Walmart Asks Workers for Upbeat Stories, Gets a Cart Full of Criticism

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walmart store shoppers in Paramount, Calif.
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images
At Walmart's annual shareholder's meeting last month, the stands were packed with Walmart (WMT) associates screaming their support of the executives (and celebrity guests) on stage. But not all Walmart employees are thrilled with the company.

Gawker has spent all week hammering on Walmart, on Tuesday publishing the latest entry in a series of stories from Walmart employees complaining of low pay and cut hours. Walmart responded with a posting on its internal website urging employees to share their positive experiences, which many did. But many other employees in the comments section of that post were surprisingly candid about their gripes with the company, and Gawker got a hold of some of those comments.

"I feel as though Walmart doesn't care about its associates," said one employee commenting on the post.

"My husband has worked for Walmart for 10 years and I for 8," said another. "When our family situation changed and we found ourselves needing to move, the company would not work with us to transfer and keep full-time status, which in turn will delay our new mortgage for 6 months. Some loyalty."

Another commenter complained of insufficient staffing levels (a common complaint, lately), and said that she'd been unable to achieve full-time status even after six years of service with the company.

To be fair, these comments were scattered among numerous positive reviews -- one commenter praised the management team, and another recounted tales of helping customers. And some employees have previously gone public in support of Walmart.

But on the whole, it's yet another example of Walmart's struggle to buff its reputation in the face of years of accumulated bad publicity. The most prominent effort right now is "The Real Walmart," a PR blitz consisting facts about its corporate practices alongside cheerful videos of employees and customers. Critics responded with a site of their own, dubbed "Really, Walmart?" that blasts the retailer for its employment practices. The volume of criticism from even Walmart's own employees suggest that it has a long way to go in winning over the public.

And that struggle to improve its reputation is having real business implications for the company. Earlier this week, the Washington, D.C., city council voted to approve a "living wage" bill requiring very large retailers to pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour -- a bill that clearly targeted Walmart. In response, Walmart has abandoned plans to build three stores in the city. With the company similarly struggling to overcome opposition in the lucrative New York market, it's no wonder that it's working hard to change people's minds.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.


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