John Woodrow Cox at the Tampa Bay Times has written a fascinating, though tragic, profile of a 73-year-old Walmart greeter whose life was changed forever after a split-second reaction while on the job.Here’s what happened, according to Jan Sullivan, the greeter who had worked at Walmart for 22 years. From the Times:
“A 40-something-year-old woman in jeans and a baggy sweater wanted, then demanded, to leave through that entrance. After a brief disagreement, Sullivan says, the woman pushed her. Sullivan says she thought she was falling, so she reached out and clutched the woman’s sweater. After she let go, the woman stomped out, and Sullivan never saw her again.”
Three days later, Sullivan was fired. She had violated company policy, which prohibits staff from touching customers under any circumstances.
It ruined her life.
Everything has changed drastically in the months since the incident, according to the Times:
- Her application for benefits was denied and she lost the appeal because she was terminated for “misconduct.”
- She has fallen into thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt.
- She has applied for dozens of jobs, but nobody wants to hire a 73-year-old.
- She had to sell her $136,000 house and move into a trailer
Now, look at this from Walmart’s side. The retailer has more than 2 million employees worldwide, so it has to have strict policies to keep people under control.
“Regardless of her intentions, her actions put her own safety and possibly the safety of a customer in jeopardy,” a Walmart spokesperson told the Times. “We can’t condone behaviour where associates take matters into their own hands.”
But at what point, if any, should common sense override policy?
Sullivan’s tale is a cautionary one. Retail employees often get put into questionable situations, and even a small, snap reaction like hers can make the world come crashing down.
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