Walmart Employees Tell Consumerist About All Those Empty Shelves

This image and the rest in this story were all shot by Consumerist reader Terry during visits to various Walmarts in Maryland.

This image and the rest in this story were all shot by Consumerist reader Terry during visits to various Walmarts in Maryland.

We recently told you about a Bloomberg article with first-hand accounts from Walmart workers who claimed their stores had piles of inventory in the back rooms but not enough employees to actually stock the shelves. Walmart HQ dismissed these claims as isolated instances of grousing gripers, so we asked actual Walmart employees to contact us with their insights on this story, and they didn’t hold back.

We received several dozen e-mails from current and former store staffers, almost all of them saying they agree with the accounts given in the original story. There were simply too many responses to include here, so we’ve culled some highlights from the e-mails sent to us.

Larry describes the revolving door of workers that just seems to keep hitting him and other dedicated employees in the butt:

I have worked for Walmart for over eight years. This issue has been coming up the entire time. As soon as we get a full crew we start to lose people through them quitting or being fired. Management seems to wait until we need 6 or 7 people, then we get a rash of new hires…

Another problem we face is the work ethic of the people hired. Too many come in with the attitude that working retail is easy and they don’t have to do much. The shelves do not magically fill themselves. Those who complain the loudest are the ones who do the least. They don’t listen well either. I trained a new worker last week and had to keep repeating myself to them on the easiest way to stock. I do not expect anyone new to work at my speed, but when I show them ways to go faster and they ignore it I know this is a person who won’t be here long. Several times we have had a new person start the night and walk out before completing the shift.

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Mary details similar problems at her Walmart:

They don’t hire replacements, yet tell us all the time we have new people coming. The constant lying gets old after the first few months. However, when we get new employees, the managers pile so much work on them the first couple of nights from a lack of having had people to work that it scares them off and they quit…

In my store alone we keep having people quit because of the amount of work they pile on one person, and they won’t replace them. Instead they make the rest of us work faster and harder, saying the task manager system, which is basically a [point-of-sale] system telling them how long it should take us to do our job, says we should be done already or we’re taking too long.

Tell me how working in the frozen food or dairy department by yourself should take less than all night.

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Craig tells Consumerist that not all the shelves are empty at his store, and not everyone is pulling his or her weight:

While the Walmart I work at is dismally understaffed in some departments, in others there are more people than there is work to do. Walmart departments are hilariously compartmentalized, and god forbid you try and get someone from, say, jewelry or electronics to go help out in consumables (dry grocery) or frozen/dairy.

The eggs could be completely bombed out on the shelf but have 2 pallets in the back. Management will ask associates from health and beauty or shoes to go fill the eggs, and just get exasperated sighs or, “My bones hurt if I have to work in the cold” in reply.

Using the Walmart I work at as an example, the produce dept. has 8 associates, of which 2-3 are there at any given time, but frozen and dairy have 2 each, of which there’s generally one from either department there, and responsible for both. It seems down to individual store management how staffing levels run, and up to the individual associates if they feel like doing any work that day.

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Scott says staffing cuts means he’s doing work he wasn’t hired to do, at stores other than the one that hired him:

Walmart stockers earn an extra $1 per hour to work stocking from the back room. However I’ve been doing this for 6 months without the raise due to staff shortage.

I’m supposed to be a cashier. I’ve also been sent to 6 other stores to help them rotate expired inventory because they have so much backlog in the back room. I work in the [redacted] market and one store is a test store. The test store will not hire enough people to keep shelves stocked so they are always pulling staff from other stores, making us drive extra miles while not paying for gas or mileage.

Julie says one of the only times they can actually make a dent in the stuff piled up in the back room is when no trucks arrive to drop off new inventory:

When we do have a no-truck night, they pull as much out of the back room as possible to fill those empty shelves… It is amazing what you find. I have stocked things in electronics and toys that were dated 2-3 years ago. Sometimes we’d find stuff months after a holiday that never got put out. Or a Black Friday item that never got put out.

Bill says its customers who are ultimately getting screwed by Walmart’s odd notions of scheduling:

We are insanely overstaffed during slow hours and VERY understaffed during the busy hours. Regularly I am pulled from my department to cover, say, sporting goods for a gun sale or a fishing/hunting license because with the exception of six hours a day, we have NOBODY scheduled to work in that department.

It is just as bad in the other departments, but we try our hardest to keep up with keeping shelves stocked and helping customers. Its impossible to handle it all with such a poorly scheduled work force, and unfortunately, unless managers put their jobs on the line with corporate (they’ve threatened our managers’ jobs) we have to use the schedules we are given. My department is staffed entirely with full-time associates. Great! Last week we had a schedule that had only one person working all weekend and the rest of us scheduled a whopping 26 hours each. Not great.

Walmart needs to rethink its scheduling strategy; we are hemorrhaging money right now. Our store was overall the best store in our region in all areas until the tail end of last year when the fiscal year end was coming up — now we have seen sales plummet and customer service ratings have tanked. Very sad.

Customers aren’t wrong, some stores really are struggling to keep up. Regional managers shrug and corporate just keeps pointing the finger at us. How can we do better if we aren’t given the man hours? One person can only do so much.

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