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Two Walmart associates lament inflation shocks: 'That's expensive to me'

·Reporter
·4 min read
In this article:
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Amid persistently elevated inflation, some low income Americans are increasingly faced with a choice: Will tonight's dinner be from McDonalds or a different fast food place?

“I get in something in the drive-thru every day," a Walmart worker, "Sue," told Yahoo Finance. "I can't afford to go spend four to five hundred dollars on groceries. I don't even have that left out of my check to do that."

Workers like Sue, who spend most of their income on necessities such as gas, groceries, and, rent are starting to struggle as savings from the pandemic dwindle.

"If I get [supplies for] just one meal at Walmart, it's usually over $30 just to cook just for one meal," said Sue, whose real name Yahoo Finance withheld. "That's expensive to me."

A Walmart worker organises products for Christmas season at a Walmart store in Teterboro, New Jersey, U.S., October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A Walmart worker organises products for Christmas season at a Walmart store in Teterboro, New Jersey, U.S., October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

After 12 years working at Walmart in the South, Sue makes $12.85 an hour working 38 to 40 hours a week – leaving her with little-to-no cash to currently essentials like food for herself and her 12-year old son.

"It's hard for me to pay my bills and buy groceries," Sue reiterated. "It's pretty difficult. I'm a single parent, so I don't get any help at all."

The average hourly wage for Walmart’s U.S. store associates as of September 2021 was $16.40.

In a statement to Yahoo Finance, Walmart Spokesperson Jimmy Carter said: “We’re always looking for ways to support our associates and invest in their financial, physical and emotional well-being. We continue to invest in higher pay for our store, club, supply chain and truck driver associates.

We’ve raised pay for more than 1 million U.S. store associates within the last two years, and that includes at least a $1 raise for all cashiers and checkout hosts. As always, we’ll continue to look for additional ways to invest."

In March, the company raised the pay for 425,000 store workers in its digital and stocking workgroups. In September, Walmart announced it was giving approximately 165,000 hourly workers a raise by introducing new leadership roles and "cross-training opportunities."

'They're doing price changes every day.'

An increasing number of low income families are feeling increasingly overwhelmed as inflation remains near 40-year highs and consumer prices surge.

Sue sees the price increases firsthand at Walmart.

"They raise prices every day on things," she said. "They're doing price changes every day."

In Walmart's latest earnings report, CEO Douglas McMillion indicated that while overall basket size is up, he added, units per basket down a bit. McMillion noted that pricing power was critical in the current environment.

Carter, the Walmart spokesperson, stated that "Walmart also offers associates a number of ways to save money, including a 10% discount on general merchandise, fresh produce and select items on Walmart.com. We also offer a free Walmart+ membership, discounts for cell phone plans and fitness memberships, no-cost counseling, and, of course, paying for 100% of associates’ college and tuition costs through our Live Better U program."

Another Walmart associate, "Tim," who works in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, told Yahoo Finance that the 10% discount is for "very few things and 10% really doesn't do much. In fact, what this kind applies to is getting smaller and smaller and getting to the point where it applies to almost nothing. They select what it applies to, what it doesn't, what it should apply to everything and not just what they choose and it should be more than 10%. It should be 20 to 40% or more."

A shopper looks over items in an aisle at a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago, September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young
A shopper looks over items in an aisle at a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago, September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

Carter noted that "we’re also proud to offer unlimited room for pay and career growth. The average entry-level associate is promoted to a role of higher pay and responsibility within seven months, while 75% of our salaried U.S. store, club and field management started their Walmart careers as hourly associates.”

Tim, meanwhile, said he's looking at other places for employment.

"There are a lot of places that pay a lot more than Walmart — there's Target, Best Buy, Costco and even Amazon pays more," Tim said. "Target starts out at $15 an hour, whereas at Walmart it's $12 and also at Target, everybody is on the same [page] when it comes to pay it doesn't depend on what part department you work in. Everybody starts out at the same level at $15 an hour."

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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