Walmart is locked in damage control mode.
The retail giant recently announced it will officially phase out its "People Greeter" position beginning next month—a move that has garnered criticism among workers, customers, and disability rights advocates. If you've ever stepped foot inside a Walmart, it's likely you've interacted with one of these greeters. They're posted near the store's entrance, doing everything from handing out coupons to assisting shoppers with cart selection to providing a quick hello.
The People Greeter role has traditionally been filled by senior citizens and people with disabilities, many of whom have struggled to secure employment elsewhere. Walmart's decision to eliminate the position at about 1,000 stores has left most of these workers with uncertainty. The company stated the People Greeter job will be replaced by "Customer Hosts," a role that is much more physically demanding. According to The Associated Press, the hosts will not only be in charge of greeting customers, but they will also check receipts, assist in shoplifting prevention, and clean the entrance. "The position requires hosts to be able to lift heavy weights, climb ladders, and do other tasks," the outlet reports.
In the wake of the backlash, Walmart president and CEO Greg Foran published a memo in which he pledged to "make every effort" to provide new positions for greeters with disabilities. He also announced Walmart would extend the customary 60-day window for greeters to apply for other positions within the store.
Per the memo to Walmart associates:
In terms of the associates with disabilities who are transitioning out of the People Greeter position, we recognize these people face a unique situation. And because not all disabilities are the same, each case requires a thoughtful solution.
For that reason, we are looking into each one on an individual basis with the goal of offering appropriate accommodations that will enable these associates to continue in other roles with their store.
But not everyone is convinced Walmart will keep its word.
Nathan Joerndt, who has been working for Walmart over the last 18 years, called the company change "absolutely heartbreaking." His mother, Vickie Fogarty, told NPR she is concerned that Foran's recent memo is all for show.
"Part of me is afraid that ... they're going through the motions to appease people now, but eventually, down the road the results will be the same," Fogarty said. "I don't want to get Nathan's hopes up and in six months, they're going to do this all over again."