Where is Sam?

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"It's My Walmart"! The corporate offices and officers have changed and the Sam's Walmart is gone.

This is an inside look at a company and culture that is not what it seemed to be seven years ago when I started with it in Panama City, (Callaway) Florida as an hourly associate. The original culture was alive and it was a wonderful place to work. It is not the same Walmart I see now and many of Sam's original rules for business are gone. When I look back at the beginning of my career with the company, it was Sam's way.

The corporate offices have destroyed Sam's Walmart. It is now Walmart, the largest retail establishment in America and a part of Corporate America that no longer has much of Sam Walton's culture left in it.

Sam was an unusual man. There are many stories told to me by long-term associates about him and his way of doing things. I can only conclude when he died, the soul of the Walmart culture began to fade. When Sam left, the life's blood of his associates was to slowly drain away.

The sadness would come in the form of the corporate monster that would rise up and take over. The "necessary evil" Sam Walton did not really care for (the corporate offices) has grown steadily since his death into an unfeeling paper monster. The corporate officers do not have the same touch he had. They do not motivate the associates as he did and the personal touch is far, far away. Occidentally you may get a glimpse of Sam's shadow or smile, when a manager or associate who really cares shares with others in the stores or smiles at you as they go about their day.

This is not easy to write without sounding as if I am bashing the Walmart that I loved. Presently, it looks to have changed into nothing more than a typical corporate monster. I am not anti Walmart, actually I am far from it, and have made every attempt to enlighten the executives and corporate officers of the company during the past three years about the potential risks of alienating the associate base. I have communicated concerns and problems to the corporate offices and more than once I have been told not to worry about any of it.

During a conversation on the phone one day, I was told by my divisive vice president, Jim Hayworth that I can not fight every battle. More than once I have been given what I would call a pep talk and the issue I knew was important to the company and associates was been overlooked. I have had Walmart vice presidents tell me I should have been a preacher and yet I would have failed at it miserably if the income were any indication of my way of communicating the message that I have tried to bring.
This entire story could have just an opinionated reflection on a chapter of my life that can be broken down and analyzed. Still the problems are real and the answers are so simple.

Walmart is a piece of my family. A time in the life of a city girl who grows up believing that there is a right way to do things. Brought up to have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong. A time in the life of a girl who grows up, in a time and place and with a family very much like, but also very different, from the type of family that produced Sam Walton.

At this time, I can see how it would take many years and the experiences that a lifetime can bring to understand it. "If I knew then, what I know now and could do it over", hindsight is hindsight and what is current is current. They certainly are mixing at this time.

The chapters and the revelations within the pages of this book are complicated. My intention has been to tell more than the experiences I have personally had. Still during the course of almost seven years and three of that writing each time that I had to get a large situation out of my system or under some kind of bearable control. I find that one issue mixes with another so that all of this is truly my experience in the sense all of it has touched someone in my family, some way.

It does not mean that others or their lives were not changed by this work environment or situations that have occurred. I could not possibly detail every situation I have come across in seven years. To do so would turn this into a series of books and possibly would be so long that it would never be finished.
Day by day, issues come up that grab my attention. A number of associates have asked for my assistance in matters they have no idea of ​​how to handle. One associate running a department for two years is being told even though she is not the department manager she has to continue to do the work of one. Meanwhile the actual department manager can not or will not do the work. She continues to have the title and pay and the other associate does her work.

Another associate has had her last name given out to a customer, which is against company policy. An irate customer could have a problem not only in the store but for an associate that has no idea that customers who are angry can get information from the store that will be able to be used to contact them outside of the store. Even the schedules that hang on the back hall in the stores only show the first three letters of an associate's name. This way an associate last name was kept private even to other associates and vendors.

An associate tells me there is favoritism as far as job announcements not being posted and departments being given to friends of salaried management. I have no power to do anything but listen and direct them to the person that they need to contact. Some will, many will not out of fear of repatriation and if I tell them I will help, many will say they are afraid they will pay in some way for complaining or they fear their job will be lost.

On any one day I have spent half or more of my day listening to associates that have concerns. The associates asking the most questions are the long term and the serious associates. They are the associates that depend on there jobs for their livelihood. They have families to support and use the money for their family's basic needs.

I hold all conversations confidential and do not bring up anyone's name when I approach a situation that really needs the attention of upper management or the corporate offices without the person specifies it is all right, they seldom do.

There is a fear factor. Many of the associates, especially the ones around for a while are always concerned about something that say or talk about could end in treatment that would be intolerable to the point of quitting or management would find some way to terminate them.

I know what it is to go home and continue with the process of wondering why someone has treated me in a way that I did not understand or why they approached a situation in a certain way. Walmart has changed. The entire culture has changed. One of the worst things is that the corporate officers refuse to admit that it is no longer Sam's Walmart. The culture as posted on the walls of the break rooms and back halls where the management offices are is nothing more than propaganda. It is all a memory and nothing more. The other day an associate with over twenty years told me that Sam use to say, 'First God, then family, then Walmart.'
I know that I have not always done what would have been considered by some to be the right thing or to resolve something "The Walmart Way" when it comes to people. I prefer to do it "Sam's Way", but I am not Sam and can not tell anyone what to do, or how to do it when it comes to the associates. I can not call or walk into the corporate offices and tell them that the culture is dead because the store managers only use it to cover the walls. I can not insure that the corporate officers rethink the way that they are handling the stores and the associates. I can not force them to "respect the individual."

I know that I have let a few people down along the way. I never meant to let anyone down, it just happened. I do know that I have heard stories in twelve different stores and have worked with thirteen different store managers. I have worked for seven different district managers and have allowed myself to deal with the corporate offices as often as necessary to take care of the business of setting the record straight in many different situations.

I have also lived through almost seven years of Walmart at home. Walmart at home is listening to the Walmart associates in your family explain what is going on at their store. It is a difficult situation to be in at times but it has also proven to me that associates have the same thing to say in almost every store.

My family has had the unique opportunity of moving together through four states working for Walmart. Together we have worked in sixteen stores and have a combined total of more than twenty-four years with the company.
Together we have worked in almost every division within the company at one time or another. Although I have not actually been the specialty division manager of Optical, Pharmacy or the Photo Lab, I have been given by store managers, the responsibility as an assistant manager of checking in with them and seeing to it that they are current and complying with store and company policy.

I did not even know of Walmart's existence until 1990 and it was many years later that I became a Walmart associate.

I am human and because of it, I have multiple reasons for sharing my experiences, opinions and concerns with anyone who wants to know. If good can be derived from what I write it will be enough. In addition to completing something I just need to do for many reasons I will at the very least be able to lay it all to rest in some form and at least I know, that Sam knows, that someone saw it and that someone saw what would happened far into the future.

If the company dies it is lack of respect for the individual that did it. The associates will make or break this huge company. Sam knew the right way and now the corporate officers need to listen to the echo of his words and follow.

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