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Disasters Can Happen

Reflections Of A Former Wal-Mart Employee

Recently, I was reading the Biblical Proverbs. For some reason, one verse “jumped” out at me. “He who is cruel to the poor for the purpose of increasing his profit, and he who gives to the man of wealth, will only come to be in need” (Prov. 22:16, Bible in Basic English).

I’ve never seen any poor person walk up to the door of some rich person’s mansion, knock on that door, and, when the door is answered, the poor person hands some type of gift to the rich person. We poor people do not give “to the man of wealth.” Or do we?

What family has, relatively recently, come into great wealth, if not the Waltons in Arkansas?

Back in the ’80s, from what I remember, Sam Walton built his Walmart stores only in smaller towns. (At least, that was what I observed in East Texas, where I lived.) For example, there was a Walmart store in Center, Tex. (population of 5,000 to 7,000), at least five years before there was one in Houston. I remember thinking about what a shrewd, but perhaps risky, approach it was that Mr. Walton had. Though there was not as much money to be made in smaller towns, in avoiding building his stores in larger cities, Mr. Walton avoided having to compete with larger “chains.” Back then, Walmart stores focused its competitive energy mainly with smaller, local businesses. (For an education, look up The Town that Walmart Killed Twice online.) I do know that, eventually, once Walmart had ample representation in small towns in my area, Walmart stores began appearing in larger towns, where, in addition to competing with “ma-and-pa” businesses, they also began to compete “head-to-head” with nationwide “chains” such as K-mart.

I can’t help thinking about the many times that I have visited small towns which are somewhat close to “Interstate” highways. When I have spoken to locals in those towns, they often have talked about this business or that business having been successful “until the interstate came through,” or they have spoken of how many more people used to be in the town, “before the interstate was finished.” Is there a similarity between those large highways and large, corporately-owned businesses? Just as the large Interstate Highway System may have “dried up” much business in smaller towns (may have even dried up small towns), have these large “chain” stores dried up not a few small businesses?

The Walmart empire is now among the largest corporations in the world. Walmart is now the #1 food retailer in the U.S.

When I was younger, my dad had a friend named John Brunson, who owned Brunson’s Food Market, at the corner of Minnesota St. and Market St., in “Old Baytown,” Texas. As I got older, my dad used to warn me against doing business with larger stores, because those stores tend to be impersonal. They treat customers more as numbers―sources of income―than as people.

Did you ever think that, when you shop at Walmart, you may as well walk up to one of the Waltons’ mansions, and leave money at the door? Did you ever think of shopping at Walmart as giving to the man of wealth (Prov. 22:16)? As you read this, which includes what I observed as an employee of Walmart, think about the message of Prov. 22:16. And think about a mentality and approach which you prop up, when you hand money to the Waltons.

From what I gather, back in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s, Sam Walton was “one of us.”

He had a hardware store in Bentonville, Arkansas, or somewhere in northwestern Arkansas. He was just trying to “make it.” Once Mr. Walton “made it big,” he seemed to try to do good things. I remember, back in the early ’90s, “bringin’ it home to the U.S.A.,” and efforts made by Walmart to stock their stores with goods made in the U.S.

Where did Walmart’s “bringin’ it home to the U.S.A” go? Now, even some perishable food items in Walmart coolers are from other countries. (An interesting experiment to conduct would be to go through a Walmart store, and tally how many items on the shelves are made in the U.S., vs. how many items are from somewhere else.) After the death of Sam Walton, Walmart seems to have gone in another direction.

I remember listening to Matt Drudge on one Sunday night, soon after the 9/11 tragedy in New York. (At that time, Matt Drudge had a radio program, in addition to having his well-known Drudge Report website.) He spoke of many people rushing out to buy U.S. flags to demonstrate support for the U.S. He angrily noted the irony that most of the purchased flags were originally made in China, and bought at “(expletive) Walmart…excuse my French!!” I still wonder whether Mr. Drudge had to pay a fine to the FCC for his description of Walmart. Regardless, I cheer Mr. Drudge for his incisive analysis of people supposedly (half-heartedly) supporting the U.S. by purchasing and displaying made-in-China flags. Had Americans (whole-heartedly?) insisted on displaying U.S. flags made in the U.S., could they have found any? (Recently, I found some “online.”)

Beginning in October of 2000, and lasting until April of 2002, I had what ended up making itself manifest as the misfortune of working at a Walmart store. I was new to the area where I lived, and was “hard up” for a job. So I went to work in the Tire and Lube area of the Walmart store on Franklin Avenue, in Waco, Texas. I’m not certain, but I believe that they called it Walmart #939.

When I first started with Walmart, the manager of the Tire and Lube Department was a very competent, very nice person. I don’t remember his last name. All that I remember was his first name―Tim (McMillan?).

During the time that Tim was the manager, there were the unfortunate occurrences for which Walmart’s automotive sections are known. I remember one guy ramming a customer’s car into the back of another customer’s car. That could have been very bad, because the bumper-bender occurred inside the building, over a pit in which there was at least one worker. Fortunately, no one was injured, except for the pride of the driver, who was immediately released from Walmart’s employ.

