Walmart is shortening holiday lines by adding temporary "holiday helpers"

Walmart has had success by paying attention to customer service, and want to make the holiday rush less stressful

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 27, 2016 10:28PM (EDT)


Walmart is adding so-called “holiday helpers” to its 4,500 American stores for the holiday season.

In what is perhaps an effort to continue improving its chronically weak customer satisfaction scores, Walmart is inviting employees to be "holiday helpers" by wearing yellow vests, Santa hats, and red sashes and assist consumers in reducing check out time. Their responsibilities will include helping patrons find the shortest lines, unload shopping carts, working the cash registers, and retrieving items customers may have intended to buy but forgot to pick up.

“The Holiday Helpers are actually a great combination of a little bit of retail-tainment to bring fun back into the store, and it serves an incredibly practical purpose,” said Walmart U.S. Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna to Fortune during a press briefing on Wednesday in Teterboro, New Jersey. “That’s the #1 thing that customers told us; they want faster checkout.”

Walmart has had considerable business success by improving its customer service. After learning that shoppers complained about slow checkouts, Walmart decided to add more cashiers. When that resulted in a rise in sales (which has now lasted for eight consecutive quarters), they doubled down on emphasizing customer service, from bringing back its door-greeters to spending $3 billion on raising store workers’ paychecks.

Despite its recent successes, Walmart still has an unsavory reputation among progressive communities. It has been particularly criticized for pushing out local businesses and mistreating its own employees, particularly through inadequate pay and unsafe working conditions. 

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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