The walmart story by Joe the peacock. Please read…brilliant
I was in my first (only) year of college and working for Roadway Package System on the overnight shift. RPS was a cheap knockoff of FedEx or UPS, only without all the customers and safety regulations, as we had at least fifteen employees out on workers’ comp at any given time. What those guys were doing when they got hurt, I’ll never know, because all I ever saw any of us do was basically sit around and move a few boxes here and there to create the illusion that we deserved seven dollars an hour. My job function consisted mostly of breaking open the occasional Nerf shipment and “playtesting” the toys all night. Sure, that stuff was meant for someone else, but the company’s insurance would cover it. It was free Nerf, as far as I was concerned.
I decided to quit RPS one night (and by “quit,” I mean to say that I physically demeaned the five-two late-night security guard by rubbing his head and calling him “cutie”; this was met rather quickly by the blunt end of his Maglite and a veritable honor guard of an escort out of the building). Since I had lost my scholarship the very first quarter of school due to sleeping in class all day—because of late-night work, oddly enough—and I still had the futile intention to graduate, I was desperate for a late-night solution to my funds-to-tuition ratio. I had to do something for money. I thought about whoring my body out to dirty old men or selling hash made from yard grass and pencil shavings to high school kids, but I felt that as a future writer, I needed, for once in my life, to indulge in something truly dark and evil. Something from which immeasurable pain and embarrassment would come, so that I could have an experience to draw upon for inspiration in the future. Naturally, working at Wal-Mart was the first thing that came to mind.
I heard about the position from a friend of mine who, at his request, shall remain nameless. He was working the early-morning shift at the time. He explained that the electronics department needed a full- time employee on the overnight shift because the last person who worked there was caught masturbating to a Cindy Crawford workout tape at two A.M. while the other employees were in the break room. He could have gotten away with it; there were only two working security cameras in the whole store, one in the shoe department and the other at the customer service counter. But he chose to do it in the actual department, where customers rarely—but sometimes do—shop.
I decided to give Wal-Mart a shot. I showed up for the pre-interview, which was basically a screening of a poorly produced security and procedure video. After that hearty thirty-minute nap, I was huddled into a corner of the room with a manager to begin the actual interview. Believe it or not, the interview process for Wal-Mart was pretty thorough. But they paid six dollars an hour — not as much as RPS, but still, a fortune at the time. It was worth it, since the job entailed wearing a blue smock, cleaning up after dullards, and answering, for the hundredth time in an hour, questions whose answers that should be common sense.
After spending half my day on the interview and a drug test, then the two weeks it took to call the references and check out my background, I was accepted into the ranks of the Sam Walton elite: I became Joe “The Overnight Electronics Department Employee” Peacock.
To feel the full impact of such a job title, you must understand one crucial fact about life—and this fact will remain constant forever—no one normal works the overnight shift, anywhere. This is especially evident at Wal-Mart, where not only are you working overnight in a gigantic wasteland of a career path, you are doing so alongside people who clean department store floors and stock liquid Dawn dish soap and various salty Golden Flake snacks on shelves eight hours a night for a living, all in backwoods Georgia. These people weren’t what one would consider to be members of the conversational elite.
My first few weeks on the job were rife with frustration. Because I was the new kid, and because I didn’t belong in the social structure created by the employees, I ended up the victim of several pranks. I was told that the electronics person on the overnight shift had to cover for the pet department, which was at the opposite end of the store. I was also informed that during my downtime, I was to pitch in and help other departments stock their wares. It was common in those first few weeks to find me putting away stock that wasn’t in my department while being paged back to my department or to the pet department every ten minutes for customers who, according to the employee who had paged me, had mysteriously just left.
Between stocking bars of Ivory, running to my department every ten minutes for phantom customers, and jogging over to the pet department to scoop fish for people who had no intention of purchasing them, I was pretty worn out every day when my shift ended. It was about a month before I found out that neither the shelf stocking nor the fish were my responsibility, and because my department was home to some of the most expensive and easily shopliftable items in the store, leaving it was a huge no-no. For all of my hard work and willingness to pitch in around the various departments, I received a big fat “needs improvement” on my first employee review.
Once I learned the truth about my extra duties and subsequently told those who’d asked me to do them to fuck themselves, things kind of leveled out and became simple for me. My daily routine ran as follows: I would arrive at the store at about ten P.M., help the third-shift person clean up, receive my stock about midnight, put it all away by one, and kick back and watch the brand-new digital satellite TV network, or some of the latest releases on this new DVD technology while doing my homework until six A.M., when I left the store for class. I was becoming quite happy with my routine, despite the fact that I was surrounded by undereducated redneck mollusks who, while I was watching movies and the MTV2 network, were busy stocking detergent and mops that, a few months prior, they’d had a gullible college kid do for them while they sat in the back room and turned the walls yellow with their three-pack-a-day tobacco habit. They kinda got pissed.
