By Dale Buss

Walmart certainly has taken a step back from its heritage with the revelation that it’s removing greeters from the graveyard shifts at its U.S. supercenters, in the first reversal of a 30-year-old tradition that helped define what the folksy chain was all about in its early years.

“It’s risky,” David Strasser, a Janney Montgomery Scott analyst, told Bloomberg. “Consumers have been going to Walmart for years, and greeters have become an expectation. To a degree it defines Walmart.”

And starting in February, the mega-retailer that Sam Walton built plans to pull daytime greeters — often retirees — from the lobby entrance area into the stores to help with customer service, according to the Los Angeles Times. Next, we’ll find out that Walmart is going to wipe that smiley face off all of its advertising forever.

Clearly, integrating third-shift greeters into other jobs in the store, as Walmart has been doing, will save a bit of money for a company that is still trying to figure out the right approach for its U.S. stores after tacking back and forth across its time-proven value-price, cluttery-merchandising path that helped it become the world’s largest retailer. Apparently many of the erstwhile greeters now are stocking shelves for the early-morning rush.

Many Walmart shoppers still scratch their heads about the greeters’ exact purposes, or feel slightly spooked by the front-of-store welcome. The welcome may, in some cases, serve to cut down on shoplifting, but do they really accompish anything tangible anymore? Today’s value-hawking American consumers seem to care less and less about friendliness and more about scooping up bargains.

Maybe the greeters had an auxiliary loss-prevention benefit in watching the doors and checking receipts, especially at night. But it’s a tough gig: getting whipped by the whooshing winds as people enter and exit, staying on your feet for hours on end, acting nice all the time, touching all those bacteria-laden cart handles. Many of the greeters are smiling senior citizens, of course, which also means they’re easier for obnoxious shoppers and punks to push around.

So goodbye, late night and lobby greeters at Walmart. And good luck with the reassignment.

[image via]