Most of the time, when we think of a store like Wal-Mart, we end up with a sour feeling. Whether this is due to the thought of a big-box store destroying local businesses or the thought of the famed "people of Wal-Mart" most people have a guttural reaction to the store. I have shopped at a local Wal-Mart for years mostly due to the cost savings it affords our family. The store was a haven to us after our house fire, as it is open 24 hours and was the only place that we could go in the middle of the night to purchase some basic things like shoes and underwear. It is not a place that I regularly enjoy visiting except for one amazing thing - or person - to be more exact - the greeter.
My local Wal-Mart has an award winning greeter. He has been featured in national ads for the store. Most people walk by and smile at his greeting, but I tend to stop and engage in conversation with him. He has lived an amazing life and is always ready to share some of the wisdom of his over 80 years on this earth. We have made a connection and when I enter the store, he greets me with a song and a bear hug. He can't remember my name from day to day, but he has spoken regularly with me for over a decade.
I have heard stories of his service during the war and his volunteerism as a member of a local ambulance crew. We discovered that his wife and my father attended the same Elementary and Middle schools here in town. We have exchanged stories over our children's successes and troubles. While our political views are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, I listen politely and bite my tongue when he guides our conversation in that direction.
Now, you may imagine that this is no quick entry into the store. I often have to add an extra 20 minutes to my schedule to accommodate this part of my trip. When I think about it, however, I am always happier when I take the time to stop and see him. He will tell me things to boost my spirits when I am down, and he lets me know just how much my visits mean to him.
What amazes me is the way that this store reacts to his popularity.
They moved his post to a different entrance because, take a deep breath, because he was TALKING TOO MUCH!!!!! Excuse me, but he is the store GREETER!!! That is his job, -TO TALK.
I will never understand the thinking of some corporate people. I know that his greetings are genuine and his generation is leaving us and with them go their stories and experiences. We should all take the time to learn a thing or two and get a hug.