As time progressed, my manager started noticing discrepancies on my inventory reports every morning. Every night when I took over the shift, I had a little note that reminded me to check the battery count or verify that the film count matched up with the printout, because the rack was off by one or two. I would count and count again, and the counts would match exactly with the ones on the inventory printout I had just received from the inventory software. It baffled me why I had to keep verifying counts on the inventory my mananger had apparently counted that morning, but I chalked it up to busywork. I didn’t spend too many cycles wondering why the almighty computer system at a discount department store was screwing up numbers. I figured, It’s one goddamn roll of film in one Wal-Mart. It costs four bucks. Our profit last year was in the tens of millions.
But this was not a problem that faded away easily. More and more inventory began disappearing overnight from my department with no apparent cause. Over time, a roll of film turned into several rolls, which then graduated to video games, printer cartridges, and eventually a television. It truly made no sense to me, but every single evening I would get increasingly terse notes that stated that certain areas of our inventory were experiencing unaccounted-for reductions. I would watch the department like a hawk: Not a single customer made it in or out of the department on my shift without my gaze glued directly to them, and I never once saw any of them scanning the area nervously while shoving a television in their knickers. The morning-shift employee arrived at five-thirty for register count and shift change, so the theft couldn’t be taking place between shifts. The disappearances were absolutely not happening. Nonetheless, inventory was vanishing from the shelves every morning and reappearing every evening when I started my shift.
One morning I was confronted by the overnight manager. I had no clue what was taking place. I walked over to the offending aisle of printer cartridges and demonstrated for him that the count matched EXACTLY with what was on his new morning printou . . . Hmm.
That was odd. It actually was off by one.
No one had even come into my department that evening. There was no way that any of the inventory could have left the department that evening. Something, somewhere, stank. Badly.
After a few days of asking around on the overnight shift, the morning manager received horrible reviews of my performance from the other employees. The part that fried my turkey was the fact that the overnight manager didn’t speak out and back me up. He supported the claims of the overnight staff that not only was I lazy but I was also pilfering the stock for personal gain. I was furious! I did my job and I did it well! I mean, come on, how can one suck at watching free satellite TV?
I pleaded my case to the morning manger, to no avail. Unfortunately, when an entire overnight shift at a Wal-Mart hates you and their opinions get confirmation from the shift manager, anything you say to anyone who isn’t there to see the comedy of errors probably won’t believe you.
Which leads to a deeper, darker blemish on my record than my having worked at Wal-Mart: I, Joe the Peacock, was fired from Wal-Mart. I would say only a retard could get fired from Wal-Mart, but this isn’t true: Even the door greeter with Down’s syndrome who once bit a female customer and refused to let go was still employed. I was completely mortified.
I visited the store the following week to pick up my final paycheck. I met up with that nameless friend who’d suggested I take the job in the first place. He had heard all the rumors and gossip, and fortunately, he was pretty tight with a few of the overnight employees. Conversation ensued, and I discovered that, in an attempt to frame me for theft, some of those magnificent meatheads had been using the inventory gun to go in and scan items, then increase the inventory by one or two in the computer every morning, just in time for the inventory printout. That explained the unaccounted-for shrinkage in inventory. Pretty crafty, I must say, especially since at that time the inventory system didn’t record what time a change was made if it had been entered manually. It only paid attention when things were scanned in from the truck or scanned out at the register and went out the door. And because I had no idea what was happening, I never thought to compare one count sheet to another.
The worst part of the entire conversation came when it was revealed that the overnight manager was in on the whole scam as well. He thought it was funny.
The only validation of my personal character came when I asked him what I had done to piss them off so badly. He replied, “Dude, you didn’t do anything. These are simple people who are not worthy of your hatred. You don’t belong at a place like Wal-Mart. Everyone knows it. One day you will become a famous writer and amass a huge following. People will adore you and look at you as an influence for themselves and their children. Statues will be erected in your honor. A car will be named after you. You will be able to transmute lead into gold, and you will evolve into pure energy and understand the true nature of God.” Or something like that—because he asked not to be named, he can’t refute the quote.
Needless to say, I was a bit miffed. I felt that a company that would engage in these nefarious practices deserved some heavy-duty payback. After our conversation, I went home to plot out one of the most glorious plans for revenge ever conceived—well, maybe not ever conceived by, like, everyone, but definitely the most glorious ever conceived by me.
The day after Thanksgiving is, of course, the single busiest shopping day of the year. Every single Wal-Mart in the nation is swamped with parents hoping to find great deals on stupid toys that their children will destroy within four minutes of opening the package. This fact does not stop the parents from coming in droves to hand over their hard-earned money for the cheaply made knickknacks.
As the guy who’d set up just about everything in that department during the months I worked there, I had a few small advantages. For instance, I was the only one who knew the lockout codes for the satellite system (then called USSB), which was located in the demo cabinet. Along with the satellite system was the demo DVD player (which could also play AVI video CDs that could be made on a personal computer) and demo VCR. Incidentally, I was the only employee who even knew there were keys for that cabinet, because when I’d set it up, I’d grabbed the keys and put them on my key ring. We never locked the cabinet, so I quickly forgot that the keys even existed. I happened to keep those keys after I left the company (the only copy of those keys). I also happened to be the only one with all the passwords to all the demo PCs in the department.
