A Look Back At Customer-On-Greeter Violence At Walmart

For most of us who shop at Walmart, the elderly greeters are merely something to smile at and say “hi” to as we enter the store — and to occasionally hand over your receipt for checking-over as you exit. But as any regular readers of Consumerist know, some folks out there seem to have a grudge against greeters and have opted for fisticuffs over anger management.

Given that the woman accused of a holiday-time attack against a greeter in upstate New York is now coming to trial, we thought we’d take a look back at the recent history of violence against the septua- and octogenarian greeters of Walmart.

Back in 2008, a Washington state CPA was found guilty of misdemeanor assault after knocking a 75-year-old greeter to the floor after the elder man allegedly touched him while attempting to check his receipt. The shopper had tried to claim his actions were taken in self-defense, but that’s not going to win you much sympathy when the other person can remember World War II.

The violence continued in 2009, when a police officer in Tennessee was suspended for shoving a receipt-checker to the ground. Not to mention, when another customer attempted to intervene on the 71-year-old greeter’s behalf, the cop allegedly shoved that person through a glass window.

Amazingly, a judge threw out the criminal complaint against the police officer, but the greeter did eventually win a $20,000 civil settlement.

Later that year, a 72-year-old greeter in Pennsylvania was the recipient of a punch to the face that left him hospitalized with half of the bones in his face broken, simply for asking to check a customer’s receipt.

In 2010, a greeter in Florida says he was fired from his job at Walmart because he defended himself after a customer attacked him.

“They told me I did a good job of defending myself,” the 69-year-old said at the time. “Then they turned around and fired me. I guess they just wanted me to stand there and get beaten.”

In the end, the customer, who had claimed that the greeter used a racial slur, entered a plea of no contest to battery charges and received one year of probation.

Also in 2010, a 100-year-old greeter in Wisconsin was sent to the hospital following a dispute with a customer. While reports claimed the customer shoved the elderly woman to the ground, prosecutors did not file charges because it was possible the fall was accidental.

Then last year, a mother-daughter team in Ohio allegedly attacked a 71-year-old greeter by pushing their cart into him and choking him… then threatening to blow up the store when other employees attempted to intervene.

Perhaps fed up with all this greeter abuse, a greeter in Kentucky decided to be proactive, chasing down a 22-year-old shopper he believed to have stolen a bike from the store. For his efforts, he earned a trip to the hospital, but at least he wasn’t fired.

So when your mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/whatever tell you the good news that they got a nice little gig as a Walmart greeter, maybe you should suggest they invest an self-defense for the elderly course.

Comments

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  1. That guy. says:

    Wal-Mart should take their largest, most intimidating employees and have them work the door. Like a dance club. Keep the people in line.

    Or, if they are going to be elderly, get an old Marine.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      That will probably end up worse for them in the end than with elderly employees, for those of us who evoke our rights granted under the law.

      • That guy. says:

        If someone is physically imposing, that still doesn’t give them the right to lay hands on you. So either way, you are (in theory) protected. If they restrain you, wait for the cops to show up and explain the unlawful detention. This would at least prevent the incidents where a well intentioned elderly person puts their hand on a shoppers basket (because they were seemingly not heard), and gets knocked to the floor.

        Plus, a retired Marine might have the composure and sound judgement to NOT grab at customers.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          “If someone is physically imposing, that still doesn’t give them the right to lay hands on you.”

          They can try to prevent from leaving simply with their physical body. I was thinking of that rather than actually putting hands on someone.

          • That guy. says:

            Either way, I’m just saying that regardless of appearance, they have the same boundries on what they can do to you. So if they are unlawfully detaining a person, with the end result being the cops just let the customer leave, at least there isn’t some jerk of a customer who thinks pushing over a 100 year old man is part of their right to leave the store.

          • mackjaz says:

            Laying your hands on somebody is a crime. Physically preventing someone from leaving is also a crime. They’re both wrong.

