An employee of Walmart for 20 years was fired. The reason for it has a community outraged, threatening a boycott if the big box store doesn’t bring him back. However, Walmart’s not budging, calling what he did “gross.”
For two decades, Frank has been synonymous with the Walmart in West Plains, Missouri, and for many shoppers, he was the only genuine interaction they had with anyone all day. Some likely spread their shopping out over the week, just to be uplifted by the dedicated 56-year-old employee, who always had a smile on his face. However, it’s what he was doing all along to customers that management became utterly disgusted by.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, cashier Frank Swanson was fired from his position at the West Plains mega store on April 2 of 2016 for what the company called “gross misconduct”: hugging customers and providing price matching services that went against company policy.
Swanson’s brother, Drexel, came to his defense when he explained that Frank suffers from brain damage and partial paralysis on his right side from an accident in the eighth grade. Since the accident, Frank has always loved to hug people and make others feel good about themselves.
“My brother doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” he said. “He loves to hug people, especially the older generation. He says they don’t get enough hugs their life.”
In addition to providing inappropriate hugs, Swanson said that he was told he broke company rules when he sold a gallon jug of tea for 50 cents less than retail price without checking a competitor’s ad, as is customary with the price match guarantee. According to Walmart, this was not an uncommon practice for Swanson.
“Part of being a cashier is making sure customers are paying for their merchandise before they leave the store,” a company statement said. “In many instances, this was not happening.”
Although Swanson admitted he broke company policy by taking his customer at her word and not checking the competitor’s add with the tea jug incident, he said he never let customers walk out without paying.
“They said I was making the price up out of my head. They made it sound like I was giving groceries away,” he said.
Swanson reportedly made it a habit to memorize competitors’ ads. When he was questioned about the incident, he approached the competitor in question to pull the archived ad. The archived ad showed the exact price that Swanson had matched.
Swanson conceded he had been warned last November by management that he must ask permission before hugging customers. However, from January until April of 2016, that’s precisely what he did.
Nonetheless, three weeks shy of his 20th year with the corporation, Swanson was issued a check for unused vacation and personal time and ushered out the door after a brief meeting with management.
When his boss argued that the competitor’s rate, which he honored, was not correct, Frank personally went to the store in question and asked them to pull an archived ad. Sure enough, it was the price he gave the customer, proving management wrong, but he’s still not getting his job back. Drexel, along with the entire town who love his brother, believes it was the hugs that they found “gross” and inappropriate and really fired him for, since he had been talked to about it before, but never told he had to stop completely — just to get permission from the customers.
Although policies and procedures are an integral part of any organization’s success, Walmart has taken it a step too far in firing a beloved and long-term employee who was only trying to do his job. Hopefully, Frank is able to find employment with a company that will appreciate his dedication, work ethic and compassion for customers.