A lot of changes have taken place at Walmart over the years since Sam Walton's passing, but the latest may have him flipping over in his grave.
Walmart will be moving greeters from its lobbies and closer to cash registers in a move designed to better assist shoppers and apparently save the company money. It's also eliminating greeters from late-night shifts at its 24-hour stores.
During non late-night shifts hours, greeters are being moved closer to checkout zones to help direct shoppers to products or shorter checkout lines.
"It's a better position inside the store," David Tovar, a Walmart spokesperson, told Bloomberg News. "The greeters will be able to assist customers in more effective ways. Whether they are coming in the door or are 15 feet away, they will still be able to greet people."
At the same time, the greeter job during the third shift — 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. — is being eliminated. Those greeters are being reassigned to handle typical associate jobs during those hours, including restocking inventory as well as directing customers.
"We realized that it wasn't necessary to have people greeting customers because it wasn't peak shopping hours," Mr. Tovar told Bloomberg. "It was meant to operate stores as efficiently as possible, which is also part of our DNA."
Several reports heralded the move as a break from a long-time tradition as Walmart focuses on reviving margins and sales. Sam Walton first brought in greeters in 1980 particularly to make the stores comfortable for older shoppers. Beyond welcoming shoppers, the job was designed to provide an aura of safety to the front of the store as well as extra protection against shoplifters.
What exactly does a greeter's job entail?
Walmart provided some insiight in its "first poll" of greeters that was conducted in 1999. The press release described greeters as, "part host ("Welcome to Walmart"), part psychologist ("If you were my husband, would you wear this?") and part traffic cop ("Where's the bathroom?").
When asked to rank the most important things they do as greeters, 93 percent agreed with "smiling," followed by greeting any shopper within 10 feet (90 percent).
The most common questions asked of greeters included: "Can I have a happy face sticker?" and "What should I buy my wife for Christmas?" From children, the most frequently asked questions were: "Where are the toys?", "Where's the bathroom?", and "Where's my mom and dad?"
How much more or less important is the greeter position today than when Sam Walton first introduced it at Walmart?