Saturday, September 13, 2014

Working for Walmart as an Unloader

Certainly, not all Walmarts are like the one I worked at for three years, are they? I worked as an unloader and back-up Backroom Supervisor at the Walmart (#2185) in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania from 2011 until 2014. This is my story...

First, I waited until the very last moment to apply to Walmart because I knew they would hire me if I needed a job for Christmas money, and I was right. I applied with them in November and was brought in for an interview at the very beginning of December. They rushed me through two interviews in the same day and gave me a job offer on-the-spot, provided that I passed their pre-employment drug screen. Naturally, I passed their test designed to invade my privacy and was immediately given a formal job offer!

I was hired as an unloader (receiving associate) and I was given thirty-two hours a week (you have to pull teeth for full-time at Walmart) of work at a whopping $7.80 an hour, which I later learned had recently been slashed from a starting pay of $8.20 an hour just three months before I started. My shift would be from 4pm until 1am with a one hour unpaid lunch, but first I would have to go through orientation.

My orientation was my first cult-like meeting where I learned all about how great Walmart is, heard untold praises of Sam Walton (who would probably puke if he were still alive), and was thoroughly and rigorously brainwashed the entire time on how evil unions are and how great it is not to have a union because they do everything to screw you while Walmart only rewards you for your hardwork and commitment. This all culminated with a meeting with the store manager, who went on and on about unions, and then was shown a video called "Protect Your Signature", which once again showed me just how evil unions are and how great Walmart is.

I made it through that brainwashing campaign and was set to begin work. They wanted me to start the next day, but I talked them into giving me one day off to readjust my sleep since I would be working from 4pm until 1am and I had just done a 7am to 4pm. They agreed and all was well. I worked two days later and didn't really mind it, I actually thought it was pretty easy.

The first thing that I realized about Walmart was that there were cameras everywhere (mostly focused on the employees) and everything, I mean everything, was locked and required a key, and there simply weren't enough tools available for anyone to efficiently do their job. In other words, my employer already did not trust me (they needed to spy on me like Big Brother) and they were hell bent on stressing me out by making it as difficult as possible to do my job (lack of tools, everything is locked and requires keys for access, no room to move, etc.). Being a somewhat intelligent guy who had been working since he was 12 years old (I am now 39), I was naturally apprehensive about what I may have gotten myself into.

I pushed forward and didn't mind it so much (I could deal with it) until about February 2012, when my local Walmart in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania decided it was going to change over into a Super Walmart. It was at this point that I had finally been at Walmart long enough to figure much of it out and to realize that this was going to be a nightmare of epic proportions! I had now been at Walmart for about three months and I was out of my probationary period. I was given my evaluation andto be totally honest (as you will eventually read about)I began to realize that I was very very much loved by management. This did not surprise me, as I am not afraid of work nor am I able to not work hard or stay busy – it simply bores me to even try.

When I started at Walmart the typical job of the unloader was thus: 1) You unload a 53' trailer by hand (no forklift or pallet jacks, with the exception of perhaps a few pallets); 2) You sort the boxes and stack them on pallets by hand (typically anywhere from 1000 to 2000 boxes) in accordance with the department the boxes go to; 3) you pull the pallets to the salesfloor; 4) You finish all of that and then pick merchandise from the back room and pull those pallets to the salesfloor. If there happens to be no truck (called a "no truck night") you stock shelves all day and then do "picks" at night until it is time to go home.

When I started at Walmart we would typically unload the truck for the first four hours of the shift, pull freight for the first two hours after lunch, and then pick merchandise for the remaining two hours of the day. There was a lot of walking involved (typically about 4-5 miles per day) while carrying or pulling weight. If you happened to be the person "throwing the truck" (which I would later become the regular for) you would be consistantly lifting between 1000 to 2000 boxes (pre Supercenter) for about 4 hours, which would equal about 250 boxes per hour at anywhere between a few ounces to as much as fifty pounds, with probably an average weight of ten pounds. That is four ten pound boxes per minute, or one every fifteen seconds for four hours straight. Most people are totally incapable of that feat, which is actually child's play to me anymore, but read on and see.

