Walmart stores have changed America forever. After all, before they existed, where else could you go 24 hours a day to buy a can of corn or an extension cord?
Good ol' Sam Walton established his stores on three beliefs and values that he felt made his business great: Respect for the Individual, Service to Our Customers and Striving for Excellence. The ideas are simple but they've been the basis of Walmart Culture since 1962.
Sam lived his life by the 10 Foot Rule -- if someone came within 10 feet of him, he would look him in the eye, greet him and ask him if he could help them. Sam believed his rule was one of the biggest secrets to customer service and it's one that every employee must pledge to honor.
Sam also stressed the Sun Down Rule. "Why put off what until tomorrow what you can do today?" was given the Walmart touch with the mandate that every Walmart employee respond to any customer's or associate's inquiry within the same day, aka "Sundown."
With just those concepts and pretty darn low prices, it isn't a wonder that Walmart has grown as big as it has.
Since Walton's death in 1992, however, many of the rules have changed. Some for the better, some not. Remember the controversy that emerged over all of the products being sold at Walmart that had been imported from Asia, even as the company continued to pose as "Buy American" promoters?
And think back to Walmart's big ad campaign in which a big bright yellow smiley face was plastered everywhere. It was on end caps, banners, sales signs, stickers, bags, you name it.
The smiley face is a distant memory now, replaced by an asterisk. Yes, a symbol on your keyboard has replaced any resemblance of human spirit in the cold, dark world of our Capitalistic Super Store.
On Feb. 6, with one giant swoop, another Walmart staple disappeared. The Walmart Greeter is no more. According to various news articles, the greeters have been moved to the store aisles to offer more customer service.
As they blend in with bandaids and toasters, the proud senior citizens and disadvantaged workers who had been the face of Walmart are no longer there. They've been replaced by a cardboard sign with an arrow.
Does striving for excellence have to mean "work grandpa like a mule" as he runs up and down the long aisles of Walmart stocking shelves and satisfying customer requests?
Maybe I am overreacting. It could just be me. Things change and the asterisk may offer a certain "je ne sais quoi" to the atmosphere that I just don't understand.
But eliminating the greeters does seem to go against the grain of the beliefs Sam valued so much and that made Walmart what it is today.
What happened to Sam's 10 Foot Rule? Has Walmart grown so much that they don't think they need the unique foundation of customer service to keep growing? Have we, as a nation, become so immune to human interaction that removing one of the few tried-and-true jobs slotted for disabled or retired Americans went away without even being noticed?
I may be a bit too old school, but why can't grandma be the face of the corporate giant anymore? This type of corporate greed would even make the devil blush. Replacing people with a piece of cardboard seems to contradict all the promises of customer service and Sam Walton's values and beliefs promoted on the company's Web site.
Come on, Walmart! Bring back the Walmart Greeters!