            Walmart should be focusing on employee theft, since that’s where the majority of crime takes place.

        • Snullbug says:

          What the HELL are you talking about? This article is about Wal Mart CUSTOMERS being violent toward greeters, not the other way around. Read much?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      My Walmart already does this on their busier days. They wear tshirts that say “LOSS PROTECTION”

      • JollySith says:

        Are you sure about that? Loss protection would be protecting your losses. “Ma’am I am afraid i am going to have to ask you to steal something before you leave.”

        Most LP officers wear shirts or uniforms that say Loss Prevention.

      • TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

        What ghetto do you live in? I’ve been to tons of WalMarts and have never seen that.

      • mackjaz says:

        I don’t think a t-shirt trumps the constitution.

  2. Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

    At least the injured greeters had their medical insurance from Walmart to cover their hospital bills.

    Oh, wait…

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Yeah, good point, since the norm is for part-time minimum wage jobs to provide full benefits including health care, paid vacations, and tuition reimbursement. Oh, and a pony.

  3. Harry Greek says:

    ,.. THIS IS ‘MURICA!!!

    Stay classy Red, White and Blue – stay classy.

    • That guy. says:

      Why is it that whenever American citizens show a pattern of doing something dangerous, inconsiderate, or ingorant, it’s considered a trait of being American?

      • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

        Apparently he just seems to like saying ‘murica.

      • Harry Greek says:

        You mean, the multiple stories linked on this web page don’t establish a pattern of some sorts??

        How many more similar stories of bratty American consumers do you need to come to the conclusion that we are pretty bad consumerists?

        Hey, how about the trampling deaths during Black Fridays? Will THAT convince you there is something wrong with America’s society?? Or, is it the businesses who are responsible for our terrible behavior??

  4. HomerSimpson says:

    Is the “greeter” gone or do they have a different position now? Some stores still have a person watching the entrance albeit further back from the door now.

  5. SavijMuhdrox says:

    What about the poor guy who DIED after he tried to open the doors to a Wal-Mart for customers on Black Friday??

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/business/29walmart.html?pagewanted=all

    hmm.. seems he was only 34… but still.. thats just horrible.

  6. fargle says:

    Or maybe, and here’s an idea, Wal-Mart could stop placing the elderly in a position as security personnel demanding we prove that we’re not criminals immediately after leaving the place where we paid for our purchases, with no valid or legal reason for doing so.

    But no, that would mean they would have to pay a decent living wage for an actual security guard, and suffer the PR hit of having security posted at their entrances/exits. Instead, they pay a pittance to the poor geriatric and hope that people won’t beat up on them because they’re old.

    • mackjaz says:

      They’re throwing WWII vets under the bus!

    • Bender6829 says:

      Well said my friend. I no longer shop at Wally world, but when I did (I was unemployed and had to make every penny count) I was asked on a couple of occasions to show my receipt. I would look the person in the eye and say ‘no thank you’ and continue walking without looking back. I was not challenged but had I been I still would not have shown my receipt.

      I once asked one of the greeters why they did this and he said they just want to make sure I got everything I paid for… yea right… to which I would reply ‘Isn’t that the cashiers job?’

      My son once refused to show his receipt and the greeter physically stood on the front of his cart and would not allow him to leave. The manager was called and my son told him that he would call the police for kidnapping him if he wasn’t allowed to leave. The manager said ‘sir, we’re going to have to ask you to leave’, to which my son replied, ‘that is exactly what I am trying to do’

      Why Wal Mart has to treat their customers like criminals is beyond me. I would often see these ‘greeters’ stop young families and rifle through their purchases, while the parents looked on sheepishly.

      Wal Mart puts these elderly, grandfatherly folks in those positions on the precept that they will not be harassed by customers. If anyone is to blame here, it is Wal Mart. The greeters, raised with a strong work ethic, probably think they are doing a good thing, when in fact Wal Mart is counting on customers to comply out of respect for the elderly.

