Dr. Don Newbury
Dr. Don Newbury

If Walmart can offer the best-ever recipe for turning out world-class lemonade from lemons grown in their own orchard, folks will line up to buy it, whether or not they’re greeted at the store door.

The best decision-makers of the nation’s largest private employer must have been absent when the decision was made to eliminate greeters at their store entrances. So, the “goof” was of their own making.

Now freely admitted, they failed to consider the plight of the physically-impaired. They didn’t have to raise moistened fingers skyward to determine which way the wind blows. Social media barrages--targeting their thousand stores and Bentonville, AR, headquarters--took care of that. Americans love these familiar figures at Walmart, and take dim views of them being further marginalized….

It would be like Santa dismissing Rudolph because he couldn’t keep up with the “big eight” reindeer who were in harness for ages without lighted noses before he came along.

Walmart’s original announcement said that displaced greeters had 60 days to land other jobs with the company. The recommended “customer host” role didn’t mollify, since such employees must be able to “lift 25-pound packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods.”

After a week of hearing unvarnished discontent fueled by social media, Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, announced “specific steps” to support displaced greeters with disabilities. “Let me be clear: If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen,” his memo stated….

Anyone else wonder if Walmart might be pulling a publicity stunt, like IHOP did a few months ago? You’ll remember the claim the IHOP people made when they said they’d go by “IHob” in the future.

Touting their intent to enter the burger wars, IHOP brass called off the stunt within weeks, admitting it was all a publicity stunt.

One difference is that Walmart doesn’t need any more publicity…..

Another possibility is that Walmart is making a 180-degree swing. Perhaps their plan was to convert greeters at entrances to “good-by’ers” at exits.
They could ask if customers found everything they came for, if they were treated courteously or if they needed help to find their cars.
This is a long shot, but maybe they could provide “musical good-byes, singing “Happy Trails to You,” as occurred each week when Roy Rogers rode off into the sunset of his television show. He is also remembered for his, “May the Good Lord take a llikin’ to you,” but political correctness wouldn’t allow such a comment now….

There’s wisdom in tearing a page from Bill Moyers’ handbook from his days as press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson. His credo was simply this: “When at all possible, tell the truth, but NEVER lie.”

During my 14 years in PR for Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, my goal was to keep us in the news and off the front page.
‘Course, back in the day, there was no social media with which to deal….

Whatever, the CEO’s quick acknowledgment of the short-lived policy was a bold move, even if a “slam dunk.” They’ll have many opportunities to prove their sincere intent. One of the saddest stories was about spina bifida victim Donny Fagnano, 56, who has worked for 21 years for Walmart in Lewisburg, PA. Crying upon hearing the news, he offered to clean restrooms if allowed to stay on.

The major-league “botch” is not without a silver lining. “By rethinking their action, Walmart is now opening the door to actually help individuals realize their full employment potential,” said Cheryl Bates-Harris, senior disability advocacy specialist at the National Disability Rights Network.
My guess? Greeters will continue to greet, and if it turns out that some employees can do little else, they’ll still be given the opportunity to say, “Welcome to Walmart,” both now, and in days to come….

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.