And it starts with new store manager Greg Clark.
For Clark, a 10-year Walmart manager who relocated from the Rockbridge Road store in Stone Mountain, it starts in the parking lot, which was a source of complaints aired at a June 7 community meeting.
Walmart’s regional general manager Karen Brewer-Edwards, district manager Zola Davis, and public affairs and government relations manager Glen Wilkins were regaled with stories of rude employees, poor customer service, empty shelves, spoiled food, lost carts, trash, soliciting in the store’s parking lot, and long checkout lines.
Clark, who came on board shortly after that meeting, says he starts his day walking the store’s parking lot.
“I want to make sure it’s clean. I look for any paper that might be lying on the ground. I make sure there are no stray carts.”
Since his arrival, Clark said all overhead lights in the parking lot are working, and tractor-trailers are not allowed to hang out.
“After two hours, they are towed,” he said. “We have been towing left and right.”
Clark, a longtime resident of Lithonia and member of New Birth Church, says he is on a mission to please his customers, many of whom know him and stop to talk when they see him. On a recent Monday morning, he greeted even the customers he didn’t know.
“If you come within 10 feet of an associate, they should be speaking to you,” he said. “It doesn’t cost anything to speak.”
Clark said he wants to ensure that customers have the best shopping experience at the store. He stopped to pick up a discarded box in the shopping cart corral.
“I never want a customer to walk out disappointed or unhappy,” he said.
These days the floors are sparkling, the shelves stocked, and the aisles are uncluttered. On July 23, uniformed employees were busy tidying shelves, dusting the floors, and emptying trash cans.
Clark said he is very, very big on floors.
“It messes up my day if my floors aren’t clean,” he said.
Co-manager Bennie Gordon, who accompanied Clark and a visitor on the tour of the store, nodded in agreement.
“I thought we had clean floors before he got here,” he said. “He is never satisfied with these floors.”
In the produce and meat departments, Clark lifts packages to show the level of cleanliness below them.
“We call it operation freshness,” he said. “You will not find a gnat anywhere. They are not here. I go crazy over one gnat.”
Charlotte Freeman, who was shopping for fresh vegetables, said she has already noticed the difference.
“It’s cleaner and the speed of service has gotten better,” she said. “I am not waiting as long on the checkout line.”
Freeman said she has a teenage son who likes to eat and she likes to cook.
“I shop here three or four times a week,” she said. “I have my list. I like the fresh stuff. Lettuce, tomatoes.”
Clark said his promise to customers is that the store will be clean and well-stocked. “It’s all about being clean and being in stock. The cases are clean. It’s a big push for the company and we are here to do our jobs.”
To make the changes, Clark said he hired more associates and maintenance people.
During his first week, he summoned store vendors to a meeting.
“One hundred of them showed up,” he said. “I told them that I did not want any empty shelves. I laid out our expectation.”
For families shopping for back-to-school supplies, Clark is ready. The store is stocked with book bags, pencil boxes, pens, uniforms and lunch boxes and everything else kids and teachers need for a successful year.
And if you forgot your supply list, chances are he has them in the store. Last week, there were supply lists from elementary schools like Stoneview, Panola Mill and Shadow Rock. The eighth-grade magnet list was also on the turnstile and so was the Chapel Hill Middle School seventh-grade list.
“We are here to take it to another level,” he said. “We are here to move that ball to the next level.”