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Policy change leaves longtime Walmart greeter looking for new job

Posted at 5:40 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 18:56:23-04

BELTON, TX  — A policy change at Walmart is costing some greeters their jobs.

Walmart said in 2016 that it expected more than 80 percent of greeters to become hosts or find new positions in the company.

A tweak to that policy happened in February of 2019, giving workers more time to find another job within the company if they couldn't meet the requirements of a host.

For the host job, workers must be able to lift 25 pounds, clean up spills, collect carts and stand for long periods of time, according to NPR.

Walmart's greeters without disabilities, whose jobs will be replaced by hosts, received a 60-day transition window to find another job at the company.

The company is offering severance pay to workers unable to find another job in the company.

James Javens, 78, is a longtime greeter at a Walmart in Belton. Six weeks ago, he was told he would no longer have a place in the company.

Javens was in a bad car accident more than 50 years ago. He's had a hard time getting around since.

"Because I was paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1963, my left side doesn't work that good," Javens said.

Javens relies on a cane or walker to get him through the day. As a Walmart greeter, he was able to sit in his walker while he welcomed people to the store.

"I've always enjoyed it," Javens said. "I enjoy my customers. I enjoy going to work every day. It's a blessing."

For 13 years, Javens has proudly put on his yellow vest. He's gone to work every day with a smile. It's what's turned countless strangers into friends.

Javens said a lot of his customers stay to chat with him for a few minutes when they can. Some have given him gifts for the holidays over the years.

"I can't tell you how many, but a lot of them," Javens said. "At least 40 or 50 I know by name."

Javens said his most memorable connection was the one made with his wife, Wendy Javens.

The two worked together in different departments, but it didn't take long for Javens to win Wendy over with his kindness.

"I was there for three years and he was always so friendly and smiley and in a good mood," Wendy said. "He's a great husband. He tells me every day how much I'm loved, how much he appreciates me."

As Walmart changes its greeter policy, people like Javens aren't able to meet the requirements of their new position.

Wendy said they're losing a good man.

"The community loves James to death," Wendy said. "Everywhere we go, people recognize him. Hundreds of people know him."

Javens is being let go with severance pay. His last day with the company is April 26.

"Manager called me into the office and said 'you're going to be a host and you're going to have to stand eight hours and lift 25 pounds, climb a ladder,'" Javens said. "I said, 'I can't do any of that.'"

When Javens decided to pick up his vest, he wasn't doing it for the money. He did it to have some fun.

"The socialization is why I did it," Javens said. "I enjoy talking to people."

He said that's what he'll miss the most.

"It's just the end of the journey I guess," Javens said.

Javens plans to spread cheer throughout his community in a different way. He's already a volunteer with the Belton Police Department and he's looking to volunteer or pick up a part-time job elsewhere.

We reached out to Walmart about Javens' situation. We have yet to hear back.