Working at Walmart

Dear Corporate Walmart,

I know you probably won’t reply to my letter but that’s not going to prevent me from expressing a few concerns I have about a recent stint I had as a Walmart Lawn & Garden Seasonal Sales Associate. I know that I’m not the only one who has ever experienced concerns, I found that out easily by Googling “working at Walmart,” as you can see by the very first search result.

Firstly, I knew the chance I was taking before being hired, so I wasn’t going into this completely blindfolded. I knew I would probably not be making much over minimum wage ($7.35/hr here in PA), I also knew that as a L&G associate I would be lifting heavy bags of mulch, garden soil, landscaping timbers, etc. I knew there would be times when things would be hectic as early spring is a very busy time for gardeners looking to buy plants and other things needed for gardening.

Secondly, I realize there are some things associated with retail sales that all employees of any particular retail business have no control over, i.e., angry customers, shipments of goods arriving unexpected, cash registers freezing up, etc. Many things can go awry that are not expected. I’ve worked retail before so I know these types of things cannot be controlled by employees, there is no blame here, I’m making a point about working conditions that can or cannot be attributed to employee actions.

Third, and this is probably what you’re not going to like hearing about; low wages for work that one person shouldn’t be doing by themselves. For example, on some occasions during my employment I was the only sales associate in lawn and garden and two surrounding departments. Trying to find assistance for customers I couldn’t help (because I was helping two or more at the same time) was all but impossible. I had difficulty grasping Walmart’s work ethics, be they bad or good, and when I was told by a member of management that this was “the way our generation does things” it made it even more exasperating.

Lastly, I offer a word of thanks to you, Walmart, for hiring me in the first place. I honestly thought that as a lover of plants and people I’d be able to make a difference, and perhaps even change an attitude or two about how you’re viewed by a large majority of your customers. Unfortunately, that view is not a pleasant one. But as I stated earlier, I had an idea of how it might be before I was hired. I chose not to continue as an employee because I felt it was a detriment to my health, both physically and mentally.

On the day I decided to leave you asked if there were anything you could do to change my mind, and when I replied that I would consider staying if my pay were raised to between $10 – $15 an hour, you laughed. For me, and thousands of your employees, that’s not something to laugh about.


TC Conner

feelings gardening music Parenting writing

A “real” job?

I used to have a “real” job during the 80s and 90s. I worked for a pipeline company, at one of their compressor stations. Natural gas would come into the station via several large diameter pipes, enter large natural gas compressor engines, it was then compressed and pressurized and then discharged to continue its journey north, or sometimes be injected into large underground storage facilities. I spent 15 years with that pipeline company, and then during the economic downturn of the mid 90s, 25 or so of us lost our jobs. You’ve heard the term – downsized, another word for being laid off, permanently.

And so began my journey of what is known as a “stay-at-home dad.” And I loved it! Once my two kids were in school, I decided that I’d go back to school myself and in 2006 I graduated from Slippery Rock University with a degree in English, Creative Writing. At the time I thought a degree in writing would be beneficial and I didn’t think I’d have any trouble finding a full-time job editing or writing about gardening and/or maybe music. I was wrong! It’s been a struggle ever since and I continue to think that I should have stuck with my first major – information technology.

But as we all know, what’s done is done and I can’t turn back the hands of time. Losing that job with the pipeline company was traumatic; it paid well, had great benefits, and had us on what we thought was the highway to the high life, or at least a solid means of buying or building a new house, paying off a new car or two, and saving enough money to put our kids through college.

17 years later and I’m still struggling. But I’m not complaining. I realize millions of folks are in worse shape than I’m in. I’ve always told my kids to never walk backwards, because more often than not you end up stepping in the same mess you just walked away from. It’s a  cliché but life is a journey, and you either hang on for the ride or get thrown off.

I started a new job recently, it involves people and plants – two things I love being around. I’ll reveal more details later, there’s a 90 day probationary period and I don’t want to announce anything permanent just yet. It’s been a while since I’ve had a “real” job, and readjusting is taking some time. But as my oldest son’s friend always says about tough chores: “It ain’t no hill for a climber.”

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