I promised myself that if I ever got to this point – that if I ever sank so low – I would record it, because the world deserves to know, lest we should forget: Walmart is a hellish nightmare unfolding right in your own backyard.
This is hatesec, reporting live from the bottomless pit of despair, far back at the deep end of American retail hell, situated in a small southern town in the Appalachian mountains. First things first: Forget everything you ever thought about the rural souls lost 20 years ago to fast food, diabetes and drug addiction. The new Walmart is like nothing you’ve ever seen before; it has become an ideological disease sucking out the overripe, ooey-gooey insides of the already sad and lifeless Generation X, and they’re pulling it out through their fucking eyeballs!
Forget everything you ever saw about People of Walmart. If you found that piece of shit book in a Barnes & Noble outside the mall one mile from home, then you didn’t see Walmart. The people are deformed, sickly and fat. Which people? The best compliment I can muster for my peers is, “Hey, your eyes don’t look dead yet. What gives?” And they tell me, “Well, I guess I just hope that I’ll get out of here.” And this is normally where we would share a big, hearty gut laugh, if laughter sounded like a repressed sigh, followed by uproarious silence.
It’s pretty funny, though. I get to watch real, live human beings turn into animals. This is the kind of shit we watch documentaries for. There is a bovine quality to not only the customers about, but my coworkers, too. The younger, spry crowd, fueled either by youth or amphetamines, zip around around the obesity like pocked bees circling a hive, pretending to work. Customers and fat, aging managers migrate slowly across the store, fanning out across their territories like the Zerg Overlord of Starcraft. The managers wade smartly, while the customers follow the computer-generated maze designed to maximize profits by running them through a psychological gauntlet of shit they think they might need. There are no windows, no skylights, no clocks. Like a casino, Walmart is mazelike, timeless and the fluorescence maintains an overall vibe of perpetual night.
Of course, I sympathize with all these people here. I am not making fun of the despair; however, if despair is funny to you, then you and I are reading the same article right now. There’s a certain absurdity to the level of despair I see at Walmart that literally fascinates me in new ways, every single day I go into work. For example, sometimes a wild eyed look overcomes my immediate supervisor’s face. He lumbers around, eyes sharply focused on something, like a powerful lioness zeroing in on her kill! [trillions of lions]
“Matthew, pull some of them 32-inch TVs and let’s get ’em out on the floor.”
Matthew, proud to receive orders (to be on a mission!), gets up from the dirty floor where he has been straightening a wall of cellphone cases, and heads to the back with purpose in his step, shoulders back. He wraps everything in spiderwrap, preventing theft, and fielding questions from consumers who are universally too lazy to read, and are unable to follow simple instructions. We all received a public education, I thought. Where do they all come from?
I can only assume the absence of social programs is to blame for their destitution. Paradoxically, what little social programs they seem to access have enabled a massive prescription drug addiction that profoundly hits rural communities across the US in a way I don’t commonly see in the cities. Or, I don’t know, maybe they’re just fucking trash. HA! Imagine that: People, as trash. Human garbage. Because I don’t have to imagine it, I see it. I live in it. I am just blowing around with the human waste right now.
We operate right now on a skeleton crew of about four people in electronics. When a small crowd forms around me as I wait on hold with Indian tech support, I address my customers as a single audience.
“Okay, everybody, make note of who came first, second, and so on, and I’ll get you in the order you arrived, because as you can see, I am the only person here.” I often announce. And I figured out a funny line that usually wins over even the maddest adult babies in line, and it goes like this: “And so the next time you see Walmart in the New York Times posting record profits, everyone remember this moment. Now, if you just have a question, line up to the left.”
I do this every day.
The customers say I should be store manager. My coworkers ask how I am so good with people. I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t care. I don’t want to manage Walmart. I want to save every dime that shithole gives me and leave when my time is up. I eat ramen because I don’t want to work there. I am nice to people because Walmart sucks and it’s the only way to make it suck less.
I have to be nice to people because the retarded joy my customers get from buying electronics is sometimes the only happiness I might see in a day. At least I don’t share my coworkers’ irrational fears of management. I stand up for myself and my people. I have two really, really bad managers who tried to start shit with me and failed. One guy, I gave him three chances but I don’t think he knew he used up two of them when he interrupted a conversation I was having with a man about printer cartridges. I did whatever it was he asked, and then found him again. I told him not to interrupt me while I am working, and to use his manners. He tried to race me to the manager’s office, like a child, where I registered a formal complaint against him. Another manager attacked me for being laid back, and for seeming unapproachable. She complained that I don’t smile. I said, “I do, but I won’t smile at you.” And I smiled at her, because it was such a funny thing to say to the bitch. I couldn’t help myself.
