart believes in strong customer service. According to Walmart’s management, customers are always Walmart’s first priority. The company believes that supporting their employees through training, good working hours, and wages all lead to satisfied customers. They are quick to point out that 75% of their managers begun their careers as hourly employees and by moving ahead in their careers the positive attitude they display will carry to positive customer relations.
Walmart believes in a strong team effort. They value and recognize the efforts of every individual in their employ. Walmart believes that workers who serve as team members in the company’s overall management system, whether they are managers or hourly employees, are stakeholders in decision-making. The North Central Regional Education Laboratory claims that employees who feel they are stakeholders in the company’s efforts will provide better customer service than employees who are simply told what to do. Employees are divided into work teams so they report to a manager who is responsible for all of their actions and which can be measured more closely than if all the employees in a single store only worked for the store manager. An issue that store managers need to be aware of is how well subordinate managers supervise their respective work areas. A single employee who may do very well working for a different team leader may do badly working for another team leader. There are many different personalities which must blend together in order to keep everybody happy. Walmart, like any other big box store, will easily fire any employees whose personalities do not permit him or her to get along with other employees on their team. In corporate organizations, additional training may be provided which will help troublesome employees work out their differences. Regardless of position, Walmart, however, only sees many individuals as stockers—people who display merchandise for consumers to purchase. Therefore, whether additional training takes place is an option left up to the store manager. Although company policy mandates constant employee training, the manager the student spoke with admitted that training did not always take place. When corporate inspectors visit certain stores, sometime the lack of training is corrected while other times it goes unnoticed.
In their attempt to reach excellence, Walmart’s managerial team is always trying new ways of doing things. Cohen comments that Walmart is a big box store which rarely experiences major changes. Regular consumers who shop at Walmart find the merchandise they carry to be dependable and identifiable with certain brands. The average consumer is too busy to experience broad changes in their lives and continue to shop at Walmart because of the brands carried and their knowledge in knowing that the items purchased will last through many uses.
According to Walmart officials, they model the positive examples and high expectations they have for their customers and the high expectation they have for their workers. Walmart appeals to the low middle class of the community from which they draw their customers. According to their new employee handbook, upper-class consumers generally go to the shopping outlets they associate with their wealth. Middle class workers, both white-collar and blue-collar employees go to Walmart for the bargains that fit their income and the quality merchandise carried in the Walmart stores. Walmart also carries many goods that low-income families have a need for; the stores gladly accept payment guaranteed through the many social service agencies. To make even more money from the consumer marketplace they serve, they have smaller Walmart stores, Walmart Supercenters which are open 24 hours, and for those people who like to purchase greater than normal quantities is Sam’s Club. This club concept is similar to other popular shopping clubs such as Costco and BJ’s.
A Sam’s Club executive, Blasko, observed pointed out that the merchandise carried in Sam’s Clubs can also be found in the retail stores. However, the retail stores usually carry diversified products geared to have consumers purchase multiple items, usually for their personal use. An example that was given was the desktop computer. The average neighborhood Walmart store, including the Supercenter, may have 10 computers for sale. A consumer who wishes to purchase a greater number of the same kind of computers, probably to set-up a network at his place of business, is better off going to a Sam’s Club, which will generally have several computers available for sale or which will make a delivery of several computers to a single corporation. Those items a consumer can purchase in a certain store, he or she takes home in the trunk of their automobile. The same item purchased at a Sam’s Club is probably delivered in a large box truck.
In addition to Walmart and Sam’s Club being available in all of the United States, the same stores have expanded to several other countries in the world. With this diversity in locality also come changes in merchandise. This is especially true in clothing where, for instance, in countries where Western wear is not used. An example given is that in countries where the majority population is Muslim, stores catering to that locale will carry those garments which are appropriate for people of that belief.
Society, whether it is only from the United States, or from other parts of the world, is diverse in nature. Walmart builds upon that diversity and will hire and allow different members of society to proudly display their differences. By comparison, the Orlando Sentinel, recently covered a story in which Disney would not allow a Muslim employee to wear her head scarf. She was told she could wear a Disney scarf or if she insisted on wearing her head scarf she would be given employment hidden in a back room away from the millions of people who yearly come to Disney. Walmart recognizes the differences in people and does not attempt to change their mode of dress, as long as their clothing is deemed appropriate for business or daily wear. Some Walmart employees wear a headscarf while others may wear a skullcap.
Walmart’s handbook very strongly recognizes our nation’s military commitment. When an employee has military service to perform, Walmart strongly encourages their leave of absence. When a military member, or a spouse to a military member, is affected by a soldier’s transfer, Walmart policy is very clear that everyone related to the soldier, even if they have to leave their present position, will secure employment at another Walmart store with equal hours and at a pay level equal to or better than what they were earning.
Many people experience going to Walmart whenever they are in-need of certain products. These products include hardware, housewares, clothing, prescription drugs, and foodstuffs. Walmart tends to be a complete company where almost everything can be purchased. It is truly one-stop shopping. In order to accomplish these goals, Walmart is generally a self-serve store although the hourly employees in any one store are encouraged to know as much about the products they sell as they can possibly learn. Customer service is Walmart’s number one priority. The majority of hourly workers are female. These women usually have household responsibilities and are happy to work few or flexible hours. Usually the managers are men although women who wish to become managers can do so with the understanding they will be expected to work 40-60 hours per week. Walmart is strongly supportive of their employees who serve in the military. They will allow those employees to go on active duty when necessary and if the military transfers the soldier to a different post, members of the soldier’s family will be granted automatic transfers at equal pay to a Walmart closer to where the soldier is stationed. Finally, Walmart offers health benefits, vacation, and participation in 401k, all of these prorated against the number of hours the employee works.
Blasko, J. (March 17, 2012). An interview on NBC with Joe Blasko, executive head of Sam’s Clubs, USA. Bentonville, AR: Walmart Corporation.
Cohen, B. (April 30, 2012). Beginning of the End for Big Box Dominance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Hauser, P. (March 5, 2007). Employees suing Walmart for back pay. New York, NY: New York Times, p. 2a.
Johnson, A. (April 1, 2010). Walmart fights attempts for union representation. New York, NY: New York Times, special interest section, p. 3c.
Kosner, J. (1983). Flextime: An alternative work schedule to make Cook County government service more attractive. Chicago, IL: National College of Education.
North Central Regional Educational Education Laboratory. (January 12, 2012). Discussion about treating employees as stakeholders in management teams. Medford, MA: Tufts University.
Orlando Sentinel. (January 30, 2012). Story on page 3a about a Muslim employee who was filing suit because she was denied use of her headscarf. Orlando, FL: Tribune Publications.
Petigrew, P. (January 30, 2007). An interview appearing in one of Walmart’s hiring pamphlets talking about the law suit of 87,000 employees and how Walmart did its part to make sure that everyone’s salary was covered. Bentonville, AR: Walmart Corporation.
Walmart Employee Handbook (2012). Bentonville, AR: Walmart Corporation.
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