Among other “head-scratchers” of policies, Walmart had declared that no Walmart Tire and Lube Technician was permitted to remove a radiator cap from a vehicle. (Do you really want to take your vehicle to be maintained by a place whose official policy forbids a fundamental maintenance procedure?) We were not allowed to check for a low level of antifreeze/coolant/water in the radiator of a vehicle. (Checking the overflow reservoir isn’t always reliable.) Perhaps hundreds of Walmart employees had been burned by hot liquid squirting from under radiator caps foolishly loosened when engines were hot. Perhaps hundreds of Walmart “technicians” didn’t take time to re-tighten loosened radiator caps, and, as a result, hundreds of cars overheated, as they were driven away from a shopping spree. Anyway, because Tim knew my history, I was permitted to help customers who had problems, and were not at Walmart merely to have maintenance work done. When other employees saw me doing things not officially permitted, they cautioned me against such activity. I told them that I was willing to take my chances.

About six months after I began working at Walmart, Tim―the Tire and Lube manager―got lucky. He found another job. After that, things at Waco Walmart #939’s Tire and Lube area began swirling around and down, as does water in a flushed commode.

I remember one “technician” who had supposedly been trained regarding the use of a “click”-type torque wrench used to tighten lug nuts. Of course, the idea is to tighten each nut, not only uniformly, but also to the specifications of the automobile manufacturer. As the nut is tightened, the wrench “clicks,” when a certain pre-set torque is reached. This one technician thought that he’d go “above and beyond.” When the wrench clicked, he continued tightening for about another quarter of a round, just to “make sure.” I had tried to explain the use of a torque wrench to this “technician,” but he replied that his approach of tightening lug nuts as tightly as he could was more safe (lug nuts less likely to loosen). When I saw that I had not made a difference, I told management about this “technician,” and his lack of understanding of the use of a torque wrench, and damage which can be done with excessively-tightened, unequally-tightened lug nuts, but no one ever gave him correction and instruction. So, when you have a flat tire, and you find that the lug nuts on your wheel are so tight that you can’t remove them with a 4-way, or a ten-foot “cheater,” you may be able to thank a “safe” technician who was the last one to have tightened those lug nuts. Perhaps that technician was a Walmart technician. If you wonder why your brake pedal “pulsates,” after repeated visits to one or more of Wally World’s Tire and Lube centers, I may have given you a clue. And Walmart can deny responsibility for warped brake rotors, damaged lug nuts, and un-removable lug nuts. Walmart personnel will walk you over to where the torque wrench is, and (supposedly) show you that they torque lug nuts.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the “technician” used a torque wrench on lug nuts.

To clarify, he mis-used a torque wrench on those fasteners.

When, while discussing a car’s condition with the car’s owner, I see a Walmart oil change sticker on the car’s windshield. I advise the car’s owner to buy a new oil plug for the car, and have it ready to install during the next oil change. I tell the car’s owner that people at Walmart frequently tighten oil plugs excessively. A while back, I bought an old truck whose windshield had a Walmart oil change sticker. One of my first purchases for that truck was an oil plug. I was right to have done so. The plug leaked, and, when I removed the plug to change the oil, I saw that the plug’s threads had been stretched, stressed, and damaged. On countless other occasions, I have seen that any oil plug which Walmart has touched has been partially “rounded,” or, otherwise, damaged. (To be able to predict such things about vehicles which have been “serviced” at Wally world makes me feel “psychic!”)

During the entire time that I worked at that Walmart in Waco, there were probably many automobile batteries which we sold unnecessarily to customers. But it wasn’t until after Tim left that I began sensing pressure because I didn’t sell as many batteries as did other so-called “technicians.”

I remember a particular week-long string of “failures” (refusals) on my part to sell batteries. One was a battery with a loose cable terminal. Even if the battery had been bad, rather than simply discharged, I couldn’t have, in good conscience, sold a Walmart battery to that customer. The battery was a Penske (K-mart) battery which had been sold just a month previously. The battery was still under K-mart’s full warranty. I told the customer that if s/he had any more problems with the battery, to take it back to K-mart. Later that week, I got another battery with a loose cable connection. The customer would have bought; was ready to buy, a Walmart battery. (I forgot what Wally World calls their batteries. Is it EverStart? EverClear?) But I told the customer that, with the repaired connection, the battery, which I had re-charged and then load-tested, would probably remain re-charged. If that customer returned because of subsequent problems, I never heard about it. Still in that same week, a customer with a bad alternator came in. I charged the customer’s battery, and it took the charge, and the load test showed that the battery was good. Wally World’s tester also had the capability of testing a charging system. My check showed that the charging system was not working. I sent the customer to a shop where alternator repairs/replacement could be done. My choice to be thorough AND honest must have been poorly received by other employees. With three turned-away battery sales under my belt in a single week, other employees began looking over my shoulder, so that they could “prove” that I was harming Walmart’s business, because I was turning away battery sales. They didn’t―probably still don’t―understand the concept of “losing” some sales to win customers. I doubt that they understood basics of a battery merely being one part of a car’s electrification system. A battery (technically, a battery, or collection, of galvanic cells―Encyclopaedia Brittanica) provides a reserve of electromotive force (EMF). It is not the sole source of a car’s EMF.

