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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wal-Mart’s Corporate Philosophy Scores With Spokane Shoppers

By Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revie

How many times have you scoured a store, up one aisle, down another, for an item on your shopping list, then finally sought help from a clerk, only to be dispatched on another futile search?

Customers of the new Wal-Mart in the Spokane Valley need only ask, and an employee personally escorts them to the item in question.

Acceptable attire for male “associates,” as clerks are known, is shirt, tie, and Wal-Mart’s trademark “blue vest.”

Female “associates” wear the regulation “blue smock.”

Everyone, male and female, must wear their Wal-Mart name tag, says Sharon Webe, a media relations representative in Bentonville, Ark., corporate home office of the nation’s No. 1 retailer.

Women may wear earrings, as long as they don’t dangle so far as to become dangerous or detract from the job.

Men aren’t allowed to wear earrings at all, period, says store manager Joe Hawkins.

Blue jeans, too, are taboo, he says. Whether or not everyone approves - and a few employees have been heard to bellyache, Hawkins admits - such policies appear to have won favor with a vast majority of Spokane shoppers.

A number of readers took the trouble to call me and comment, and all were complimentary.

Indeed, some of the protocol seems to have rubbed off on other retailers here. Clerks at competing chains recently started escorting customers to hard-to-find items. Unless my callers are mistaken, there also has been a discernible uptick in courtesy.

Individual Wal-Mart store managers are free to modify the corporate dress code to abide by community standards. After all, Spokane is not L.A.

“But throughout our system,” says Sharon Webe, “there are three things that all employees must wear:

“A name tag.

“A blue vest or smock.

“A smile.

“Attitude is everything at Wal-Mart,” says Webe, who trained under the late Sam Walton and now is the company’s specialist in media relations for store openings.

“I like to think other retailers learn some things from us,” she says. “Our policy is, the customers are all we have. I don’t know anyone who likes to be ignored and taken for granted.”

Thousands mobbed the giant store’s grand opening in mid-June. The action “continues fantastic,” says Hawkins.

For those who don’t like crowds, the best hours to shop, says Hawkins, are 7 to 10 in the morning. “Nights,” he says, “are very busy.”

Hawkins reports the new store in Veradale has added 70 additional people to the payroll to keep up with shoppers.

“This brings us up to 400 associates,” he said. “We underestimated what it would take to keep ahead of demand. We’re finally getting all the cash registers open, so customers don’t have to wait. We have freight coming in to replenish short supplies and add new items. We’re addressing problems as fast as possible.”

Insurers enter Washington market in droves

In recent years, opponents of Washington’s 1993 landmark health care reforms and critics of State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn charged that insurers were fleeing the state in droves.

In the first six months of this year, her agency has licensed a record 53 new insurance companies, including 14 health insurers, Senn reports.

“Certification of so many new companies in the past several months proves this is a good state for insurance carriers to do business,” says Jim Stevenson, spokesman for the commissioner’s office. “It also demonstrates beyond a doubt that even while they were opposing reform and criticizing the commissioner, insurance companies continued to line up to do business in this state.”

Stevenson said insurance companies and their lobbyists claimed that 34 health care carriers left the state. “The actual number that left,” he said, “was zero.

“We had a lot of so-called cherry pickers in the market, carriers who wanted to sell insurance to only young, healthy people,” says Stevenson. “When reform came along, they chose not play by the new rules - specifically, that you can’t turn down people because of their health.”

In all, the 34 had only a total of 6,782 policies. That’s just a drop in the bucket, Stevenson says, and none of the major insurers left.

What the new health insurers do now remains to be seen.

Cultural awareness clinic planned

Thousands of delegates from more than 75 nations spanning the globe will attend the Subud World Congress in Spokane about half of next month. To help everybody feel more at home, the Community Colleges of Spokane and the Spokane Restaurant & Hospitality Association will present a clinic tomorrow on how to play international host.

The “innovative blend of customer service and cultural awareness training” will be held from 1:30 to 5:30 in Spokane Community College’s Main Building, and costs $35.

“The community colleges take real pride in being an advocate in hospitality, cultural awareness, and sensitivity training,” says chief executive Terrance R. Brown.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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