Where have all the greeters (and cashiers) gone?

05/16/2014 10:26:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstWhen I used to go into Wal-Mart, there was one thing I could always count on, and I don’t mean low prices (that too, I suppose - but not ridiculously low like Aldi). Every time those electric sliding doors whooshed opened, there was a kindly, gray-haired man or woman at the door. “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” Or was it “Welcome to your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart”?

Anyway, I always appreciate that person in tan and blue, most likely a slightly bowed but not broken individual. Not moving as fast as his or her younger associates, I’d reckon, but still very useful as the friendly “face” of the store.

As I think about my last few trips to Wal-Mart, I don’t recall see those few familiar greeters. Perhaps I had just caught the team between shifts - I hope so. As long as their is a greeter at the door of Wal-Mart, there is a chance to receive a warm smile - a scintilla of emotion and interaction perhaps - but something that redeems the energy required for looking for milk on one end of the store and dog food on the extreme opposite.

Unless you go to Wal-Mart at 5 a.m., it is not likely you will see any staff hanging around the grocery aisles, eager to direct you to the spice section. So engagement and friendly banter with store employees is unlikely.

And when it is time to checkout, the dreaded self-check out option actually seems wonderful in contrast to the handful of cashiers with their lane light illuminated. Those few are stacked up with customers lined up at the ultra-mini cashier island. By the way, whatever happened to the long conveyer belt at checkout lanes? Why even have a conveyor if it is 18 inches long?

To my thinking, at least, Wal-Mart must be able to see itself the proper context. . If consumers want no hassle shopping they may order groceries online, with growing numbers of options for pickup and/or delivery. If shoppers want bare bones, no frills and ultra-pricing, they will go to Aldi. If willing to pay a bit more for a more pleasant experience, Whole Foods, Hy-Vee or their equivalent local iterations might be their options. Wal-Mart is still the only way to go if you want to pick up a fishing pole, a watermelon, Tampico orange drink and $20 tennis shoes.

 The most recent quarterly report from Wal-Mart indicated that Wal-Mart has work to do.


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