Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Are we _really_ supposed to want to work at Wal-Mart? A rant.

with 8 comments

Folks, I have grown tired of these “people who work at Wal-Mart” commercials, and as I just saw (and heard) another of these, I need to discuss why I do not appreciate them in the slightest.

First off, I am really surprised by the tone of these commercials.  The Hispanic woman who’s proud — very, very proud — of her work at Wal-Mart because it “got her off welfare” and now she’s even gotten her son a job there — far be it for me to say, but shouldn’t she have aspired to a bit more than this?

Look.  I worked as a cashier for three-plus years and a grocery stocker for a few more.  I do not look down on people who do these jobs; I know they’re valuable and that many very smart, capable people work in these jobs for a time, or maybe for their entire life.

But for someone who was basically lost, by her own admission, before she started working for Wal-Mart . . . either this is TMI (too much information) or she’s dissembling a little bit to be polite.  Either way, I dislike it very much and wish she’d stop.

Where you work is only part of who you are; I realize that and respect it.  And I recognize that this Hispanic lady, along with the others who are proud to work at Wal-Mart and have been trumpeting it to the skies for at least three months now, are smart people who would seem to have more than one option.

So why is it, then, that whenever I think about Wal-Mart, I have the Saturday Night Live skit in my head where Wal-Mart comes in and takes over everyone, so the folks who used to have independent thoughts or were independently opposing Wal-Mart are now subsumed into its inexhaustible matrix?

These “people who work for Wal-Mart” commercials, to my mind, are sad.  Just sad.  Because I don’t for one minute buy that Wal-Mart is a “hip and happening” place, or one where people often go and grow . . . that some do is undeniable, but that most do?  Unlikely at best.

All I can do is shake my head and change the channel when I see the “people who work at Wal-Mart” commercials, because it just rings so hollow.  And false.

I cannot believe I am the only one, either, which makes me wonder why these commercials are still on the air.

If this is an attempt at framing the narrative, Wal-Mart corporate board, it’s utterly failed, because I just don’t see how pointing out a bunch of people who happen to work for you who are uncommonly cheerful about it helps get people to spend money at your stores.  (If the thought behind this narrative framing failure was that if we saw the people who work at Wal-Mart that we might realize they’re just like the rest of us, well, all I can say is, “I see your point but that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend any more money in your stores.”  In other words, it’s a non sequitur of major proportions.)

So with all of that being said, all I can do is hope these “people of Wal-Mart” commercials will soon go off the air.  Because all I can think of when I see these bright, amiable people talk about their Wal-Mart experiences is this:  “Why?  Why?”

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Barb, you nailed it. I just saw that commercial the other day and was googling trying to find it to show my husband. We certainly cannot be the only ones who feel the horror of this commercial. I don’t see how it would be any different to have a commercial for McDonalds……is this what we are supposed to aspire to? Granted I agree with what you say about working there for “a time”. We all have to assume some responsibility for why our lives end up the way they do. I mean who knows the hardships the woman had to go through and perhaps she should by all means be proud and very proud as you said……but her son? I gotta think he can do a hell of a lot more. Kudos to you and your rant!


    January 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    • Thanks, Wendy. I appreciate that.

      I agree with you that the Hispanic lady, herself, makes sense in that commercial. But to be so proud her son works there? (I mean, it was blatant. Like her son had become an astronaut, or maybe President of the United States; she couldn’t have been prouder.)

      As for McDonalds, while I like some of their food (the Southwest grilled chicken salad, the new oatmeal with diced apples and raisins, etc.), I’m very glad they have not done a “people of McDonalds” series because I agree; that would just stink. (I have a friend who works for McDonalds and is a supervisor; she’s very good at what she does and enjoys the benefits. But I’d hate to see her on something like that because I see her as so much *more* than what she does at her day job.)

      Barb Caffrey

      January 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      • Somebody doesn’t remember the McDonald’s equivalent of People of Walmart from the 90s. Eat at McDonald’s, they’re generous enough to hire the minorities and retards!


        February 12, 2011 at 1:49 am

      • Agreed, Ray. This sort of commercial never dies, does it? (Very sad, though.)

        Barb Caffrey

        February 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm

  2. I couldn’t believe the commercial when I saw it……such a sterotype and so racist. Not every hispanic lives off welfare or dreams to work at Walmart. I tried to find a clip of the commercial everywhere but could not find it. If anyone knows where I can find it please send me the link or post it. I cant seem to be able to find it.


    January 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    • That’s just another reason I can’t stand those Wal-Mart commercials, Kimberly. I’m in full agreement with you.

      I don’t know how to find clips of the commercials, but my guess is that YouTube might have some, possibly even with commentary. If you go to their Web site, see if you can get anything by putting “Wal-mart people commercials” in; some variety of that phrase might pull up something, even if it’s just people being highly upset with the commercials (as you and I both are). If you do find anything, please let me know and I’ll be glad to write a blog update and post a link to whatever you find.

      Barb Caffrey

      January 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

  3. Excellent commentary, Barb. I just heard that “Public Relations” ad Walmart just put out with the Hispanic lady singing the praises about how Walmart has changed her life. Truth is, Walmart has just successfully come out on the better end of the largest class-action discrimination lawsuit in history, and they need to plump up their image. I agree, she deserves to be proud of her (accomplishment?), but I think should want to aspire to more. Interesting to note too is that Walmart has proven itself quite adept at avoiding unionization – even to the extent of shuttering one of its stores where its employees were prepared to start a revolution! Yes. They nipped that bud by shutting down the entire store (that’s my understanding anyway). Keeping marginalized people separate renders them completely impotent and incapable of unifying. It also keeps them dependent upon the corporate giant who fills their tiny little bag of peanuts every payday.


    April 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    • Thank you very much, and I agree with your comments.

      In this economy, way too many employers are telling people this message: “Just be grateful you have a job.” Which, while true, is missing the point — as the economy starts to recover, the people behind it aren’t. And the longer we, the people, lag behind, the worse it gets.

      Wal-Mart is a huge employer and I know they’ve done some good along. But closing a whole store just because they were about to go union — wrong. Just wrong. (BTW, do you know in which state this was about to happen? In some states those employers have no recourse, but in some, they do. So it does matter in which state this happened; they also can try the National Labor Relations Board if what you say is true, because it’s obvious that Wal-mart was bargaining in bad faith.)

      Barb Caffrey

      April 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

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