Walmart Will Assign Employees According To Customer Traffic, Not Sales

Walmart is changing things up with some new software that will schedule employee shifts based on traffic and not sales. This makes employees mad. Why?

• Part-time workers would rather work 3 days a week for a longer period of time than just during “rush hour” 4 days a week.

• This might mean fewer hours for employees.

• Some full-time workers feel they are likely to be replaced with “senior citizens and students,” who are available during rush hours, and who will not receive benefits.

“This is one piece of a deliberate effort to cut benefit costs through more part-time employees,” said Nu Wexler, communications director at Wal-Mart Watch, which is a Washington-based coalition of labor, religious, community and environmental groups.”

Stock holders, however, were happy with the move. Shares of Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart rose $1.37, or 3%, to $47.55. —MEGHANN MARCO

Wal-Mart rolls out scheduling software [LA Times]

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  1. d0x says:

    There is no benefit here. As a retail worker those slow morning hours are the best hours to get the most work done in terms of setting up or recovering a store.

    Less hours of people sucks as well and since Walmarts employees never help you anyways what good is more of them going to do?

  2. acambras says:

    I can see why the employees are upset.

    But I’m with dox — Based on past experiences, I’ve come to expect absolutely no help at WalMart — I don’t expect much to change with this new scheduling system.

  3. Kornkob says:

    I guess I don’t have enough data but there’s something to this, I think, even for companies trying to give good service (and not just to cut costs).

    After all, more sales $$$ does not nessicarily mean more customers, although I suspect this will partially be true in most places. However, if they can put more employees in the store when they have more customers it increases the likelihood that someone will be available and around when a customer needs assistance.


    I’m not saying Walmart will do this right but I can see the value in it for a business interested in helping as many of their custoemrs as possible, without breaking the bank in labor.

  4. J DTZR says:

    “Nu Wexler” is an awesome name

  5. Perhaps this has less to do with customer service and more to do with preventing theft? More eyes when there are more people?

  6. Magister says:

    Actually, most retail theft is internal, by the stores own employees.. So increasing the number of employees might actually make that part worse.

  7. billhelm says:

    maybe I won’t have to wait for 20 minutes at the register next time I go to my local Wal-Mart. Always 2 or 3 registers open and 15 people in each line. It always seems like they are understaffed at peak times.

    Target seems to almost always have enough for minimal waiting.

  8. Skeptic says:

    Walmart, like other employers, is going one step further in considering its employees to be just another item to be supplied by its Just In Time inventory system. The idea that people deserve fair wages and predictable hours in their work schedule isn’t considered for a second. You can be sure that this sort of scheduling won’t happen in the corporate offices…

  9. RexRhino says:

    billhelm,

    Why do you shop at Walmart? I am just curious. You presumably have a Target nearby which you can purchase similiar things, correct?

    I have mixed feelings about Walmart – On one hand, I think they have gotten a bad rap primarily as part of a sort of class bigotry against percieved low-class culture (No one rails on about Ikea, or Tescos, even though they are guilty of most of the same things as Walmart – because they don’t have the stigma of being “white trash” and “middle american” – they are European and therefore above American class snobbery)… Yet, at the same time, Walmart just sucks. Purely as a consumer, Walmart just seems consumer hostile. I just don’t want to shop there, it just kind of makes me depressed.

    Is it the lower prices? It is the only store nearby where you live? Is it the convienience? I admit that I live in an urban area, so maybe I would be more apreciative of Walmart if I didn’t have so many other shopping options, most within a 5 minute walk. But I find it strange that on a site like consumerist, where there would presumably be a lot of skepticism against Walmart, so many people regularly shop there.

    If you are shopping at Walmart, aren’t you part of the problem? (I don’t mean this to be offensive… please don’t interpret this as an insult… I am just trying to spark discussion).

  10. annelise13 says:

    Reading this immediately made me think about numerous posts on the Behind the Counter blog (http://bbcamerican.blogspot.com/). The blogger has mentioned several times that the store is understaffed constantly during peak hours. My biggest beef with Wal-Mart is not the browsing experience, but the check out experience. Just thinking about the long lines I know I’m going to face always exhausts me.

  11. d0x says:

    I hate Walmart as well but I do sometimes shop there but only as a last resort.

    When I go to my girlfriends we have a habit of going out late at night to buy something, as it happens a 24 hour walmart is near her and its all thats open at those times.

    We buy simple things like a movie, maybe some food or snacks…windshield washer fluid =P

    Anyways, I do feel like part of the problem when im there and as I walk in all I can think about it how much I hate it. I hate the way it looks, I hate the cheap products they sell (same goes for target in that regard), I hate how you can never get help, I hate how for some odd reason Walmart has no clue what is in there stock room (unlike Target who can check and get the item in 2 min), I hate how even if you do manage to find someone to help you they NEVER have a clue. I understand knowing where every single item is in a store isnt easy but im talking general stuff that even a customer would know if they had visited the store in detail a few times.

