Four BBC radio reporters know what it is like to work for Walmart (Some people would say they know too much), but they don’t think so. Jeff Jensen, Vicki Sparks, Catrin Nye and Nick Taylor each recently worked in a Walmart store and were shocked at what happened behind the store’s security guard and cash register:
Big-box retailers have generally been able to create a kind of oasis in America’s most economically depressed corners – without having to employ the armies of clerks, store owners and managers that forces the competition to rethink its entire way of doing business. Maybe that’s why working for Walmart sounds so terrifying. Four BBC radio reporters know what it is like to work for Walmart. And now they’re telling us about it (Some people would say they know too much).
In interviews with the BBC’s Newshour and Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show, each of them detailed how Walmart’s commercial strategies and culture changed them, including juggling their work-life balance and not getting to do much shopping. HuffPost spoke with Jeff Jensen to find out what he got out of Walmart, if it brought back any good memories and how it made his documentary “Every Day Is Frightening” available in HD. Here are some highlights:
Q: What was the biggest change from filming at a local Walmart store to doing the documentary?
Jensen: The point of the documentary is not to judge Walmart but to reveal how the company is changing its business model to try to thrive in the city. I was much more fascinated with the employees who worked there. The story they tell is the same story everyone has in their head of the people who work there. Now it sounds like the worst thing that could happen. The stories of what is happening behind the scenes are really frightening.
Q: What was it like working there?
Jensen: It was definitely more than what I expected. I worked in a competitive environment at NBC and I think it was a little bit different. [Brett Ratner, the movie’s producer, has an older brother who’s a former vice president of the company.] Working for Walmart I had never experienced anything like this – minimum wage people, how people are treated by managers, how the managers treat the assistant managers. The variety was really amazing.
Q: Were there any good memories?
Jensen: The best part was meeting a lot of the owners of these stores. What makes the economy in America is small business. They are the backbone of the economy. I was surprised at how connected they were to their employees.
Q: Was this the first job out of college you landed?
Jensen: This was not the first time I had worked for someone. This was actually the first place I was offered a job where I was paid higher than minimum wage. I had worked in the maritime industry for four or five years and I had never worked for anybody in the transportation industry, so it was unique.
Q: How did it compare to your old job?
Jensen: The wage was definitely about double what I was earning. The work was easier. For instance, I would go into other stores and say, ‘Hey, I’m working for Walmart.’ And people just looked at me and go, ‘Huh?’ For some reason Walmart got branded because people think they are just selling their low-cost clothes but they also run a lot of stores. I had to clear that up.