I once put aside a particular battery which a Walmart employee had condemned as a bad battery. That battery was in our bin for batteries which were to be recycled. I decided to charge it, and prove whether it was, indeed, bad. After having charged the “bad” battery, I found that our tester called it a good battery. I left that battery sitting off to the side for a week after I had re-charged and tested it. Then, one day, during my lunch break at work, I sneaked the battery over to my vehicle, just to see what it would do. That “bad” battery, which had had a week to discharge, started the engine in my vehicle quickly (V-8 engine, 318 C.I.D.). There was nothing wrong with that battery, which we on Wally World planet had condemned.

I don’t doubt that I could have found that ¼ to ½ of our “condemned” batteries, ready to be sent to be recycled, were still good; were merely discharged. The battery which I had picked to recharge and test happened to be one of AutoZone’s Duralast Gold batteries. I knew that those batteries (probably made by the same company which made, and may still make, Sears’ DieHard Gold battery) were made to last for a long time (three-year full warranty), so I took the chance of charging that battery, and I found that I was right about at least of one of Wally World’s “condemned” batteries still being good.

I would not dare say that Walmart is the sole repository of ignorant technicians. Walmart is only one of countless automobile maintenance “organizations” at which good batteries are sometimes called “bad,” and new batteries are sometimes sold without true warrant. I do say that, in the “roll of the dice” of finding a good place to have maintenance performed on your car, your risk of failure is even greater if Walmart is your source of oil-change “specialists.” Young, inexperienced people “cut their teeth” at Walmart. As soon as they gain enough experience, knowledge, and speed at automobile maintenance, they “graduate” from Walmart, and move on to places which pay more, and which are more “reputable.” (Sadly, there is no place to go for those who, in addition to gaining skill, also gain a desire to be honest.) My notion is that, when you rely on Walmart, you’re close to the “bottom of the barrel;” your chances of automobile maintenance mishap are greater. As much as you paid (or, are paying) for your vehicle, is the convenience of having your oil changed while you shop worth the risk of having that oil changed at Wally World? Read on.

There’s no way of knowing how many good batteries have been condemned by Wally World stores across the globe. There’s no telling how much money they’ve made with this practice. In my opinion, much of this waste is not due so much to dishonesty as it is to a combination of ignorance and of people being in a hurry―too much in a hurry to spend the time to charge a battery in question for proper testing, and, on the other side of the counter, the customer also being in too much of a hurry (America can’t wait.) to wait for testing to be done. I don’t doubt some shadiness, but ignorance and rush are much more to blame for needless replacement of automobile batteries (not only at Walmart). There’s also no telling how many customers have been angered after having purchased new batteries, only to have the new batteries discharge after three days, because of faulty charging systems (loose belt, loose wire, bad alternator, on-and-on).

I say that this “America can’t wait” mentality has fueled many of our problems in the U.S. I am certain that that mentality has helped to give the myopic, short-run notion that “time is money.”

For a time far too brief, I had the undeserved privilege of working in close association with a father-and-son combination of mechanics. The father owned Plain’s Garage, which was located a few miles north of Center, Tex. The son, Merle H. Plain, Jr., told me that his dad, Merle, Sr., was not really an auto mechanic as much as he was a genius “tinkerer.” Merle, Jr., was probably the most intelligent (academically and otherwise) mechanic whom I’ve ever met.)

A customer once came to Plain’s Garage with a problem of his “foreign”-made vehicle “dying” suddenly, and leaving him stranded. When the car cooled off, it was able to be re-started. The customer did not have the “America can’t wait” approach, so he left his vehicle at Plain’s Garage, and did not insist on a time that the vehicle would be ready. Merle, Sr., also lacked the “America can’t wait” attitude. After a few days of mulling and experimenting, Mr. Plain extended the wires on a module which had been factory-mounted on the “firewall” (bulkhead). The module was placed close to the exhaust manifold. The extension of the wires allowed Mr. Plain to re-mount the module at a location away from the hot exhaust manifold. The car no longer stalled out. Had that customer taken that vehicle to most any other business, and had that customer had that “I can’t wait; fix it NOW” mentality, the mechanic in that business would have hurriedly thrown part-after-part at that car, and, after each part or two replaced, the customer would have been proudly notified that his car was “ready,” only to have it take longer to “die” in the middle of some remote stretch of highway. So auto repair businesses are not solely responsible for faulty attempts to repair or maintain a vehicle. The customer builds a fire under the business to “git ‘er done,” because “America can’t wait.” “America can’t wait” has killed many far more competent automobile repair businesses run by people such as Merle Plain, Sr., and his son.

Think about whether our willingness to give to the wealthy (Prov. 22:16), rather than to give to the capable, such as Merle Plain, Sr. and Jr., and our “America can’t wait” attitude, have helped to put us in our current miserable position of, among other woes, having poorly-qualified people in places where they don’t truly belong.

What was perhaps the nadir―the low point―of my Walmart experience occurred one morning at about 8. A woman who had just bought a new Jeep Liberty approached me.

It was late in 2001, and Chrysler had just begun production of the Liberty. She told me that she’d had the oil changed once, but that she felt unsure that a good job had been done. I told her that I’d see to it that we did what should be done with her vehicle.