Between October and December all of this walking and work would double, for the holidays, because every night or nearly every night we would get in two large trucks. So for, $7.80 an hour one would be unloading two trailers and walking some 8-10 miles per day. Only seasoned backpackers (which I am one) or soldiers typically walk that far in a day, especially while carrying or pulling weight – it is actually quite far to walk and very tiring. Once we became a Supercenter we easily made that sort of milage 1½ to 2 times that distance (8-10 or as much as 16-20 miles per day, usually about 13-15 miles per day) a regular occurance. The "thrower" (almost always me) would be expected (once we became a Supercenter) to pick up no less than 1000 boxes per hour and place them on the line (at an average of ten pounds per box) and to finish each truck (regardless of the size) in two hours or less. That is about one box every 3 seconds which is bordering on doing ten pound repetitions with a dumbell for 2 hours straight (most weight-lifters cannot do that!). Remember! After that you would have to walk as much as ten miles. It was like a marathon every night for $8.60 an hour (which is the pay I finished with).

We would typically have 6 people unloading the truck by hand, which means (if all of them made an average of $8 an hour) they each got paid $16 to unload a 53' trailer of loose boxes, by hand, in two hours. Put that way... who wouldn't want to do that, or rather, who would say "sure, that sounds reasonable to me"? I mean, after all, you can buy a lot for $16, right?

So anyway, let me give you the highlights of my job. In August of 2012 we had to clear pallets out of the former Tire and Lube Express "pit" and haul pallets around the outside of the building, through the parking lot to the Tire and Lube Express to be put on clearance. Each trip was about mile (round-trip). We did this for 8 hours in 100 degree heat and humidity, with a heat index of 110F – we had to "beg" upper management to be given water. My boss, Chris, the back room supervisor at the time, was demoted that fall because he refused to get us to work harder and faster. In came Colby, who I called "Houdini" because he disappeared all day while I ran the crew as a back-up and did not receive pay as a supervisor. Colby was later promoted to a job as Zone Supervisor and then became an Assistant Manager.

When Colby was given the Zone Supervisor job the Back Room Supervisor job came open. I took the test and passed it, I had no coachings (not even a verbal), I was the second most senior unloader, I knew the job inside out and did it as back-up when the actual supervisor was not there. The job was given to an outsider and I wasn't even given an interview!!! Policy is that I should have at least gotten an interview, which is probably why they hurried to give me one after the fact. Was it because I sucked as an employee or that I could not lead? Nope. Read on and see how much they liked me and how good I was at whipping the team into shape.

As I said, all of upper management knew I pretty much ran the back room and did the job of supervisor – they even acknowledged this to me on numerous occassions. So why not give me the job? Because they wanted me "throwing" that truck! I threw truck every day I worked for two years straight. I got the team to listen. I coordinated the team. I made everyone laugh and gave them morale despite the depressing and stressful conditions.

I was up for Support Manager, and once again I was passed over because I had a verbal coaching for attendance. They told me if I would fix my attendance they would give me a promotion (two strikes for Walmart) – I was livid. I started calling off whenever I felt like it. Ultimately I came up for Support Manager again and was passed up for attendance reasons again (probably my fault this time, but three strikes – Walmart is out). I quite caring.

It took them a year to even give me a verbal coaching because they wanted me there that badly. They fired other employees for missing 6 days, but overlooked my 13 (no need for a union, right?). They wrote people up for all sorts of stuff but never said a word to me. It was unfair and wrong and that is Walmart!

Then, in April of 2014 my daughter was raped by her step-grandfather. I had to call off because she was having panic attacks. All of the sudden Walmart had an issue and eventually, they fired me in September. That is Walmart in a nutshell!

I worked my tail off for 3 years, got arthritis in my left shoulder, broke my glasses (and did not get reimbursed), received numerous cuts and scrapes and was hit in the head by numerous heavy boxes, got passed over for promotion, and ultimately was fired because my daughter needed me – that is Walmart. They even wrote my girlfriend up because a pallet jack ran over her foot and broke her toe, they said it was a "safety" issue! I also watched them fire an Assistant Manager (Scott) because he called-off to help his son who was stranded in another state. They asked him, "Which is more important to you, your job or family?" He said, "My family." and was fired. They also fired a Support Manager (Kevin) because he put in a two week notice that he would be working for Weis Markets (a competitor). The most recent Support Manager (Raymond) consistantly was written up because he had to take off for cancer treatments. A great family-oriented place, don't you think?

