Walmart workers share how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their working lives

‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

People line up to stock their Walmart stores during the store reopening in Longview, Wash.. The store was reopened in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images




Originally published on April 16, 2020

The first time I shopped at Walmart, I arrived an hour early. The parking lot was full and the place had the vibe of a high-end mall, with upscale clothes, furniture and home decor. I spent $150 on three T-shirts, two pairs of jeans, three shoes and another $100 on toiletries and a gallon of hand sanitizer.

Then, my best friend in high school, who was a Walmart customer for most of her life, called to tell me she was sick. She was feeling nauseous on the same day a Walmart employee who had been in her home over the past couple months tested positive for the coronavirus. Now she isn’t buying clothes at the store, has canceled her book exchange and is spending less time at the mall.

I’d like to share my experience working at Walmart amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In this episode of Marketplace’s ongoing conversation with retail and consumer experts, we hear from a dozen retail workers, including at Walmart, who spoke with us about how the pandemic has changed their working lives.

Here are some of their stories:

Jenny’s story

Jenny, 31, is a customer service representative at Walmart who has worked there for five years. She says the pandemic hasn’t changed in any way her job.

“I’m really used to dealing with people, having people come to me with any problems or troubles that they need solved,” she says. “Whether it’s an item that’s broken, or something that doesn’t work, or something that they think I couldn’t possibly help them with, they always find me because I’m always very professional and very polite.”

Every day, she checks in on the many of the people in her store for whom she has a routine. “I have a routine of going to the people I don’t see every day and seeing if they needed or wanted anything,” she says.

“When I first started working here, there were many, many sick people,” she says.

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