Previously that day, I gave two customers my personal cellphone number and I’m playing the blues with one of them tomorrow. An aging fellow who asked me to put minutes on his phone for him, and we started talking about music. I was so unapproachable he asked me to join him to play the blues together. It’s a horrible place. It’s such a really, horrible place and I guess he felt it, too. Fuck me.
I feel like I’ve said pretty much all I can say about Walmart except for one thing. Remember last year’s strike? It looked like workers just wanted a little socialized fairness; at least, that’s how it looked from the outside, didn’t it? You remember that. Well, here’s what they really wanted.
Because Obamacare had just kicked in last summer. Walmart, instead of complying with the intention of the Affordable Care Act to persuade the second-largest employer in the USA (behind only the military) to offer affordable healthcare, doubled down on labor exploitation and shortened the work week to just 32 hours per person, or a paltry $1,100 per month after taxes. And, of course, no healthcare. So what were those workers in such an uproar over? Seems like they’d want their healthcare and full-time jobs, right? Well…they wanted their full-time jobs pretty bad, it seems, because that whole strike was not about getting healthcare and a living wage Walmart was intentionally denying them, but the big bargain was, “Just let us work 40 hours again, and keep the healthcare.” They needed the money that bad, and there is almost no place to work in areas where Walmart is big. Walmart is literally at the hub of my small town, as it is many others. Could Walmart, as a corporation, possibly have its worker base any better right where they want them? The socialist feartrip ripping through the country even had me convinced Walmart workers were fighting hard for healthcare, when in actuality they wanted Walmart to use its power to resist federal law and deny them their own healthcare, just for a chance to work more at Walmart, selling even more shit for them.
If this sounds stupid or unlikely so far, I’ve noticed something about Walmart’s computers. They’re not very old, and came out after Obamacare was a thing. On the scheduling software, I can see (I already work 32 hours, by the way) a link to “Take open shifts.” These are currently denied by management right now, but all the elements are in place for the Walmart strikers to eventually have their way and pick up any open slot that might open up based on computational analysis of shopping patterns and trends by the Walmart ordering and scheduling algorithm, which automatically suggests a certain logistical deployment for the store, in three-week chunks, or cycles; theoretically, in the absence of a store manager, the store could go into auto-pilot, guided only by a proprietary formula designed to maximize profits at the expense of whatever, human sanity. A peripheral cost.
Working at Walmart feels like being at the center of a shitty wagon wheel, and it only drives through shit, and it’s just throwing shit all over the spokes, and everyone is in a shitty mood about it, but no one gives a shit enough to do anything about it, and now we’re all eating shit and we have shit for brains and a shit culture with shit people who shit all over everything so even the nice stuff that could have been nice is also shitty. Walmart makes everything shitty. It hardens people. It turns compassionate people into dead-eyed zombies in a short matter of months. Many of my coworkers are dead inside. 18 years. 14 years. 20 years as a retail drone without so much as an offer for promotion because they are too weird, too nice, too dumb, too smart, or too soft for the hardfaced leadership role as a deckhand to the helm of the hate ship. But hey, she’s a-sinkin’, boys. Let’s watch her go down not with sadness, but celebration. Just too bad about the innocents. So don’t feel bad for me. I’m not innocent. I’m worse than any good-natured, hard-working Walmart employee. I’m a lazy piece of shit who hates his body and hates himself, and his ideas and his thoughts, and if I die early, it’ll make fucking sense and maybe even some people will be happy. So don’t feel bad for me. The next time you walk into Walmart – and I know you will, but deny it all you like – be kind to the sad, desperate souls all around you and realize someone definitely treated that person like less of a human being, just because they have to wear that huge, ugly gay blue vest with the words “Proud Walmart Associate” on the tit. Which is really a bit presumptuous for a shirt, don’t you think?
What dreams once lay behind those dead eyes? What hopes were dashed, so early on, that this is all there is. I’m fine. Walmart is fine if you get out, even if that is generally unlike how retail was originally conceptualized. You’re stuck here forever? Fuck. They didn’t deserve to die. No one deserves this previously unwritten layer of retail hell. But it’s difficult to look at them and think like that. You wouldn’t look directly at the sun, would you? Am I the crazy one for staring at it? Maybe I’m wrong here, but working at Walmart fucking SUCKS out loud.
Stay tuned for a Walmart-themed hatestory by the Internet’s favorite kilgoar, who has watched me work at Walmart, and heard – and laughed at – all my complaints. This exposé is brought to you proudly by chronicle.su, your number one source for all things, fulfilling, and true.