The Protestor Protector

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22396 – 840:

Here’s the haps:

There’s a story that came to mind from my old retail days. Sometimes the true stories are the most interesting because I have discovered over the last sixty-one-plus years that truth is, in fact, stranger than fiction. Years ago, when I worked for the Big Blue Box retailer, one of my most interesting customers was a protestor. My last customer (anyone who has ever worked retail knows that the last customer is always the most…interesting.) was a guy with a bunch of art supplies, poster boards, pencils, markers, paints, all the great sign-making stuff. He also had a bunch of snacks and Gatorade-type drinks and stuff. Some customers want no idle chit-chat while some will talk your ear off. A good retail clerk knows how to read the customer. This one was itching to talk, you could just tell. So, as I’m ringing up his purchases, I have a conversation.

“Looks like you have a big art project going on. Making some signs for a rummage sale?”

“Oh, no man. Protest signs.”

“Really? What are you gonna protest?”



“You know, this big blue box you work in.”


“Well, for one thing, they way they treat you guys.”

“The way they treat us guys? Like what do you mean?” I was on the rebound from a failed business venture and had a gap of several years on my work history to show for it but they took a chance on me and hired me anyway. I felt grateful to have a job at all and said as much. He laughed at me derisively as though I were too stupid to understand all of the evils that were being done to me. Much of what he said was patently false or wildly inaccurate but I just nodded and listened. “So, you’re protesting to protect me?”

“You ought to take the day off tomorrow and come join us on the median at noon.”

“That’ll be one hundred thirty-seven dollars and fifty-six cents, please.” The sale closed and I started laughing. With some notable exceptions, I know better than to laugh at a customer but I couldn’t help it.

“What’s so funny, man?”

“You. You just gave your hated enemy, that you’re going to have a major protest against, a hundred and some odd dollars of your money! Doesn’t that strike you as a little bit funny?”

He was angry, “Listen! I have to shop here. This is the cheapest place in town to get this stuff!”


  1. A great story of how people think, Herb. They will protest anything and then turn around and support the business or the very commodity they are protesting. Like those who protest big oil and then drive home in their SUV to turn the thermostat up higher, so they can get warmed up before they go outside to ride their ATV through a pristine forest. Thanks for sharing. Stay well

  2. Hahaha. But in essence, this is why being a responsible and informed consumer is so hard and why we can’t place environmental blame on individuals. I know, way to weigh down the atmosphere Petra…sorry

    • In some cases that’s true, but, I mean, You’re buying over a hundred dollars worth of supplies at your hated place? Not a lot of research involved that I can see.

  3. You were a better and more valuable employee than me. Lower down the rungs it was no fun. That was rock bottom for me. Bad pay, no hours (a terrible combination if there ever was one). Yeah I was happy to be hired, because they were the only gig willing to hire me in town (aside from the even worse call center I’d left a month or so earlier, that paid well but had no concept at all of good employee relations, and the prototype of a bad business model, and customers full of entitlement despite everyone involved trying to get one over on everyone else), and they did so happily and quickly. But for whatever reason what I would have actually happy doing, and good at (stocking shelves!) I never got to do, except in the one department (clothing) I could never figure out, because Walmart believes in chaos theory in apparel. And I felt bad when someone would tell me I was the best cashier they experienced there. I was a good concession stand worker, was a great backup hand at a bookstore, but the crazy amount of groceries people buy drove me nuts. And that’s the position I left on. I got transferred there because management was spineless about the jerks in my old department. And now they have tons of self checkout lanes. I would be great at helping people out at those! Ten years too soon!

    • You are a great example of what’s wrong with them. If they had leadership skills instead of management training they could have worked your strengths, stopped the bullying and business would have been even better. All the retail giants topple eventually but it will be interesting to see how the current drama plays out. I think Sam would have had more leadership and vision than his descendants. Jeff Bezos talks a good game about paying people but his management methods are similar.
      Oh, and I’m not saying Walmart was any bed of roses. If the assistant over the front end at the time had been a leader instead of a manager I might have stayed. Call centers are a mixed bag of nuts at best. I guess though, if I were going to participate in a protest against a retailer, I wouldn’t buy my supplies there.

  4. I have friends who always criticize Japan this and that, but they are addicted to Japanese cosmetics, cars, movies etc. When I point this out to them, they don’t see any contradiction at all. I just don’t know how they reconcile the two.

  5. In order to protest, he (or she) has to buy more stuff from Walmart: speakers, hats, placards and other essentials for protest purposes. LOL.

  6. This is a great story! I expect the protester had trouble holding on to the idea that you were “the stupid one” after that exchange. I’m glad you laughed.

  7. Haha, an excellent observation from you and a really lame response from your customer. The really funny part is how he demands that Wal Mart do something that he was unwilling to do – spend more money on what it buys. Labor or art supplies, it’s all the same. It’s always easy to tell someone else that he should be spending more. It’s always different with one’s own money.

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