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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Hi, do you need any help?

I've been working in my new role in the Electronics Department at Wal*Mart for two weeks, and am fitting in well with the existing team and learning more and feeling increasingly comfortable with every passing shift.

I have a lot more customer interaction in this department, and a lot less mopping up of chemical spills, dipping dead fish out of the aquaria, and heaving 50 pound bags of dog food. There's also less "zoning" (i.e. tidying the shelves) because most of our merchandise is either locked away, hung on locked peghooks, or housed on better designed display units. We do have to dust more, as the TVs in particular attract dust motes from the surrounding air.

My very first day was interesting as I had no opportunity to complete any of the "pre-requisite" training, but had to grasp the bull by the horns and start serving customers with no understanding of our stock beyond my own personal experience.  A couple of days later I was able to run through cashier training (which took about 5 hours), so I could at least complete a sale from the "Hi, do you need any help?" to the "Have a nice day."

Apart from cashier training, the pre-requisite training comprises a very long series of fairly short multiple choice tests, with a bit of blurb about particular products in between to base your answers on. Unfortunately this appears to have been written several years ago, and in the fast-moving world of consumer technology much of it is misleading, irrelevent or obsolete. No matter, I have to go through it, and occasionally I find something that I can use to expand my knowledge or improve my sales technique.

This past couple of weeks we've had a lot of business from new students arriving at the University, and looking to kit themselves out with all the necessities of student life. Many have come from out of state with a parent in tow wielding a credit card, and a couple have been blocked by their banks, so a word of warning. If you plan to travel to another state (or country) and spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars in one day, contact your bank beforehand and tell them of yor travel plans, or they may think your card has been stolen. Fortunately most people have alternate cards, but it's embarrassing for all concerned.

Late yesterday evening I was on  my own in the department acting as closer, and thankfully it was quiet as the local University Football Team (Oregon Ducks, ranked #5 in the country) were on TV. A group of five Chinese students were in the store trying to furnish their new accommodation, and asking a lot of questions about desks, tables, chairs, futons etc. With no associate assigned to the Furniture Department it fell to me to assist them, mostly talking to the one girl who spoke good English. After assembling a huge pile of flat-packed furniture on a cart, they revealed that they had no transport and needed to call a taxi to get them back home. First though, they had to go to a couple of other stores to get the things we were out of.
To cut a long story short, I had to leave the quintet at the front checkouts, where they (hopefully) paid for their items and parked them at Customer Services until they could collect them. I nearly called Beth to come with her station wagon and give them some help, as it's 4-5 miles from our store back to the University, and no taxi would be big enough to carry everything they had bought in one trip, but it looked like they were in for a long night and I still had a couple of hours of my shift before I would be free to help.


  1. Martin - what happened to those students and all their flatpacks?? What one needs is a truck if you are going to do shopping like that - or go to IKEA and pay the delivery charge. Does Walmart deliver?

  2. I didn't see the final outcome, but I'm guessing they did get a taxi home, or more likely a fleet of taxis.

    WalMart sort of delivers. You can order stuff online at and have it delivered (for a fee), but you can't buy something in the store and have it delivered. needs to be advertised a lot better, as people are always looking for odd items (like a soundtrack CD to a 16 year old movie) in the store, and are surprised and disappointed when we don't have it. The same item (say a TV or laptop) is often a lower price online, so even with the delivery charge it comes out cheaper overall.