Monica dropped Steven off at the Walmart entrance 15 minutes before his team meeting was scheduled to start.
“I’ll pick you up at noon,” she smiled. “Are you all prepared?”
“I guess so,” he said, uncertainly.
“I think you’re going to do great, Dad,” she patted his hand. “Have a wonderful day.”
Steven passed through the entrance and noticed all the smiley face placards on his way to the electronics department where the team meeting would take place. He found Sam there.
“You’re the first one to arrive,” said Sam. “I admire your work ethic. Are you ready for the day?”
“I guess so. I’m not quite sure what to expect.”
“It’s pretty simple, really. Like I told you at church, I see our greeters as ‘Happiness Engineers’. You smile as they arrive and say, ‘Welcome to Walmart’. You give stickers to the children. And, as they leave, you say ‘Have a great day.’”
“I think I can handle that.” Stephen willed himself to smile as Sam handed him a roll of stickers.
At 9 a.m. sharp, the employees gathered together around Sam. Sam spoke in the voice of a basketball coach.
“Are you ready for a great day?”
“Yeah,” the people proclaimed.
“Give me a ‘W’!”
“Give me an ‘A’!” …
Steven figured out they were spelling W-A-L-M-A-R-T. He joined in, quietly.
Then they started clapping and launched into a song. It was more like a chant that went so fast Steven couldn’t make out the lyrics.
As they concluded, they broke into applause and shouts. Sam resumed his speech.
“Very good. Today, I want you to remember two essential things about the Walmart way. Number 1 – We are here to please. Number 2 – The customer is always right.” He paused and let the words sink in. “Okay team, go out there and work the Walmart way.”
The first hour went reasonably well. Steven faithfully smiled and greeted people with “Welcome to Walmart.” As they left, he said diligently, “Have a great day.” He put a sticker on each child and even patted them on their heads for further effect.
Around 10, a little boy entered the store. Two things stood out. The boy seemed to be around eight or nine years old. Why wasn’t he in school? Steven looked around. He couldn’t find a parent. The boy had a blank, bored expression. His nose was running. Steven walked over to him, knelt down and spoke –
“Would you like a sticker, young man?”
“I want the whole roll.”
Steven grinned, uncomfortably.
“Well, now, we need to share them with all the other children, don’t we? One sticker should be good.” He pealed a sticker off and started to place it on the boy’s coat.
The boy hit Steven’s hand and the sticker fell to the ground, happy face down.
“I SAID I WANT THE WHOLE ROLL!”
Steven looked around. Still, no parent. “Where’s your mom or dad, young man?”
“I don’t care. Are you going to give me those stickers or not?”
“You must be here with someone. Let’s find your parents.” He started to put his hand on the boy’s shoulders and guide him. The boy slapped his hand away.
“I WANT THE STICKERS! I WANT THE STICKERS!” He started to wail.
Suddenly a man in a business suit appeared, pulling a smart phone away from his ear.
“What is going on here?” he asked Steven.
The boy spoke up. “This mean man won’t give me his stickers.”
Steven started to respond.
“Just give him the stickers, old man.”
Steven straightened up. “I tried to give him a sticker. He slapped it away and demanded a whole roll. I said we need to share with other children.”
The boy started wailing again.
“Look, my son is just not feeling well today. Just make him happy. Give him the stickers. I’ll give you $20.” He started reaching for his wallet.
“Sir, we don’t sell the stickers. We give them away for free – one per child.”
The wailing stopped momentarily. Then, it started up again, louder, and coming in waves.
Steven felt a firm hand on his shoulder and turned around to find Sam standing there.
“Steven, can I help you in any way?”
Steven explained the situation. Sam listened carefully, clearly distracted by the boy’s intermittent wailing.
Sam then reached out and took the roll of stickers from Steven’s hand. He bowed down before the boy and looked him in the eyes, “I tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to give you the stickers because we’re here to please and the customer is always right. That’s the Walmart way.”
The boy took the stickers and quietly walked away with his father.
Steven was left standing there with Sam, his mouth slightly open.
“Steven, you are a man of principle. I respect that. But I just don’t think you get the Walmart way. Tell you what, how about I get someone to fill in for us and I take you home for the day?” Steven did not protest.