      My heart goes out to the greeters who were injured – there is no excuse for that – but really, Wal Mart is manipulating the elderly to do their dirty work.

      They should be ashamed.

      Oh, by the way, I finally figured out a way to prove that corporations are not people. People have a conscience, corporations don’t.

  7. luxosaucer13 says:

    While I personally don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart, there’s no excuse for elder abuse.

    If you don’t like your receipt having to be checked, politely say, “no thanks,” and have the greeter summon the manager on duty. If you have a gripe, register it with the manager, not take it out on the greeter.

    • That guy. says:

      A problem arises when the elderly greeter…who is poorly or incorrectly trained (perhaps on purpose)…grabs a customer’s basket who declines a receipt check. They then get shoved, or whatever, and all hell breaks loose.

      • Sad Sam says:

        Does that happen, if so then Walmart is to blame for poorly training these folks. I don’t shop at Walmart but any time I faced with a receipt request I simply say no thank you and keep moving. Never had a problem, I also don’t frequent companies that assume I am a criminal.

  8. annmarizzle says:

    Our nearest Walmart simply stopped with greeters all together; my husband is a “it’s my property, you have no right to check my receipt” guy, and I’m a “here, nice old lady, you can see my receipt to prove I didn’t steal these socks and a blu-ray” gal, so usually I snatch the receipt from him to avoid a confrontation, but lately there isn’t anyone there. I suspect they figured it wasn’t worth it.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      So why would he shop at Walmart when he knows they have receipt checkers? Why doesn’t he shop elsewhere if he’s offended them? Is it because he looks forward to a confrontation with an elderly receipt checker?

      • msbaskx2 says:

        Or maybe he doesn’t have a lot of options on where to shop and he just ignores them when they do ask (like a lot of other people)?

    • RayanneGraff says:

      Wow, he sounds like a cordial, reasonable guy to be married to.

      /s

      • msbaskx2 says:

        I’m a “it’s my property, you have no right to check my receipt” gal, but I’ve never actually had to SAY those words. I just keep walking. Have actually had someone follow me repeatedly saying, “Miss? Miss? Miss?” (which I ignored) but have never engaged in confrontation.

  9. Cooneymike says:

    What isn’t apparent from the OP is that Walmart initiated a lot of these confrontations and the reason most were never prosecuted (outside of the media) is the cases would never stand up. That said, Walmart has quietly but significantly changed their policies. I am one of those people who thinks you need to flex your rights once in a while just to insure they are still there and safe. I would periodically refuse to let them check my receipt at Walmart, and sometimes it did become a bigger deal than I would have liked to have seen.

    However, in the last year of so, I have occassionally done the same thing and if I decline to show a receipt no one picks a fight about it. I don’t do it every time, nor do I actually steal anything so there is no real PC to detain me.

    Walmart’s policies now seem more in conformance with the law. They appear attentive and dilligent without being oppressive and possibly breaking the law. In short, their response has been a very good one.

    • That guy. says:

      I 100% agree that this phenomia is Wal-Mart’s fault entirely.

      They do not properly train their staff on how and when you can detain a shopper. They place fragile employees in a position designed to block theft. A theif already is showing a questionable moral compass, so putting a 100 year old woman between them and possible jail time seems like a bad idea.

  10. benminer says:

    I’ve heard of greeters actually grabbing the arm of customers who decline to show their receipts. This is absolutely unacceptable and in my opinion constitutes outright assault. If this ever happened to me I think I shrug it off but if somebody (especially a man) grabbed my wife I would immediately sucker punch this person in the face. I haven’t been in a fight since middle school and am not a violent person but I’m pretty certain that would be my reaction.

    But maybe they’ve stopped doing this after so many incidents.

  11. Sarek says:

    My local Wally World did away with greeters. They haven’t had receipt-checkers in years.

