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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Whither the Squiggly?

posted by on July 10 at 15:00 PM

Adfreak informs us that Wal-Mart has changed their logo:

images1.jpg

The important thing that is lost here is the hyphen, which was represented as a star. This is actually a change in company culture.

When I lived in Colorado Springs, I worked many, many shitty jobs. I worked at a Wendy’s for three hours, I was a landscaper, a mall Easter Bunny, a K-Mart shoe salesman and more. But worst of all, I worked to set up a Super Wal-Mart at the very end of my time in the Springs. I was desperate for cash. There were no customers, since the store had yet to open, which was a major plus.

The downside was that we had storewide meetings every single morning. Every single day, the store manager, whose name was Gary Peacock, would blast the song “Takin’ Care of Business” on repeat and I and all of my other blue-vested compatriots would assemble around the makeshift stage, clapping in time with the music. At the end of every meeting, where we would hear about the progress of the store—mostly our job was assembling and stocking all the shelves, which, in a Super Wal-Mart, is a hell of a job—we would do the Wal-Mart Cheer. This is apparently the Wal-Mart way; other former Wal-Mart employees have told me that they’ve done the cheer, as well.

Peacock would shout, “Gimme a W!” and all the adults, dressed in their blue smocks, would hold their hands above their heads to make a giant W with their bodies. Then, he would shout “Gimme an A!” and we’d put our hands together to form an A and so on and so forth. It would end with a cheer, of course, and our morale would be suitably boosted for another day of shelf-stocking.

But the most demoralizing part of the whole thing was the hyphen. When we got to the space between the L and the M, Peacock would shout: “Gimme a squiggly!” and everybody would have to do the twist and lower ourselves to the floor before twisting back upright, while making a “Whooooooooooooop!” noise that got lower as we went down and higher as we stood back up. Never mind that it was a hyphen and not at all squiggly, a fact which drove me insane every single day. The worst part was that some of the employees fucking loved doing the squiggly. It was probably the high point of their days. They would laugh every time.

So what are the Peacocks of the world going to shout now, between the L and the M? Is there still going to be a squiggly? Are they going to acknowledge that it’s an asterisk at the end? Or are they going to shout “Give me a Kurt Vonnegut asshole!” instead? And what will happen then, dear Lord, what, exactly, will happen then?

RSS icon Comments

1

I doubt the Peacocks of the world have much knowledge of Kurt Vonnegut's asshole.

Posted by kid icarus | July 10, 2008 3:13 PM
2

The asshole reference had me stumped for a second until I looked back up at the new logo. Nice.

Posted by Mike of Renton | July 10, 2008 3:15 PM
3

Sadly, kid icarus, they probably do. *

Posted by CommonKnowledge | July 10, 2008 3:17 PM
4

This story makes me sad.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | July 10, 2008 3:19 PM
5

I worked in information systems at the home office about ten years ago, and we did the same ridiculous cheer in our monthly divisional meetings. "Gimme a squiggly" is no joke.

Posted by Phil M | July 10, 2008 3:21 PM
6

My husband has pretty much the same story about the dehmanizing squiggly dance, only the Super Wal-mart was in the small town we grew up in. He hated that job and worked there a couple of months during a summer in college.

A point of pride for me is that that Walmart would not hire me. I took all their personality (or rather, lack of personality) tests and apparently failed. I think they thought I would organize a union or something...

Posted by Julie | July 10, 2008 3:24 PM
7

I also worked at Wal-Mart in a suburban town in my teen years. My (least)favorite part of the cheer was at the end when the ringleader would shout "What's that spell?!" and we'd answer "Wal-Mart!" And they'd say: "I can't hear you!" And we'd say: "WAL-MART!" And they'd say: "Who's number one!" And the people that were not in-the-know would once again shout Wal-Mart. At that time, the ringleader would shake their finger and shout: "THE CUSTOMER!"

It was awful.

What's equally awful is in my college career, I worked at Goody's Family Clothing, where they did the exact same cheer, but with the G-O-O-D-Y-'-S, and yes, they called the apostrophe in Goody's a squiggly, too.

I could never bring myself to squiggle.

