Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Opinion

Boors at Walmart's doors and at the top

So just be sure I understand the clipboard of apparatchiks running Walmart: If a customer were to punch an employee in the mouth just for the fun of it, the bleeding hourly-wage minion would be expected to respond by saying: "Thanks so much for patronizing our lovely store and that, by the way, was a rather well-delivered right cross. I enjoyed it immensely. Have a nice day and could you also please deck me again?"

Apparently so.

Memo to former Walmart worker 73-year-old Jan Sullivan: It's your own fault you are out of a job for not more thoroughly reading the company employee handbook, which says you are obligated to accept with a smile being treated by customers as boorishly as the human resources department is indifferent to you.

As the Tampa Bay Times' John Woodrow Cox explained the other day, Sullivan was given the bum's rush out the door by Walmart after 22 1/2 years of loyal service simply because she was on the wrong end of a confrontation with a hideous customer last Black Friday.

We all know that Black Friday, the shopping bacchanal that occurs after Thanksgiving, brings out the inner brutish Uday and Qusay in people as they converge on the nation's retail emporiums.

Sullivan found herself on duty at the Walmart on Tyrone Boulevard assigned to prevent crazed customers from exiting the store from the entrance doors. Let's face it, as jobs go, this wasn't exactly like serving as an El Paso border guard.

But after Sullivan, as she was instructed, confronted a 40ish woman in jeans and a baggy sweater trying to leave the store through the wrong door, the dreadful customer shoved her. As Sullivan fell, she instinctively reached out and briefly clutched the woman's sweater. After she let go, the woman disappeared into the night. And so did Sullivan's job.

Even though Sullivan was the victim of a battery, even though Sullivan was the aggrieved party in the confrontation — even though Sullivan was simply doing the job she was assigned to do — Walmart fired her.

Her crime? According the company's factotums of forms in triplicate, under no circumstance is an employee permitted to touch a customer, which, it seems, extends to A) trying to defend oneself and/or B) attempting to keep one's balance after being shoved by a loutish patron.

You can't say Walmart didn't have Sullivan's back — with a knife from the kitchenware department.

Whew! This was close. At No. 2 in the Fortune 500 rankings with $447 billion in revenue, obviously eliminating Sullivan's cushy $15.32 an hour job just might make the difference in Walmart reclaiming Numero Uno status.

Since her dismissal, Sullivan has been forced to sell her home as other expenses have piled up. And because she was "terminated for misconduct" from Walmart for foolishly attempting to defend herself against a nasty customer, Sullivan has been denied unemployment benefits.

Even Sullivan's effort to find a law firm to help her has been fruitless. Who wants to challenge an international corporation on the grounds of common decency when the company would tie up the case in court until Sullivan eventually keels over?

Perhaps Walmart's clipboard of bureaucrats feared if they didn't banish Sullivan, the cheesy customer might attempt to sue the company. Far better to toss an elderly diabetic woman to the curb. Who is going to care? Who is going to notice? No need for any compassion, or fairness, or common sense. Nothing to see here, move along.

If only Sullivan simply had been more ambitious. Had she been higher up the Walmart corporate food chain, it seems there is no price to pay for allegedly spreading around millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican government officials to cut through red tape to build more stores in possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Indeed, once company investigators unearthed the Mexican bribery operation, Walmart's higher-ups shut down an internal investigation of the corruption. Nor did Walmart see any reason to bother to alert either U.S. or Mexican law enforcement agencies of all the palm-greasing. And Walmart's top executive in Mexico who oversaw the bribery? He won a promotion.

But remember, he never touched a customer. That would be wrong. You can get in a lot of trouble for misbehavior like that.

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