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#PRFail: Walmart Needs Some Internal Communications Love
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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For decades, Walmart has used the ubiquitous smiley face to stress its commitment to customer service. And while its umpteen bajillion shoppers don't really go there for smiling faces, Walmart would like you to believe its employees are full of happy-happy-joy-joy. Stigma is out there. Stereotypes prevail. And then you have current employees going rogue to Gawker. Yes, Gawker! 

In a Q&A
that I would highly recommend for your reading pleasure (even the bigwigs of Walmart reading out there in Talent Zoo land), we have an employee of an unmentioned Walmart location who uses this barf of emotion as catharsis for his job. It starts like this:

If I were to write down every unethical/illegal thing I have personally witnessed in the last 5 years, I would have to write a book. For the sake of simplicity, I will instead answer the most common questions asked by frustrated customers who shop at Wal-Mart, because truly, every evil thing you need to know about our day-to-day existence can be summed up by answering these questions.

Yeah, this isn't going to be good. 
  • So, why aren't there more people to help you in a big box store like that? Long story short, Wal-Mart won't hire more people to help you, the customer, until you part with your sweet, sweet dollars so that our sales can go up, and then maaaaaaybe they'll hire another person to cut some fabric for you. 
  • And how come in a store that big, with a staff so small, there is no expert who knows where anything is located? Well, as you know, we live by a culture of attrition here at Wal-Mart! As I mentioned before, the assistant managers and store managers are given incentive in the form of $80K and $20K bonuses to cut payroll and scheduled hours. Given that knowledge, you would be correct to conclude that you aren't going to find a lot of people in any Wal-Mart who have worked there long enough to actually learn where everything is. 
  • How about people learning to turn that smiley face frown upside down? It's not that I don't want to help you, I'm sure you're a nice person who didn't mean to bother me, but if given a choice between pissing off you, a stranger I don't know, or my boss, who will call me incompetent, lazy, etc. if I don't get my notes done, I choose to piss you off with my dismissive, rushed service instead of my boss, because ultimately my boss signs my paycheck and you're a face I will forget in a few hours.
There's so much more salacious information in there, but to anyone in this fabled industry — PR, not babysitting people in muumuus who don't brush their teeth to go look for a gallon of macaroni and cheese — it's clear that Walmart has an internal communications crisis on its hands. And smiley faces. 

It's a shame "Undercover Boss" wouldn't consider making an entire season dedicated to Walmart. That's about the only thing that could help. Maybe. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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