Oh, and don't get me going on safety! Unloading a Walmart truck is the most unsafe practice anyone can undertake. For starters, in the summer a trailer can be as much as 120F and you have to "throw" so many boxes per hour in that heat. My shirt was soaked in sweat nearly everyday. I'm certain video exists somewhere of it, since there are cameras everywhere. The trucks are stacked like crap with loose freight. The idiots at the distribution center will put heavy stuff on top of the stacks (usually stacks that are 7-8 feet high), a trailer once came in with writing on the wall that said, "What kind of stupid puts heavy stuff on top? Stop trying to kill us!" I have been hit in the head with 4 one gallon paint cans, a microwave, glass canning jars, canned dog food, furniture (a bookshelf, I think), and numerous other objects. I was lucky to dodge a loose claw hammer and also numerous loose kitchen knives. One day I had to run to the eyewash station because I got carpet cleaning powder in my eyes because it was spilled in a break pack and exploded everywhere when I placed it on the line. There are spills on nearly every truck: paint, bleach, ammonia (yes ammonia and bleach spills on the same truck), rancid food, bugs, etc. One former unloader (Justin) had paint spilled on him and his shoes and was told that he shouldn't go home and change, but rather put "booties" on his shoes so he wouldn't track paint through the store when pulling freight.

When we changed over from a regular Walmart to a Supercenter we had a temporary ramp outback in the receiving area. It was a grade I am fairly certain was more than is allowed by law, made of stones with a metal sheet over it, no railing, and a huge drop off to the one side (enough to flip a forklift). When I told management I was uncomfortable with driving on this ramp I was told to "Suck it up!"

I witnessed first-hand (and even did it myself) many employees, including members of management taking the power equipment onto the salesfloor without a spotter, and was told on more than one occassion to break company policy in order to get the job done. As a matter of fact, when we changed over from a regular Walmart to a Super Walmart we had an emergency door outback (in receiving) that was bolted shut on the outside and remained with the signage that it was an emergency door for several weeks before I even noticed it and reported it to management.

Aisles are routinely blocked off in the back room so handicapped persons could not possibly pass through them in the event of a fire. Everyone there knows this! If you work at Walmart you will be underpaid, underappreciated, and subjected to high levels of unnecessary stress and potentially hazardous conditions.

This has been my personal experience while working at the particular Walmart I worked at, during the period in which I worked at it, and I do not mean that every Walmart is to be construed as being like this, are they? However, in my opinion, one should 'Protect Your Signature' and never sign any document accepting employment with that store.

Who wouldn't want to work for Walmart? Walmart is a great corporation to work for with plenty of room for advancement (maybe if you are a lazy tyrant), great competitive pay (maybe if you are competing with five year olds slaving away for sixteen hours a day for pennies a day in some forgeign country), a pleasant and team-oriented work environment (maybe if you enjoy gossip, backstabbing, screwing-the-next-guy, souless crushing of peers for their "perceived" competition, and a "cult-like" atmosphere), so much love and care for employees and their safety that you need no union (which is probably why everyone is smiling from ear to ear – maybe NOT!), excellent benefits (that is, if you don't want dental work done and you are still eligible for welfare assistance, which they will be more than happy to help you obtain), and regular quarterly bonuses (unless a customer gets injured by a box of tissues that falls off the shelf – one accident that you have no control over and your bonus is completely gone or turns into a whopping $16).

I am "rehirable", and believe me they would take me back in a flash! The only reason I ever got fired was because I pushed the issue extremely far and local management was finally unable to stop the pressure coming from the top down. However, I will never work there again, nor will I ever shop there again (I used to all the time). I would rather eat out of a dumpster than work for or support that company in any way, shape, or form.

Peace and Knowledge,


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