  12. Citron says:

    Skeptic, thank you. This: “The idea that people deserve fair wages and predictable hours in their work schedule isn’t considered for a second.” is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in my experience, and I could have never put it so well.

  13. Charles Duffy says:

    @RexRhino

    I sometimes shop at Wal-Mart when they’re the only place open — I’m frequently trying to find something around midnight or so, and so options tend to be quite limited. That said, my wife used to work there, and has commented that the quality of the stores (from an employee perspective) varies widely based on quality of store management. (The last one, before she decided to get out of retail for good, was headed by a misogynist twit; the two before it, on the other hand, were fairly reasonable places to work).

    That said, one thing which she frequently pointed out when she was working there was the tendency of the night shift to be screwed by the day shift putting work off (leaving all the returns unsorted, the registers uncleaned, etc etc). If they’re not staffing adequately in off-peak times for all the deferred work to get done, I could see there being issues.

    Drifting off-topic again, the more interesting aspect of Wal-Mart (from my perspective) is the extent to which their prices vary based on area. My wife’s grandmother lives on a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma; the only nearby grocery store is a Wal-Mart about 20 minutes away. When we were visiting, grocery prices were *much* higher than I’m used to down in Austin. I’ve heard folks speaking about Wal-Mart killing local competition and raising prices — but this was the first time I’d seen the aftereffects firsthand.

  14. Kat says:

    This all started a few months ago, actually… all employees were told to completely open their availability or they were fired. I know of several people who quit because of it. (I’m an ex-Wal-Hell employee – I feel so dirty.)

  15. acambras says:

    … all employees were told to completely open their availability or they were fired.

    Ha ha — it gives me a chuckle when employers like WalMart want you to completely dedicate your lives to them, like it’s God’s work or something. Reminds me of when I worked at the Olive Garden and management was always trying to get people to cut classes to pick up shifts.

    So drop out of college, abandon your children, and clear your schedule — your WalMart needs you.

  16. planetdaddy says:

    I don’t want to be harsh, but here goes. If WalMart employees don’t like it then they can express their discontentment by working somewhere else. Am I wrong?

  17. Charmander says:

    A parent’s point of view here: does anyone consider how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to schedule childcare when you don’t have a predictable schedule?

  18. mechanismatic says:

    Closing italics.

  19. mechanismatic says:

    I bet Walmart management doesn’t properly close their tags either…

  20. RokMartian says:

    I’m with planetdaddy on this one.

    Also, I’ve never considered benefits as a right, but more of an, um, well, “benefit”. If you want a set schedule, hours, and benefits then maybe retail is not an industry to be working in.

    I left retail about 14 years ago and this isn’t really all that new – retail workers struggle over getting shelves stocked and recovered, but management struggles over sales. Therefore, the work schedule is dictated by the traffic and sales. It is common sense to ensure you have more staff when there is more traffic, hence, sales will increase, and more hours become available for off-peak hours. Right after the Christmas season, the sales will drop, so the priorities will shift.

    I do not shop at wal-mart nearly as much as I used to. I got tired of waiting 20 minutes to check out for a couple of items. If I can get in and out to grab a few things, I might start visiting more often. But until then, I have Target.

  21. CaptainRoin says:

    To fully understand this I think EVERYONE needs to watch The High Cost Of A Low Price. The issue isn’t with them having more or less employees on staff to help you it’s about them screwing their employees. There are more issues with Walmart than I have ever heard about with Ikea, or any of those other bargain stores.

  22. etinterrapax says:

    Mamalicious, I couldn’t have fully appreciated that until I had a baby, and now I know–it would be completely impossible for me to take that kind of job, unless I were not the primary caregiver. And unfortunately, for a lot of single moms, this is seen as the only option–when they are the only caregiver. Just another way the company manages to make the poor poorer.

    Honestly, the experience of working there was a turnoff, but the experience of waiting in line at checkout was a bigger one. The hassle of the crowds of people and merchandise, only to wait an hour to check out? No, thank you. But I suspect that Wal-Mart has come to see its customers as a constant–that no matter what they do, people will always come with their money–and now they are seeing their employees the same way. Boycotting from both ends is the only thing that will change that.

  23. Greeper says:

    I’m very skeptical of anything WalMartWatch says, particularly when they put words in employees’ mouths in their press statements. Not all employees are going to like everything an employer does, and if they don’t, they can leave. If the change is egregious enough, WalMArt won’t be able to staff its stores. Somehow I think they won’t have a problem doing so. Accepting the fundamentally socialist/anticapitalist premise of WalMartWatch, running a private, for profit business is not possible. (And no, I’m not a shill for WalMArt. I’ve never even been there).

