Wal-Mart might not be such a bad place to work if it wasn't for the customers.
I don't know, but I'm pretty sure Wal-Mart customers are more rude and disrespectful than other retail outlet's customers. I know I've never walked into a Target or a Sears or a K-Mart or any other retail store and seen so much evidence of wanton destruction and vandalism as is found throughout every Wal-Mart.
Here's one nightmare customer story:
It was a Friday evening, during the peak shopping hours (After the majority of America's working people get off work, but still early enough that it isn't bed time yet), on the first of the month, which is the day the Welfare and Social Security checks come out. The only time I can imagine that might be a busier time for a Wal-Mart associate would be the first day of the month on a Saturday. Or "Black Friday".
All of my co-workers were either not scheduled to work that day or had "called out", meaning they called in sick, and I was alone. By myself. On the busiest night of the month. I literally had lines of people waiting to ask me where something (usually right next to them or behind them) is, or to ask some equally stupid question.
I'm going to digress here just for a moment because I just reminded myself of probably the stupidest question I ever get, and I get it more often than one can imagine. The question is this:
"Where is the restroom?"
Now, one might say this is not a stupid question, but keep in mind that the restrooms in every Wal-Mart in the world are located in the exact same place. Back wall, middle of the store, in, or next to, the electronics department. When anyone enters my department, the sign for the restrooms is prominently displayed right in front of their eyes. Have they never been in a Wal-Mart in their entire life?
Anyway. So, I'm busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. As I said, I have customers standing in line waiting for help. I am in the middle of going through the time consuming task of selling a contract cell phone to a customer. This process can take as long as as 10-20 minutes when it goes smoothly. If there are problems, I've seen the process go well over an hour.
This customer walks directly up to the counter behind me, without even entering the department, without even a short cursory look around the department, without any attempt at all to ascertain for himself whether we had the product he was looking for at all, and interrupts my interaction with the cell phone customer. To ask me, in a thick Russian accent, if we had some little portable radio. I don't remember his exact words, but I was reasonably sure he was referring to an old-fashioned transistor radio. Wal-Mart hasn't carried anything like that for more than a decade.
I politely said, "No sir, we don't have that item."
To which he replied (and I kid you not), "Is there anyone here who knows that I can ask?"
I admit, under the circumstances, I probably visibly bristled at this blatant insult, as I answered, "Sir. I'm here. I know. And we don't have it." Then, I turned my back on him and resumed helping the legitimate customer.
I don't know where he went after that, but I soon got a strong clue.
About ten minutes after my cell phone customer left, and there was a short lull between customers, one of the assistant managers appeared and informed me there had been a complaint about me. To her credit, she was remarkably understanding for a typical assistant manager in our store. She said she understood that I was by myself and overwhelmed with the crowds of customers, but I must always remember to be nice to them, regardless of how they treat me.
All I could say was:
"I'm doing the best I can."
And that's the truth.