Dasia McGee is always in motion. I know her face from my weekly shopping trips to the Neighborhood Walmart on the Loop over the years. This trip felt different. Shoppers gave a wide berth for each other, some nodding in solemn solidarity. I checked the toilet paper aisle (empty), followed by the egg shelves (empty, save one unclaimed package of six hard-boiled eggs). I settled on a carton of soy milk and made my way to the front. That’s where I found Dasia.
She spoke as quickly as she moved. In between interview statements, Dasia answered the phone, rang up costumers, spoke to checkers, waved to regulars and returned a left-behind dollar to its owner. Everything about her read competent. The past two weeks have been dramatically different for her and colleagues, bringing shortages and a rise in customer complaints. Dasia has suffered back and neck pain but has reveled in getting overtime. Here is her story in her own words, edited for clarity and length.
“My name is Cordasia McGee, but I’d rather go by Dasia. I’ve been working at Walmart, it will be six years April 4. I started as a cashier and then became a CSM (customer service manager). You handle the entire front end with scheduling, lunches, breaks, customer complaints, bill pays, car notes, mortgages. I’m great at what I do, I multitask. I work 40 hours a week, but they are handing out overtime because of coronavirus. Right now, I’m managing four or five staff [per shift]. That’s cut in half from what it is normally. [Staff] are scared to come out. Their parents don’t want them to come to work. It’s mostly the minors, their parents are scared they’ll get sick or give it to somebody else.
We got an email about the coronavirus, that we need to wipe down everywhere every 30 minutes. The registers, pin pad, touch screen, the turntable. Anything where the customer can breathe on or touch on it, we have to wipe that down. In between customers, I have them sanitize the whole register until it’s drenched down in sanitizer so customers won’t be afraid to touch stuff. Now, instead of every 30 minutes, I’m making sure it gets done every 10 or 15. We make sure we have hand sanitizer and wipes at the front door. Before we open, I come in and sanitize all of the hand baskets, carts, electric carts, handles, seats, the doors, the break tables. I like to keep my front end smelling very Pine Sol-y. It has to smell good. When you come in, if your eyes are not burning, it ain’t working. That’s how I know everything is clean.
Everybody up here washes their hands a lot. It’s a personal choice [not a work rule]. We bring gloves in and wear them when we feel like we need to. Our store manager doesn’t make us. It’s up to us. We don’t wear masks, but we do wear a lot of gloves. Especially when we’re sweeping, touching brooms, we make sure we sanitize them all afterwards. I let [workers] go one by one to the restroom and wash their hands for 30 seconds. They tell us to watch what we’re doing. Don’t touch our face, our eyes, our mouth, stuff like that. We have morning meetings about social distancing. Everybody’s doing pretty good about it.
The customers have changed drastically. They come in on their lunch breaks and get very antsy with us [when we’re] short-handed. They’ll get very mad at us. ‘You need more cashiers. You need more lines open.’ They’ll start snapping on us. We politely explain to them what we’ve got, what we don’t got, what we get on the truck. Some of them are old and set in their ways. They don’t like change. I try to explain to them, ‘We’re doing the best we can. We are here for you guys and thank you.’
In the past two weeks, a lot of customers have been rude. This morning, since we have the senior citizen day every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., we let the older customers come in by themselves so they get stuff first off the truck, so they can get their perishable items for their household. We had a few younger customers get mad this morning because we wouldn’t let them in with the older customers. I had to turn them away. It’s a respect thing. How would you feel if we let someone in with your grandparents?
Overall, just a few customers have been catching attitude. The older, older, older ones, they’re the ones that catch attitudes. The majority of them in their 30s and 40s, they understand way more when we explain it to them. We are shorthanded. We are multitasking. It’s a hard job. If they would be in our shoes, you would see how I feel. The last week I left here, I was in so much pain, my back was killing me. I worked so much overtime. I was just hurting, hurting, hurting. My shoulder and neck, I couldn’t turn my neck. I lifted so many heavy things. I’m 24 and my back shouldn’t be hurting that way. And we’re getting snapped on and not a thank you.
We’re trying as fast as we can. The truck drivers are trying to get here as fast as they can. We can’t force anything. You go to Target, they’re in the same boat. Brookshire’s, Super Center, gas stations — same boat. We have a few that will snap at us, and then down the line, they’ll come back and try to apologize. We are putting ourselves at risk, we are going above and beyond to get your what you need. They don’t realize that.
All of the older people this morning, they were very excited. They thanked us. They waved their hand and said, ‘Thank you so much for being here.’ It really made us smile this morning for the very first time because we don’t get that a lot.
I see that we’re not going to have a lot of stuff here [in weeks to come]. I’m being honest. What we’re getting on the truck is getting skimpy and skimpy and skimpier. What they’re sending us is not what we really need. They don’t send hand sanitizers, wipes. They’ll send us like one box, two boxes, but that’s not going to be enough and that messes up with customers getting mad. We’ll have people waiting two or three hours outside in a long line just for those two or three boxes. It’s crucial. The supplier, they run out of stuff, too. I see that’s going to be very hectic in the next couple of weeks.
The very top thing is toilet tissue, that’s the number one for the last two weeks. Lysol spray, bleach, three packs of Lysol wipes. Since we have run out of disinfectant, some people are using the Lysol toilet bowl blue stuff and diluting it with water to disinfect their house. People are making up stuff, DIYing their hand sanitizers and baby wipes. Anything to clean their house and get it smelling right, that’s what they’re looking for.
Customers have a habit of watching us bring the pallets out, and when we leave the pallets, they’ll take everything off. They’ll attack it real quick. They don’t think about nobody else, they just break it down real fast. We can’t leave a pallet by itself, unattended.
They will try to take a whole box, but there’s a limit. We have a limit on cases of water, one per customer, or three gallons of water. Diapers, no limit. Any disinfecting stuff, only one per customer. Eggs [are in demand] as well. Yesterday, we had like six cases of eggs on the shelf, and that was the organic eggs that nobody wants to spend three or four dollars on.
A lot of people who were buying in bulk and being selfish from other people, two or three buggies full of stuff, they’re trying to bring it back now, trying to return it, and they can’t do that. We can’t return anything, you’ve got to keep it. And they get so mad. They made that worldwide at Walmart. We’re getting good at getting real strict and telling people ‘no’.
I’m here almost an hour before the store opens. I’ll be sitting in my car, waiting. I was raised on that. My grandfather worked at Tyler Pipe. He would be up at 5 in the morning, I would be up with him. I’m raised by older people, and it’s still in me.
I’m still here, cracking jokes, making people laugh and smile. If I’m in a bad mood, you’ll never know. I give people my good energy. Being here so many days was painful and hard. It was worth it when I got my check. I’m not gonna say ‘thank God for corona ’cause it’s getting overtime.’ It’s giving us something. It’s an amazing job. Walmart is a great company to grow with. You just have to take it with a grain of salt. Kill them with kindness.”
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