Fortunately, at that time, we weren’t very busy, because this customer needed extra care and attention.

I began making up a work order for the woman’s vehicle. We had an automated system, in which many makes, models, and years of automobiles were included/programmed. However, because her model had just come into production, Walmart had not yet loaded a 2002 Jeep Liberty, and its specifications, into the system. To me, that was no problem. I decided to “lie” to the computer, and call her vehicle a 2001 Jeep Cherokee. We had a brand-new paper catalog which told what oil filter was applicable to a 2002 Jeep Liberty. Besides, since the ’50s, Chrysler products have used oil filters with the same “base.” Fram’s PH-8A (Motorcraft’s FL-1A) filter fits onto most all of Chrysler’s oil filter mounts (“domestic” vehicles), except when a component is in the way. Many Chrysler products use the shorter Fram PH-43, or PH-16 filter (perhaps to avoid heat from an exhaust pipe). They also use the long, “skinny” filter which Motorcraft calls the FL-400, to get around components otherwise “in the way.” (I can’t think of Fram’s number for that “skinny” filter.) So I could probably have figured out which filter to use without a “paper” catalog. I anticipated the woman’s return, and I planned to change the vehicle in her records, as soon as Walmart put Jeep Liberty into their system.

This woman happened to be very attractive. I knew that many males in the automotive business would tend to concentrate on getting a better look at her; maybe even a “chance” with her, at the expense of concentration on doing good work on her car (putting out more form than substance). For her sake, I was initially glad to have waited on her, because, with all of my flaws, one of those flaws has not typically been a tendency to demonstrate disrespect of women (failure to see women as thinking human beings). I have, over the years, tried to respect women as people, and not view them solely as potential party favors. However, regarding this woman, other “technicians” had other ideas, as I’ll relate. Those “technicians” soon made me very regretful that I didn’t send this woman elsewhere for an oil change. I should have known that Wally World is not the place for a person who is unsure, and extra “picky,” to have automobile maintenance done, especially if the vehicle is new.

I did essentially all of the oil change, until I was diverted, as you’ll read.

The woman was right about the people who had done the previous oil change on her vehicle. Though they had told her that they’d changed the oil filter, I saw that the filter on her car was a “factory” filter, with the “factory” engine paint on it.

I checked the fluid levels in the woman’s Jeep Liberty, and I drained the oil. I told the woman that her power steering fluid was on the “add” mark. I told her that I didn’t go ahead and fill it up, because I could not be absolutely certain about what type of power steering fluid to use (though I was 99.99% certain that any power steering fluid would have sufficed). I said to her that she should take it back to the dealership, to get the power steering reservoir “topped off.” Doubtless, if the power steering system was leaking, it could be repaired under warranty. (I saw no such leaks. The vehicle probably came from the factory with the power steering fluid at that level. That should have been caught during dealer preparation.) A dealership would, with no charge, dribble a little power steering fluid in an almost-new vehicle as part of an effort to win a return customer. People at the dealership could fill the power steering fluid reservoir with the applicable fluid, to an appropriate level. I told her that, even if she put off having it filled, she could drive for months with the fluid at that level, as long as the system wasn’t leaking.

Any time that I spoke with this woman, whether it was when I was writing up the work order to change the oil in her car, or whether it was during our discussion about the power steering fluid, another “technician” was hovering nearby. I am certain that this “technician” wanted to do what he could to be in close proximity of this hot-looking lady, to try to impress her. (Don’t ask why he had so much time on his hands. I never figured that out. This particular “technician” always had time to hover around in order to snoop and bother. He also was very shrewd. He had oil changes done at Walmart…ok…not the smartest move to make. Before his next oil change, he loosened his oil plug, accused Walmart of having failed to tighten his plug, and he got his next oil change free-of-charge.)

Soon, I was essentially through with the woman’s vehicle. I had checked all of the fluids, had put oil in it, had started the vehicle, had checked for leaks, and had re-checked the oil level, which showed about a half quart low. All that was left was to “top off” the oil level, and to finish the “paper work.” Even with the vehicle as it was, she could probably have taken a trip from Waco south to the Rio Grande Valley (about 500 miles) and back, with no problem. With the vehicle essentially finished, the hovering “technician” came to me, dangled a set of car keys in front of me, and told me that some woman insisted that I, and I alone, put tires on her vehicle. I found that mysterious, because I hadn’t sold any tires that day, and, when I went to the woman in question, she said that she just wanted tires, and that she didn’t care about who put them on. So I immediately figured out that I could expect some shenanigans from the “technician” who was smitten by the woman with the Jeep Liberty. Perhaps he had lured me away from the job, so that he could do his magic on the fair damsel. Maybe he hoped to take credit for my work. I had initially felt somewhat safe about leaving that Jeep to do the tires, as commanded by the “hoverer,” because it only needed about two more minutes of work done on it, and I had thought that I’d left it in somewhat dependable hands (not in those of the “hovering” technician). But after I had found out that the woman who wanted tires didn’t care about who put them on, I looked from across the shop, and I saw the “technician” about to pour fluid into the woman’s power steering reservoir. I went over to stop him, and remind him that he had heard the agreement between the woman and me―that she would take the vehicle back to the dealership for the power steering fluid. Just as I got over there, the woman, probably sensing something “rotten in Denmark,” “technicians” began asking the woman whether there was any oil in her vehicle. They also began asking her how much oil to put in it. (This is one fruit of pulling a guy off a job while he’s in the middle of the job, particularly when incompetence surrounds him.) When the woman who owned the Jeep heard those “technicians” asking her how much oil to put in her Jeep, she immediately went inside the store, and began yelling, “They’re (expletive)ing up my vehicle!!! They’re (expletive)ing up my vehicle!!!” And why shouldn’t she? She didn’t bring the vehicle to us so that we could ask her how much oil was required to fill it. We were supposed to know that, or, at least, were supposed to be capable of finding that out.

