Greeters have been a part of the Walmart experience since, well, pretty much as long as the retail chain has been around. The practice was started by Walmart founder Sam Walton and later picked up by other stores in the chain until it became the norm for all stores in the United States and Canada.
Although the big box chain has long been a subject of criticism for labor practices and negatively impacting communities, the role of People Greeter has typically been lauded as going to those who may find it difficult to find employment elsewhere, such as the disabled and elderly. Which is why people are incensed that Walmart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran announced Thursday that the chain would be removing People Greeters from its 1,000 some stores nationwide in favor of a new position called Customer Host effective April 26.
This new Customer Host role will apparently require a different skill set, including handling customer refunds, scanning receipts, and checking shopping carts. In an official statement, Foran attempted to assure folks that “specific steps” would be taken to support associates with disabilities:
First, as you may or may not know, whenever a position is changed, we provide all associates with a 60-day window to apply for other roles within the store. During this period, those associates continue to work in their current role.
In terms of the associates with disabilities who are transitioning out of the People Greeter position, we recognize these people face a unique situation. And because not all disabilities are the same, each case requires a thoughtful solution.
Foran added that stores are extending the 60-day transition period for associates with disabilities impacted by the changes while they “explore the circumstances and potential accommodations that will make sense for each person.” Yet, given Walmart’s track record, not everyone is convinced that they’ll make good on their promises.
Perhaps the preemptive push-back and negative press will give Walmart a little more incentive to accommodate disabled employees, although people are understandably concerned that this hasn’t influenced them before.