Backlash blesses Walmart greeter

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(Reuters/Joshua Lott)Shopping carts are seen outside a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Coolidge, Arizona December 6, 2010.

BLUE RIDGE, Georgia (Christian Examiner) – One customer complained because she was told "Have a blessed day!" by a greeter. As a result, management at the Blue Ridge Walmart asked James Phillips not to say those words.

"Walmart acknowledges that Phillips was told to stop using his welcome, but only to 'share a customer's concern,' per a company statement sent to Fox 5," reported Jenn Gidman for Newser.com.

Phillips, who dropped out of school in the fifth grade, told Fox 5 that his faith in Jesus has carried him through hard times.

"Many people come to this store and tell me how glad they are that I say that," Phillips said, adding that his purpose in saying "Have a blessed day!" is not to share his faith, but to make people feel better.

When Phillips stopped using the greeting, some regular customers asked why. The answer spread, and at least 800 people flooded social media, contacted the press, rallied at the store, and called Walmart headquarters to protest.

"There is a Walmart I frequent that the buggy guy says the same thing," wrote one person on the WREG Facebook page. He's the only reason I keep going to that one [because] his energy and positive spirit just makes you feel better! Never a religious thing but a human caring for another human. And that's rare!"

Phillips said he was surprised and pleased with the outpouring of support he received.

"One person got hurt over it," Phillips said, referring to his greeting. "But isn't it better to have one person offended than 800? This Walmart I think was special because they were letting me say that."

"I wasn't trying to start a movement, but I am very appreciative that people thought enough of me to stand up for me this way," Phillips added.

It took only one day before the Blue Ridge Walmart backed down. Fox 5 reported on the contents of a letter the television news department received from Walmart.

"That was not correct guidance because it doesn't reflect any Walmart policy," the statement read. "We greatly value our associate and appreciate his work for our company and he is welcome to continue sharing his greeting with our customers."

The "People Greeter" was an idea dreamed up by Sam Walton himself, first introduced in 1980, and quickly imitated by retailers everywhere. Walton believed "aggressive hospitality" would set Walmart apart from other retailers. Nationwide, however, greeters were phased out in 2012.