Had I stayed with that woman’s vehicle, all would have gone well. But because the Smitten “Technician” lured me away from the vehicle, we, collectively, showed our true colors. We were so stupid that we asked the owner of the vehicle about the oil capacity of her vehicle. Further, we didn’t even check the dipstick, in order to see whether it had any oil in it. And we did all of this to a woman who was very insecure about with whom to trust her new vehicle. I had the job essentially finished, and done correctly (except to “top off” the oil level), and, still, we Walmart employees fouled up the job, and lost a customer, and ended up having to hand her tons of gift cards to keep her from continuing to shout to every other customer in the store, “They’re (expletive)ing up my vehicle!!” That oil change probably cost Wally World at least $100 (gift cards, oil, filter, perhaps lost customers, due to the loud proclamations of the “foxy lady”), because we were immature to the point of not being able to handle the presence of a well-dressed woman.

Had we torn up her car, and she had proclaimed that we had torn her car up, that would have been bad enough. But, though I had done the work correctly, we, collectively, with our complete void of professionalism, projected failure to the woman.

Our actions told her that we were in the process of destroying her car. We “messed up a free lunch,” as a football coach used to say to me in high school. Wally World wrenched defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

Walmart had not finished with their stupidity about that botched effort. A few days later, the new manager, who had never changed oil in a car, announced that the reason that we had failed with that oil change was because we should not have changed oil in a vehicle which did not show up in Walmart’s computerized system. To the new manager, an oil change was as complex as a transmission overhaul, and required computerized information. So she made a mountain of a molehill. She believed that we needed a computer in order to find out what type of oil filter is needed on a vehicle.

She believed that we needed a Walmart computer’s approval, before we could do anything as complex as an oil change.

I didn’t (still don’t) need a computer to know how to twist off an oil plug, or how to twist it back on, or how to twist off an old oil filter, &c. I didn’t need a computer to tell me how to use a dipstick. So I guess that I was working in the wrong place, or, perhaps, I should have had some amnesia attack, so that I could forget many of the basics which I had learned years before, so that I’d have to rely on a computer; so that I couldn’t “wing it,” as many professionals are able to do. I should have adapted, in order to fit in at Wally World Tire and Lube. Maybe, in order to be a success at Walmart, I needed a frontal lobotomy.

I was quick to tell our new shop manager that the problem was not with the computer, but with the buffoons in the shop, one of whom, in having told me that I, and I alone, was supposed to put tires on some customer’s car, lied to me. I told her the reason that that lie was told; it was in order to get me away from a vehicle owned by an attractive woman, so that a “technician” with more hormones than brain power could try to impress the beautiful owner of the vehicle in question. I told the new shop manager that the oil change had already been essentially completed (without the aid of a computer), so we didn’t goof up the “mechanical” part of the oil change, but that we still managed to goof it up simply with our having projected the appearance of stupidity to the customer. (We saved ruination of a car for another customer, as I’ll relate.) I had won a new customer. She was eating from my hand, until the spirit of Walmart made itself manifest. Not only did we lose her as a customer, but she probably also told others about that morning at Wally World [not to mention the hit that she made, when she yelled, store-wide, that we were (messing) up her vehicle].

The new manager didn’t like that I disagreed with her. She may not have liked that I had called a co-worker a liar. She also didn’t like that I wrote to the district and regional offices about the moronic set of events. Amazingly, no one in the district or the regional offices wanted to believe what I had to say about our foul-up. I was already suspect, because I wasn’t making a battery sale at every opportunity. In telling what happened on that morning, I revealed my inability to work with others as a team. I couldn’t co-operate with the other inmates in the asylum.

