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Friday, 2 March 2012

Annual Inventory

On 29th February my WaMart store undertook its annual inventory, and for the first time I was present for much of the day. We'd been building up to this for weeks, counting and recounting stock on the shelves and in the backroom, rearranging the backroom bins, and trying to keep things as neat as possible.

The day itself was very dull. Most of the Electronics staff were in for a full shift, but we were very restricted on what we could. The actual counting is done by an external company, so for the day of the count we were allowed only to serve customers - no zoning (tidying up and returning misplaced stock to the shelves), no working of freight, no picking fresh stock from the backroom, no module setting or anything else. Just customer service. As the count was daytime on a Wednesday, there weren't that many customers to serve, especially with so many staff in.

The count went slowly but smoothly enough, but by the time I left at 10pm it was still in the post-editing stage. I was at work again at 8am the next day, and we were still not allowed to do much, as some wildly variant counts were being re-checked. Initial reports are that our shrink (missing stock, usually stolen) was up slightly on last year, but not terrible. I heard that the Cell Phone center alone had lost about $10,000 of stock, remarkable as the phones are all locked away in cupboards until a customer asks for one, but possibly explained by the sacking late last year of a member of the cell phone department who hadn't been bothering to count the stock properly (which is supposed to occur every day).  Actually with the price of some cellphones exceeding $750 (at shelf value), that loss could be fewer then 20 contract phones.

If fact I'm surprised the loss wasn't bigger. A couple of weeks ago our door greeters were removed, or at least relocated to spots about 50 yards inside the store, rather than in the atriums where they have been since long before I started. Apparently this is a nationwide initiative enacted from on high, and it is supposed to show the customers, well, something about being valued that makes no sense to me or anyone else I've talked to about the change.

The immediate result is that the greeters are not greeting people anymore. They're also not checking any receipts to ensure stuff in people's carts has been paid for. They're not lining up carts ready for customers' use, or wiping them dry if they've been out in the rain (a likely contingency here in Oregon in the Winter), or collecting and charging the electric shopping carts that are there for people of limited mobility.

Customers are now confused as they come into the store, annoyed there are no dry carts lined up and ready for their use, and confused all over again as they leave the store and try to show their receipt to someone who isn't there. Signage has been added to direct customers to the Customer Service desk for various issues, but it's a rare customer who actually reads the signs, probably because they're too busy trying to control their dripping cart and an armload of children, while not running into other customers who are dawdling in the entryway. The electric carts are now running flat more frequently, as customers who use them and then return them to the atrium rarely bother to plug them in for the next user.

Hopefully the policy will be re-thought and reversed before shrink spirals out of control, and customers get so annoyed by the perceived unfriendliness that they stop shopping at WalMart. Meantime, if you're shopping at WalMart and wondering where the door greeter is, don't worry, they're still there, they're just not able to help you with anything much now.

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