  12. balderdashed says:

    While violence is inexcusable except when necessary in self defense, my experience shopping at Walmart suggests that greeters are so poorly trained it’s not surprising there are incidents. In a recent Walmart trip, I asked a greeter where a certain product was located. He misunderstood my question, and told me to go the last aisle in the store, where I knew the product wasn’t. “That’s OK,” I said, and started to walk away. This geezer then grabbed me by the arm, got a pretty solid grip on me, and attempted to lead me to the back of store. He may have been well intentioned, but I asked him to let go of my arm — several times without success — before I managed to wriggle free without injuring either of us. Here’s a basic rule, Mr. or Ms. Greeter: don’t touch a customer, ever, without their permission. Or anyone else, for that matter. It’s offensive and could easily be misinterpreted — a customer may consider it assault, a coworker, sexual harassment. And unfortunately, it may also result in you being knocked to the floor (as in an example in the article here).

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      You are far more genteel than I would’ve been. Anyone who grabs me hard like that would be in for a big loud scene, and if they didn’t let go, a fight. I don’t let people touch me like that.

      On the other hand, a gentle tap to the arm or shoulder, or a non threatening touch to the arm would be no problem.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      I had something like this happen about 6 years ago, except it was a customer dragging me around when I worked at a casino. One night a customer came up to me, demanded that I help her, and grabbed my arm & physically dragged me to the customer service desk because her players club card wasn’t working or something.

      Putting your hands on another person is completely, 100% unacceptable unless it’s in self-defense, and I really wonder what’s going on in the mind of someone who thinks it’s ok to physically drag strangers around.

    • Meerkatx says:

      If having someone simply touch you on the arm or shoulder results in a violent reaction from you, the problem does not lay with the person touching you.

      While I understand no one wants to be thought as a shop lifter and that it’s a pain to stand for up to a whole minute while someone checks your receipt and bags it’s never ever okay to react with violence to this situation even if that person touches you.

      The reason older people are used is also psychologically most people will treat them with more respect and be more willing to do what they ask of them due to societies general respect your elders philosophy.

  13. ATXag says:

    I rarely ever shop at Wal-Mart but the one near my house has never had receipt checkers. They had greeters that gave you a cart and tagged items for return, but I think the last time I was in there the greeter was gone as I had heard that some Wal-Marts were doing away with greeters.

    The only place I frequent that has receipt checkers is Fry’s and I simply say no thank you and they’ve never given me any grief. I guess some places finally got the message.

  14. Kuri says:

    What about the greeter who chased and ran down a suspected shoplifter?

  15. Sad Sam says:

    I am anti receipt checking and I am anti WalMart (one of the reasons I don’t shop there is b/c of their receipt checking policy) but resorting to violence is not the way to solve this problem. Simply say no thank you and keep walking.

  16. DarkPsion says:

    The problem is that security guards and police are trained in how to confront people, how to read body language and how to control the situation so it does not escalate into violence.

    Wal Mart greeters are lucky if they get a stool to sit on.

  17. Obtruder says:

    Seems like maybe they shouldn’t hire frail, senile people to act as front door security personnel.

    Or just not at all, the practice is ridiculous. One of the largest companies on EARTH can’t just let a little theft leakage go? I’m pretty sure they all have large scale security camera systems and tags on everything, what is a 100 year old man supposed to do?

    I call this irresponsible of the company to let this continue

  18. MarkFL says:

    I notice that while the ages of nearly all of the greeters is mentioned, the age of the attackers is mentioned in only one of these cases. It may be that the customer/attackers are as old as the greeters. I once saw two guys — both at least 70 — come to blows over who was first in line at Albertson’s. And a few years ago a couple of retirees got into a fight in a movie theater line, leaving one of them dead. The result, of course, was a lawsuit against the theater:

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2004-02-23/news/0402230051_1_movie-theater-elderly-patrons-shopping-center

  19. Uncle Don says:

    Why don’t you do a demographic breakdown of the animals that do this sort of thing? Oh, that’s right, we don’t need to because we know what it’d say.