I wrote another letter to store management, and, specifically, to one Bob Little―a co-manager at Walmart #939. (I affectionately call him “Little Bob.”) I made a prophecy to management. I predicted that, if we continued in our stupid direction, we would destroy not only our reputation, and our appearance, as we had with the woman with the Jeep Liberty, but that we would go all of the way, and also destroy the engine of someone’s vehicle. I told Little Bob that I wanted my own bay, because I wanted nothing to do with the coming destruction, and I wanted no more to do with others giving me an appearance of stupidity. Little Bob told me that for any individual to have his/her own bay went contrary to Walmart policy. (In other words, if they have one capable worker, that worker, his/her efforts, and his/her reputation, are to be diluted by surrounding buffoons, in order to have everyone appear to be equal.)
Waco’s Walmart was always hiring and firing “technicians,” but #939 hired a true standout whose work is especially notable. This person started out installing tires and repairing flat tires. However, someone noticed that this “technician” declined many tire repairs. Also noticed was the fact that tire stock was being depleted, and that the quantity of tires missing from stock seemed to be very close to the quantity of tire repairs which this “technician” declined. This “technician” was, apparently, turning down tire repairs, selling new tires to customers for about twice or 3X the cost of tire repairs (about a quarter of the posted prices of those tires), taking cash for those sales, and pocketing the cash…talk about winning return customers!! Walmart couldn’t prove that this “technician” was selling tires and stashing the proceeds, so they decided to put him on the oil change side of the shop.

I don’t know whether this clever person didn’t know how to use the automatic oil dispenser, or whether he simply deemed using it to be too much work. At any rate, though I was supposed to drain the oil, and then he was supposed to fill the engine with new oil, I ended up doing it all (with his getting credit for adding oil in each vehicle), so that we could get cars out of the shop without locking up engines. This “technician” spent most of his time walking from vehicle to vehicle, in hopes that he appeared busy. I, on the other hand, had to be in the “pit” to drain the oil, and then climb from the pit, in order to put new oil into the vehicle, and repeat that process over and over again.

One day, I was to have lunch with someone. I frequently had lunch with this person, and all of my co-workers knew about her. They knew that, when she showed up, I immediately left for lunch. When she showed up to go to lunch on that particular day, I immediately got out from under the vehicle on which I had been working. I had drained the oil, and had checked everything underneath (differential oil, &c.).

Technically, my job was complete. Now, it was the job of the wandering “technician” to put oil back into the vehicle. Though I normally put the oil in, myself, I left, so as not to keep my friend waiting (as the other technicians had known, for months, that I always did). For a long time, everyone knew that, when she showed up, I left. Had she happened to show up as I was adding oil, I’d have finished adding the oil, checking for leaks, and “topping off” the oil level.

When I returned from lunch, there was a funeral-type atmosphere in the shop. I don’t remember there being any customer vehicles in the shop.

Here’s what I heard from others. After I left for lunch, one “technician,” who used to be a shop foreman, and who never had kind words for me, wondered what had been done to the vehicle which I had left, when I went to lunch. No one claimed to know, and, indeed, probably no one knew, though I had told appropriate people that I’d drained the oil, and that it was ready to be filled. They wondered whether the oil had been drained. Any moron could have used the dipstick to check and see that no oil would have been on it. That moron could then go under the vehicle, and check to find out whether the oil plug was on. (Walmart required that a dab of yellow or blue goo be placed on the plug, when it was put back on.) That moron could deduce that I’d removed the plug, drained the oil, and had put the plug back on. That moron could tell others that there was no oil in the crankcase, and that it was ready to be filled with new oil. However, I wasn’t dealing with people who were quite up to moron level. The former shop foreman asked the wandering “technician” (who used to decline tire repairs so he could win friends and customers by selling tires at as much as 75% off) about the status of the car. The wanderer declared that that job was finished. Little did he know that many things were soon to be “finished.” For some reason, the former shop foreman believed the wanderer, and closed the hood on the car. Someone then tried to drive the car out to a parking space. However, the vehicle didn’t quite make it to a parking space, before the $10,000 engine seized.

My prophecy to Co-manager Little Bob had come to pass. My request to have my own bay was against Walmart policy. Extrapolation brings us to the conclusion that Walmart policy destroyed a $10,000 engine, and also diluted my efforts to perform high-quality work.

The wandering “technician tried to say that he knew nothing about what had gone wrong. So someone told him to go to a clinic, and have a “drug test” administered. He then admitted that some friends had come over recently, and that he may have inhaled some interesting type of second-hand smoke. So, in addition to the car’s engine having been finished, his career of selling cut-rate tires, and wandering around in Walmart’s shop, was also finished. Further, the former shop foreman’s job was also finished, because he had signed off on the job as being complete.

Little Bob had to figure out a way to punish me. He had me come over to his office for a meeting. He asked me why I didn’t put oil in the car. I asked him why I should have been draining oil AND refilling with new oil, since that was against Wally World policy, because I, in effect, would have been running my own bay. So he wrote me up (issued a written warning), because I had left my employee badge on a post, rather than having it with me. This (leaving an employee badge on a post for others out of the pit to scan) was common practice among Wally World employees in Tire and Lube centers, and it probably still is. However, Little Bob hoped to prevent future engine destruction by punishing the only person standing between Wally World #939 and many, many more destroyed engines…poor “Little” Bob Little. Probably because I couldn’t work well with others in the institution, and because I’d written so much about my disagreements with Wally World practices, Little Bob started going after my job. I’d known that I was on “thin ice,” and I wanted to be ready to go somewhere else, after I was fired.

