Friday, May 21, 2010

How to smile at Wal-Mart (really!)

Yes, it is possible.

I used to go through my day like a "mommified" robot - mentally ticking off my post-it note to-do list without even glancing up. Wrapped up in my own agenda and other life stresses like I was the only one in the world.

Enter Wal-Mart.

Yeah, you know it. The place that can raise your blood pressure 50 points just by pulling in the crowded parking lot. You find a space amidst the shopping carts and walk in like you're going into combat - head down, list ready. Some guy standing at the entrance says, "Welcome to Wal-Mart!" You roll your eyes and think of the other bazillion places you'd rather be.

But one day, I spotted a customer talking with one of the employees. Real friendly-like. They obviously didn't know each other and were just making small talk, but both of them were smiling.

In Wal-Mart.

After drudging through the store, I hauled my 10,000 pound cart to the checkout with the shortest line - you know - that's usually the one that has the price check, or the leaking tuna fish can they have to replace, or a customer who's separated her shopping trip into 17 different purchases.

Again, I noticed the customer interacting with the cashier. Having a conversation. A pleasant one. I listened in - I think they were commenting about some baking item the lady had bought and discussing a cake recipe, which led to a story from the cashier about how much her son - who was in Iraq - loved cake. The customer left smiling, and the cashier looked like that had been the highlight of her day.

I noticed a friend of mine does this as well - engages strangers in conversation. We were at breakfast early one morning and the waitress came up to take our order. All I could think about was how fast she could get my coffee to me, but my friend had a different idea. "So," he asked her, "how early do you have to get here in the morning?" She sighed, "About 4 am - makes for a long shift!" She seemed pleased that anyone would even bother to care what time she got there, let alone ask her about it. Oh, and BONUS - we had GREAT service.

My point is, we all need to be a little more friendly. We all have our agendas, but we're all people going through life just the same. You know how you feel when someone asks you some remote question you can't believe they even remembered - like - "Hey! How did your son do on those baseball tryouts last week?" or "Did you ever take that weekend trip you were talking about? How was it?" It makes you appreciate the friendliness of people.

So next time you're in that Wal-Mart checkout line, stressed out with how late you are and how much money you're about to fork over for groceries and the miscellaneous items that weren't even on your list but the SuperCenter superpowers encouraged you to put in your cart, slow down. Look around. And listen.

It may make someone's day, and if you're not careful, you just may leave Wal-Mart with a smile on your face.


  1. I am married to the King of Friendly Conversations... he has friends everywhere - Kenyon at McDonalds, Melissa at Circle K, different people at WalMart... James talks to everyone. He can't help it.

    Now me... well... I am pleasant, but I don't start up conversations... usually it is the WalMart employee asking me questions... but I do remember one time, when we were in Orlando, I was in a super long line at WalMart (it was ridiculous) and I made a point to be really super nice to the lady at the checkout... it was an extra special blessing. =)

    The one thing I do remember now, when I go to WalMart, is that my dad's wife is a checker at WalMart in NC... and she tells me stories about mean and nasty customers... and I promised her I would NEVER be like those people. =) (BTW, she HATES working at WalMart, but it's a job...)

    Now that I have written a book......... =)

  2. Another solution is to not patronize Walmart, which works well for me.

  3. Loved this one! Preach on, sister.


For those of you not commenting directly from a blog, the simplest way to leave a comment is to go to the "Comment as" dropdown menu and select Name/URL. Type in your name and don't worry about the URL.