Hey Sam, don’t discount loyal employees
It appears Sam is in need of a lesson in loyalty.
When Sam’s Club handed Frank Eason his pink slip on July 17, officials at the retailer’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., probably didn’t give it a moment’s thought.
One has to wonder what they must be thinking now.
For those not familiar with Frank’s story, and there can’t be too many in the Pee Dee region or even the state who are not, the 52-year-old with autism was fired from his job as a greeter at the Sam’s Club in Florence. Frank had greeted customers upon their arrival at the store for almost two decades, but that apparently did not matter. It seems Sam’s Club’s loyalty to one of its most valuable employees was no match for the loyalty the employee had shown to Sam’s Club.
Frank’s aunt, Myra Horton, said the company was aware of Frank’s medical condition and his years of service when they let him go. Earlier this year the company announced that more than 1,000 of its store locations were replacing greeters with an expanded “customer host” position, which would require employees to lift “25 pounds, clean up spills, collect carts and stand for long periods of time.” The policy change went into effect in April. Numerous greeters who were senior citizens or who had medical disabilities were shown the door.
Frank is convinced that his autism is the reason he was let go, according to Myra, and he does not think its fair. I think most would agree with him.
Myra set up a Go Fund Me account for her nephew on Sept. 13. Their goal was to raise $10,000. In less than 24 hours, they had far surpassed that goal and were nearing $15,000 in contributions. There were a handful of donations of $100 or more, but most were in the $25 to $50 range. These were folks who gave what they could to support someone who had a made an impact in some small, yet profound way, on their lives. Frank was their friend and he needed help.
Take a note Sam: This is called loyalty.
As of last Friday, the total of Frank’s Go Fund Me account stood at $24,400. He has also received several job offers.
With all the media and social media exposure that followed, Frank has become a local celebrity of sorts. To many, he already was.
According to Myra, the day after news of Frank’s firing was posted on social media, Sam’s Club officials finally, after eight weeks, picked up the phone and called Frank. They offered Frank his old job back, but said they would not pay him for the time he had missed. This didn’t sit well with Frank, so instead of returning to his old job, he told them he’d think about it. On Friday, Myra said he had still not made up mind on if he would return to Sam’s Club. It seems Frank now has a few more options to consider.
In May of 1999, Frank began working at Sam’ s Club. Several people went to bat for him, asking the company to take a chance on him. He was hired part-time and was eventually moved to a full-time. By all accounts he was a valued employee who showed up on time and did his job well. It would be impossible to measure the amount of goodwill he brought to the store during his two decades of service.
Franks’ dad, Christopher “Big Chris” Eason, passed away two years ago at the age of 71. Chris left his sister Myra to take care of Frank.
“He’s very independent and can do things that I think most people with autism can’t,” says Myra of her nephew.
Not long after his father passed, they tried to get Frank his own place with assistance from the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. The department could not help him, not because his autism or physical disabilities, but because he made too much money.
Frank and Myra did not give up. They found a condo three blocks from her house and Frank has been living on his own ever since. Myra says he is almost entirely self-sufficient. She says he does the cooking, the laundry, and everything else. He does need some help with managing his bills.
Like Frank, Myra is not happy with Sam’s Club. She says he deserves to be in an environment where he is appreciated.
She’s not alone. Lot of folks are not happy with the way Frank was treated. Some are so upset they are planning not to renew their memberships. Some say they have turned in their cards and will no longer shop at Sam’s Club.
Both Frank and Myra are “overwhelmed” at the support shown by the community. Myra says it reflects the impact Frank has had on the people he came in contact with as a greeter. G
reeters serve an important role. They are, to some degree, the face the store. They need to be happy and welcoming. They need to speak and connect with customers. Make them smile. Frank did all that.
So did Betty O’ Neal, a greeter at the Hartsville Wal-Mart. Earlier this year, Betty, a senior citizen, disappeared from the post she had stood for many years. It seems she was a casualty of the company’s policy change. People noticed and voiced their unhappiness. In short time, Betty was back in business and greeting customers with a friendly smile.
At the Wal-Mart in Cheraw, Sammy McAlily is an employee extraordinaire. He’s what you would call a high-energy worker. Customers know Sammy because of his joy and enthusiasm. He can make a short conversation the best part of your trip to the store, or even your day.
While the situations with Frank and Betty and Sammy are quite different, they are more than just employees who can be shuffled off in the name of progress or to reach a bottom line. They have a value that simply can’t be measured.
Maybe Sam’s Club will do the right thing and pony up the eight weeks of back pay and Frank will go back to his old job. Then again, maybe not. That’s up to Frank. He may think he deserves to be better.
It would be hard to argue that point. Frank’s loyalty to his former employer should have been reciprocated.