I called a person who had been a Tire and Lube manager trainee at #939. He had transferred from Waco as a trainee to become a Tire and Lube manager at a Walmart in Richardson, or somewhere near Dallas. While he was in Waco, before we destroyed that $10,000 G.M. 5.3L engine, he saw to it that I received a significant raise, because he deemed my efforts worthy of the raise. Other employees (who never should have known about the raise, but who found out, probably from the former shop foreman who was fired for his alleged part in the engine destruction) were jealous. I knew that, between working around jealous co-workers, and working under Little Bob, life would be miserable. This Tire and Lube manager in Dallas told me that I’d probably be fired, and that, in order to avoid being fired, I should quit. He advised that I come to Dallas, where I could work at his store.

A week or two after the $10,000 demonstration of our destructive force and capability at Wally World Tire and Lube, and the resultant write-up of me, two customers (man and wife) came in with a Ford truck with a 6.9L diesel engine. At first, the customers were interested only in purchasing an oil filter, and doing the oil change at home. But the customers became confused, because our oil filter catalog showed that, for their year model of truck, three different filters were used. I took the time to show them that they needed to know the 8th digit of their vehicle’s identification number (V.I.N.), because the differences in oil filters used on 6.9L engines in that year were according to slight differences in 6.9L engines used during that year, with those differences being able to be distinguished by knowing that 8th digit of the V.I.N. The customers asked me to look up the V.I.N. of their truck for them, because they wanted to feel certain that it was read correctly, and, from what I remember, they didn’t know how to find the V.I.N. (It’s posted at the very bottom of the driver’s side of the windshield, among other places.) Between “small talk” with the customers, looking at the oil filter catalog, showing the customers what types of oil that we had for their truck, and running out to the parking lot to get the V.I.N. of their truck, I spent somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes with those customers. I went “above and beyond” for them. So what happened soon after that is a little bit of a mystery to me.

Perhaps because I had shown (or faked having) a little bit of knowledge about what they had wanted to know, the customers unfortunately chose to have Walmart #939’s Tire and Lube Department change the oil in their truck.

After the destruction of that $10,000 engine, and the resulting firing of two or three employees, including a former shop foreman, needless fear had set in in the shop. Not understanding the basics of an oil change, and fearing for her job, the manager of the Tire and Lube Department was also filled with fear. The computer hadn’t warned her that we were about to “eat” a $10,000 engine. What causes such things, she asked herself. Why didn’t the computer warn us, she asked herself. So, concerning oil changes, she was afraid of deviating at all from Wally World policy.

When those customers’ diesel truck came in (after, of course, a number of customers ahead of them), I saw that their oil plug was “rounded.” The threads were still good, but I wanted to let the customers know that they should, at their convenience, go out and buy an oil plug for their truck. I could still use that plug one more time, for that oil change, and they could keep it until their next oil change. However, I “goofed” badly.

Rather than me going out with the plug, and telling the customers directly, myself, and then going back down into the pit, and re-using their old oil plug, I handed the plug to one of my fear-stricken co-workers, who showed it to our fear-riddled Tire and Lube manager. She declared that we should go out (on a Sunday, as it so happened to be) and search for another oil plug for their vehicle.

The manager’s fear, and her lack of trust in my judgement (because my history of complaining, and my supposed “ignorance” of the art of selling automobile batteries), got my goat. When, as I figured, they returned empty-handed from their rovings to find an oil plug for a diesel engine on a Sunday, I had had it. I told the customers that, because we couldn’t find an oil plug for their vehicle, and because they wouldn’t let me use the old plug, I was going to lunch. I told them, sarcastically, that lunch was the most important thing about being a Wally World employee. I’d already cracked enough jokes with these people that they should have known that I joke around. And I’d spent so much time helping them to get the right oil filter for their truck (far more time, on that one sale, than most other Wally World employees spend in a month with customers) that I hoped that they knew that I was joking about lunch time being more important than customers. Besides, my hands were tied. I could do nothing without an oil plug. Why shouldn’t I have gone to lunch?

When I got back from lunch, the manager called me into her office. She asked, “Why did you tell those customers that lunch time was more important than they were?”

I was at the end of my rope. “Did you know that I had spent 20 or more minutes with those people, in an effort to help them find the right oil filter for their truck? Did you know that I helped them pick out what oil they wanted for their truck? They had no reason to think that I was serious, and I had no idea that they would think that I was serious. I was miffed, because there was no reason to run all over town seeking an oil pan plug for their truck. That is why I got sarcastic with them.”

“Why don’t you take the rest of today off, and take tomorrow off, too, and think about things?” was her reply.

“Why do you people want to run off your best help, while you keep those easiest to control?” was my question back to her. She sat there with her mouth open, and I left with her still holding her mouth open.

I strongly sensed that my job was to be no more.

Though I was only to take the rest of that day and the next day off, I developed a cough, and I called in sick on the day (Tuesday) that I was to report back. However, on that Tuesday, I went to the store for some reason. I saw Little Bob. He mock-cheerfully reached out to shake my hand. (He’d never shaken my hand before.) I’d developed such a low opinion of him that I made certain that I visibly pulled away my hand. He said, “You don’t have to shake my hand.” I was glad that I made my sentiments clear to Little Bob.

On the following Wednesday morning, I showed up at 7:00 A.M. I did a few oil changes, but was suddenly told to go to Little Bob’s office.

When I got there, Little Bob told me that he thought that I knew that I wasn’t to report back to work; wasn’t to “clock in,” until I spoke to him. No, no one had told me that.