  24. If WalMart employees don’t like it then they can express their discontentment by working somewhere else. Am I wrong?

    I’m thinking that most Wal-mart employees don’t have alot of employment options.

  25. mfergel says:

    From what I understand, in some cases Walmart expects employees to work multiple times throughout the day….ie, come in from 7-10am then come back again from 3-9pm, etc. That’s rediculous to expect someone to make multiple trips back and forth from home and as mentioned, try to maintain some kind of schedule if you have kids, etc. There isn’t any daycare/babysitter that’s going to be able to follow that kind of unpredictable schedule.

  26. revmatty says:

    Frankly I’m amazed that they don’t do this already. I worked at Wherehouse in college as a manager and in other retail stores before and after. We always considered traffic patterns when scheduling, as well as the preferred schedules of the employees. Note that we didn’t guarantee they’d *get* their preferred schedule, but we’d at least try to accomodate them. Then again, it was done at the local store level and I never had more than 40 employees on staff so it was easier.

    The split shift deal is a whole ‘nother Oprah. At least in the early 90’s it was illegal in California (and should be still IMNSHO). That is truly a horrible thing to do to a person, you’re essentially forcing them to commute twice a day to work fewer hours.

  27. jitrobug says:

    I wonder what effect this will have on when they schedule employees to watch anti-union brainwashing videos.

    There’s also a great Frontline about walmart.

  28. Celeste says:

    Okay, a split shift wouldn’t be cool, but improvements to their scheduling, so that they have enough employees to man more than 2 registers during peak hours would be really nice. And perhaps if they scheduled so they had sufficient employees available when the store was busiest, not as much of the cleanup/maintenance work they should be doing as part of their shifts would be shoved off onto the night employees.

    Kat – was that at just a particular store? Or in general? Because the LA Times article contains a quote saying “The company has not asked any associate to change their availability as a result of this system.” If the company is lying, that should be a big deal there.

  29. adamondi says:

    @ Skeptic:

    “The idea that people deserve fair wages and predictable hours in their work schedule isn’t considered for a second. You can be sure that this sort of scheduling won’t happen in the corporate offices…”

    There are two major problems with these statements. First, where was it decreed that people “deserve” predictable hours in their work schedule when they work in retail? That is the nature of retail; the hours fluctuate based on customer and sales volume. Second, comparing store employee schedule unpredictability to the scheduling in corporate offices is like comparing apples and chainsaws. They are completely different. Scheduling in the corporate office has absolutely nothing to do with making sure that there are enough retail employees on the floor at peak customer volume hours in the stores.

  30. yeah, it sucks for walmart’s employees, but that’s only because they’ve obviously been catching an incredible break on scheduling until now. when your business is driven by volume, your staffing must be as well.

    having worked as an idiot retail staffer and a slavedriving retail manager and being familiar with both sides of the coin, that’s just the way it goes. people are being unrealistic if they think any company is going to place a higher priority on their people than they will on their revenue.

    and not that anyone cares about the enemy, but i have every confidence that walmart is doing their best to screw every employee below board-level. when you work for a shitty company, everybody pays someday- not just the entry-level.

  31. Charmander says:

    Here’s another thought: If you are working a crappy part-time job at Walmart, how the heck are you going to be able to work a second job – because you are definitely going to need a second job – if you don’t have a predictable schedule to work around?

    And Skeptic – yes people “deserve” predictability in their lives, wherever they work, retail or no. We are talking about people here, not objects.

  32. acambras says:

    Mamalicious makes an excellent point about that second job.

    And here’s something I’ve observed when working a bunch of dead-end jobs through high school, college, and grad school: a lot of employers will demand that they be your #1 scheduling priority — total scheduling availability, having to make arrangements for (unpaid) time off a month in advance, etc. But it doesn’t go both ways. Somehow it’s ok for them to call you into work and have you pick up extra shifts with almost no notice. And in my experience they never *asked* — it was “We need you to come in today. We’ll see you in an hour.” That’s why, even though it was relatively expensive in its first few years, Caller ID was worth every penny for me. Then they’d just keep going down the list (my last name starts with a B) and find some other poor slob to acquiesce to their strongarm tactics.

    So students, if your dead-end job’s boss is trying to push you into ditching school so you can work more hours, keep your eye on the big picture. Focus on school, get your degree(s) and find a job in your preferred field. Then you can go back to where your dead-end job was (as a customer) and say to yourself, “God, I’m glad I don’t have to take crap from these fuckers anymore.”