Tales from Walmart II: Violence by the Pound
Last time, I discussed some of the sexual shenanigans that went on during my three-year nightmare working for Walmart. And what goes better with sex? Why, violence of course! And yes, I witnessed more than my fair share of violence. You figure it’s going to happen when you work for a major chain like that, but you still can never really prepare for how much you might see. Just how much, you ask? Well…
1. A Random Stabbing
On at least one occasion, I witnessed a man get stabbed by another man in a seemingly random altercation. A customer was in one of the clothing departments, looking at underwear or sock garters or something. Men look for those, right? Anyway, as he was browsing the shelves, another customer ran into the store, made a beeline for this particular customer and stabbed him several times in the side before running away. This customer, blood running down his side, took one look at the wound, then hauled ass after his attacker. Apparently, the fact that he was losing his life force all over the floor did not sway him from getting revenge, blood and underwear shopping be damned. We never did find out what happened there, but we were left with the nice memento of a long trail of blood all the way to the front of the store.
2. Bomb Threats A-Plenty
I don’t know what it was about the town I grew up in or its neighboring town (Centralia and Chehalis, WA respectively), but bomb threats were a popular thing. Fortunately, they were always empty threats. Unfortunately, we still had to take them seriously. In addition to the numerous ones my high school received, on at least four separate occasions, the Walmart I worked for received them as well.
As a result, every time it happened, we had to not only evacuate the store, but we more or less had to patrol the parking lot and wave people away, telling them to come back another time. If the thought of being blown up wasn’t bad enough, customer reactions actually made it worse. You would not believe how pissed off people would get about not being able to buy their Hot Wheels cars or put a bunch of clearance crap on layaway (more on this another time). We actually had one regular customer who was already something of a whackjob actually try to hide in the store during evacuations just so she could continue shopping. We’d find her every time, and every time she threw a fit, just short of kicking and screaming as she was escorted out of the building.
Sadly, even though it was the same person every time (they left notes on the bathroom wall telling us as much), the attempted Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight was never caught, and we always had to be on our toes in case they sort-of-struck again.
3. Gun Nuts With Loaded Weapons
The sporting goods department at our branch was pretty standard, with the big sellers being camping equipment and firearms/accessories. I will keep my thoughts on guns to myself, but I’m not a fan, and a specific incident at our store made me less of one.
One day, a gentleman came into the store with his hunting rifle in his hand. That right there is a red flag, but he was allowed in for supposedly needing to buy bullets for his gun and not knowing which ones it took. In reality, Walmart is always so scared of negative customer feedback that they’ll pretty much let customers do whatever.
Anyway, he took his gun to the sporting goods department in order to find the bullets he needed. After he located them and purchased them, he proceeded to open the box and load them into his gun right at the sales counter. This was an even bigger red flag than bringing the gun in in the first place, and the salesperson told him he’d have to do that at home, and that it was against the law. So, the gentleman respectfully understood, grabbed his merchandise and left in a quiet, polite fashion. And by that I mean he started screaming about how the laws were bulls***, his rights were being infringed upon, and that he was a victim of some kind of prejudice.
Oh! And he threatened to come back and shoot the place up as well as anyone who stood in his way. Much like the attempted bomber, our store was now on high alert. While we didn’t have to evacuate, the police were brought in and security camera footage was studied extensively to attempt to track the man down. He never came back and shot anyone, so the cops either did something about it, or he just drove a ridiculously large pickup truck.
4. Electronics = Assault
On at least two occasions, employees were assaulted in the electronics department, one of the areas of the store I worked in. And, as you would expect, both times the assault occurred on Black Friday. The second time, one of the holiday employees got screamed at by a customer over who-the-hell-knows-what, and it led to a shoving match. Even though it was instigated by the customer (I don’t know the details, but I did witness said customer make the first move), the employee took the fall and was fired later that day.
He got off light compared to the first incident, however. My first Black Friday took place after I had been with the company just a few months, and that was the first time I saw how truly ugly it can get. I know it can get worse, what with people getting killed and all, but luckily, I’ve never had to witness that. Still, what did happen when I was around was pretty awful. That year, the Game Boy Color system had been dropped to a ridiculously low price–I think around $24.99-for one of the specials on the busiest shopping day of the year. A customer and his wife came in to pick one up around 10:00am.
Even though the store had only been open a few hours by that point (this was before they started staying open on Thanksgiving), our store had already sold out of the item. My department manager, a woman, kindly and respectfully told this gentleman that we had already sold out, and when we got them back in, they would no longer be at that price. This customer–this MALE customer–responded by kindly and respectfully punching her square in the face, giving her a hell of a shiner and temporarily knocking her out cold.
What happened in the aftermath, you might ask? One of the assistant managers–we’ll call him “Brad,” since that’s his actual first name and he deserves to be called out for being such a douchebag–not only apologized to the customer, but then handed over his genitals in a doggy bag by giving the assailant a raincheck on the item. To make matters even more outrageous, he told the department manager she could not retaliate with any legal action.
A little later in the shift, a quick store meeting was called to discuss how to handle this exact type of situation. His response? “You are paid to take a punch.” And yes, those were his exact words. Keep in mind that the average person who is actually paid to take a punch–boxers, MMA fighters, etc.–are generally paid pretty well to do so and are trained as such. Plus, you know, they’re allowed to defend themselves. In our store, the average employee was making about $7.00/hour, which was just slightly above Washington state minimum wage at the time. I don’t know about you, but that’s not quite enough.
Although I was never physically assaulted, during that same holiday season, a man at least three times my age threatened to take me outside for a “talk.” He had asked me for an Xbox DVD Playback Kit, which we were out of, but when his daughter asked if we had an Xbox systems in stock & I said yes, he accused me of being a liar and started calling me names. When I pointed out that what he asked for was a different item, he accused me of calling him a liar, and that led to the verbal threats. Fortunately, his daughter not only knew what I meant and understood, but was completely embarrassed by her dad and more or less dragged him out of the store as he screamed obscenities in my direction.
In fact, now that I think about it, there were quite a few customers that screamed obscenities at me for one reason or another. Perhaps it was my fault?
No…no, it was definitely on the customers.
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, most notably seen on Camel Clutch Blog, where he has reviewed nearly every single episode of WWE Smackdown since mid-2011. He also reviewed TNA Impact for 3 years, but finally had to quit when the show became completely unwatchable. (Dustin: Congratulations, Dixie. You finally broke me.)
When he is not obsessing over Firefly and the New Warriors (which is often), he is also an extensive gamer and contributes video game reviews for adult site BurningAngel.com. You can follow him on Twitter, look at his Facebook page, or even hire him as your personal trainer. Yep, he’s fit, too.
Dustin dropped more occupational knowledge on you in Behind Bars: Things I Learned Working in a Prison.