My major advantage was the knowledge that, while there were two department phones on the counters near the registers, there was a third line that was active but unused under the main CD rack in the center of the department. Back in those days, the phone/intercom system wasn’t digital; it was your basic everyday analog line.
Thanksgiving night, the store closed for the evening so the employees could go home and have dinner with the family. But they reopened after midnight for employees to prep for the upcoming onslaught of bargain hunters. I sneaked into the store through the gardening department and began working on my plan, which was especially easy, since the morning manager had never gotten around to filling my position, and almost everyone except the custodians showed up late due to the holiday. I thought it was going to be difficult, but no—the store was my playground.
First, I glided over to the unlocked demo machine cabinet. I attacked the satellite system, locking out every channel except for the Hot Network, a hard-core pornography channel for which I then ordered a full day of programming. I inserted in the DVD player a special AVI video CD I had burned on my home machine, and then I put a special VHS tape into the VCR. I turned off all the units, so the TV screens showed only black. I turned the volume on every TV to max, locked the demo cabinet, and stole all the remotes for the systems from the front drawer.
I moved over to the PCs and changed a few settings, then rebooted them to lock in the passwords. Finally, I took a cordless telephone from the department and plugged it in to the aforementioned vacant store phone jack under the CD rack, hiding the base of the unit with boxes of inventory. I ran over to the pharmacy section to plug in the remote charger and phone receiver so it would be fully charged for the next morning. Everything in place, I left the store with a gigantic smile on my face.
Six A.M. rolled around. The newspaper flyers had advertised special early-bird prices for certain items for weeks on end, and droves of bargain shoppers packed the store. There were lines for each department, lines for checking out . . . It was a madhouse. During the chaos, I breezed through the store, blending in with the crowds. Since the morning crew was on staff, not a single person recognized me. I went over to my rigged electronics department to do a final survey of the area. All the televisions were on, screens black, with a small message at the bottom of the screen that said “signal unavailable.” All of the demo PCs had rolled over to their screensavers, which scrolled in blue text on a red background I AM A LUCKY COMPUTER! TAKE ME HOME! Moving the mouse or using the keyboard would not disable the screensaver, since it had a password. Everything looked ready.
I ran over to my secret hiding area in the pharmacy, the only department not completely ravished by the holiday shopping crowd, and pulled out the cordless phone. The batteries were good, and when I entered the code for an overhead page and blew into the receiver, my puffs were clearly audible over the intercom. It was time for the festivities to begin.
Using the paging system I had just hijacked, I announced in a clear and resounding tone: “Greetings, Wal-Mart holiday shoppers! Thank you so much for coming out this wonderful day to take advantage of our special deals! One of our unadvertised specials is taking place right now! For the next thirty minutes in the electronics department, if you see a computer with a message scrolling across that says ‘I am a lucky computer! Take me home!,’ that model is seventy percent off the already low sale price! These computers are first come, first serve, so hurry to the electronics department, and as always, thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.”
The stampede began. I made my way along with hordes of bargain hunters to the electronics department to witness the lucky shoppers search for the computers that were on “sale.” What a lucky day! Every single machine had a demo model scrolling the magic phrase! I figured that Wal-Mart’s policy was to honor any advertised price, and in-store announcements qualified as an advertisement, so my ploy would put a gigantic dent in their normal operational activity. But that was frosting on my cake. My actual intention was not to screw Wal-Mart on the price of their crappy Acer and Packard Bell computers; it was to build an audience.
As the department reached a capacity bordering on critical, I pulled out my stolen remotes for the demo units and turned on all three of them. The top row of televisions, at full volume, flipped to images from the satellite system, which was locked on hard-core pornography; the middle tier showed images from the VCR, which contained a movie entitled Where the Boys Aren’t: Sorority Sleepover; and the bottom row played footage from the DVD system, which contained a video CD full of downloaded German Scheiße films from the darkest reaches of Usenet.
There is no way I can describe the resulting chaos better than you are probably imagining it, so I will leave it alone, mentioning only that I barely managed to crawl out of the store because I was doubled over from laughter. What a happy holiday season I had that year.
I heard later from my nameless friend that the “wall o’ filth” played at full volume for nearly an hour, since the department was so packed with spectators that employees could barely move through to the demo cabinet. They obsessed over unlocking it instead of simply turning off the televisions. Overall, the panic and unrest went on for half the day. Months later, after I was well past my balloon-twisting career and starting into the dot-com world, my nameless friend brought up the prank and, through his chuckles, told me the employees still hadn’t figured out how I’d hijacked the paging system. I was tempted to go to the store and see if the cordless phone was still plugged in so I pull the entire stunt once again.
The best part of it all: The store accidentally paid me for another two weeks after I had been fired. A few weeks after mailing me the check for the work I didn’t clock in for, they sent a letter explaining that there had been an error in the payroll system and requesting that I send the money back. I wrote the word Scheiße with a chocolate bar on the letter and mailed it back, wondering if they would get the joke. I then put the money in a tech-heavy stock portfolio that, in 2001, tanked. Oh well. Easy come, easy go.