He was one of the last people (along with the then-manager of Tire and Lube) about whom I thought, when I thought about doing my job professionally. I didn’t need to go to him, in order to continue doing good work, which seemed contrary to Wally World policy. The manager then said, “We need to discuss your having told that customer that lunch time is more important to you than is working for the customer.”

I replied, “Before we go any farther, I want to tell you that I know that you’re trying to get rid of me. Because you’re trying to get rid of me; because I’m under needless duress, I’m quitting, to avoid being fired, unless you can convince me that you’re not trying to fire me.”

Little Bob stumbled all over himself to get the papers needed to terminate my employment by Wally World. He filled out appropriate areas, and what was on the paper suited me. I noted that no one had written any adverse commentary about me.

I’d not have signed that paper, had they written any of their nonsense on it.

I went to the Texas Workforce (Workfarce) Commission, and I talked to one of the hands. I told them that I’d quit a job at Walmart. They asked, “Do you need unemployment compensation?” I told them that I didn’t see how I could get it, because

I quit the job. I was asked why I quit, and I replied that a manager of another store advised me to quit, and that I otherwise knew that I was being ‘railroaded.” I had copies of a number of letters to officials of Walmart. I was told that my case would be reviewed, and that I’d know within a week whether I qualified for unemployment compensation. Lo and behold, I was granted such compensation.

Wally World appealed the decision to grant unemployment compensation to me. A hearing via telephone was scheduled. Workfarce got in contact with me, and told me to send all relevant material to them. I did so. A few days later, the scheduled a time for the conference. I asked whether they received the material which I had sent to them.

The person on the other end complained that I’d sent “a book.” At least I had evidence, which is what they had requested.

I don’t remember much about the telephone conference hearing, because I was so angered by wave after wave of lies told by Wally World employees. When I spoke up to challenge each of those lies, the Texas Workfarce Commission moderator screamed, “Shut up!!” A few days later, I found that Wally World had won the appeal. (Money talks.) I also found that I had one more chance for appeal. At about the same time, someone anonymously sent a copy of my termination papers. I couldn’t believe it.

After I had left the room, and the building, where I’d signed the papers, others wrote comments on that paper. With my signature at the bottom, the appearance that I approved of all of what was written on that agreement. However, some people who signed that paper 1) signed it while I wasn’t in the room, and 2) signed it after I had signed it. That, in my opinion, was fraud. If I signed a contract, and, afterward, someone else added provisions with which I would not have agreed, that is fraud. For Wally World to have scribbled on my termination agreement after I signed it was, in my opinion, a fraudulent action. I sent that copy of my termination agreement to Workfarce. I also re-sent copies of all correspondence with Wally World, while I was an employee with them. The appeal nevertheless went to Wally World.

I don’t think of Walmart as being the only way that Americans give money to the man of wealth (Proverbs 22:16). My dad was concerned about that, before Walmart existed. He saw the rise of “chain” stores, and that trend disturbed him, and rightly so, as I now see.

When I think of handing money to Walmart, or to Home Depot, in contrast to going to a “ma-and-pa” business, such as the old Plain’s Garage, near Center, Tex. (“Ma” Plain kept the books, and “Pa” Plain did the wrenching.), I think of the contrast between “corporate” “agriculture” and the Biblical formula of every person sitting under his/her own vine and fig tree (I Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4), or more people involved with food production, with food produced consumed locally, rather than having, for instance, oranges shipped from Argentina to the U.S. Look at the wording of Micah 4:4. It does not merely express a wish that we had more small farms. It declares that small farms are the wave of the future. Can it not be deduced that small businesses, small schools, and small towns, will also be the wave of the future?

When a lioness has cubs, does she find a central location, where many lionesses take their cubs, so that she can “work?” Creation screams out against “big;” against It Takes a Village. I don’t think that, according to principle set forth in Micah 4:4, “day care” centers are going to continue to exist. Parents will not be carting off their children to big, centrally-located day care centers. When “the kingdom of this world (becomes) the kingdom of our LORD, and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15), I don’t see huge schools, to which students are “bussed” from miles and miles away. I don’t see huge farms. I don’t see one farmer feeding 100+ people. I don’t see that Walmart, as it now is, will be part of the landscape. I don’t see “The Town that Walmart Killed Twice” being any small town’s story. “Small” is the wave of the future, according to Micah 4:4. Begin preparing for that wave, now, or get whiplash.

Obviously, you decide, for yourself. You have the truth, from me. You read a couple of countless disaster stories about what happened to automobiles while I was employed at Walmart #939 in Waco (not enough time or space to tell all). You have the truth about what Wally World did with my termination paper AFTER I had signed it. You now know about what is written in Proverbs 22:16. Is it mere coincidence that, as Walmart has grown, the economy of the U.S. has shrunken? Do you like the fruit of handing your money to people of wealth?

***The preceding article was written for The Debt by author Jimmie Parr.  I hope that you enjoyed reading Jimmie’s story as much as I did.***

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  • josh

    stories like these piss me off.

    • Are you upset because of my railing? Or are you upset about the real Wally World? I hope that you’ll elaborate.

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