Posted by Bad Memories | July 10, 2008 3:24 PM
8

Oh, and Paul, you forgot the last part of the cheer:

call: Who's number one?

response: The customer! Always! Hooooh!

Sorry to have to remind you of that.

Posted by Phil M | July 10, 2008 3:25 PM
9

If I ever get down and desperate enough to have to work at a Wal-Mart, I will have no choice but to shoot myself in the head. Otherwise I would totally go postal before I ever got to the end of that cheer.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | July 10, 2008 3:26 PM
11

Great post, Paul.

I would rather read 1,000 of these than one more post by Charles Mudede.

Posted by abe | July 10, 2008 3:26 PM
12

Thank you for providing me with knowledge of something I know I never needed or wanted to know but, someday, could save my life.

Posted by umvue | July 10, 2008 3:31 PM
13

Paul,

When did you live in the Springs? I spent a lot of my youth there.

Posted by ecce homo | July 10, 2008 3:35 PM
14

Paul needs therapy. As bad as that no doubt was, you shouldn't still be all bent outta shape about it.

Then again, I never worked at a Wal squiggly Mart, thank dog.

Also, 11 FTW!

Posted by Mike in MO | July 10, 2008 3:55 PM
15

"Oh squiggly line in my eye fluid/I see you there lurking on the periphery of my vision..." -Stewie Griffin

Fry's Electronics does the same "CHEER" every morning...they say apostrophe.

Posted by schnoodle | July 10, 2008 4:11 PM
16

when i was 16, our alcoholic gay friend who was at least 12 years older worked at wal mart and i would hear his drunken rants about that damn squiggly every night.

Posted by um | July 10, 2008 4:13 PM
17

Oh, Paul. Oh, other formerly-Walmart-employed Sloggers. I don't know you at all, but I am so, so sorry.

Posted by Darcy | July 10, 2008 4:16 PM
18

Has Walmart changed their hatred for America and our values of Truth, Justice, and the American Middle Class way of life yet?

...

didn't think so.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 10, 2008 4:20 PM
19

You can witness the top executives leading hundreds of shareholders in this ritual here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z48kJTYSl8s

Despite the indignity, they all seem so happy. Probably because they're rich. Tell that to your Mister Charles "Capitalism is All in Your Mind" Mudede.

Posted by mattymatt | July 10, 2008 4:23 PM
20

Oh man. I first heard about the Wal-Mart cheer in Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's first-person narrative of low-wage living. Of all the degradations she describes, the Wal-mart cheer struck me as the most humiliating.

Search my bag, pat my ass, make me wear a horrifically uncomfortable uniform ... but for the love of God, don't make me do the fucking squiggley.

Posted by Kalakalot | July 10, 2008 4:25 PM
21

I worked for Sam's Club for eight years. I always like working the mid-day shift because I avoided the meetings and the cheers. Mostly, though, I worked in the mornings. We would gather at the front of the store for a bit of pointless information and then the cheer. We didn't have to shape the letters with our extremities, but we did have to let out a "Uhhh" for the apostrophe. After the cheer we would gather at the entrance and greet the "members" that accumulated in the few minutes before opening.

The only satisfying part of working there was honing my thieving skills. ♦♦

Posted by In MN | July 10, 2008 4:27 PM
22

Wow, it's hard to imagine a more depressing scenario than a Colorado Springs Walmart employee meeting.

If I can say something nice, at least they didn't offer the world another corporate, compound pronoun, ala "WalMart". It's a prolific enough abuse of English as it is, but had Walmart done it, it would have become unstoppably pervasive on every level - and not just in the technology sector where it's mostly contained to now.

Posted by Dougsf | July 10, 2008 4:43 PM
23

Egads. All of a sudden my all-time worst job seems pretty damned cushy.

Posted by Zotz | July 10, 2008 4:45 PM
24

I remember seeing Wal squiggly Mart employees in Victoria, BC having to do this OUTSIDE ON THE SIDEWALK each morning. Worse, this was before the store became huge in that city so it was small enough to be crammed into one of those outdoor shopping center/plaza things that also housed various doctors, a Tim Hortons, Save On Foods, bank, etc. The handful of performing workers were on display for a lot of people.

