Walmart: Where The Bottom Line Comes First

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[Authors Note: I have made repeated attempts to contact Walmart. As of press time, no answer was forthcoming]

Have you been shopping at Walmart recently? If you have, I’m sure you’ve seen people standing at the entrance, tablet in hand, counting people. As you go out, another person is counting away. That would lead you to assume that they are still limiting the number of people in their stores, right?

I’m sure you’ve also seen the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines about disinfecting commons surfaces within a store, like Walmart.

If you’ve not read the CDC guidelines, they read, in part:

  1. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.
  2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19can also help reduce the risk.  Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.
  3. When EPA-approved disinfectantsare not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children. Read EPA’s infographic on how to use these disinfectant products safely and effectively.

I received an email, from Richard Stewart of El Paso, Texas. Mr Stweart indicated that the Walmart he shops at does not do anything to clean or disinfect PIN pads on credit card readers, or wiping down the self-checkout, I had to go and see for myself.

I spent an hour in each of three stores, in El Paso to see what was, or wasn’t happening.

During my time at each of these Walmart’s I did not see a single employee take the time to clean and disinfect any area of the self-checkout, nor did anyone wipe down the keypad on the credit card readers.

Another disturbing item of note was that the store was packed. The parking lot, at two of the Walmart’s in El Paso, was crowded. When you walked in the store, it was as full as pre-COVID days. When I asked how many people were in the story, I was told, by one of the tablet wielding employees, that the current count was “only one hundred and fifty-three people.”

Not possible with the number of times I was being bumped into by other shoppers.

This lack of community care seems to be shared among Walmart locations.

“I had to run into the store just for one or two things,” says Patty Mendoza of El Paso, Texas. “When there was all the less happening back in June, I was in and out. It took me about forty-five minutes to get out of the store.”

Patty is right. Walmart is moving backwards on how they are facing this pandemic.

During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Walmart had extra check stands open, allowing for social distancing and the ability for people to get in, grab what they needed, and get out. Today, it’s a different story.

What gave me a more significant cause for concern was a conversation I had with three current Walmart employees.

“We ain’t allowed to clean,” says Robert (We’ve changed the names of the three employees to protect their identity). “It slows down the flow of people trying to pay for their stuff.”

Before the alleged termination of common-sense cleaning, the self-checkout was cleaned between each use. The same held for the staffed checkouts as well as the credit card readers. When it takes thirty, forty seconds to clean a checkout, that adds up and reduces the number of people able to get out – that eats into their bottom line.

“At my store,” says Amy, “they make it look like they are doing something.”

Amy says that once every couple of hours, a member of the “front-line team” will from register to register, spray it and wipe it down.

“I can say that what is in that bottle is not going to kill any germs,” says Amy.

“This is about sales,” says Richard. “Walmart is a sale driven environment. They want numbers. It takes time to clean shopping carts; it takes time to clean scanners, card readers. It also takes money.”

On March 10, 2020, Walmart issued a press release, which reads in part:

First and foremost, we are taking preventive measures to keep our stores clean and maintain a healthy environment. Stores are cleaned daily, which includes using sanitizing solutions in high-touch, high-traffic areas. We have increased associate focus on cleaning and have dedicated an associate to maintain key areas throughout the day. We’ve seen increased foot traffic, so we’re sending additional cleaning supplies for use in places like the registers and on shopping carts.

“This is not about the health and safety of our customers or employees,” says Richard. “This is about maintaining a healthy bottom line and a large return for shareholders. Walmart does not care.”

In no small degree, I must believe what Richard is saying. On August 8, 2020, I reached out to Walmart, with questions about their practices, or lack thereof, when it comes to disinfecting everyday items. As of publication, they have yet to respond.

If you were to take a moment to review United for Respect website, you would see how endemic the problem with Walmart is.

The Walmart at 3331 Rinconada Boulevard in Las Cruces, New Mexico, should stand as a witness towards Walmart’s desire to focus on the bottom line, and not employees or customers.

In July of 2020, the State of New Mexico ordered the Las Cruces Walmart to close after four employees tested positive for COVID-19.

“Our Walmart, it didn’t want to close,” says Amy. “We were told we were going to get fired if we talked about who had Coronavirus with anyone.”

“Save Money. Live Better” is Walmart’s tagline. Maybe it’s time they reconsider the tagline and change it to “The Bottom Line Comes First.”