- Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world, and its millions of employees must deal with the public every day.
- We asked six Walmart workers about their shocking experiences on the job.
- They spoke about stress, teamwork, and shoppers “grazing” in the produce section.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Anyone working a public-facing job might expect to encounter some shocking moments, especially in the retail industry. That’s especially true for Walmart’s legion of nearly 1.6 million US store employees, who work at the largest retail chain in the world.
Insider spoke to six workers – four currently employed by Walmart and two who recently worked there – about the most shocking aspects of their jobs. We confirmed the employment status of every employee cited in this story. Several workers interviewed asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
The job isn’t for the faint of heart
One Walmart worker from Indiana who works as an online-order picker and dispenser said she was surprised at how stressful the job can be.
Walmart refers to “pickers” as the people who select items from online orders and place them into a cart or bin, and “dispensers” put the grocery orders into cars. Some workers, like the one from Indiana, are cross-trained to do both.
She said her store has been understaffed during the pandemic, which means she often ends up working overtime to ensure all her orders get filled and delivered to customers.
But even when there are enough people at the store, she said that having people trained on just picking or dispensing creates headaches when there are too many people loading up cars and not enough people bringing out orders.
Gypsy Noonan, a former Walmart cashier and a member of the labor activist group United for Respect, told Insider that she ended up experiencing a stress-related seizure at work in January 2020. Noonan said that aspects of the job that particularly stressed her out included dealing with shoplifters and working the registers without backup.
She said the stress didn’t abate until she left the company.
“Whenever I would get work, before I would clock in, I would pull up my car and I would just sit in my car and try to mentally talk myself into going in there,” she said.
A Walmart spokesperson said the company provides “support for self-care and mental health resources ranging from grief counseling to parenting to managing stress and anxiety,” including wellbeing services through a partnership with Thrive Global. The spokesperson said that Walmart also offers its US workforce “no-cost behavioral health services.”
“All associates and their family members, regardless of whether they’re on a Walmart medical plan, can receive support for emotional wellness through Resources for Living,” the spokesperson said. “This includes ten counseling sessions per type of concern at no cost and unlimited support by phone.”
Some customers like to snack in the store
Two Walmart workers from Florida and Virginia said they were surprised to have to confront shoppers who treat the produce section like their own personal buffet. The employees said they’d watched customers snack on grapes, apples, and other produce items before paying.
“We can’t weigh the item if it’s already consumed,” the worker from Florida said.
Another worker from Wisconsin said that they’d caught shoppers consuming hot deli items without paying for them, and that they’d even found half-eaten sandwiches in “random” spots within the store, leaving employees to clean up the mess.
“We trust our customers to do what’s right and only ask they pay for the item before leaving the store,” a Walmart spokesperson told Insider.
The returns desk can be a wild place to work
Under Walmart’s company policy, customers can return or exchange items up to 90 days after the date of purchase, aside from certain exceptions. Sometimes, consumers attempt to take advantage of that policy, and the Walmart workers with the most outlandish stories are often the ones who’ve spent time near the returns desk.
Boxes filled with bricks, nibbled-on food from competing retail chains, and well-worn undergarments are just a few of the items that workers said they have seen customers bring forward.
The higher up you go, the more your work-life balance suffers
A former Walmart manager said the retail giant is a “great place to start” when you’re early in your career, and even added that his teen daughter worked there.
But the more promotions you get and if you get to the manager position, your work life balance suffers, he said.
The former manager said he quit in part from the stress of understaffing due to Walmart headquarters’ decision to cut wages and increase metrics for individual stores. He said he had to take on extra responsibilities to ensure the store could operate.
“It’s a decision of whether you’re going to have a work life or a family life,” the former employee said. “You’re not going to be able to have both the way the environment currently is.”
Most shoppers and coworkers are great
Retail jobs often get a reputation for being grueling. In fact, many retail workers spoke to Insider recently about “rage-quitting” their gigs after butting heads with bosses or shoppers.
But four Walmart employees told Insider that customers and teammates were the best part of their jobs, despite the occasional negative interactions.
“Most customers are good people,” one worker from Virginia said. “If you give them a bit of help, most are very nice.”
A Walmart spokesperson told Insider that the company adheres to “core values of respect, service, excellence, and integrity” since the days of founder Sam Walton.
“It is our culture that creates the family environment our associates are proud to talk about and it is why many associates stay with Walmart for 20, 30, 40 or more years,” the spokesperson said.