Posted by bemaha | July 10, 2008 5:39 PM
25

HYPHEN

IT'S NOT A SQUIGGLY
IT'S A HYPHEN

Posted by agakgagk | July 10, 2008 6:10 PM
26

Are there regional variations?

Because some folks (not all that many, but some) where I live shop at "Wal-Markt's" and "K-mark's."

It's essentially unAmerican to ask folks to... well, do most anything. Remember those simple, group calisthenics that we were informed in the 80's that Japanese factory workers do? Er, maybe we should have done that.

Posted by CP | July 10, 2008 7:45 PM
27

Dude, WAL*MART? Really? I hope you got paid well...hehehehehe....sorry.

Posted by Gabe | July 10, 2008 11:46 PM
28

I have only been in one Wal Mart. It was the one in Renton, and it was dreadful, but I had a religious experience there.

I had made it halfway through the store, and all of the sudden, a recording of "Amazing Grace", played on a bagpipe, started blaring through the store (it was not long after 911. I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but that was sort of the theme song for that particular event)

If there's one song I hate, it's "Amazing Grace". If there's one instrument I hate, it's the bagpipes. Combine the two, and I'm ready to stick my head in an oven. Thus, I took it as a sign from God that I needed to leave and never come back.

So I did. You don't ignore signs from God.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | July 11, 2008 7:01 AM
29

that made me crack up in suzzalo library. People are giving me looks.

Posted by mnm | July 11, 2008 9:51 AM
30

This story honestly made me a little bit nauseaous to read. Public humiliation has a way of doing that to me.

Posted by exelizabeth | July 11, 2008 10:02 AM
31

The Wal-Mart near the small town I went to college in was the only place (at that time) where gay people could be comfortably "out" at work (other than some departments of the university it's self). It seemed like every student I knew that was gay, and had to work, worked at Wal-Mart (and appreciated it's open mindedness, which was advanced for a business in a small agricultural town in the early 90's).

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | July 11, 2008 12:30 PM
32

@25:

The suits probably called it "squiggly" because "hyphen" sounds too similar to "hymen" and they figured enough people would substitute the latter to subvert the whole "in solidarity with our corporate values" paradigm the cheer was no doubt meant to foster.

FWIW, I had been given to understand WalMart substituted the star for the hyphen as some sort of "tribute" to Sam Walton upon his death a number of years ago.

And also, having worked for a company that did business with WalMart, I can say they treated their vendors almost as poorly as their employees; when my retail sales manager would return from a trip to Bentonville, he'd always complain about the fact that their national consumer products rep would meet them in a non-descript office off-site from the WM HQ, where the only furniture was a desk, a comfy chair for the rep, and several cheap plastic lawn chairs for everyone else.

And then, the rep would tell them how much they were going to pay for our product, which invariably was only a penny or two over our per unit manufacturing cost. After which they would remind us that, "well, you'll make it back on volume, since we're going to buy 8 gazillion units of your product; that's how we play, take it or leave it."

And you wonder why WalMarts are able to offer those "everyday low, low prices"...

Posted by COMTE | July 11, 2008 12:53 PM
33
Posted by hyperlinker | July 11, 2008 1:09 PM
34

Oh god. I have a real job now, but I spent 5 long years in that hellhole. In Kansas.

Shockingly, they hired me even though I gave straight-up honest answers on their Free Personality Test(TM). Took about an hour of questioning to "clarify" my answers, though. "Why yes, I support the legalization of marijuana even though I don't use it myself. Why do you ask?"

I can indeed confirm the squiggly, although my store lacked the YMCA-style letters. I believe the squiggly related to an even older logo, where the hyphen was actually a tilde-hyphen instead of a star-hyphen, so I'd be quite surprised if they dropped it from the cheer just because the logo changed again. The squiggly in the cheer is a central part of how they tell themselves that their company isn't the soul-sucking corporate monster it truly is.

"3492, we can drink more than you!" Didn't dare actually say that in front of *most* of the managers, of course... except for the cool ones...

Posted by Chronos Tachyon | July 13, 2008 2:33 AM

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