Walmart: Diary of an Associate by Hugo Meunier (translated by Mary Foster) was a brief (120 pages) account of the author’s infiltration into the Walmart workforce in Saint-Léonard, Quebec. On assignment from La Presse, Meunier worked for three months stocking the warehouses and replenishing shelves. I picked up this book because when I saw it I was expecting a revealing exposé full of corporate dirt and employee shenanigans yet the blurb on the back did not state this. It was simply a diary of Meunier’s experiences working for the billion-dollar American behemoth. And without any dirt or shenanigans, the day-to-day life of a Walmart employee can be a boring job and thus a boring read. Meunier’s superiors and coworkers were depicted as ordinary people who were, to use a well-known expression, “nothing to write home about”. The best chapter was about another Quebec Walmart, the one in Jonquière which corporate headquarters shut down after its employees voted to unionize. Walmart has an active strategy in place to kill any internal movements to unionize, and Meunier spoke to the Jonquière union organizers who recounted their failed efforts which cost them and their colleagues their jobs.
For such a short book I was alarmed by the number of spelling errors: cemetary, Georgia O’Keefe, Celcius, dispell, and connaisseur. There is no excuse for leaving these mistakes yet in the case of the proper nouns–you don’t have to translate those. Some of the phrases used the incorrect preposition and expressions were awkwardly translated, as seen here:
“Well then, my friend, you’ve seen nothing yet.”
No one says this in English. I would suggest “Well then, my friend, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Meunier’s experiences with his managers and customers did give me a few chuckles. Shortly before being hired, he had to listen to corporate pep talks and selling techniques. The moment of truth came over him when:
“Seated on my plastic chair, I wondered what bothered me the most. The totally stupid and infantilizing sales strategies or the certainty that they were effective.”
Each day he had to deal with annoying customers, sucking it up because the corporate slogan by Sam Walton stated that “There is only one boss. The customer.” Meunier had to be subservient, “But still, do they have to treat us like doormats?”
He filled the book with eye-rolling and ludicrous customer demands and complaints, and my favourite of the bunch was:
“‘Your slogan should be, “Walmart, out of everything,” fuck!’ he said, incensed. I must have been tired because I found this very funny.”
And so did I.