Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hundreds Protest at Local Walmart

by Pa Rock
Main Street Shopper

Many of the good people of West Plains, Missouri, are hopping mad - at Walmart!

News began spreading around the community this past Monday that a much-loved and well-respected area resident had been fired from his job at Walmart.  That man, Frank Swanson, a cashier at the local Walmart, was within three weeks of celebrating his twentieth anniversary with the store when he was notified by management that his services would no longer be needed at the hub of West plains commerce and social activity.

A Facebook page was set up honoring the ex-employee of the merchandising giant on Monday, and by Wednesday over 900 people had engaged on the Facebook page of the local newspaper, The West Plains Daily Quill, regarding his abrupt dismissal.

The West Plains Daily Quill ran a front page story on the firing on Wednesday, a story which contained a mention of a planned rally in support of Frank Swanson in front of the Walmart on Saturday morning.  That rally occurred this morning (I was there), and, by small town standards, it was hugely successful.  Several hundred people were gathered in a show of support for Frank.  Some were wearing special tee-shirts that had been designed by a couple of other area businesses especially for the occasion.  Many people were carrying signs, some homemade, and others which had been professionally printed.  The fired employee was on hand meeting and hugging his supporters.

The event was called "Hugs for Frank," so named because one of the reported allegations against the individual was that he has left his register on occasion to hug customers who were dealing with personal loss.   He had apparently been cautioned for that behavior by store management on a previous occasion.

Walmart, being Walmart, was a bit more negative in its public response to the firing.   A company spokeswoman told the Quill that the reason had more to do with store revenues:  "Part of being a cashier is making sure customers are paying for their merchandise before they leave.  In many instances that was not happening, so Frank Swanson was let go."   Swanson's sister, herself a former Walmart supervisor, told the Quill that her brother was told that he was being fired for "excessive price matching."  He was supposedly a bit too eager to help customers find lower competitor's prices which Walmart bragged they would "match," even when the customers were initially unaware of the other stores' bargains.

The Quill article also mentioned that Frank Swanson has received an award from a local school for supplying school supplies for kids in need - out of his own pocket - and that he had also given items to other schools as well.

One of the ladies in my pinochle group recently lost her husband of sixty-eight years.   She told me that when Frank heard about it he had given her a hug as she was checking out at Walmart.  She found his action to be very comforting.  The lady lamented, "Now, I will never go back in that store again."

Neither will I.

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